Monday, April 23, 2012

Musings on John Chapter Two: III

“Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.” John 2:6.

The wedding reception has run out of wine, what to do?

“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.”

The number six is associated with man, Adam being made on the sixth day. For the past 2,000 years Jesus has been turning water into wine, changing lives from the mundane to the supernatural, from the earthly to the heavenly. Jesus touches lives of stone and makes them tender, forgiving, and loving. He shows us that our efforts at self-purification have no end to them and bring us no lasting peace, but that in Him we have total acceptance and perfect forgiveness and eternal peace. We learn that Jesus Christ is our righteousness and purification and redemption (1Cor. 1:30), that He is our Sabbath rest (Hebrews 4:8 – 16).

In Christ we need not fill stone pots with water for purification again and again and again, for His cleansing is once and for all (Hebrews Chapter Ten), nor do we need to bring our water buckets to the well day after day, for He will put a fountain of life within us (John Chapter Four). When Jesus attends a wedding, when He touches a life, things are never the same – the old ways are no longer – new wine is put into new wineskins.

But it is hard, hard to accept this idea that we need only trust Christ, hard to accept the idea that we need not maintain vessels for purification, for constant washing and washing and more washing. It’s hard to accept the fact that we can use our water buckets as planters, that we need never use them again to draw water from a well. It is easy to sympathize with the Galatians; sure we came into relationship with Christ through belief, but surely we must do something to remain in God’s good favor!

What are the servants thinking as they fill the water pots? Maybe they aren’t thinking, maybe they’re just being obedient servants earning a day’s wage. But then maybe they are thinking, maybe they’re thinking that Jesus is going to put an additive in the water, something to give it the appearance and color of wine – after all, most people have had more than a couple cups of wine, many of the celebrants may not even notice the change in taste – there is a reason why the quality of wine at festivals and receptions declines as the party wears on – who can blame Mary and Jesus for trying to make the best of a bad situation.

So the servants will do what servants must do, they will play the game, they will play the “let’s make believe the water is wine” game and see how it develops. Servants have been playing this game as long as there have been employer – employee relationships, as long as there have been masters and servants, owners and slaves – let’s see what dumb thing the boss is going to do next.

What were the servants thinking when they approached the master of the feast with the water turned wine? Could they discern the transformation or could they only wait to see the reaction of the master of ceremonies? What were they feeling as the master of the feast raised the cup to his lips and the water/wine passed into his mouth? Were their eyes fixed on him or where they looking away, waiting for an explosion of “What are you trying to pull here?!

Suppose we had been the servants? What would we have thought? Would we have poured the water into the stone pots? Would we have carried the water to the master of ceremonies? Would we have told the bridegroom that there was a crazy man interfering with the catering service? Would we have quit rather than be associated with such a hair-brained scheme?

But we are the servants, aren’t we? Those of us who claim to follow Jesus, aren’t we His servants and doesn’t He ask us to do things that make no sense? Turn the other cheek, go with someone an extra few miles, give away what we have, forgive the unforgiveable, love the unlovable, invest ourselves in a Kingdom that can’t be seen (at least by most people), tell the truth even when it is to our detriment (at least the world would tell us that it is), prefer others above ourselves. All of these things make about as much sense as serving water to a master of ceremonies and hoping that he’ll think it’s wine. What kind of God asks His servants to do such things?

Thankfully the obedience of belief need not be without questionings and doubts, thankfully we can wonder, “Is this water really going to become wine?”, as we display our trust in Christ through our obedience. Our Lord Jesus knows our frailties, He knows our struggle for belief; let us remember we are called to trust Him, to trust who He is, to trust His Person, His Character – I am not called to believe that water can be turned into wine, I am called to trust Him and to trust that when He commands and I obey that His will and purpose will be done. It is not the measure of my faith that matters, it is Who I place my faith in.

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