It’s a Time Machine

It’s a Time Machine
So the Spirit of God just blows where it will.  It is not beholden to our borders and boundaries, but just blows through at will.  Back to the text at hand.  And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.””    They are prosecuting Jesus as a sabbath breaker, and the defense Jesus gives is doubly provocative.  He says, first thing you need to understand is that my Father is God – immediately this will get his persecutors bent out of shape.   The great thing in John’s gospel that he never departs from is that Jesus is the revelation of the Father, that if you see Jesus you see the Father.  If you see Jesus, you know what a God is like.  The second thing that Jesus on this phrase is “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”   In other words, when Jesus is being prosecuted by these Judeans for violating their interpretation of the sabbath, Jesus’ defense is the reason I am working today is because God is my Father and  He is working today.   So you see how provocative that is?  They say “It’s a sabbath, nobody can work!”   Jesus says “My Dad is God and he’s working today.  Since he’s working I’m working with Him.

Jesus knows this is provocative and challenging, yet he does this on purpose.   Jesus knows that with statements like this, he is forcing people to make hard decisions about him.  But he doesn’t back off, because he’s not the convenient Christ, he’s the controversial Christ.   The Jewish idea was that God creates the world in six days and rests on the seventh.  Well fine, so be it, but Jesus indicates that God is not inactive in the world.  God is at work, and the work of God is to heal the world.  So whatever extent we are working today to heal the world, whatever that means, to heal sick bodies, to heal sick societies, to heal massive injustice, to heal broken relationships, to heal people’s relationship with God, with one another, to heal people’s relationship in their own mind with themselves, to whatever degree we are working to bring healing into the world, we are doing God’s work.

Because God created in six days, rested on the seventh, then things began to fall apart, began to be broken, and God has been working ever since to heal the world.  Those that work with Him in healing the world are doing God’s work.  That’s one way of looking at this story, and it’s true.  But there is a deeper, more mysterious sign fir us to see.

Jesus says My Father is working, and I’m working.  But the Judeans say, No it’s the sabbath and it’s the day for resting and not for working.   If you’ve spent any time in the gospels, you know this happens not one, not twice, not five times, but it comes up over and over, this issue of Jesus doing things on the sabbath that they think shouldn’t be done.   There’s a discrepancy.  The Judeans, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the religious lawyers and scribes, they say “It’s the sabbath, you can’t work on the sabbath, you can’t do that.  Not this day!  Don’t come for healing on this day!   Don’t work on this day.”   Yet Jesus keeps doing it.  Jesus is intentionally breaking their idea of the law.  He’s breaking their rule.   What’s going on here?

Maybe we can describe it like this – Jesus and the Judeans are on different time zones.   The dispute is you can’t do this on the sabbath.  It’s  like they are in different time zones.  If you make friends around the world, they might be led to reach out to you at 3 pm New Delhi time.  Which might be 3 am your time.  It can pretty inconvenient if you think about it.   The world is round you know!

We have times zones, 24 of them.  That’s how we divide it, because the world spins in its axis, and the sun is always shining somewhere.  London is a couple of hours ahead of us, they are in the future.  Denver, Los Angeles, they are in the past, for me.  Sydney, Australia is so far ahead of us they are sleeping, dreaming of tomorrow morning..  They’ve gotten up, had coffee, gone to work, had lunch, finished work and are home for dinner and gone to bed.   They are in the future…

It’s because we are in different time zones.  Our Sunday is their Monday.   Jesus and his Father were on different time zones than the Torah-bound Judeans.  The Judeans were saying it’s the seventh day, it’s the seventh day, it’s the seventh day, it’s a time for rest.   But Jesus is saying it’s the first day, better yet it’s the eighth day, it’s the time for New Creation.  Jesus is anticipating the age to come, the resurrection.  In other words, Jesus is from the future.  Jesus is watching football in Sydney on Monday morning, because he’s from the future.

Jesus is from the future, and so are the baptized.   We could say every baptistry in every church is a time machine.  You’re not really a Christian until you have been baptized, it is our initiation.  We baptize people in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  When you are baptized into the Christian faith, into the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, you have joined him in the age to come.  You have passed beyond death, into life.  You are already projected into the age to come.  You are thrust into the future.  You now belong to the age to come.

