Christianity 201

April 3, 2021

Below the Surface: Look for the Symbol in the Miracle

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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NIV.John.2.3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

“Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons…

…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.

The most miraculous thing Jesus ever did was to conquer death, which we celebrate this Easter weekend. At the other end of the narrative, we have his first miracle at a wedding. These bookend that aspect of his life and they have much in common.

Today we have a book excerpt for you from The Problem of Jesus: Answering a Skeptic’s Challenges to the Scandal of Jesus (Zondervan, 2021) by Canadian pastor Mark Clark. (A sequel to The Problem of God.)


Bringing about revelation of God that leads to saving faith is one of the stated purposes of miracles the gospel writers tell us about. Jesus did miracles to reveal to the world what he came to do. Again, we see this in the miracle mentioned earlier, the turning of water into wine. John 2:6 tells us that there were six stone jars filled with water and then gives their purpose, which is the key to uncovering the meaning of the miracle: they were “for the Jewish rites of purification.” Why did John include this detail? Because John’s larger purpose was to show us through this miracle that the Jewish observance and ritual of purification was being upstaged and superseded by Jesus. This phase of history, where humankind connected with God through religious observance of rituals, was coming to an end. It was being fulfilled by Jesus and what he was doing in the world. Jesus was doing something new, and he was saying, “I am the new wine.” Religion was giving way to relationship.

Here we find the scandal of Jesus’ miracles, the real problem Jesus was creating. What he was saying was like a cultural hand grenade, upending centuries of tradition and belief. this would have been extremely offensive and controversial to John’s audience. How do I know? When I was in Israel a few years ago, I had the unique privilege of preaching in front of one of these big stone water jars at Cana in Galilee, where this miracle took place historically. The jar was up to my waist and must have been two or three feet wide at the mouth. My audience was a collection of tourists standing around as well as our Jewish tour guide, Abraham.

I explained what the story of the water being turned to wine was about, and later Abraham pulled me aside and asked, “Are you serious about what you said back there?” I said, Yes, of course,” He said, “I’ve done this tour with two hundred Christian groups, and I’ve never heard any of them get up and say what you just said. Do you really think that that’s what Jesus was trying to say?”

Here was a man who was religiously living under the idea that purification jars were still necessary in relating to God, and I was able to clarify what Jesus was saying. he began to grasp the idea that one phase of God’s work was over and a new had begun, and it hit him hard. As it should hit all of us. You can see why the miracles Jesus did were powerful, not only for the activity itself, but for what it meant about God and God’s work in the world. Jesus was not just healing people or doing marvellous things. He was more than a doctor or a magician. In every miracle, he was reinforcing what he taught: “I’m replacing everything the temple and all of the purification rituals ever meant or were used for. I’m here–and I’m shutting it all down.”

You can understand why Jesus’ audience often got angry with him. Jesus claimed to be bringing about a new era, or as John said, “The law was giving through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). With Jesus came a cosmic shift in how God related to the world, for Jesus was bringing creation back to what it was intended to be before sin and death.

What does this mean for you and me? It means that miracles are an invitation to all of us, God’s invitation to enter in and experience restoration at a personal level.

pp167-169


Excerpted from The Problem of Jesus: Answering a Skeptic’s Challenges to the Scandal of Jesus ©2021 by Mark Clark and used by permission of Zondervan Publishing.  Learn more at  zondervan.com


Watch a 90-second video with Mark introducing the book:

 

 

October 28, 2017

Signs and Imperatives: Mary

We’re back for a seventh visit with Ben Nelson at Another Red Letter Day. Earlier this week he kicked off a series called “Signs” which he explains in detail at this link. To read today’s post and save a link that will allow you to read the whole series, click the title below.

Mary’s Imperative – #Signs – Episode 1

John records several signs with the intention of leading us to faith in Jesus.
 Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so 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 NASB
 I’ve heard many say there are seven signs in John’s gospel, but I count nine. We’re going to look at the first seven over the next few weeks.
 
Turning Water to Wine The Royal Official’s Son Healing at the Pool of Bethesda Feeding of the Five Thousand Walking on the Water Healing the Blind Man Raising of Lazarus
 
Now, look at this list. If you were Jesus, and you were planning your ministry strategy, where would you start? Let’s assume you know how much power you have at your fingertips, where would you start. OK – maybe not with raising the dead, we all like a good climax. But how about one of those times Jesus healed everyone in town or fed the masses. Don’t you want to come onto the scene with a big splash?
 
