John 2 Part 2

Resumed from part 1

These were very large containers- 20 or maybe 30 gallons each. Jesus was going to fill them up with wine and fill them to the brim as He stresses so we’re dealing with 120 to 150 gallons of wine and not ordinary wine. I would argue that this is the best wine ever created so yes, it would’ve been automatically fermented wine! My point is that this was not just a miracle of abundance but of kingdom quality and excellence as well. They were surprised because typically you bring out the better wine first and then when people’s palates were not as discerning they’d bring out the cheaper stuff. The idea that he would save the best, for now, is a surprising concept to them. We see here a miracle really of the old creation and the parable of the new creation. The new worship in spirit and truth surpasses the old as much as wine surpasses water.
Turn to Ephesians 3:20. It’s a reminder of the imagery we have of the blessings of God, “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.” We have this wonderful portrait of how much superior this is compared to anything people had known. We see here a picture as well of how God saves the best for the new life, the new creation in Christ. It then in effect, points beyond itself to its ultimate fulfillment in the echelon or future in God’s kingdom. Remember what Jesus said to His disciples, “I will no longer drink with you of the fruit of the vine until I drink it anew with you in My Father’s kingdom.”(Mark 14:25) Remember that strong word- I will drink with you in my Father’s kingdom. Now that will be impressive. That will be a feast. I want to tell you at that banqueting table and I’ve said this before but the best meal you’ve ever had on this planet is like cardboard in comparison with that. It’s like the food you thought was good will be like stale, old, cheap food. You haven’t tasted anything yet! The same would be true of art and of music and all sorts of beauty. We haven’t seen all that awaits us. We’ve only seen little patches, little hints, and little bits every so often as a flash of God’s true glory come because I don’t believe we have the capacity to grasp it or to appreciate it. It would be too much for us. We don’t have the capacity now but it will be good and our capacity will be enhanced meaning we now use up to 10% of our brain’s capacity whereas Adam at first was created with 100% branal capacity. We will be given back 100% brainal capacity. That capacity was limited and bounded as a consequence of the fall and will be more than restored in the resurrection. You might recall that we will be so great in God’s economy that we will be the greatest creatures He’s ever created- even above the angels, which we will judge. “You’ve made them for a little while lower than the angels. You have crowned him with glory and honor” (Hebrew 2:7) The idea here is that we will be judging angels. We see these hints in these anticipations.
Though it was only the disciples who saw what had happened in verse 11. “This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.” So we see a further ground beyond John’s testimony for believing Him as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. You can see the disciples now seeing more about Him. They had already followed Him. They’ve already committed themselves to Him but now they have more ground, more warrant, and more experience. The more they walk with Him, the greater their base is. I want to stress then that as the evidence increases their trust, their confidence and their assurance increases.
Remember God’s Works
May I suggest that’s the way it should be in the spiritual life. As you build a personal history of God’s work in your life, shouldn’t that increase your trust and confidence in Him? Particularly as you see how He’s delivered you from things you thought you could never escape from in the past. We have all been in hard spots, haven’t we? You looked ahead and said, “How on earth am I going to escape?” But then we look back and somehow see a pattern and you build a redemptive history that we’d do well to recall. Our typical experience, however, is to forget God’s blessings in our lives and to move on as if they hadn’t happened. I suggest that you would be well advised to cultivate the spiritual discipline of remembering. I don’t really see that in Richard Foster’s, Celebration of Discipline, but it wouldn’t be a bad discipline- call it remembering. That is to say the discipline of gratitude, a spirit of thanksgiving honors God. When you do that you gain confidence in God’s revealing of Himself progressively in your own life. You’re discovering not just God’s works but also God’s way. As you move in that direction then you begin to get increased confidence in spite of the difficulties of the present tense, which can face us from time to time. We get confidence because He has delivered us from the past and we can be confident about what He’ll do in the future and in our present. We have confidence as well that He is leading us in a direction that will ultimately be for our highest good. His disciples then were really entrusting themselves to Him.
The Cleansing Of The Temple
We move now to verses 12-25 and the cleansing of the temple. We saw in the first section the glory of Christ manifested and now we’re going to see something about His zeal and about His knowledge of humans. His zeal is going to be particularly revealed in v. 12-23 and His knowledge of what we’re about particularly in v. 23-25.
In verse 12 there is this little hint, a motion here that mentions, “He went down to Capernaum.” He’s going from the heights here down to the area around the Sea of Galilee. He goes down to Galilee, down to Capernaum, which is on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee, which is identified as His home- the place where He really made what is His ministry focus-His headquarters. “He and His mother and His brothers and His disciples; and they stayed there a few days.” My own view about the brothers of Jesus is that Mary actually had other children. Mary had no union with Joseph until she gave birth to the Son, suggesting there were later children. I have no problem with that but what took place as years went by would be the assumption that Mary was a perpetual virgin. That idea became more and more prominent. These would then be called His cousins or something like that and in any case, they were among those who came down to Capernaum. They stayed there a few days and after that incidental verse, we go then to the following.
John 2:13-25, “The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the moneychangers seated at their tables. And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the moneychangers and overturned their tables; and to those still selling the doves He said, ‘Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your House will consume Me.” The Jews then said to Him, ‘What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘It took forty-six years to build this (Solomon’s) temple, and will You raise it up in three days?’ But He was speaking of the temple of His body. So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this’ and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken. Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing. But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.”