We are from the future.  Why did Christians begin to build hospitals?   Because health and healing belong to the age to come.   By the help of the Holy Spirit, we meditate, we imagine, we anticipate, In the age to come, what will life be like?   Will there be sickness and disease ruining people?   No?  Well then, let’s work to be there now.  Let’s anticipate that, and work toward healing people now.

Why did Christians eventually come to champion the abolition of slavery?  Because Christians came to realize that emancipation belongs to the age to come, and they should be there now.  Because we are from the future.

Why should Christians turn swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks?   Because peace belongs to the age to come and we are from the future.  Our task is not to accommodate ourselves to the way things are, but “…as he is so also are we in this world.”  1 John‬ ‭4:17‬ ‭ESV‬‬.   We are to be the anticipation of the age to come, the embodiment of the reign of Christ here and now, because we’ve gone into that time machine that is baptism.  And sometimes we are at odds with the society around us because we are in different time zones.   While some are still getting out of church, others are going to work in Monday.  These are time zone conflicts, and we are from the future.  We are to imagine, then embody, the reign of Christ here and now.   Whatever belongs to the age to come, we seek to embody here and now.   We join Jesus in doing the work of the Father, even right now!
 
John Lewis
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Christ in the World

Christ in the World
At the pool of Bethesda, Gentiles and Jews alike gather together in desperate search of healing.   Yes, a few get better on the surface.  A few with skin deep problems get better.  But most, with diseases that go far deeper than skin deep, never seem to get better.  Isn’t this a picture of humanity?  Into this picture, Jesus himself now appears.

He’s come to Jerusalem. Most of John’s gospel takes place in Jerusalem. Especially from this point on, most of John’s gospel takes place in Jerusalem, which is just the opposite of Matthew, Mark and Luke.   It seems as though by the time John got around to writing his gospel, he had decided to do something different from those who wrote before.  Matthew, Mark and Luke are almost all set in Galilee, with a few trips to Jerusalem.  John flips this, and most of his gospel takes place in Jerusalem.

Jesus has come to Jerusalem for one  of the festivals, we are not told which one.  As he is coming into the northern side of the city,  by the sheep gate, he is passing by the pool of Bethesda, with a multitude (what’s a multitude?  Hundreds maybe?) of people that are sick.  They are blind, lame, paralyzed, we are told.  Jesus sees one who has been paralyzed for thirty eight years.  We don’t know how long he has been at the pool of Bethesda, but he’s been there a long time.  He’s basically been living there, as a beggar no doubt.   He’s had his hope that maybe some day maybe he can get into the water and find a miraculous cure, but it has not happened.  Jesus sees this man, knows that he’s been here a long time, and asks him Do you want to be healed?   

Of course, the man wants to get well, but he begins to explain his plight.  He begins to explain to Jesus why it that he can’t find healing for what ails him.  Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.   Maybe this man thinks this kind stranger might be the one to help him into the pool.   Maybe he thinks Jesus is actually offering to assist him.  But of course, Jesus is not here to help him into the pool, Jesus is there to heal him.  

So Jesus simply says to him Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.   In the moment Jesus tells him Get up, take up your bed, and walk, the man is healed, because Jesus is the word of God!   He is the word of healing which God has sent.    Psalm 107 verse 20 tells us “He sent out his word and healed them….”. ‬‬Here is the word made flesh saying Get up, take up your bed, and walk, and the man is healed.

Jesus says Get up!   Maybe this this an anticipation of the day Jesus will say Get up to the whole human race, on the great getting up morning, and we come out of the grave!!   Jesus begins to talk about this later in this chapter as he is debating with these Judeans who are disputing his claims.  “”Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombswill hear his voice [Get up!] and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.”  John‬ ‭5:25-29‬ ‭ESV.   So Jesus says to this man Get up!, like an anticipation of the great resurrection.   But he doesn’t just say Get up!   He says take up your bed, and walk.   This man has been living there by the pool, he has his mat, and Jesus tells this man to roll it up, take it up, and you can just go ahead and leave and because you’re never coming back here!  This is a place for invalids.  It’s a place for the sick.  But for you it’s moving day, because you are now neither.  You have been healed, and you are going to have to relocate somewhere else because this is not the place for you because you have been made well…

But remember, Jesus only heals one.  We are told there are many here, a multitude in fact, that are sick, but Jesus only heals one.  Why?   Because it’s a sign.  Jesus isn’t solving all the worlds problems by his direct miracle activity, but he’s giving a sign that healing is the kind of work we should be engaged in.  So he chooses one, and gives us a sign that healing is the kind of work that we who are the body of Christ are to do.   So we should be engaged in the work of healing the sick.  And yes, this includes praying for the sick, laying hands on them, anointing them with oil, praying for miraculous healing, all of that, amen and amen.

