Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Basins Are Full: Jesus didn't just make wine, he transformed the well

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed preaching through John so far. Admittedly, we’ve only just started! I preached this past week John 2.1-12. It’s an interesting passage that records Jesus’s first miracle, turning water to wine at Cana. I believe this is a massively significant event in the life and ministry of Jesus, and particularly important for how John introduces Jesus. Jesus comes not just to help avoid a social faux pas (running out of wine at the party). He comes as the Messianic bridegroom. He comes in fulfillment of what the prophets say would be a day when a the true wedding would take place and the wine would flow freely (Jer 3.1,12)

The Point of John's Gospel
Jesus isn’t simply providing beverages for the party, he’s pointing to something bigger. In stark contrast to John the Baptist who kept his distance in the desert, Jesus comes and engages into the social scene. Jesus's ministry would transform Palestine. John even tells us at the end of the book that there aren’t enough books in the world to contain all the works that he did (Jn 21.25). Having a journal full of Jesus stories, John strategically chooses 7 signs to tell us about the ministry of Jesus. (Jn 2-12) John then spends the rest of the book telling his readers about the Passion Narrative. (Jn 13-21) He does this so you will believe (Jn 20.31). 

A Transformed Well
I took a minority position on the miracle itself in John 2. I do not believe Jesus made the basins full of wine, I believe he transformed the well. Let me explain. The story itself seems straightforward. Jesus tells the servants to fill up some big water basins then to take some water (now wine) to the Matrie D of the party. I think there’s so much more to it than simple fermented drinks, though that’s impressive enough! (Fermentation takes time!) Jesus didn’t just grab some old jugs that were lying around. John makes sure that his readers know “there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification.” (Jn 2.6) Did you notice that? These weren’t just jugs, they were the ones used for the rites of purification. Likely these would have been used for the guest to wash their hands and would be used to clean the utensils for the party. There were all kinds of rules governing what makes one pure. This conversation comes up again with John the baptist in the next chapter. Interestingly, the Baptist makes reference to the bridegroom—Christ. (Jn 3.25-30) 

D.A Carson, following the lead of Westcott, understands the word “draw” used in 2.8 most naturally and normally refers to drawing from a well. Assuming this is correct, Carson understands that the instruction of Jesus was to have the servants fill the purification basins then in essence, sit them to the side. They are no longer necessary. Verse 8 says, “Now draw some out (from the well) and take it to the master of the feast.” The miracle then isn’t that there are 150 gallons or so of wine in the basins, the miracle is the well itself is producing the finest wine you have ever tasted! 

I believe Carson is correct, though, as I told my congregation on Sunday, I’m not going to the stake over this one! I think it fits best, not only lexically, but I think it best fits with Jesus’s intention at the party. He is the Logos Messiah who has come to bring a new day to Israel. The old Jewish rites have now been replaced. The time for being pure through water basins is over (those jars are full to the brim). There is a new bridegroom who is also the ultimate master of the feast. He abundantly supplies the life-giving spirit as represented with the fine wine drawn from the well which previously only gave water.

No comments:

Post a Comment