Ordinary to Extraordinary
5 Feb 2011, Dr Alex Currie
(Alex is Thornleigh's Church Pastor)
Ordinary to Extraordinary (second in a series on the Gospel of John)
"John's gospel is deep enough for an elephant to swim and shallow enough for a child not to drown." (1) Ninety eight times in John the word 'believe' is repeated.
In the first part of John two he wants us to believe in 'signs' or miracles. In John 20:30-31 he states three purposes: a. That reader's might believe b. Those readers might find life and c. His word is as good as His touch.
I used a visual that on first look showed six glasses or vases. But if one studied the illustration for long enough suddenly one began to see faces. Twelve faces in different poses. John is like that, the more one studies it the more levels one discovers.
The story of turning water, (an ordinary liquid) into wine (an extraordinary liquid), occurred in Cana, a little north of Nazareth, not far from the Sea of Galilee. John, was penning the Gospel from Ephesus where they worshipped gods. The god of wine was Dionysius, the healing god was Asclepius and the goddess of bread or the harvest was Demeter. In the course of this gospel, John demonstrates that Jesus is greater than or better than any of these gods.
Last week we spoke about the word 'believe' in John. This week we examine the concept of 'transformation'. John introduces the concept in 1:12 by writing "As many as receive Him, to them gave He the power to become the children of God, even to them that believe on His name." That's transformation. In 1:35-42 Jesus calls His first disciples and says to Simon, "You are Simon, son of Joh. You will be called Cephas" (which, when translated is Peter." That is change - its transformation! In chapter two, ordinary water is transformed into an extraordinary drink. That is transformation of matter! God still oversees that process in thousands of vineyards in Australia. In chapter 3 Nicodemus is transformed by being 'born again', after a night talk. During another personal conversation (John 4) with a Samaritan woman at a well, this woman who has made herself an unsavoury model, is transformed into a powerful evangelistic witness.
Weddings in the first century AD were huge social occasions where the groom's family established themselves by the type of party they threw. The party could last for a week or more. The genders were separated. Every night there was a party during which the couple would parade around town in their wedding clothes. Jewish couples were usually married in the middle of the week, Wednesday, and then spent the rest of the week with their families before they enjoyed time alone. Running out of wine would be a social disgrace, a critically embarrassing situation for any family.
It appears that Mary was related to one of the families and in desperation spoke to Jesus. 2:3. One writer comments: "As a relative of the parties, Mary had assisted in the arrangements for the feast,..." (2)
Have you ever witnessed something different at a wedding? I conducted a wedding at Camden Lakes recently where every speech from the groom's side was followed by a song. In this wedding not only do they run out of wine but water is made into wine!
The Gospel of John is full of symbolism. 2:1 "on the third day', points to His last sign by which he would show his glory, his resurrection. John 20:1. Then in 2:4 where He replies to his mother with the word 'Woman', Jesus was not being discourteous, for the term is equivalent in English to 'Dear lady. This pointed to the Cross when John records in 19:26, "When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." To the festive servants Mary said "Do whatever he tells you." 2:5. Applies to us as much as them! Link this to John 13:14 when Jesus declares "you should wash one another's feet'...and 'you will be blessed.' V. 17. We too ought to do whatever He tells us to do.
Jesus transforms every day experiences. He did not come to give us information but to bring transformation. Jesus wants to transform our hearts. Disciples of yesteryear were changed, (Jn. 2:11) we too will be transformed. Let Him transform your ordinary daily experiences into extraordinary happenings!
Pots of water, symbols of Judaism, were transformed into wine. This water was for ceremonial cleansing, washing of feet, cleansing hands down to the elbows. What Jesus was saying is that Jewish ceremonial cleansing was finished. Water cleansing was superseded by the blood of Jesus that cleanses us from all sin! John is particular. Those 6 jars contained 20 to 30 gallons each. God's wonderful grace is super-abundant! The world provides the best first but God saves the best till last. In the end He is going to say "Well done, good and faithful servant..."
The man-made wine had run out. Then Jesus stepped in and transformed ordinary water into extraordinary wine. He continues His work of transformation if we open our eyes.
The water-wine sign was symbolic of what would occur on the Cross. John 19:33-35 "When Jesus girded Himself with a towel to wash the dust from their feet, He desired b y that very act to wash the alienation, jealousy, and pride from their hearts. This was of far more consequence than the washing of their dusty feet...Their hearts must be cleansed. Pride and self-seeking create dissension and hatred, but all this Jesus washed away in washing their feet." DA 646. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool." Isa. 1:18. "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed." 1 Peter 2:24.
Jesus died the worst possible death in the Roman world. "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins..." Ephesians 1:7. His cleansing grace of water and wine (blood) is available to all!. Are there areas in your life that are like stale water in an old jug? Jesus can transform whatever that is into something beautiful. It was our sin and the sins of the world that nailed Him to the cross. As we enter into the ordinance of humility I'm going to invite everyone, young and old to take a nail and imbed it in the cross, as a symbol that your sin helped to nail him to the cross.
At the Lord's Table the following passages were read: Matthew 26:26-29. "Christ was treated as we deserve, that we might be treated as He deserves. He was condemned for our sins, in which he had not share, that we might be justified by His righteousness, in which we had no share. He suffered the death which was ours, that we might receive the life which was His. "With His stripes we are healed." (3) "By His humanity, Christ touched humanity; by His divinity, He lays hold upon the throne of God. As the son of man, He gave us an example of obedience; as the Son of God, He gives us power to obey." (4)
(1) Attributed to Augustine.
(2) White, E. G. (1898, 1940) The Desire of Ages. Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press Publishing Association, p 146. May be found online here: http://www.whiteestate.org/books/da/da.asp
(3) Ibid, p 25.
(4) Ibid, p 24.
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