But it also means becoming doctors and nurses, and building hospitals.   It means taking all forms of human knowledge and learning, and capacity for care and compassion, and directing it against sickness and disease and working together with every resource we have available to bring about healing.  

This is why hospitals are a distinctly Christian innovation.   Hospitals have not always existed.  It used to be that if you were sick it was entirely the responsibility of your family to take care of you.  If you didn’t have a family, well then, it sucks to be you.   The gods have frowned upon you and smitten you, there’s nothing we can (or will) do for you.   But the Christian said no, our Lord,  who is the word of God, who reveals to us what God is like, he healed the sick, so we have to be engaged in the work of healing the sick. So it was Christians in the second, third, fourth, fifth centuries, that began to establish hospitals.  The idea being that you bring the sick here, and we will have those that are most gifted and skilled at caring for the sick there to treat and help them possibly to recover.  It’s a Christian innovation drawn directly from what we see in the life of Christ.  So the next time we think Christ is not working in the world, we just look at the work of every hospital on the planet and see that refuted right before our eyes.  Because regardless of our race, color, religion, or beliefs, regardless of the beliefs, race, status, religion, or lack thereof of those providing the care, every time we receive life saving or life sustaining, or just comforting care in a hospital, we are receiving the light of Jesus Christ into our lives.  

One of our basic tenets of the faith is that God, Jesus, never changes.   So  he was, is, and always will be the Great Physician.   Whether we believe it or not.   Amen
 
 
“After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed.
 
One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath.”
‭‭John‬ ‭5:1-3, 5-9‬ ‭ESV‬‬

 

The Living Word

The Living Word
So what do we mean when we say that Jesus is the word of life, the wisdom of life, the logos of life, God’s divine logic of life?  We mean that Jesus is the translation of God’s love logic, his divine logic, into human form so that we can understand him.  This is what the second sign in John’s gospel points to.      That this divine logic, this love logic, this eternal word made flesh, has become a person in Jesus Christ.   And that to believe in Jesus is to believe that Jesus is the revelation of what God is like.   
 
So the sign is not just that Jesus can do miracles.  The sign is going “Right there!  Right there!  Right there!  Right there he is!  Jesus!  That is the word of life!”  That is the word that God has spoken into a sin-sick world to make everyone that believes in him well.   God has sent his word to heal us, and that word is Jesus, because Jesus is what God has to say.  Learn that, that Jesus is what God has to say.

This helps us to understand what the Bible really is.  The Bible is the spirit inspired, ultimate true sign that points us true to the true word of God who is Jesus.  The Bible is not an end in itself.    There is a sense in which you don’t put your faith in the Bible, you put your faith in what the Bible points yout to.  You put your faith in Jesus.  

Is there a difference?  Yes.  A huge difference.   Isn’t it six in one, half dozen in the other?  No.  It’s twelve in one, zero in the other.   Because the Bible can’t save you.   The eternal word of God that saves us is not a theory.  It’s not an idea.  It’s not even a book.  It’s a flesh and blood person named Jesus Christ. What the Bible does, it’s the ultimate spirit inspired sign pointing to Jesus.  If you’ve missed that, you’ve missed  a whole lot.  Kind of like everything…

Let’s look at what Jesus himself says about this, talking to people who know their bibles quite well.  They have bible studies, study aids, everything.   “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”  ‭‭John‬ ‭5:39-40‬ ‭ESV‬‬.   I’m about to get some people upset here.  But get this – the Bible can actually be the cleverest way for us to avoid the Word of God.   You’ve got the book, you read the book, your nose is in the book, studying the book, memorizing the book, the book, the book, the book, and you haven’t figured out  the book is a sign pointing to me.   Imagine Jesus, he can stand right in front of me, and I can keep my nose buried in my Bible, and I can avoid Jesus.   

The Bible is a true witness pointing to Jesus.   But here’s the problem with the Bible – it’s still a book.  And you can make the Bible say whatever you want to say.  You can make the Bible stand on its hind legs and dance a jig.   Go back 150 years, when of the Bible believing Christians of America,  most of them believed that God endorsed slavery.  Because if you’re just going to use your Bible, it’s “There is it is right there!  In the Old Testament and the New Testament too!  Slaves obey your masters!  Uh-huh!!   The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it!”

