The Ninth in a Series of Sermons on the Gospel of John
If you were a Jew living at the time when Jesus began his messianic mission (about 28 AD), the Jerusalem Temple was the heart and soul of your religion. The temple was built by Solomon. It was destroyed by the Babylonians and then rebuilt by Zerubabel. The so-called “second temple” had been completed forty-six years prior to Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. Everything in Jewish life centered around this magnificent building and the sacrifices offered within it. Upon entering the temple, Jesus is angry at what he finds–merchants and money changers. Because of his zeal for the house of God, Jesus cleanses the temple, driving out those conducting business in the Court of the Gentiles. When confronted by the temple authorities, Jesus implies that the Jerusalem temple will be destroyed, and that he will raise it up in just three days. Jesus was speaking three years in advance of his own death and resurrection, but the temple authorities had no idea what he meant, because he was talking about his own body.
As we continue our series on the Gospel of John, we are now in the second half of chapter 2 (vv. 13-25). We now take up John’s account of Jesus celebrating the Passover in Jerusalem. John the Baptist will fade into the background, because that one greater than John had come and began his messianic ministry exactly as John had foretold. Jesus began calling his first disciples, and then performed his first miracle (sign) at a wedding in Cana near his home town of Nazareth. But in the second half of chapter two the scene shifts yet again as Jesus goes up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.
According to John 1:29 and 35, on at least two occasions John the Baptist identified Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” The Baptist also identifies Jesus as the Son of God. Understanding that it was time to recede into the background, the Baptist directed two of his own followers (Andrew and John the disciple) to leave him and follow Jesus. Andrew finds his brother (Peter) and tells him that he has met Israel’s Messiah (Jesus). Andrew finds Philip and then Nathanael, and tells them “we have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth” (1:45). Nathanael decides to “come and see” for himself, and upon doing so declares of Jesus in verse 49, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
Upon hearing Nathanael’s confession of faith, Jesus says to his new disciples, “because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.’ And he said to him, `Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man (John 1:50-51).’” In telling the disciples that they will see the same vision Jacob did (Jacob being a great patriarch of Israel whose sons were the founders of Israel’s twelve tribes), Jesus is promising the disciples that they will receive divine confirmation that Jesus is who they think him to be. But Jesus is also informing them in ways they could not yet understand, that they themselves will supercede the twelve tribes of Israel in God’s redemptive purposes.
In chapter two, Jesus and his new disciples attend a wedding at Cana on the seventh day in John’s chronology of the opening days of Jesus’ public ministry. Mary is there, and Jesus is an invited guest. When the hosts run out of wine, Mary approaches Jesus and asks for his help in securing new wine to avoid a potentially embarrassing social faus pax. Jesus’ answer to his mother (for whom he is likely providing after the death of Joseph) raises eyebrows at first hearing. “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” Jesus is not being rude or impolite, but he is mildly rebuking Mary because Jesus’ messianic ministry is underway and things cannot be like they were before. Jesus’ hour has not yet come. Until it does, Jesus must be about his father’s work, not his family’s.
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