The Wedding Feast – New Beginnings
Weddings are joyful celebrations of new beginnings. A ceremony to be shared with one’s closest and dearest friends and family. At the beginning of John chapter 2, this is where we find our Messiah, at a wedding. Jesus’s family had been invited to a wedding and, probably as a curtesy to Jesus, so were His disciples who would have been staying with Jesus.
Jewish weddings were often feasts that lasted for days at a time. The groom’s family was expected to provide food and drink for the duration of the feast. For whatever reason, they ran out of wine, whether out of oversight or a lack of money, we are not told. However, this incident would have been embarrassing to the groom and his family should the rest of the guests had to have been sent home early.
Jesus’s mother, Mary, tells Jesus about it with the expectation that He would be able to do something about the problem. She believed that He could do something about it. In the event of any miracle, faith must come first. Jesus seems reluctant to reveal Himself because “His time had not yet come” to reveal His glory (John 2:4 ESV). The story could have ended there, Jesus could have walked away. After all, Christ’s power is not a set of magic tricks to be pulled out for the entertainment of party guests. And yet, He doesn’t walk away, He stays, proving that He has compassion even over the “mundane” struggles we go through. No problem is too “small” to be brought before God.
Now Jesus asks the servants to fill several stone water jars that were used “for the Jewish rites of purification” and He turns the water into wine (John 2:6 ESV). I want to consider here that maybe the use of the purification jars was not coincidental. These jars were used to remove “uncleanness”. Jesus turns this water that was used to cleanse into wine, wine which later at another feast (Luke 22:20 ESV) is chosen to symbolize Christ’s blood–which cleanses us from our own uncleanness.
Then the servants serve the wine which was formally water to the master of the ceremonies, and it is declared the better wine. If we continue our line of thinking, the old wine or the water, representative of the old covenant, was inadequate for cleansing. The new wine, Christ’s wine, is the best that was saved for last.
This was the first of the signs that Christ chose to do to reveal His glory as God’s chosen anointed. Maybe this particular sign was a glimpse of things to come, just as many of His later signs become. The old giving way to the new and better. Whatever His intentions, He not only helped a friend, but also increased His disciples faith in Him.
Cleansing the Temple
And here we find another example of cleansing the olds ways to make way for the new pure ways. Jesus violently drives out of the temple those making a profit of God. Worship of God was never intended for anyone’s glory but His own. Imagine Jesus’s indignation at people twisting pure and holy things into a means of making money. It puts to mind many “evangelists” who’s sole purpose for preaching God’s word is to make money. It doesn’t matter if the outcome is “good”, no amount of “good” is ever enough to justify an insult to God.
It has also been mentioned that the place where the money changers were set up was the court of the Gentiles, the place were Gentiles could seek God. If this place was crowded with merchants, there was no place for the Gentiles to approach God.
When Jesus commits this act, He is called to do another sign, right after the one He performed in Cana. However, this time, it isn’t a request to help someone, it is a demand, a selfish one at that, meant to challenge Jesus’s authority. There is no faith here, they want to believe after the miracle, not before.
Jesus gives them a “cryptic” sign (no pun intended). “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19 ESV). We have the gift of hindsight and understand that Jesus was referring to Himself and His resurrection. The audience here, however, believed He spoke literally, and because they had no faith, this “sign” only served to annoy and confuse. The ones who did have faith were able to understand after the promised events happened. Sometimes that is how it works today to, we have to have faith first in order to understand events that happen later.
John ends this chapter by explaining that Jesus understood what was in the hearts of men. He knew when those who sought signs just to challenge Him or to disprove Him as well as when those who were seeking signs because they truly wanted to believe or needed His help.