Ok. I said that I was going to blog through John. We see how well that has worked so far. I made it through John 1, then crickets--the chirping kind that make noise in the quiet, still of night. I'm ready to do chapter 2. At this pace we will see the end of John by Christmas.
In John 1, the writer is setting the stage. He parallels his gospel with Genesis and creation. This Jesus, the Word, is with God, and all things are created through him. That creation in Genesis turned from God, chasing after darkness. Jesus, the Word, is coming into the world to establish a new light--he's "moving into the neighborhood" as Eugene Peterson puts it in The Message-John 1:14. The world is going to be much different with him here.
Chapter 2 begins in an interesting place--a wedding. Weddings in that day lasted for a week. Think of it. You plan this big party and you run out of wine on the third day. That is a problem. Even more of a problem in my opinion is Mary coming to Jesus and telling him to make more wine. There is so much backstory here that we don't know. What is Jesus and Mary's relation to the bride and bridegroom? Have they been asked to provide some of the supplies for the wedding (which wouldn't have been unheard of in that day and age.)? How does Mary know that Jesus can turn water into wine? Has she seen him do other miracles before this?
We can get really crazy trying to fill in all the cracks here. What we do know is this. Mary sees a problem and knows that Jesus can fix it. The way he goes about it seems even more telling to me. He has the servants fill up six jars with water. These aren't simply your run of the mill jars, these were used for Jewish purification ceremonies. They are like the special fine china that you never use...or they are like the communion table at church that really should be treated extra special and only used for the communion.
Jesus has the servants fill them up with water and then sample what is in them. Should be water, one would think. But, its not. Its wine. Good wine, from what the writer tells us. So good that the steward, the master of ceremonies, compliments the bridegroom on saving the better wine for the second half of the party--the wedding.
The next story we get in Chapter 2 is Jesus cleansing the temple. He is frustrated with the Jewish system that is in place here. It has become something that it is not supposed to be--a marketplace that probably is laced with crooked practices where God is not the focus. Jesus drives out the animals and the moneychangers. Needless to say, this causes some struggle between he and those that run the temple, the Jews. Their exchange is telling. They ask Jesus to give them a sign so they know by what authority he has to cleanse the temple. He chimes back at them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." The text is quick to tell us the Jews were thinking of the physical stone temple they were standing in at the moment, while Jesus is talking about his own being, body, spirit, and such.
I can't help but see the parallels in both of these stories. John 1 tells us this light that is moving into the neighborhood is going to outshine the darkness. We hear the Jews asking John the Baptist about this Messiah that he is proclaiming. Jesus is going to cause some tension.
In the wedding story, Jesus takes the ritual jars for Jewish cleansing and uses them for something else. He makes wine to help carry on the wedding. (I wonder what connection there is to this story at the beginning of this Gospel to the concept that Jesus is the Bridegroom and the church is the Bride.) The wine was better than the first bit of wine for the wedding. Is this all a parallel that this Jesus is something better that is coming out of Judaism? What statement is this story making about how Jesus is turning Jewish ritual life on its end? So many questions...
What about the clearing of the temple? I think the writer is making a statement to his readers that the Jewish life has been tied to ritual and to the temple and in doing so, has lost the focus of what it is to be about. This Jesus is going to give a new focus, where its not fully about a building or the Law (ritual). Its about something more--being the light in the darkness.