The Gospel of John is a theological and historical account of the life of Jesus Christ. John, the author, weaves theological points into his work using true historical events. This is important to understand as we are examining the Gospel of John. We aren’t looking only for the history behind the text, nor are we only looking at the theology that the text teaches. We are looking at both by closely examining the text.
John 2:1-11 tells a story about the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. In the story, Jesus is at a wedding with his mother and his disciples when the host runs out of wine. This is a major social embarrassment as the union of the new couple is really the union of two families, who will cooperate socially and economically. Running out of wine makes you look like a bad business partner. Jesus’ mother asks him to intervene by saying, “they have no more wine.” Jesus seems reluctant, but when he does, he converts about 150 gallons of fresh water into wine… very good wine it turns out. This is the historical account, but what is significant theologically is where Jesus puts the wine.
Standing nearby are stone water pots that are used for Jewish purity rituals. See, the Pharisees were accustomed to (and maybe a little obsessed with) ritual washing. They sincerely want the be pure before God, and the stone pots are special because they don’t convey impurity. While the Gospel accounts are critical of them, they are admired by their fellow Jews. When Jesus turns the water into wine, he has the servants fill the water pots to the brim, then sends a sample to the master of the banquet, who tells the bridegroom that he has saved the best wine for the end of the festival! Something completely unexpected!
By turning the water into wine, in the stone water pots, Jesus created a problem for the Jewish Pharisees. They had nowhere to perform their ritual washing. Jesus preserved the honor of the bridegroom by creating the wine, but putting it in the water pots “violates” the purity ritual of the Pharisees.
Historically, Jesus creates wine from water to save the honor of a friend. Theologically, he challenges the obsessive purity regulations of the Pharisees because they base their relationship with God on the performance of rituals. And it turns out those rituals are hollow and dead, continuing to perform these rituals is zombie washing... pointless. Jesus provokes them to consider that He is greater than these dead rituals!
The Gospel of John continues to push towards faith in Christ. It’s a remarkably provocative book and I hope you’ll join us as we continue. Video of the full message is available at: https://youtu.be/RyAY7Np3f2w