Evangelical Community Chapel at Liberal: a Molalla, Oregon Church

Molalla, Oregon

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When Jesus comes

August 2nd, 2009 by Vic

John 2

John selects 7 miracles in his gospel to prove to us that Jesus is the Son of God and that by believing we might have life.  The first miracle narrative is at a wedding in Cana.  In John’s gospel Jesus goes to Jerusalem 3 times.  Leaving Cana, Jesus, His family and 6 disciples go to Jerusalem to cleanse the Temple.  Jesus began his ministry with a quiet miracle and then a very noisy demonstration in the temple.

The miracle at Cana is similar to how Moses began his ministry.  Remember the first plague was turning the water to blood, symbolic of the sacrifice required for disobedience.  Now Jesus’ first miracle is turning the water to wine, symbolic of the joy that comes from obedience.  This was prophesied in Isaiah 55:1, “Come to the water… buy wine.”  Jesus brings joy in the routines.  Jesus brings joy in our worship.  Disobedience brought sacrifice.  Obedience brings joy.

The second event in this chapter, the cleansing of the temple, was seen by the last prophet in the O.T.  Malachi 3:1-3 tells us the Messiah will suddenly come to His temple and “purify the sons of Levi.”  Like Moses before Pharaoh, Jesus is in the Temple before the religious rulers and declares the sovereignty of God.  Their thinking about God needed to be corrected.  10 plagues cleansed Egypt.  The leaders saw the confrontation as an authority issue.  Who’s in charge?  Does my temple need cleansing?

Before He had chosen all 12 apostles, Jesus began his ministry privately at a wedding and publicly in the mega church headquarters.  He begins His ministry with 2 events that suggest all the O.T. teaching from Moses to Malachi.

The miracles in John are literally called signs or sign posts.  They are intended to point to God.

Miracles will never make anyone believe, but to those who believed, the miracles revealed the love of His Father.  Jesus knew people cannot be forced to worship, but the temple can be cleansed to make it easier for people to worship.  Nobody can be forced to fellowship with us here, but we can be more Christlike so others want to be with us.

Miracles without belief are amazing.  Different Greek words describe miracles as wonders, powers, freaks of nature, but sign post miracles point to God.

For John, the miraculous is no proof of truth, reality, or divine authority.  Miracles happen because God is active far beyond our capacity to see.  But He does not use miracles to entertain or advertize.  Jesus had no time for people who demand the sensational to validate truth or confirm God’s presence among them.

John tells us he chose to tell us about 7 signs so we would believe that Jesus is the Christ.  None of the signs are compelling evidence that forces a unanimous verdict that God did this.  We cannot be forced to believe.  Belief requires choice, participation, trust, and commitment.  When we believe we are at our most personal and intimate with another.  Belief cannot be forced.  If we are bullied, manipulated, or seduced to believe, we do not believe.  We are intimidated, used, or raped.  We are less of a person not more.  Real belief makes us more of a person.  John wrote so that you would believe.

Think about miracles with me for a minute.  There is a fine line here.  Jesus did not perform miracles to prove that He was the Son of God, but John wrote about the miracles so we would believe that Jesus is the Son of God.  The miracles are proof of His divinity, but Jesus did not do miracles to prove His divinity.  To prove His divinity He obeyed perfectly and loved perfectly in an imperfect world.  He lived a holy life in the routines.

The Devil tempted Him to perform miracles to prove His divinity.  The Jews sought for signs to prove His authority, but Jesus never worked a miracle for the sake of proving truth.  He never used miracles to remove the doubts of reluctant men.  That was a secondary purpose.  The proof was a by-product of the expression of His love.  We know He is Jesus by His love.  You cannot be convinced to believe in God with a miracle.  Only the Holy Spirit can reveal God.  You cannot argue anyone to belief in God.  Your only weapon is love.

Let me illustrate the purpose of miracles.  If I give gifts to my wife to prove my love, I am not proving my love, but my desire for her to think that I love her.  If I give gifts to my kids to prove to them that I love them, the gifts become a curse that destroys our fragile relationship.  My gifts only prove my desire for them to think I love them. The only thing I can really prove by giving gifts is my selfish desire to appear loving or generous.

I cannot prove love by giving gifts, I prove love by loving.  The outflow of my love will be expressed by giving gifts, but it is really the thought that counts.  The attitude of the heart determines the value of the gift.  Remember some of the best gifts you have received.  It was the love represented not the gift.  The gift will never prove love, but love is expressed in giving gifts.

