This is part of our journey through the gospel of John. This week’s e-vo is from John 2.
Writing on John 2 as a student pastor is a bit tricky. The main character in the story is wine, but it’s not really about the wine. Trying to explain the deeper significance to room full of teens (and nervous parents) has its challenges. Sometimes explaining that wine was (is) just a part of the fabric of Jewish life is not enough.
Example 1: “Jesus drank wine! Why would Jesus turn all that water into wine if he didn’t want us to drink it?” Actual words from a teenagers mouth after he was caught for under-age drinking. To which a dad replied “Jesus walked everywhere he went, wore a robe and flip-flops, washed nasty stinky feet, and died a very bloody, brutal, public, naked death. Would you like to experience those right now?”
The story itself is about joy. Weddings are about hope and joy. People never think that one day this marriage is completely going to suck eggs on their wedding day. It’s all romantic music, smiles, and delusions of grandeur. Running out of wine (the symbol of joy and the presence of God to a Hebrew) never even crosses the radar screen on Wedding Day. The meaning seems clear enough – there will be a day when your world will run out of joy. You will think that the presence of God is gone from your life.
The only way to have abundant, unending joy is to do exactly what Mary told the servants – “Do whatever Jesus tells you to do.” Using the dirty, ceremonial washing water is just extremist Jesus at his best. “I’m not just going to turn any water into any wine. I’m going to take the dirtiest water that nobody would ever drink and make it into the best wine that everybody wants.”
But my thoughts drift back to the comment the dad made to his son. He said it to shut his son up but deep truth was uttered there. And it causes me to ask when we engage the story of God do we only engage the parts that are comfortable and nice?
Jesus did drink wine…I’m guessing with as many festivals the Jews celebrated plus the fact that the religious elite called him a drunken sot, he drank a lot of wine and didn’t hide that fact. Jesus did die a brutal, bloody, naked, public death as the result of a betrayal of the worse kind. Do I mention that in all of its rawness when I tell His story?
I struggle with the fact that my kids “love Jesus” and have made “Jesus boss of their life” at such a young age based upon the kid-friendly version of the story of God that I’ve given them. We’ve got picture-board books of Daniel, Noah, and Moses. None of them include the gory parts. Funny how Noah getting plastered and sleeping with his daughters didn’t make the final cut. Or how Daniel’s enemies were thrown into the lion’s den and were instantly killed. Or how Moses murdered a man in cold blood.
The older I’ve gotten – and the more bumps in the road of life I’ve experienced – I appreciate the “uncut” version more. It speaks to me better, it offers me true hope and joy – not the childish substitutes of happy and comfortable. And as we turn the corner in John’s take on Jesus’ story, I’m reminded again that while we are called to have a childlike faith – this is no nice children’s story we believe in. There is deception, conflict, violence, betrayal, and hurt….and healing, love, hope, and victory.
Here’s hoping we don’t lose the childlike or confuse it for childish.