But John starts his account of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords with a miracle Jesus Himself didn’t even want to do. Even the venue was regrettable, a little family wedding in a tiny town in Galilee. Not in the Temple in Jerusalem, or in the courts of the king, but He starts His ministry in a little nothing town.
 
And then we have the nature of the miracle. Many of the miracles Jesus did brought relief to suffering, or clear glory to God.
 
But John starts with this very strange story.
 
Jesus and His disciples find themselves invited to a wedding. At this point, we know He’s got at least five followers. I’m guessing there were seven by this time.* Mary, the mother of Jesus is also there.
 
You know the story. They run out of wine at this wedding party. Weddings could last up to a week in the tradition of the day, but do you know what they called a wedding with no wine?
Over!
I’m not sure how Mary learned of this or why she felt responsible to do something about it. I guess all moms know everything. She found out and takes the news to Jesus. “They have no wine.”
 
Jesus’s isn’t impressed. He says, “Mama, Why are you telling me? My time has not come.”
 
He’s not scolding her, but He didn’t feel the pull of the Spirit to do anything about this particular issue.
 
So why this story?
 
Remember when Jesus started speaking in parables? The first parable is the model. He uses that model to teach not only the lesson but how to interpret all the other parables.
 
So it is here. 
 
Mary is going to give us a key to all John’s signs.
 
Jesus blows it off, but Mary does not accept His pass.
 
Mary gives us a command—an imperative.
 
“Whatever He says to you, do it.”John 2:5
 
There it is. The key.
 
This is what’s going to open up every other sign.
 
This is what’s going to open up every solution in your life.
 
You know the rest of the story. Jesus has them grab the nasty tanks of water where people have been washing off the filth from their lives’ journeys. They fill these tanks up to the brim and then Jesus tells them to ladle some out and take it to the boss. Jesus makes somewhere in the neighborhood of 180 gallons of wine.
 
The waiters carry this ugly water to their boss, all the while smelling dirty water in the ladle. Right up till the head waiter puts it to his lips. Suddenly, he’s tasting wine. And not just any wine. This is fine wine, good wine, the best wine.
 
Guess what—the party is on!
 
You know, for thirty years, I’ve heard this preached as “Jesus saved the best wine for last,” but that is not what the text says.
 
It says you’ve saved the best for “NOW.”
 
For “NOW.”
 
Not for the last generation, not for the last days, not for the day before the 2nd coming. I suppose that could be us. But even is Jesus tarries, this word is for us.
 
He made the “BEST” wine for “NOW.”
 
I love this.
 
Bring the water pot of your life, filled with the filthy water of your past, and place it in front of Jesus. Allow Him to fill you with the living water—the Holy Spirit. As He ladles you out to this thirsty world, what they will experience is the best wine, NOW. And not just a communion cup half full, but abundant wine. Enough to bring joy into every circumstance.
 
So what now? What about us?
 
Go and do whatever He tells you to do.
 
That’s going to require you to listen for His words daily. That’s going to demand ears willing to hear and a heart willing to believe and follow no matter where He leads.
 
Are you in?
 
Let’s do this.
 


NOTES:

*We’re told the two of John the Baptists followers left John and began following Jesus. One of them was Andrew, Peter’s brother. Andrew went and got Peter. Then Jesus met Philip who brought Him to Nathanael. So that’s five we know of for sure. I’m thinking James and John are in the group too, but I can’t prove it.
 
I mentioned in my introduction that Bishop Joseph Garlington preached a message at the Voice of the Apostles Conference last week, in Lancaster, PA. His sermon inspired this series of messages. In it, he highlighted the imperatives Jesus spoke for each of these signs. I am going to take some time to look at these signs and those imperatives in this blog.
 
Jesus, in the great commission (Matthew 28:18-20) tells us to teach those we touch to obey everything He commanded. In simplest of terms, Jesus’ commands us to love God with all we have and all we are and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. But in these Jesus encounters, we’ll see Jesus giving clear instructions to those around Him. Let’s look together at these commands and see what they have for us today.