The act that a man does in order that he may be recognized as a good man, only reveals his love of recognition not his goodness.  A rich man builds a church to win God’s favor, but can’t.  A good rich man builds a church because his heart is good and God smiles on him.

So Jesus performed miracles not to prove anything, but because he was God, and thus by doing miracles He proves that he is God.  It is like the poet who writes because he is a poet, not to prove that he is a poet; however, by writing he proves that he is a poet.  He writes because of what is in his heart.

Miracles are an expression of God’s love, but they are written by John in order that we might believe.

Believing involves us in a reality other than ourselves.  It involves a relationship.  A selfish person only believes himself.  When we believe, we embrace the unseen and worship.  When we love we embrace the visible and care.

Today we look at the first miracle in John’s gospel.  There are at least 7 words used in the NT to describe the supernatural works of Christ.  The one John chooses to use is ‘snmeion’, which the KJV translates as sign, miracle, or wonder.

John uses ‘snmeion’, the word for sign, 24 of the 77 times in the NT.

Snmeion is a signpost or a mark.  It is something visible that points beyond itself for its real meaning.  It is intended to lead us to something beside itself.  In the Scripture, a sign is often the finger of God pointing in the way we should go.  The value of the sign is not in itself, but in what it indicates.  It has no intrinsic value.

The sign is not the truth.  The sign is not the reason for faith, but John says these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31)  While there are many miracles recorded in the NT, John chooses 7 and calls them signs.

In 1:27, we have the testimony of John the Baptist that Jesus would be far superior to him.  Then 2 of John’s disciples started following Jesus.  We are going to see the first sign through the eyes of these disciples.

These disciples had known and admired the recluse life of John the Baptist.  Now if Jesus were to be greater than John, surely He would fast more, pray more, preach louder, and be greater in every way.  John the Baptist came neither eating nor drinking (Matt 11:18).  Surely Jesus will be for more religious.  The way John described Him, maybe they expected someone like an angel who would not need to eat or sleep.  Maybe they felt that a Son of God would never be happy living in such a dirty world.  Surely He would avoid people.  He would never think of going to a wedding.  How could He mix with common people and discuss common things.  Surely someone greater than John must be more of a recluse.  He would never laugh or have a good time or allow his body any pleasures.

But Jesus came to fulfill the promises of God, not the expectations of men.  He came to a wedding with 6 disciples, just three days after John’s announcement.  He was not an honored guest.  He was not the center of attention.  He was not wearing a special uniform.  He was not making a spectacle of himself.  He was not in charge.  This was not the place to launch His ministry.  This was not a monastery.  This was not a solitary mountain or a wilderness.  This was not a Garden of Eden.  He’s here at a common wedding. (2:1)

So today Jesus can be invited into the common routines of our lives.  He does not pour contempt on our parties, but brings lasting joy.  He does not separate Himself from life, but sanctifies life.  He does not come to disrupt the natural order, but make it a sacred space.  He has come to anticipate our needs.  A miracle happened during a common event.  A miracle can happen in our routine too.  The common can become sacred by the presence of Jesus.

2:1-2   “One the third day” goes back to God’s revelation at Sinai.  The wedding feast hinted at the reign of the Messiah.

When Jesus comes our circumstances are altered.  The host had been very generous inviting Jesus and his disciples, but it put a strain on his budget.  The wine of the world never satisfies.  The pleasures of this world have no lasting value.  The party never lasts forever.

2:3-5   Apparently this was the wedding of a relative.  The mother of Jesus had some authority or felt some responsibility.  (Note that John never uses Mary’s name in his gospel.)  Maybe the wine was getting low and when Jesus brought his 6 new disciples, Mary knew it would not last.  She initiates the action.

Note the simplicity of her statement.  She was stating the facts.  She was accustomed to leaning on Jesus.  Did she want Jesus to make more wine, buy more wine, leave and conserve the wine, distract the guests by some intense discussion?  We do not know what she expected, but she expected something.  She had learned to rely on Jesus.  Apparently Joseph had died and Jesus was the elder son that had charge of the family.

2:4  Now note Jesus’ reply.  He was in control.  Literally the Greek reads “what to me and to you” or “with you I understand the need.”  Some think it is like our saying, “we’ve agreed to disagree.” I think He is saying, “Mother let me handle it my way in my time.”  Because there is no verb in the Greek phrase, it is probably an idiomatic saying like, “No problem.”  We leave out the verb.

Whatever the exact meaning, Mary knew Jesus could fix it.  She did not realize what she was rushing Him into.  She did not realize that His hour would fully come on the cross.  But it was natural for her to lean on Jesus.  Maybe Jesus was hesitant about a public display of God’s work.