In verse 12 it says after this or after these things. It usually introduces a new section and this section in John’s gospel extends to the end of chapter 4 with a minor break at 3:21, which deals with the new temple, the new birth and the new worship. In verse 13 after a brief notice of this visit to Capernaum, we shift to Jerusalem and the temple. We go from Cana to Galilee and now we’re going back to Cana before we were actually in Jerusalem. This north and south and earlier picture we have in Mark 11:18 of the second cleansing that leads directly to the passion. Scholars debate over this because you know the synoptic gospels associate the cleansing of the temple with an event just prior to or near the end of His life. So how does a very early account in His life fit in with that? There are only two options. Either there were two cleansings that were distinct from one another and that this one was an aberration of what would happen at the later cleansing or some would say that John as often happens in the gospel, he reorganizes his material and deliberately takes it out of actual chronological sequence to emphasize a theological point. Frankly, I don’t have a dog in this fight! The fact is it doesn’t bother me all that much. I lean toward it probably being two cleansings but you could go either way. The thing I want to stress is that it’s not a contradiction. There’s no need for that to be contradictory, as either way would work. I’ll let you wrestle with that just as I’ll let you wrestle whether the wine was alcohlic or not either way works for me.
At the very least, you know how some people say these can’t be harmonized. My perspective is illustrated in this example. If you went to an intersection downtown Atlanta or anywhere and you had people at four corners and they saw an accident take place and you interviewed them independently of one another you’d have a lot of overlap but you’d have some variation as well. One might for example point out there were two people there. Another might say, “he said” and doesn’t refer to the other person. Just like you have two angels in one account that were at the tomb and one angel in the other account at the tomb. Well if there were two there was one. That is to say, there isn’t just one and only one but it could be referring to the more prominent of the two who was actually speaking. There’s not a direct contradiction and frankly, the usual so-called contradictions are based, I think, on an inadequate view where things have really already been revealed. It’s kind of a low view of the authority of scripture and the inspiration itself.
The theological purpose, in this case, is because He’s dealing with the institutions of Israel so it would be very apropos, or with reference to Him talking about the Rabbi, the temple, the marriage and these kinds of themes and then the various institutions, the feasts, and the Passover. And for him to build a case as well for why there might have been some encounter with Nichodemus later on, the growing hostility but we don’t know for sure. Again competent scholars disagree over this so there’s enough ambiguity and happily I will say where Scripture has a little bit of ambiguity it’s not concerning important doctrines.
My point about the four witnesses is this; if the four gospels could be exactly meshed I would suspect collusion. That’s my point. It’s actually evidence of the fact that they are eyewitness accounts but they don’t make an attempt to smooth it out and yet they can be harmonized.
We have something that would be given to us in v. 14- the spirit of Malachi’s prophecy although it’s not actually quoted. Jesus, after His earthly ministry began, worked in the spirit of Malachi’s prophecy. Let me read it for you so we can get that setting from the last of the Old Testament prophets. Malachi 3:1-3, “Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,’ says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the LORD offerings in righteousness.” You can see a similarity there, a motif that would be in the Messianic text that would fit very well with this idea of refining and purifying.
In any case, look at v. 14, “And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the moneychangers seated at their tables. “And in the temple”- the word that is used here is the word “hieron”, not the word “naos”. Hieron is used for the whole of the temple precinct including the court of the Gentiles whereas naos is used of the shrine, the inner sanctuary. It’s interesting in v. 19 He switches to the word naos. So He cleansed the outer courtyard but the naos, the inner sanctuary, is what He is referring to as His own body. There is a play on that imagery. As we go, we see Him making a scourge of cords and driving them out of the temple with the sheep and the oxen. The reason why he’s doing it is not necessarily because they’re extorting the other people but because it was happening there in that context, that precinct. It was something that was supposed to be a house of prayer, and they made it into a place of commerce. Frankly, the scary part about this kind of cleansing is that I often wonder if Jesus were to come to one of our institutions, one of our churches, what would He do in that setting? I almost wonder if He wouldn’t get some pew ropes and start putting them together and start driving something away.
It does show here that He does know what is in people’s hearts. It’s a theme we’ll see in a moment. He also sees that the visible always has a way of occluding the invisible and eventually people get all wrapped up in their routines and rituals. They get so fired up about exact performance in a particular way and you follow the stages correctly and the supposition is that outward performance will lead to inward knowledge of God. It doesn’t work. Outward ritualism is not the same as an inward embrace and an inward trust. It’s easy for us to connect and go to the organization over the organism. That’s just our natural bent, isn’t it? We focus more on the organizational side of the faith more often than we do on the organism as the living body of Christ. It’s the visible over the invisible.
The difference is this. Commerce was not to be done in the temple precinct (the area within the walls or perceived boundaries of a particular building or place.) If you brought animals for sacrifice or if you had to purchase animals for sacrifice it should not be done there in that precinct. It shouldn’t be done in a context that’s sanctified or set apart. They made it a place of commerce. Part of what was going on there was the Sadducees saw this as a context in which they could gain the power, and wealth and also as means of getting their hands into the pot. People would also bring their own animals and there was some corruption going on because sometimes they would bring an animal and they would say it was not perfect. They would sell them a perfect animal and then put the so-called imperfect one into the pen and resell it to the next person who had brought a so-called imperfect animal and on and on. That sort of thing did go on.


Continued to part 3




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