Let’s begin with prayer…
In your groups this past week you should have discussed a bit of John chapter 1 and a few other verses about the importance of knowing Jesus intimately. I hope it was a fruitful discussion.
I titled today’s talk “And So It Begins” both because today we begin looking intently at Jesus to learn his ways AND because what we see in John 2 is the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, which He kicks off in both a subtle and then not-so-subtle way.
John ends chapter 1 with the calling of some of the disciples, and then in chapter 2 he talks about his first miracle at a wedding. But before we talk about that, let me briefly fill in some of the details that John left out, such as the baptism of Jesus and Jesus being tempted by Satan in the wilderness. John doesn’t talk about either one of those significant events, probably because the other three gospels do.
John’s gospel is different than the other three. Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called the “synoptic” gospels by theologians because they are largely the same. They follow the same basic timeline and tell mostly the same stories. There are some differences, but not that many. John’s gospel is almost completely different, though not in a contradictory way. John just chose not to rewrite what had already been written, because by the time John sat down to write his own account, probably around 90 AD, the other accounts had already been in circulation for at least 20 or 30 years.
No, John actually expresses his reasons for writing his account later in the book. He also points out that he did not record EVERYTHING Jesus did.
30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
John’s Gospel is focused primarily on the divinity of Christ, giving evidence that Jesus was indeed the Son of God and equal with God himself. Hence how he begins with“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
And we will also see that John has an intentional pattern of pointing out specific miracles that are “signs” of this truth.
By going through John as our primary road map in this study, and branching off into the other gospels as necessary, we will get a fuller picture of our Lord
Anyway, that’s a quick little lesson on how the gospels work.
I would love to cover both the Baptism and Temptation stories today, but I will actually barely have time to cover John 2. So, I’ve recorded a separate video covering the Temptation story for the Life Groups. My hope is that after today’s talk and watching the video in your group and discussing it, you will never look at that story the same way again!
If you’re not in a group yet, it’s not too late. I encourage you to get in one this week!
Now, enough of an introduction – let’s go to a wedding!
Open your bibles to John 2.
1 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”
4 “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”
5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.
7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.
8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”
They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”
11 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
12 After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days.
It’s a pretty cool story, and often the center of the debate about whether Christians should drink alcohol or not. With both sides going to lengthy explanations of why the wine Jesus made was either only grape juice or the good stuff. Just a plain reading of the text and a little bit of common knowledge and social situational understanding makes it clear Jesus didn’t make any grape juice. But that’s a topic for another time.
What we have here is what John calls the first “sign” that Jesus is God. That’s what he means when he says “revealed his glory.”
And if you think about how important that fact is – that Jesus IS God – I find it fascinating that Jesus chose such a subtle way to first let his disciples start to see it. In fact, it was so subtle, that it seems only a few actually knew it was him that did it. He didn’t make a big scene. In fact, he basically never even moved. He merely gave some instructions, and as they were followed the miracle happened.
So, what does this tell us about Jesus? And by proxy, about God?
I’ll come back to that later.
For now, let’s take a closer look at the interaction Jesus has with his mother.
Commentators suggest that Mary must have been a friend of the family of the bride or groom and was thus involved in the wedding in some way. And remember that weddings in those days are not like what we do. Their wedding lasted for a week at the shortest and a month at the longest and consisted of all kinds of feasting. This running out of the wine must have been several days into the wedding and would have been a serious embarrassment for the family, which is a big deal in a shame and honor culture. So, Mary is trying to solve the problem and goes to her son to see if he can help.
Now, she doesn’t exactly ask for his help. She simply tells him about the problem. Commentators have all kinds of interpretations as to why she would do this. Some suggest she was trying to get him to do a miracle to show the people who she knew he really was. Some suggest, with Joseph out of the picture, she was used to relying on her oldest son as the man of the house. We may never know for sure this side of heaven, but I speculate that she was probably looking for some kind of miracle.
There’s no evidence one way or another about whether he had done similar things like this before just in the context of his immediate family. But I can just imagine it’s a Friday night (start of the sabbath, all the stores are closed) and Mary realizes she forgot to pick up the frozen pizza for dinner and laments to Jesus that they’ll be having leftovers yet again, to which young Jesus responds…look in the freezer again (with a wave of his hand)…and what do you know, there they are!
