As a kid, I loved Mowgli’s adventures with the monkeys of Angkor Wat. Those ruins seemed so exotic, almost magical. Now I consider the piles of Cambodian rubble beautifully tragic: a previously thriving place of worship has crumbled, and all that’s left is an impressive shadow of its former glory. Sure, it draws tourists, but its original purpose is no longer being fulfilled. John 2 takes us from Cana to Jerusalem. While the wedding shows off the abundant exuberance ushered in with Christ’s new messianic age, the temple reveals that His people are being crippled by a religious system that spiritually resembles Mowgli’s decaying playground.
Following the study schedule right along, my binder is beginning to thicken up a bit with doodles, prayers, and tons of background information on the text. This summary is just the condensed version, the highlights of each approach—you can find my full binder notes for John 2 here.
Scripture writing: I loved copying verse 22 in the Message version:
Later, after He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered He had said this. They then put two and two together and believed both what was written in Scripture and what Jesus had said.
Does anyone else find it encouraging that even people who had lived with Jesus for three years needed time to “put two and two together”? As long as faith follows, it doesn’t really seem to matter how slow on the uptake we are. I can trust the Lord’s timing in helping me along and exchange perfection for grace.
Studying: my favorite moment in this chapter is how Jesus casually and wordlessly transforms the water into wine—perfectly aged, perfectly delicious, perfectly abundant—as a picture of Himself and the kingdom He’s inaugurating. And for some reason, surprise follows at how good it is! As Erwin McManus puts it,
A person’s work product reflects his or her own essence. All that can really be said is, what did you expect? What kind of wine would the Creator of the universe make after all? Can you imagine in any universe that the Creator of the entire cosmos would put his signature on anything less than the most extraordinary expression of his work? You do not speak light into existence and then create a $3 bottle of sangria.
Jesus delights in blowing our expectations out of the water. He teaches us to hope in ways we didn’t even know we could.
Commentaries: Oh, Matty H, you wonderful Puritan, you.
Reflecting on the Jewish leaders’ dismay at Jesus’ promise to raise up the temple in three days after its (His) destruction, Matthew Henry writes:
Had they known that this was He who built all things in six days, they would not have made it such an absurdity that He should build a temple in three days.
Take that! But before I’m overtaken by too much historical snobbery, some introspection is in order: what things have I counted as absurdity, removing my faith in the One who built all things in six days? Where have I held His promises in suspicion? There now, self. #perspective
I love Carson’s note on the demand for a sign as a credential for Jesus’ purge of the temple:
A sign that would satisfy them, presumably some sort of miraculous display, performed on demand, would have signaled the domestication of God. That sort of ‘God’ does powerful stunts to maintain allegiance, and that kind of allegiance is not worth having.
Once again, I find myself more like the religious leaders than I’d like to admit. In particularly low moments, I’ve turned prayers into this kind of demand for a sign, and the very God who pointed to the cross and the empty tomb as His credentials in John 2 does the same for me.
Sermons: Driscoll’s take on Jesus as the tender lamb at the wedding and the tough lion in the temple is fantastic, and its implications that there are times we should be lamblike and moments to be lionhearted are definitely worth exploring.
Jesus is a lamb with us and a lion for us.
(And come on, the cleansing of the temple as the first ever episode of Undercover Boss? 10 points, Pastor Mark.)
The concept that has most stuck with me from MacArthur’s preaching is how Jesus isn’t yet finished cleansing His Father’s house:
The Church (as the new temple) is still judged every time we take the Lord’s supper—whether it’s through self-judgment (repentance) or through God’s judgment (temporary discipline). This ongoing check is a mercy.
It seems simple enough, but I’ve always wondered what it meant to “eat and drink judgment on yourself” through taking communion in an unworthy manner. His explanation provided clarity and comfort for me.
Journaling: per usual, this is where we get down to the nitty gritty. God showed up as I prayed through my pen. Happiest realization: the Lord is absolutely bent on my provision and protection. Biggest point of conviction: I’m naturally the opposite of Jesus. While He’s a joy-bringer (at the wedding), I’m fixated on seriousness. When He creates holy unrest (in the temple), I long to maintain comfort and fake peace. The good news is that there’s a lot of room for Him to work in me!
Meditation: Verse 10 was loaded with different sensations, much like a fine wine. (Ha.) Here’s how the Passion translation words it:
He called the bridegroom over and said to him, “Every host serves his best wine first until everyone has had a cup or two, then he serves the wine of poor quality. But you, my friend, you’ve reserved the most exquisite wine until now!”
I realized that letting this passage soak in would rid the appeal of other sources of help/pleasure because Jesus is the only One who can satisfy all the way down to the dregs. It would also break my hold on needing to prove my own sufficiency—which keeps everyone from experiencing the power and presence of Jesus. Even my best falls woefully short of what the Lord could do if I asked Him to.
So there you have it! The true and better vine is the true and better temple. He loads us with joy and empties us of falseness. Because of His rescue, we are now His wine in the world, declaring His goodness, and we are His residence, holding heaven in our souls. Let’s marvel once more at the ruins of Angkor Wat—a graphic depiction of who we’d be without Christ—as we turn our faces to chapter three.