Part two of a guest post by Michael Leader, pastor at Beverly Hills Baptist Church.
When we take drugs or alcohol or sex or lies to cover our shame, It doesn’t work.
In Genesis 3:21 we see God do something about Adam and Eve’s nakedness, and the shame it brings.
He brings the first death into the story. He makes garments of skin to cover their nakedness.
Something dies, so that Adam and Eve can have their shame covered.
And yet, as that Genesis story continued, and throughout the Old Testament, those garments – those animal deaths – were not enough to stop sin and its shame from continuing in human beings.
And so God provided a new way to receive freedom from shame – he made the law and the sacrificial system.
For example, before you could kill an animal and if you were sincere, you would square the ledger with God. You could cover your shame. And you could also wash your hands. A lot. Ceremonial washing. Kinda like Covid in that way – something bad could be on us, so we wash and we scrub and we purify ourselves from germs – and yet if it was that simple, Corona would have died months ago. And so would sin, if sacrifices and ritual washing was enough. But it wasn’t. There just wasn’t enough water to wash away our sins.
And so we come to the next part in John’s story. And as we saw last week, we have a reflection of the Genesis creation week in John 1-2. On day one we see John the Baptist preparing the way, then on day two declaring Jesus to be the Lamb of God. Day three? He calls his disciples. And day four, he calls more disciples. Then our text starts in John 2:
On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee.
Now at face value, that appears to be giving the day – the third day is Tuesday. But it seems a fairly trivial piece of information to include. But, as I’ve said before, Biblical narrative is sparse. Information is only there for a reason. John isn’t just saying “on Tuesday” to give you a bit of meaningless trivia.
And what gives it away further is that weddings of virgins – and this is a big wedding as we will go on to see, so it’s a wedding of two virgins – start on Wednesdays in first century Jewish culture – the fourth day, not the third. So John I think is giving us a symbolic clue – not a date. We’ve had four days so far, and now we have three more – and we find Jesus at rest – a Sabbath, a seventh day, like God did at the end of Genesis 1 and 2.
And as John 1 has been doing, we’ve seen the Word, Jesus, penetrating into the old creation, through the words of the prophet John the Baptist, through to the calling of worthy Israelites to follow him. The old is going; the new is coming.
And on the final day of the old creation, we find Jesus at rest. And as we will see in the story, he starts something new. A new creation. A new covenant.
But right now, his time is not yet. Jesus is resting before his public ministry begins. But his mum just won’t let him have a break, and I’m sure there’s many a son who can relate to a mother nagging at them. From verse 1b:
Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”
“Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.”
There’s no more wine. Oh no. Quick Jesus, better do something about it. I mean, on the surface, there’s really not much to this is there? OK, so the booze runs out at a party. No big crime. Seriously, for Jesus first miracle, of all the things in the first century world to fix, he chose that? What was Jesus thinking when he did this, and why is John, who records just 7 miracles of Jesus, including the resurrection of Lazarus, picking this one?
And the answer to that lies in two places. The first is seen in verse 11:
This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.
If you remember that glory means magnification of good character, which is what John saw in John 1:14.
And John in his gospel calls Jesus’ miracles “miraculous signs”.
They signal something – they are more than just “wow, that’s interesting” – they are, in the way John places them, helping us to understand Jesus better and the teaching that goes around them.
So this miracle is reflecting the theme of John 1-3 of the old being gone, and the new coming.
And we’ll talk more about this in the final blog tomorrow.
Here we come to, what I suppose we could call: The Problem of Pleasure.
We are never told exactly just WHY nakedness brought shame, are we? Why should it? (No, I am not advocating for nudist camps. But the question “why should there be shame in the first place –remains unanswered). For example, some eastern religions (and I don’t belong to any of them), practice Kama Sutra or Sacred Sex, and I’m betting they are 10 times more relaxed about it than Christians would be. But lets go a bit further—
Think of the different world religions. In Tibet and China, there is Acupuncture and study of “Bodily energy currents” . Lets say this is an Eastern thing. By contrast, I don’t think Christians or Jews or even people in Iraq are “into” that. The difference of East vs. West—but why the difference?
There is another consideration. Today, Christians talk about the war between “the Flesh” and “the Spirit”. As if The Spirit is Higher and the Flesh is Lower. But no one asks why this should be. BEFORE the New Testament, the was the Philosopher: Plato. He believed that “Matter”…i.e. the Flesh –as lower than the spirit. Later, after the beginnings of Christianity (a hundred years or so, later?)–a religion called: GNOSTICISM (Not AG-nosticism) , from
the Gnostics, believed that spirit was a “higher” vibration than Matter, or the physical, or hence the Flesh. So it appears this idea was already around both before Jesus and after his death.
Which raises yet ANOTHER question (again, that nobody bothers to ask): Just WHY is Asceticism and “self-denial” considered Holier and more “spiritual” than healthy “indulgence”? While I’m not voting for either extreme, I ask the question: In everyday Life, who has more energy, more enthusiasm and WHO SMILES MORE??—the “Monk” or the semi-hedonistic bohemian? -(just to illustrate the point). I keep wondering about all of this . . . .