So, how many of you believe that the living God, the living Christ, has something to say about slavery other than Slaves obey your masters?   Hello!!??   If we want, we can just use the Bible, make it stand on its hind legs and dance a jig.   We can do that with the Bible, but we can’t do that with the living Christ.   You stand before the living Christ and tell him to roll over and dance a jig for you, he just looks at you with His eyes of fire and says no!

This is what writer of Hebrews is talking about when he says “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”   ‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭4:12-13‬ ‭ESV‬‬.   In talking about  the word of God that is living and active and able to judge and reach down and penetrate into the deepest parts of us, and the word to whom we must give an account, the writer of Hebrews is not talking about the Bible.  It’s in the Bible, these words are in the Bible.  But it’s not talking about the Bible, it’s talking about Jesus.

This may be new stuff to you.  It’s new stuff you need.  Again go back 150 years.  The majority of the devout, religious, bible believing, amen, hallelujah, my sins are forgiven, church going, love Jesus, dying and going to heaven, people of the time supported, aggressively, slavery and defended it with the Bible.  They were willing to go to war defending slavery, believing God was on their side, because they had been able to use the Bible.  If they had been engaging with the living Christ they would have known better.  What they did was use the Bible to hide from Jesus.

That’s history, but here’s a modern example.   An extensive Gallup survey from a few years ago was done.  Should the United States government use torture in the interrogation of suspected terrorists.  Of course, torture is against the law of our land.  So now we call it “enhanced interrogation?”   Exactly how are we enhancing it???

So the question is, should the United States break its own laws and torture suspected terrorists.  A majority of Americans said.  A majority of Catholics said no.  A majority of Lutherans said no.  A majority of mainline Protestants said no.  Majorly of Jews said no.  Majority of non religious said no.  Majority of atheists said no.

A majority of evangelicals said “yes”.    There’s a problem here.  The people who most self identify as being all about the Bible, bible, bible, “What does the Bible say about the use of torture?”   Nothing.   So it must be ok, praise God!   “So it’s ok with me!”   The Bible says nothing about the use of torture.  But the living Christ has much to say, if you have ears to hear.   Even the agnostic, or the “non”, may not spend time studying the Bible, but they   have heard enough of Jesus that they have an idea of what Jesus is like.  The word of God has been spoken into the world, and they can not imagine Jesus standing in a room torturing somebody say “Talk, you filthy scum, talk!  Or I’ll waterboard you again!”    Maybe that’s not what we ought to do either.  But if we hide behind the Bible, we can imagine this is right…

Don’t be a modern version of a confederate Christian from 150 years ago, using the Bible to prevent yourself from hearing what God has to say.  What would Jesus do?   You can’t always know what Jesus would do, but sometimes it’s clear what Jesus wouldn’t do, isn’t it?   The Bible can’t say everything, or it would be bigger than this house I’m sitting in right now.  But the living Christ can speak constantly into our lives and world, if we will engage with him.  He is the living word, sharper than a two edged sword.  He is the one with eyes like fire.  He is the one to whom we have to give an account.   

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, the living word breathes out.   Sometimes we just have to work that out…

“So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household. This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.”
‭‭John‬ ‭4:46-54‬ ‭ESV‬‬

 

John Lewis

In the Beginning

John has an agenda, and his agenda is that you would believe in Jesus.   That’s why he writes.  He wants to initiate faith in Jesus in all who would read or hear his gospel.  Toward this end, he structures the narrative of his gospel around seven signs.  They are miracles, but John calls them signs.  He uses seven miracles he calls signs to structure the narrative flow of his gospel.   This is in stark contrast to Matthew, Luke and Mark.  They have many miracles.  Mark in particular just backs up his truck and unloads every miracle he can think of and throws them at you.   And we can be overwhelmed by the wonder worker who is Christ.

For John, he sees that that’s been done.  That’s not his agenda or what he’s trying to do.  He doesn’t want to just impress us that Jesus can do miraculous works.  He wants to use an economical number of miracles to point people to how we should believe in Jesus.   Because John isn’t so much interested that we believe that Jesus can do miracles, but John wants us to believe in Jesus.   Hello!   And there is a difference between believing what Jesus can do and believing in who Jesus is.