I guess we’ll never know. But clearly, Mary was expecting Jesus to do something.
And Jesus responds in a way that, in our modern American and English context, sounds rather rude. But it wasn’t. The Greek here is hard to translate because Jesus uses an idiom – figure of speech – that made sense in their language and culture but not in ours.
First, he calls her Woman, which, in that culture was not a derogatory or disrespectful address for a woman. It’s modern equivalent is something like “ma’am” or “miss” – It’s polite, but not familiar or intimate. So, he was not being mean to his Mom, but he was intentionally addressing her just as he would any other woman, thus separating himself from her a bit, which I’ll explain why in a minute.
The rest of his statement, “why do you involve me?”, is a bit more nuanced than we can see.
The literal word for word Greek is “What to you and to me?”
It’s an idiomatic statement, or figure of speech, which commentator William Barclay describes as a…
..common conversational phrase. When it was uttered angrily and sharply it did indicate complete disagreement and reproach, but when it was spoken gently it indicated not so much reproach but misunderstanding. It means: “Don’t worry; you don’t quite understand what is going on; leave things to me, and I will settle them in my own way.” Jesus was simply telling Mary to leave things to him, that he would have his own way of dealing with the situation.
And his follow-on comment that “My hour has not yet come” is also communicating that whatever he may or may not do is not dependent on the fact that she asked him.
In fact, this whole interchange with His mother is a picture of Mary trying to compel Jesus to do something based on their relationship as Mother and Son, and Jesus pointing out in a kind and non-confrontational way that he is no longer under her authority, nor is he swayed by HER any more than anyone else.
And that’s because Jesus has only one motivation for everything he does or does not do. Which he spells out in no uncertain terms a few chapters from now…
19 “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing of himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”
This is a profound statement that we will go back to over and over in this series. Jesus, the Son of God, does nothing of himself, that is nothing of his own idea, or originating from himself. He only does what he sees his Father – God – doing.
The Apostle Paul described this mindset of Christ…
6Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Jesus was communicating to Mary that WHAT he was going to do and WHEN he was going to do it was not up to her, or even himself. That “his hour had not come” simply meant that he had not yet received instructions to do anything about this yet, with the “yet” possibly implying that instructions were forthcoming.
Mary’s response indicates that she probably did not fully understand this, but she ultimately trusted him to do the right thing.
And it just so happens that moments later, God the Father must have instructed Jesus the Son to honor her request.
To me, that’s a beautiful picture of how prayer works. Mary came to God with a request, and then behaved in a manner that trusted God would do what HE considered best. And God responded to that kind of faith with a YES.
What we see in Jesus in this moment is a God who cares about our little problems. It’s really quite comforting.
I bet you never knew there was so much depth to this seemingly simple story. Well, there’s actually even more, but I need to move on to the next story or we’ll be here all day….
Open your bibles to John 2
13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”
17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
18 The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”
19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”
20 They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.
John’s Gospel shows this event happening at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, and the other Gospels show it happening at the end, three years later. What’s the solution? He did it twice – three years apart. I could go into lots of arguments for that, but I’ll let you read about that on your own. If nothing else, read the different accounts and see that not just the WHEN is different but the HOW and WHAT WAS SAID are different as well.
Anyway, what John is showing us here in chapter two is Jesus breaking out on the scene in two very different ways. The first one is subtle, and the second one is anything but.
Let’s talk about this scene.
Passover was an annual feast that attracted Jews from all over the nation, and even the Jews scattered throughout Rome, to Jerusalem. It was the most important feast of the year, and it was actually required by Law that all Men within 15 miles of Jerusalem had to come. So, this was not the first time Jesus had been to this. In fact, the first time he went was when he was 12 years old, which is recorded in Luke 2. I recommend you read it.
So, Jesus had been coming to the temple at Passover for 18 years now. And I’m sure that this was not the first time it had been turned into a marketplace. The reason this happened is that for many that traveled long distances, it was impractical to bring an animal to sacrifice, so these were provided to purchase locally. Also, for men over the age of 20, it was required to pay an annual Temple tax – which would be most convenient to do while in Jerusalem for Passover. But the Temple tax had to be paid with a specific kind of money, so money changers facilitated foreigners to exchange their currency for the right kind.
