Monday, February 20, 2012

John 2

I take a break from my PDYM reports.  I read some chapters that I agree with so there's not much to talk about there.  Yesterday's teen Sunday School was really good.  Anything involving the Gospel of John is very good.

I started out asking the kids to tell embarrassing stories.  Then we read about two embarrassing stories in John 2.

So a happy couple gets married but toward the end of the celebration, they run out of wine.  This is so embarrassing.  Mary asks her son Jesus to do something about this.  In words that are highly respectful, but odd to say to your mom, he mildly tells her that it's not his time to reveal himself as the Messiah the way she envisions it.  Then he goes ahead and does what she says. 

The Jews at the time envisioned a Messiah who would come on a white horse, slay the Romans, and reestablish the Israel nation with its temple.  How does Jesus solve the problem of no wine at the wedding?  He uses the stone jars intended for guests to wash their hands before meals.  Why did they wash their hands before meals?  Because Leviticus set standards for what was clean and what was not clean.  Before Jesus came to be the ultimate sacrifice for our sins, people had to clean themselves to appear before God and not be cut off from the Israelite community.  They had to avoid shrimp and pork, bring a sacrifice once a year to the temple, and still worry about being clean enough because God was trying to show them how impossible it is to be completely clean.

Jesus came to change the whole works-righteousness and sacerdotal system.  He came to fulfill and replace that with new life.  Therefore, he's going to take the means of cleanliness and make it more fun and fulfilling.  He's going to pour his blood into our lives, meaning that we no longer have to work to clean ourselves.  He's not a messiah who is going to re-establish the temple, but one who will replace the temple and human works with his righteousness.

This is why John takes the rest of the chapter to describe his cleansing the temple.  The three other gospels place this act at the end of Jesus's ministry.  John talks about it in the beginning of his Gospel.  People will say Jesus just cleansed the temple twice.  I mean, if he really did that, then he can do that and it's fine.  My faith doesn't hinge on that, but I seriously don't think he cleansed the temple twice.  John is simply placing the story here for rhetorical emphasis.

Jesus goes up to the temple at Passover.  People are expecting him to enter the temple and affirm all their activities and all the rules they used to dress up God's original rules.  He goes in, makes a whip, and drives out all the merchants, flips the tables over, and rightfully embarrasses the religious leaders because they had their own idea of what Messiah was supposed to be.  They wanted to keep their culture pure from non-Jews, or at least make the no-Jews pay extra to be in the community by crowding out their only area in the temple to make money.  He came to put an end to man's hope in saving himself and take his throne as King of the world, making his sinful people righteous and including people from the whole world.

So, John 1, John establishes that Jesus is God and that he is the Messiah.  John 2, he further defines what that role entails as contrasted to what the Jews thought.

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