There is a distance between Jesus and His mother.  They are worlds apart and Jesus’ gentle rebuke reminds his mother of this.  But in the face of rebuke she tells the servants to do whatever he tells them to do.  She has unconditional trust in His word.  Her unconditional trust led to the revelation of the glory of God.

2:7-8 Jesus does everything while doing nothing.  While at the same time the servants seem to be doing everything, they really do nothing.  They respond with wordless obedience.  The acceptance of Jesus’ word is crucial.

These servants knew that they were only putting water in the pots, but maybe this Jesus was a magician and He would do a trick.  They knew that to offer the headwaiter or governor only water was an insult and they would be punished, but they did not hesitate to obey.  They had been ordered to obey and their obedience makes them part of a miracle

If you want to be part of a miracle, obey the Word.  A miracle happens as the servants obey the commands of Jesus.

Sometimes we are commanded to do things, which seem unreasonable or threatening for us to do.  Sometimes while being servants, while doing what we were hired to do, a miracle happens.  If we walk faithfully in the routine, God can bless us.

There is no magic done.  There are no mysterious words.  There is no laying on of hands.  There is no sacred oil.  The water has no faith in Jesus.  The servants do not believe in Jesus.  They just obey.  When the miracle occurred we do not know.  How much of the water became wine we do not know.

Not even a word is required to perform a miracle, but the silent will of God.  Jesus did not even speak, but in silence the water knew the will of God and blushed.  It is the will of God that the fountain within you becomes the living water of joy.  God wants to change your heart.  Do you know the will of God for you?

Plant some seeds of obedience and expect a miracle.  It is through your hands that God wants to express His love and do a miracle for those who have run out of joy.

Life in Jesus is joy.  He wants to restore (1) joy in your routines and in your home.  He comes among us to make the common sacred.  Jesus wants to deepen, intensify, and sanctify your routines.  Jesus comes into your hearts, not to disrupt the natural order, but to restore order.  He wants to bring new life and happiness to you in the routines.

Some people are like the master of the feast who enjoyed the good wine, but never sought the source of the gift or the Giver.  Others are like the servants, just doing what they are told.  But today I challenge you to be like the mother of Jesus.  Learn to trust Him.  Learn to cast all your care on Him.  Believe that He works all things together for good.  You can simply name your need and leave it with Him.

The group takes the long way around to Jerusalem.

2:14  The temple tax could not be paid with money that had effigies on it.

2:15  Jesus does not speak.  He did not come to make life miserable.  He did not kill the animals, he did not take any of the money, he did not open the cages of the birds.  He came to proclaim the rule and reign of God.  The kingdom of God is at hand.  Satan is defeated.  Let the people come into God’s presence and rejoice.  Clean up this temple so people can worship and rejoice easily.

2:16  You’ve made the temple an emporium, a farmer’s market.  There are 3 words to describe temple here.  The leaders do not make the distinctions so they misunderstand what Jesus is saying.  The writer explains this a little in verse 21 and says that more astonishing transformations are still to be seen.  Something will happen in the death and resurrection of Jesus that will transform the disciples.

2:19  “on the third day” is not a literal 3 days but primarily a reference to the coming of God’s glory.  The resurrection will authenticate Jesus claim here in the Temple.  For the Jews, “in 3 days” simply means a short time.

The religious leaders had made worship a real struggle.  They charged for exchanging money.  They charged for animal inspection.  They were using their position to manipulate people.  They were using religion for personal gain.  They were giving God a bad name.  They were making it difficult for people to gain access to God.  The church had become a market and a barn.  The temple of God was no longer holy.  Jesus was upset.  Your body is to be the temple of God.  I’m sure it took a while for the temple to get this cluttered.  It starts with the little things.  Jesus wants to clean up your temple and give you access to God.  Is your temple conducive for worship?

The Jews could not object to what he was doing so they questioned His authority.  They had been confronted by their sin and rather than change, they criticized and questioned the Truth.  They knew Jesus was right, but chose to argue rather than change.  As long as you blame someone else for your sin, you will not change.

When you are confronted with the Truth you have a decision to make.  Will you allow Jesus to clean out the temple of your heart or will you just bring the barnyard back in?  He wants to clean up your life so you can see the face of God.  Jesus said, “The pure in heart see God in everything.”  Confess your sin so He can clean out your temple.

He wants to bring joy in your routines and joy in your worship.  Quietly he brings joy.  Loudly He may remind you of your cluttered temple.  Trust Jesus.

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