So, really, these practices originated out of a good place, but like all things that human beings are involved in, it had become exploited and most of the merchants overcharged and ripped people off. And Jesus had been seeing this for 18 years, but had never been given permission by His Father to do something about it…until now.
So, he tears through the market with a fury that foreshadows in a very mild way the wrath we see unfold at the end of Revelation as Jesus single-handedly slaughters the beast worshipping people when He comes back in full glory at the end of the tribulation.
This show of anger and violence in the Temple surely shocked the people who saw it. And remember why he’s doing this. Why is he getting angry and kicking everyone out? Because that’s what the Father was doing. After years of mercy, letting these activities slide, God uses this moment to both bring His Son into the spotlight and give these mockers a good kick in the pants.
As the Apostle Paul later so eloquently put…
7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
What we see in Jesus in this moment is a God who is angry with the mockery that His people make of his commands in order to please their own flesh. What Jesus points out the second time he does this is that God declared his house would be a house of prayer. And these people had turned it into a quick way to earn a buck. They were sowing to please their flesh and expecting to reap eternal life – they were mocking God.
And so, Jesus makes a small but noticeable showing of some of that anger in kicking all the mockers out of his church. And don’t think he doesn’t still do that today.
And, so, zooming back out and looking at both stories together, I believe this depiction of the beginning of Jesus ministry, with two drastically different methods, illustrates something important about the way God works. Because remember – all that Jesus does is only what he sees the Father doing. So, what is Jesus showing us about the nature of God?
With the story of the water to wine miracle – which John calls the first sign Jesus did to reveal who he was – I see God wooing potential believers with kindness and very practical non-flashy met needs.
And in the story of the clearing of the Temple, which John does not call a sign, I see God harshly rebuking and exposing the true motives of the hard-hearted.
In Romans 2, Paul points out that it is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance – or belief. And in the story of the water to wine, God’s kindness to the family that would have been embarrassed by the faux pas, got his disciples to believe, because they had soft hearts that were ready to believe.
But in the case of the Jews in the Temple asking for a sign, Jesus knew they would never believe even when he rose from the dead, so instead of a kind explanation, he offers them a prediction of what would later be his greatest sign, but their hard hearts not only could not understand what he was talking about, but instead of seeking to understand, they just retort with their own form of mockery.
We see further examples of this kind of treatment of the hard-hearted later when Jesus spars with the religious leaders throughout his ministry.
Basically, God knows the old maxim…Those convinced against their will are of the same opinion still.
Hence the Parable of the Soils…it’s not the seed that is bad, it’s the soil of our hearts.
And hence how John ends this chapter…
23 Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name. 24 But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. 25 He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person.
Apparently Jesus must have done some other things, probably healing people, while he was there. The other Gospels talk of Jesus doing a lot of healing at the outset of his ministry. And because people saw that kind of thing, they started believing in him.
But then John says something rather significant.
24 But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. 25 He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person.
He knew that many who were believing in him because of the miracles today would be shouting crucify him in just a few years when he doesn’t turn into the kind of Messiah they wanted. He knew that even those closest to him, the ones he invested the most time and energy in, would all abandon him, deny him, and even betray him. He knew that their belief was only skin deep and based on a totally selfish motive. They would stick around as long as the miracles kept happening and the crowds kept growing, but as soon as things got hard or his teaching a little too convicting…they’d be out the door. Things haven’t changed much in the last 2,000 years…
And so, he did not entrust himself to them. He did not let his personal sense of validation, or calling, or mission, or success be dependent on the opinions of the people around him, because he lived completely and totally for an audience of one – His Father. And He knew that His Father was pleased with him as He lived in complete obedience, whether the crowds praised him or cursed him.
Peter points this out in his first letter. And also points out that this is how we are to be as imitators of Christ.
1 Peter 2
21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
22 “He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth.”
23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.
