Saturday, July 24, 2010

Day 12: Jesus' First Miracle/Jesus cleanses the temple in Jerusalem

Sidebar p. 44: There have been various ancient books claiming that Jesus did miracles as a young boy. John tells us here, very clearly, that the changing of the water into wine was Jesus' first miracle, invalidating the claims of other writings.

...He has the servants take six twenty-to-thirty-gallon clay pots, which were used mostly for foot washing, and fill them with water. (This water would have been unsuitable for drinking.)

Be the servants: You would, no doubt, swallow hard, look at each other in dismay, and consider your jobs as history when Jesus tells you to take a class of this nasty, brackish water to your boss to be approved for the guests. Imagine the absurdity of it all from the perspective of the poor servants, who are just trying to make a few extra bucks on the weekend. Imagine how you would hold your breath and brace yourself for that moment when he tastes this putrid stuff and spews it out on the ground. Only, it never happens. A smile comes over the wine steward's face, and he compliments the groom on continuing to serve high-quality wine even toward the end of the party. The following Monday morning, imagine trying to respond to the question,"Well, Sam, how was your weekend?"

There are many applications that can be made from this familiar story. Even at the end of the party, in our last days on this earth, the joy is meant to come with great intensity. But what happens when the wine runs out? What does a person do when their joy runs dry and their passion for life slows to a trickle? Aside from the cliches and five-step plans to restore your joy, what do you say to someone when the wine has run out in their life? What do you say to yourself?

This brings to mind an elderly person who is tired of being in pain, missing his/her siblings, spouse, etc. but finds him/herself still on this earth. I think I would try to make the point to him/her that he/she still has a purpose and job that God wants them to do here on earth, and to try to figure out and strive to do it well for the Master.

But it also makes me think about how I know I have felt when stuck in the mire of depression. No mere words will pull me out, even if I know that I have everything under the sky to be thankful for and to enjoy. It is a feeling that words cannot describe. That is when relying on the Lord and clinging to Him comes in! I think of how I felt back in the fall when I was off my meds (in the first trimester of my pregnancy) and I lost a loved one unexpectedly. I had nothing BUT the cross to cling to. No one else could say words that would bring comfort, especially those in my family who were also hurting. I wanted desperately to take those pills and get the chemicals flowing through my veins again, but my loved ones reminded me that I could do this, with Jesus' help, and follow my doctor's guidelines in order to keep my baby safe. Thinking back to that difficult time brings tears again, because it was so heart wrenching. It still is, not a year later! I miss her so much, and I know others do as well....especially her kids, her sister, her parents, and her boyfriend. But we have to go on. We have to cling to Jesus and trust in Him to carry us when we cannot rely on our own strength. I don't know how in the world people get through difficult times without Him!

Interesting! Good Friday (the Passover when Christ died) was the day of the Passover celebration and the day that the Passover lamb was to be sacrificed. For the previous twelve hundred years, the priest blew the shophar (ram's horn) at 3:00 p.m. The moment the lamb was sacrificed, all the people paused to contemplate the sacrifice for sins on behalf of the people of Israel. On Good Friday at 3:00 p.m., when Jesus was being crucified, He said, "It is finished." At that moment the Passover lamb was sacrificed, and the shophar was blown from the temple. The sacrifice of the Lamb of God was fulfilled at the exact hour that the symbolic animal sacrifice usually took place.

Sidebar p. 45: When someone possesses a deep capacity for love and compassion, he often will posses a similar capacity on the other end of the emotional scale. He will be capable of hating that which negatively impacts the object of that love. (Hence, Jesus' anger at the temple!)

...The pilgrims were required to bring an animal to be sacrificed. The animal had to be an unblemished male. Most families raised a lamb from birth for the purpose of presenting it at the temple courtyard. However, Annas and his fellow priests seldom accepted the animal brought by the pilgrims. They often found some blemish that made it unacceptable for sacrifice. This problem, however, could be quickly remedied. Out back, temple sheep were kept, available for purchase at an outrageous fee. However, only Jewish coinage was accepted as payment. Moneychangers stood nearby, always happy to exchange the pilgrims' Roman coinage for a "nominal fee." In addition, a temple tax had to be paid. This is why Jesus was angry. The bartering and selling was in the outer courtyard, not inside the temple, yet the priests had turned this sacred place into a haven of opportunity to swindle the people, a "den of thieves."

Sidebar p. 46:
If Jesus walked into your community of faith, what tables would He likely overturn? He would probably overturn us worrying so about paying bills but not about doing the ministry that Christ would have us to do, like with apportionments.

Why do you think Jesus intended to pass the disciples by?
They had spent years saving and raising this lamb, and it was truly unblemished. It was selfish and dishonest to say that it was not fit to be sacrificed, and even more dishonest to charge such a fee for a different lamb raised at the temple.

With whom is Jesus angry?
Primarily, the priests who have encouraged this to take place in the temple. They are the ones that have changed this sacred place into a moneymaking venture.

Could He have handled the situation in a different way?

Yes, but it is unlikely that doing so diplomatically would have brought about any change!

What would you have done?

I'll admit it, I've been known to pitch some fits when I think things are being done unfairly or unjustly. However, I know that in MY position--I'm clearly not Jesus!--it would be more effective to 'catch flies with honey instead of vinegar'.

Does this justify violence on our part when our values are violated?

Justify it? No. But explain it to an extent? Yes. It is a definite rough spot in which to be!

Sidebar p. 46: In John 2:24-25, we see that there is a difference between being a critical person and a critical thinker. Write the difference below.

Being a critical thinker means to think about things objectively. Being a critical person is being judgemental and harsh to others, often when it is not warranted.

Summarize verses 24-25 in your own words.

Jesus didn't trust them with his life. He didn't need their endorsement, for he knew what they were made of.