So John uses seven signs.  He told us the first one was the first one, at the wedding in Cana where he turns the water into wine.  Now we are going to look at the second miracle, and again he tells us it’s the second sign.  He’s not going to keep doing this, he’s an artist.  He’s not going clutter up his artistic gospel with a bunch of numbers.  But he’s got to start it, here’s the first, here’s  the second.   And he hopes we catch the clue, after this we are just going to have to figure it out for ourselves.  Which we do, and we find there are seven signs John places in his gospel to point and direct our faith in Jesus.

The first two happen in the same place, Cana of Galilee.  A few weeks apart, maybe a couple of months.  This second one is a far more serious kind of miracle.  A young boy in Capernaum, 25 miles from Cana, is going to be healed as Jesus speaks a word in Cana.   It’s healing at a distance.  All of this is not merely an account of a miracle, but John uses it as a sign to direct your faith, because John says that if you can believe in Jesus, in his identity, in his name in the right way, it will give you life.  John wants  you to have life, but he knows that you have to believe in Jesus in a certain way to have that life, and he’s using these signs to direct your faith toward Jesus.

But before we look to this sign, lets lay some groundwork.  Centuries before Jesus, maybe as much as a thousand years before, an anonymous psalmist was meditating on the history of Israel in God’s care, god’s provision for israel, especially during their wilderness wandering.  He writes psalm 107, and in this psalm is this lyric – He sent out his word and healed them…”  Psalms 107:20 ESV.  The psalmist is meditating upon a particular time in the wilderness wandering when a great plague had come upon the Israelites.  The psalmist says God spoke a word from heaven to Israel as they wandered in the wilderness and it brought healing to those who were ailing and sick.  So we have a picture of God’s word as a healing agent, a word spoken.  He sent his word and healed them.

So now we go to how John begins his gospel in his poetic prologue.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God….And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”   John 1:1, 14 ESV.   In the beginning was the Word…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.   In the beginning was the word, or the logos.  The logos was with God, and the logos was God, and logos became flesh and dwelt among us.   Logos is a Greek word, it can be translated word, it means that.  But logos is bigger, more robust than just word.   It could also be translated wisdom, we could say that in the beginning was wisdomwisdom was with God, wisdom was God, wisdom came and dwelt among us.

In proverbs 8, wisdom is commending itself.  Wisdom is speaking.   Wisdom towards the end of Proverbs 8 says to us ““The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works,, before his deeds of old; I was formed long ages ago, at the very beginning, when the world came to be. When there were no watery depths, I was given birth, when there were no springs overflowing with water; before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I was given birth, before he made the world or its fields or any of the dust of the earth. I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep, when he established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains of the deep, when he gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep his command, and when he marked out the foundations of the earth. Then I was constantly at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.”  Proverbs 8:22-31 NIV.  Wisdom was with the Lord before anything, wisdom was daily his delight, wisdom worked with God as a son with his father, worked with God in the creation of all things…

This sounds very much like the beginning of Johns gospel, does it not?   In the beginning was the logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God.   The logos is the wisdom of God, you might even say the logic of God.  In the beginning was the [logic], and the [logic] was with God, and the [logic] was God.   But this is not any logic.  There is human logic.  But this is divine logic.  The longer we spend studying scripture, one of the themes that is recurrent is that there is a difference between human logic and divine logic.  Human logic, as James will tell us, skews toward the demonic.   Towards scapegoating, blame, self preservation, economic self interest.   The divine logic moves all the time, steadfastly toward love, love, love.

John says that in the beginning was the logos, the logic, the wisdom of God.  He was with God, he was God, he became human flesh.  The theme John wants us to catch is that Jesus is what God has to say.  Jesus is the word that God speaks into his own creation that we at long last might know what God is really like.  Jesus is the word of God translated into human flesh so we can understand it, so that it doesn’t remain, abstract, ethereal, theoretical, distant.  Jesus is the word, the logos, the wisdom of God translated into a human being so we can understand him.

Amen.

So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household. This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.

John 4:46-54 ESV

John Lewis

Please Come.

One last thought on Jesus’s first miracle, turning water into wine.  Short and sweet, I promise.

