At a wedding, Jesus saves the day by turning water into wine. John, who tells the story, may be recalling his own wedding! Richard Crashaw (1613-1649, note: he lived a short 36 years!) stirs our imagination by commenting: “The conscious water saw its Master and blushed.”
Another time, after a day of teaching, Jesus and his disciples take a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee. Mark 4:37: “Soon a ‘violent’” (lit. ‘mega’) “windstorm came up, and the waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was being swamped.” Jesus, exhausted, slept deeply. Despite many of his disciples being experienced fishermen, terrified they awakened the carpenter.
Jesus (4:39) “rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm…
41And they were filled with great (‘mega’) fear and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’”
Much later, during Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the Pharisees complain about the boisterous crowd praising him. Jesus retorts: Luke 19:40: “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”
Creation: water/wine, stormy/peaceful sea, and boisterous crowd-instead-of-stones, rise up to salute their Creator!
Not so us
In Psalm 8, David records that we humans have been “crowned with glory and honor.” God put everything under our rule.
Thus ennobled, how do we respond to our Creator? Do we recognize him even more clearly?
Consider as our representative the smartest guy in the class, a “lawyer” (“nomikos” – “one learned in the law” – more learned than most scribes).
Lk 10:25 “A ‘lawyer’ stood up and put (Jesus) to the test, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ 26And He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?’ 27And he answered, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ 28And He said to him, ‘You have answered correctly; DO THIS AND YOU WILL LIVE.’ 29But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’”
Our representative’s first approaches Jesus is to “test” him. “Ekpeirazó” is defined as: "to ‘hyper-test,’ going to improper measures, pushing the one tested beyond reasonable limits.” Is the lawyer a bully attempting to “school” Jesus?
Jesus is up to the test. His cogent question and the telling answer he elicits – remarkably, even from this “lawyer” - shows us that love is life’s core. Profound.
More: Jesus tells our delegate he answered “correctly” – “orthós” – “right on” – “you got it straight.”
But, contrary to the blushing water, the winds and the waves and the crowd, Jesus’ “Well done” is not enough for our man.
“Wishing to “justify” - “dikaioó” - himself…”
In our agent, we see our irrepressible pride – alienating us from God and each other – choosing distance instead of closeness – detachment over relationship. What futility. Let’s not test God or attempt to justify ourselves as our proxy did.
What shall we do?
A parallel embarrassment
Recall Jesus turning water into wine. The young couple had “run out.” What public embarrassment! How could the celebration continue?
Remarkably, Paul uses our word translated “run out” in Romans 3:23: “All have sinned and “fall short” (“run out”) of the glory of God.”
God’s glory is who God is. He never lies. We lie or fail to tell the truth when we should. And God never steals. In our pride, we steal the glory belonging to him or fail to give him glory. All of us have “sinned” – “hamartanó” – literally, we have “missed the mark.”
A parallel redemption
Back to the wedding. Jesus provides the best wine -- a lot -- about 180 gallons -- about 900 bottles. In 2018, a 73-year-old bottle of French Burgundy became the most expensive bottle of wine ever sold at auction, fetching $558,000. Using that as our contemporary standard means that Jesus bestowed upon them a gift today worth $.5B+!
More: for Jesus to prepare the wedding feast for those who will be his Bride, he gave not the best wine but the best blood – his purifying blood – the blood of the eternal God-made-man – on the cross as a ransom for our sin. Christian and those who will yet believe, Jesus’ blood, the costliest substance this world has ever seen, is of infinite worth and forgives our endlessly missing God’s standard.
Because of Jesus, Paul concludes: Romans 3:28 - “We hold (‘logizomai’- ‘reckon, count’) that one is ‘justified,’ ‘dikaioó’-ed, by faith.”
This faith in Jesus is God’s gift (Eph. 2:8).
Two statements originating from God-given Christian faith
#1 Faith repents: “I’m out. I’ve blown it. I fall short of God’s glory.”
Hear Jesus: Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” “Poor” here is not “auto-diakonon” – “poor-but-able-to-take-care-of-yourself.” Nor is it “pene,” where you have a few pennies. It is “ptossein” – like the overwhelming, deer-in-the-headlights drug they give mothers stuck during delivering a baby. Jesus is saying: “Blessed are those who are overwhelmingly poor in spirit, theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” They repent. They say: “I’ve blown it.”
#2 Still, faith declares: “I’ll take all the credit.” The kids being married and the master of the feast got all the credit for what Jesus did.
Friend, go to God saying: “Give me credit for what Jesus has done.” And he will. That’s the Gospel.
Mull over Jesus’ first miracle. His disciples did. John 2:11: Jesus “thus revealed his glory and his disciples put their faith in him.”
Jesus is saying: “My first miracle shows my real glory – who I really am. Do you want real life now – and a great feast for all eternity? Don’t reject me if you don’t know me. I am Lord of the feast. I’ve come to give life to your dying party.”
Friend, let’s join the celebration! Glory!
Note: This is the fifth of six columns (12/28/19, 1/25/20, 2/29/20, 5/23/20) based on Scriptures where astonished Jesus asked elite leaders: “Did you never read;” or “How does it read for you?” Despite their high level of education, they remained in their own shallow comfort zones. He expected them to connect what they had read in Scripture with life.
PS. Happy 45th anniversary today to my bride.
PPS. Friends, this is my 90th column in the IR.
Steve Bostrom, a descendant of Swedish homesteaders, husband of Via, father of eight, and grandfather of 13, loves Helena and serves here as a pastor at large. He is ordained by the Presbyterian Church in America. To contact him, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.