This is a big one for me. And something God has been working on me rather strongly over the past month or so. Being in leadership, it’s easy to fall victim to entrusting oneself to the crowd. But to be like Christ means to only entrust ourselves to God because only God judges correctly. Only God can weight the motives of the heart. And God is the only one who will never leave you nor forsake you, even if everyone else does. Only God loves unconditionally.
And I think the two main truths about Jesus we see in John chapter 2 (with help from chapter 5) go hand in hand.
Jesus was able to entrust himself only to the Father because Jesus lived in complete obedience only to the Father.
Because entrusting myself to Him who judges justly is only a good thing if what I’m doing is the right thing.
But, if what I’m doing is the wrong thing – or rather my thing – which has no hope of lining up with God’s thing – then his judgment will be rightly harsh and convicting. So, in that case I’d rather gather around me others who agree with my wrong thinking so that I can feel better about myself. Or as I’m trying to justify myself, I’ll read only the articles, or listen to only the teaching, or watch only the news channel that agrees with me so I don’t have to face the judge who judges justly.
We all do this. Every time we make excuses for why we either can’t do what we know God wants us to do, or we want to keep doing what we know God wants us to stop doing.
But as Peter points out – we are called to follow the example of Christ. As Paul points out in Romans, we are called, we are saved to become like Christ. As Jesus himself points out, and I use this frequently because I see this as both the kindest warning and the most brutal truth that Jesus could have given us…
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
Only those who become like Christ – whose whole MO was to do the will of the Father – will ever even ENTER the Kingdom of Heaven. And that’s a continuous doing of the will of God. Not just a sporadic, whenever I think of it, or fit it into my schedule, way of living.
What it means is that we must become God-centered rather than Self-centered.
Self-centered is not the same thing as selfish.
A self-centered person can be a rather good person. They can be generous. They can share their belongings and be very considerate of others. They can even care about causes that are bigger than themselves, and so on.
But the difference between a self-centered person and a God-centered person is the WHY, WHEN, and HOW they do those things. A self-centered person makes all those choices on their own. They do good where THEY see fit and when it gives them the most sense of satisfaction to do so. In other words, they are good on their own terms and by their own definition.
That is how the people Jesus was talking about were able to do all those good things in His name and He still not know them. They were doing those things of their own volition rather than living in obedience and total submission to the Will of God.
Like I’ve said before. Not all that is good is right. God is not interested in us being good for him. He’s interested in us being obedient.
To be like Christ means that we are God-centered. That we only do what God is in the moment telling us to do, not just doing what we think is best, or following some kind of check list.
And if that seems impossible, it’s because it is in our own power. It can only be accomplished as we submit ourselves to the leading and empowering of the Holy Spirit that moved in when we made Jesus our Lord and Savior.
How you can tell if you are God-Centered or Self-Centered is how you are effected by the results of the things you think you are doing for God. If you find that you take the successes and failures personally. If you are moved and swayed by the praise or criticism of the crowd. Or if you start thinking that you are somehow necessary for God to accomplish His plan (the old, if I don’t do it, no one will, attitude), then you are being Self-Centered rather than God-Centered. Or rather, Self-Guided rather than God-Guided. You are calling the shots and so you are emotionally attached to the results.
I know this because God has been showing this to me about myself lately.
Jesus was completely God-Centered, completely God-Guided. He wasn’t swayed by his mother. He wasn’t concerned about the response of those in the temple. And he did not entrust himself to the people who were impressed with his miracles.
May we all aim to be like Jesus. To follow His example, as Peter urges us to do. To submit ourselves fully to the leading of the Holy Spirit and yielding our own wills to him such that we are eager to do His will instead of ours and no longer swayed by the highs and lows that result.
And I believe we can achieve this kind of mentality. I don’t believe we would be encouraged in Scripture to imitate Christ if it were not possible. But I know it’s not something we can do by just trying. I believe it is accomplished in what we are setting out to do as we Pursue Christ together. As we fix our eyes on Him and fill our minds with the knowledge of Him, and as we do what Paul urges us to do in Romans 12…
…in view of God’s mercy, to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—which is our true and proper worship. As we no longer conform to the pattern of this world, and as we are transformed by the renewing of our minds. Then we will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.