Jesus doesn’t just turn any old water into wine.   Jesus turned water for ritual purification into wedding wine, and this too is a sign.  The sign is that there is about to be a huge shift in how we understand our relationship with God.   Instead of always washing, washing, washing, mikvah, mikvah, mikvah, ceremonial cleansing, over and over, repeatedly, several times a week, instead of always washing and never really feeling clean, now the Kingdom of God is going to be more like eating and drinking with close friends with nothing to prove.  Because you know you belong and you know you are welcome there.

To be involved with God, Jesus says is not going to be like always bathing but never getting clean. It’s going to be like sitting at a table with your best friends, enjoying good food and drink, with nothing to prove.  Things are about to shift from purity rites to shared table delights.

Instead of are you clean enough, are you pure enough, are you holy enough, are you kosher enough, the question is now going to be will you come to the table?   Want to come to God?   The question has changed.  It used to be that the question was are Holy enough, pure enough, kosher enough, clean enough???   But Jesus says that’s not the question any more. The question isn’t are you holy, clean, or pure enough, the question is will you come to the table??

That’s the standing invitation Jesus gives to you.  He invites you to his table. And he says I’m not asking you if you’re clean enough.  I’m not asking you if you Holy enough.  I’m not asking you if you’re good enough.  I’m not asking you if you’re pure enough.  I’m not asking you if you’re religious enough.  I’m not asking you if you’re kosher enough.  I’m just asking, will you  come?

That’s all Jesus asks of you, is that you come.  Just come.   Just come to the table and then things will happen.   But know that you are welcome here.  You are loved here.  You are accepted here.   Just come as you are.

Amen.

John Lewis

The Wine will Flow

The Wine will Flow

Still turning water into wine here…

Mary, despite not actually asking her son to fix the problem of the wine running out, clearly shows a trust in him to be able to do something.   So when Jesus says to her “What’s that for us?”, “His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”   So Jesus looks around and notices there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. He notices these six stone jars, or water pots.   These water pots are empty, they are for the mikvahs.  They use these water pots to fill the mikvahs.  If we ever were to visit Jerusalem, you will see these around.  Mikvahs are dug into the ground, into the stone, with steps leading into him.  What they are is baptistries.   They are not bathtubs, they are not ancient hot tubs.  They are used for ritual purification.  Several times a week. an observant Jew would properly fill his mikvah with the proper kind of water blessed, by the rabbi.  Then he would go down into the water, repeat the prayers, dunk himself seven times, and observe the rituals that he might be ceremonially pure.

So at this wedding we had some of these stone water pots used for filling the mikvah.  They are empty.   Each one has between 20-30 gallons of capacity.  If you fill six of them it’s between 120 to 180 gallons of water, so let’s call it 150 gallons here.  So Jesus tells says to the servants Fill the jars with water.”    To which I can imagine these servants rolling their eyes.  “Oh brother.  Another super religious guy.  Instead of partying all night we’re all going to have to go down to the mikvah and get baptized again.”   But they do it.  It’s going to take a while.  Remember, they don’t have hoses or spigots to use and easily fill these things up.  This required drawing the water out of the well, it takes a lot of time and effort to draw 150 gallons of water.

“And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.”   Ok Jesus.  Sounds a little strange.  But they do it anyway.  They take water out of the stone jar for ritual purification.  They put it in a wine cup and take it to the chief steward, but somewhere in transit, somewhere along the way, a miracle happens.  The water has turned to wine.

The steward doesn’t know anything that’s been going on.  He just knows the wine has run out.  But the servants come to him, “Here you go, try this out.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.”    Think about the baffled bridegroom.  He has no idea what the steward is talking about.  All he knows is that he’s heard rumors that they are running out of wine, and all of a sudden now there’s tons of it.   The master of the feast is poking him in the side, grinning – “Oh, you’ve really fooled us!   You kept the very best wine until now!”   To which the bridegroom said what?   “Praise the Lord!!??

But Jesus has done it!!  The little wedding in Cana of Galilee, on the verge of catastrophe, suddenly is supplied with 1000 bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon.  And Jesus gives a wink to his mom.   “This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed his glory. And his disciples believed in him.”  John 2:11 NLT.  And John says Jesus revealed his glory.  Jesus revealed his glory, which means his beauty.    Imagine being one his 6 disciples there.   Imagine following this rabbi, just starting to follow, then you see the sign, you see the water turned to water.

