Water into wine
John describes the first week of Jesus’ public ministry in detail – we have seen Him described as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, the calling of his first disciples and today, the third day, we will see His first sign and first altercation with the Pharisees.
Running out of wine is a serious social faux pas and looks really bad on the groom. Mary comes to her son with the dilemma, a request. Note that she “prays” and then is obedient with the answer. Prayer and obedience go hand in hand. The answer involved using six ceremonial washing jars – the Law required ritual washing before a meal. The water is turned into new wine. Better than the wine that has run out. The new wine of the new covenant is better than the old covenant. That’s the heart of the sign and its meaning. “Jesus has changed the water of Judaism into the wine of Christianity” (Leon Morris).
In the first chapter of John, the prologue, we saw that Jesus is the one Moses wrote about in the law and about whom the prophets wrote. Jesus purifies us – the new wine of the kingdom achieves fully our purification. No more outward washings, the grace of God cleanses us fully. The wedding feast also serves as a great picture of life in the kingdom. For all the realities of life and it’s struggles and the spiritual battle we are in, Jesus invites us to a party to celebrate!
Next Jesus cleanses the temple. Jesus purifies us and then sets worship right. It also shows us the battle Jesus is in to confront evil and religion, to bring grace and faith.
Much ink and pixels have been spent on the fact that John places the cleansing of the temple at the start of His ministry, whereas the Synoptic Gospels put it at the end. So what is going on? Maybe –
- There was only one temple cleansing at the end of Jesus’ ministry. As John’s gospel is more theological, than chronological history, he moves it to fit his telling, or
- John has it right and the Synoptic gospels moved it to suit their purposes, or
- There were two similar but not identical cleansings of the temple, correctly recorded by each gospel writer who only records one. In a way they appropriately bookend Jesus’ ministry. At the beginning the newly authorised Messiah moves to confront Israel’s apostasy and call it back to God in a fresh way. Then at the end, in the shadow of His looming sacrifice, Jesus declares the utter bankruptcy of Israel.
Whatever, Jesus prophesies what will happen in his death and resurrection, because He is the new temple, the place of God’s presence on the earth. It’s a grander statement than even John 1:14 which tells us that the Word became flesh and dwelt (literally tabernacled) among us.
Thanks be to Jesus, the eternal Word made flesh, who cleanses us completely and invites us to the kingdom party!