Archive for June 21, 2010
Our world is full of need. Approximately one in eight people in world lack access to safe, clean drinking water. Every year, 15 million children die from hunger because they cannot get basic, nutritional meals. A little closer to home, every night in the US, anywhere from 700,000 to 2 million people do not have a place to sleep. Right now, somewhere around thirteen percent of men, aged 25 to 54, are jobless and cannot support themselves. Basic needs – including those for water, food, shelter, and work – are going left unmet in our world and in our society. And the consequences are tragic. Everything from bankruptcy to depression to death can occur when needs go unmet.
In our text for this weekend from John 2, an urgent need quickly pushed its way to the forefront of a wedding celebration in a little town called Cana. As I mentioned in my sermon, in this day, it was customary – and even mandatory – for wedding receptions to come with “open bars.” That is, the groom was to provide as much wine for his guests as they desired. But alas, apparently, the groom at this wedding was not much a planner. Because the wine runs out. And one of the social necessities of that day is left unmet.
Jesus’ mother, Mary, is mortified by this social faux pas. And so, she says to her son, “They have no more wine” (verse 3). At first, Jesus balks at Mary’s concern. “Dear woman, why do you involve Me?” He asks, “My time has not yet come” (verse 4). But His time quickly arrives as Jesus commandeers “six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing” (verse 6). A couple of things are striking about this verse. First, the number six is striking. In Johannine literature, this number symbolizes imperfection. And indeed, this number is used to describe the imperfect and embarrassing situation of running out of wine. The second thing striking about this verse is the fact that the six stone jars are used for “ceremonial washing.” The Greek word for this phrase is katharos, meaning, “clean.” This word is used in spades in Old Testament literature to distinguish between those things which are “clean” and things which are “unclean.” For instance, when God warns Moses, “You must distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean” (Leviticus 10:10), the word for “clean” is katharos. Thus, these jars are used by faithful Jews to make sure they remain ceremonially and spiritually clean according to Old Testament law.
But now, Jesus commandeers these jars for His purposes, that He may perform a sign to “reveal His glory” (verse 11). And instead of filling them with water for ceremonial washing, He fills them with wine as a gift from His gracious hand. Later, Jesus would fill another jar with wine and declare: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28). And this wine, which Jesus says is none other than His very blood, will have a katharos effect on us. As the apostle John writes: “The blood of Jesus, God’s Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). The word for “purifies” is, once again, katharos. Thus, we no longer need large stone jars filled with water to wash us clean ceremonially, for we have the body and blood of Jesus to wash us clean spiritually and eternally.
There is an old spiritual which asks, “Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?” By faith, we may happily answer this question, “Yes.” Take some time today to thank God that, by the blood of Jesus, you are more than ceremonially clean, you are spiritually clean. And Jesus’ cleanness is all you need. For Jesus’ cleanness leads to eternal life.
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