And Jesus revealed his beauty.   This is a beautiful story.  There is something fun, something whimsical about this story.  Later, most of Jesus’ miracles are framed in a life and death scenario.  A leper, his life ebbing away.  Disciples in a boat, threatened with imminent death from a storm.   Here’s a little girl who’s in fact already died.  There’s a deep, dark frame around a lot of Jesus’ miracles.  But this one, there’s none of that.  Yes, we might want to save the family from social embarrassment, but there is no way this is crucial to anything.  This is just a whimsical miracle, where Jesus, in order to keep the wedding going, gives a sign.  It’s not just a party trick, it’s a sign.

What’s the sign pointing to?   In the Old Testament, the abundance of wine was often symbolic of God’s favor and blessing.  Likewise, ruined vineyards and a scarcity of wine was symbolic of the absence of God.  So as the prophets began to imagine the time when God would come through his Messiah, anticipating the day when messiah would come and bring the righteous reign of God with all of its blessing and abundance, they use language like this  – “…the vats shall overflow with wine…” Joel 2:24 ESV, “the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it.”  Amos 9:13 ESV, “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine…” Isaiah 25:6 ESV.  It’s as if they are saying Oh, and the rivers will flow with wine…

That’s the anticipation, the prophetic vision.  So, in a beautiful and artistic way, Jesus, in turning the water to wine and providing an abundance of it, has announced that the reign of God at last has arrived.   Remember, in the story, the steward says to the bridegroom But you have kept the good wine until now.   John’s gospel is very sophisticated.  It’s as if he knows and trusts his readers will read this over and over in a thoughtful way, and he hides all these gems in it.  So, Jesus is also the bridegroom, is he not?   Jesus is the bridegroom…

So think of it like this – in previous days, in earlier times Israel had had some good wine.  In the days of Moses, when they are brought out of Egypt, and God is present in a cloud by day and fire by night, giving them the Torah, they had some good wine.  In the days of David, when the kingdom was coming and the sweet psalmist of Israel was reigning and ruling, they had some good wine.  But then, the exile.  For about 500 years, all you could say is, they have no wine.  The wine has run out.  The good days are gone, they have no wine.

But now…JESUS IS ON THE SCENE!!!   Not only is there wine, it’s the best wine!!!   We can say, We had some good times with Moses, we had some good times with David, but the BEST has been saved for now!!   AMEN!

When Jesus is on the scene, good things are about to happen.  Why was Jesus at this wedding?  Because he was invited!   Hey, remember that carpenter guy over in Nazareth?  He did some work for us, he’s a cool guy.  What’s his name?   Oh yeah, Yeshua of Nazareth, 101 Olive Street, Nazareth.   And just because they invited Jesus, they got the miracle.  So when you’re going through your struggle, your thing, your situation, your problem, and you’re going through it, invite Jesus.  JESUS, want to come to my party, my mess, my marriage, my addiction, my life, my business, my thing?   I got this thing going on Jesus, want to come?   And don’t tell Jesus what to do, just invite him.  Because you never know what Jesus is going to do.  Think about it, nobody would have thought I know what to do, we’ll invite Jesus and he’ll perform a miracle and turn all this water into wine.  Nobody would have ever dreamed that up.  Only Jesus.  So don’t tell Jesus what to do, just invite him to your thing.  Because where Jesus shows up good things are about to happen.  But Jesus tends to show up where he’s invited.

So invite him.

John Lewis

What’s That For Us?

Back in John’s telling of the first recorded miracle of Jesus, turning water into wine…

So yes, On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee.   The third day as in Tuesday, as in Sunday, Monday, Tuesday…also as in the doubly blessed third day from Genesis, a doubly blessed day that must be the day the Jews in Israel would have to be married on.   But never forget…and John will not let you forget, the third day is also the day Christ himself rose from the dead…

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee.   Cana of Galilee.   Funny thing about Cana of Galilee is, we know exactly where this is.  You can still visit Cana today.   It’s only 5 miles from Nazareth.  Which probably tells us exactly why Jesus was invited to this wedding.  Because he was known in the community, he was local.  Yes, let’s invite Yeshua, the carpenter, remember him, he fixed our steps and built the gazebo a couple years ago.  Let’s invite him.    Jesus was invited, his mom was invited, his disciples were invited.   Not because they were Jesus’s disciples but also because they, too, were known.

But Jesus only has six disciples at this point.   This is the very beginning of his ministry.   He’s got Andrew, Peter, James, John, Phillip, and Nathanael.  Nathanael specifically has just joined the day before.   He has just become a disciple of Jesus, and Jesus had told him You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” John 1:50 NIV.   Better hold onto your hat, you’re going to see some awesome things.   And sure enough, the next day they are at the wedding in Cana, and Nathanael will something truly amazing.

It’s a Jewish wedding of the first century.  And we need to understand about Jewish weddings, or we might be confused.    When we think of a wedding, we think of a quick ceremony followed by a wedding reception.   But this is not a reception with mints and nuts and cake and punch in a plastic cup.  This is a feast that will go for days.  This is not a 20 minute ceremony followed by an hour long reception.    You would have the ceremony, the bride and groom would disappear for a short time (not for pictures), the happy, blushing couple would return and the feast would begin!

It sounds crazy, but that’s how it was done.  Jesus is at one of these first century weddings.   They’ve had the vows, the happy couple has disappeared into the tent, now they’ve come back, and now it’s time to start several days of feasting.  But no sooner had they got started, a real catastrophe happened.  In a shame and honor based culture, which is typical of the east, including first century Israel, things like weddings have to come off right or it brings great shame upon the family.   What happened here was, they ran out of wine.   If you run out of wine, it is a catastrophe.  Because when you have a feast that’s supposed to run for three days, if you run out of wine, people go home.   Well, that’s that!!  People begin to drift away, and what’s supposed to be a several day feast is over by the afternoon.   It’s very embarrassing, the shame could linger within the family for generations – “That’s that family that tried to have a wedding!   That didn’t work out, they ran out of wine and everybody left!!  LOL

So they ran out of wine and are the verge of a social catastrophe.  Jesus’s mother is there with Jesus, her eldest son, and simply observes They have no wine.   Notice that she’s not requesting for Jesus to do anything.  This is not a request.  Mary is not saying “Jesus fix this.”   She’s simply making a whispered observation laden with pity.  “Oh my goodness. They’ve ran out of wine, I feel so sorry for them.  How embarrassing.  How did they let this happen?  They have no wine.”   In our English translations Jesus’ response is rendered like this – Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.   What is actually said here in the Greek is apparently at least a little enigmatic, obscure, and difficult to understand.  This comes across in our translations as a rebuff, but I don’t think that’s what happening at all.  It doesn’t fit, Mary has not asked Jesus to do anything, she has just observed that they were, in fact, out of wine.  NT Wright says we would benefit greatly from a simple punctuation change –  Woman? What! Has this to do with me?   Or how about this.  Jesus response is really, if we could understand, more like this – “What’s that for us?  I’ve got time.  I can take care of that.

Jesus says  My hour has not yet come.  Jesus knows that an hour will come when he can not work.  The hour of darkness.  The hour that he’s betrayed and turned over to the Romans.   The hour that he’s crucified.  But Jesus knows that’s a ways off.  So Mary says oh no They have no wineJesus responds and says “What’s that for us?   We can take care of that.  I’ve got the tine.  I’m not in a rush.  I can handle this.

Here’s an example so we can better understand.  Imagine you’re in the grocery store, heading home after church to get your true worship on and watch some football, and at the front of the line is a young mother buying groceries, formula and diapers for her baby.  Except she is coming up a couple of dollars short of being able to pay for what she has.  And now she’s embarrassed, because there is a line of people in line behind her.   She’s slowing the line down, and I mean, kickoff is in fifteen minutes!   The back of her neck is white hot from the glowering stares behind her.  This young mother is both embarrassed and a little desperate, because she needs those groceries.  At which point your spouse whispers “She has no money.”  So you  grab a couple of bucks out of your wallet, discreetly head to the front of the line and give it to the cashier.  “Here’s the rest of the money.  I’ve got this covered.”   Because, after all, what’s a couple of dollars?  What’s that for us?   We can take care of it.

That’s what’s happening here.  That’s exactly what Jesus is doing.  Mary says They have no wine.  Jesus says No big deal.  What’s that for us?   He’s not saying “That’s not my problem.”   What Jesus is saying here is “That’s no problem.”   It’s all in how you hear the idiom, and there’s all the difference in the world.

How many times do we see others in certain situations and walk away without helping, telling ourselves “That’s not my problem.  What’s that got to do with me?”   But really, “Whats that for us?”   It’s so easy for us to turn our backs and walk away.  I do it everyday.   But, again, “What’s that for us?  We can handle that.”    Can’t we?

“On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.”  John 2:1-11 ESV

John Lewis