Saturday, August 11, 2012

Daily Office Reflection: Bookending

Johnny & Bryan's Wedding, 2010
Psalm 87, 90 & 136; Judges 9:22-25,50-57; Acts 4:32-5:11; John 2:13-25

The Gospel of John presents us with such a different Jesus, a different flow to the story of Jesus' life and ministry. Jesus marches into the narrative with authority and certainty of who he is and where he is going. The Gospel writer we call John bookends this long account: what happens toward the end, the things Jesus says and does, are mirrored toward the beginning.

Yesterday, we had the wedding feast in Cana (the first portion of Chapter 2), where water is turned into wine on Mary's request. That Chapter begins, strikingly, with the words "On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee..." This comes right after (at the close of Chapter 1) Jesus telling Nathanael that he (Nate) will see far greater things happen than Jesus telling him where he had been sitting under a fig tree. So, the "on the third day" reference stands out as something that does not flow with what has just gone before - the third day of what? John is setting forth the importance of "the great three days," the Passion that is to come later in the story, where at the beginning of that Passion narrative, Jesus has wine (and bread) become something else entirely.

In today's continuation of Chapter 2, Jesus cleans out the market place area of the temple. When challenged by temple authorities on this action, who demand a sign that gives Jesus authority, Jesus says "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." There are those three days again. There is no mystery in this Gospel, for the author tells us that his disciples understood this after he had been raised from the dead. A deliberate march, from Galilee to Jerusalem, back out again, and eventually back to Jerusalem. A deliberate life and ministry.

How are we supposed to mimic this kind of determination, this kind of deliberateness and certainty? This very high-Christological-Jesus makes him seemingly unapproachable, remote, challenging for us to make these accounts of Jesus relevant to the everyday hubbub of our lives. I find it helpful to remember the other Gospels in comparison to this one, combined with looking at the human elements the Gospel writer puts in these accounts of Jesus' ministry. He is a bit cranky with his mother when she asks him to do something about the lack of wine at the wedding...a typical child being unhappy with being told by a parent what to do, saying no at first, and then going ahead and doing the thing asked for....Jesus shows anger/temper in the temple in today's portion of Chapter 2 - a whip of cords, a raised voice. There's no teaching, just "zeal" and physicality at trying to right a wrong. This can be very balancing when set against the more remote-certainhood of John's Jesus.

A challenging and often misunderstood Gospel. Yet, it is one that continues to speak and guide and invite us to be in conversation with God. 

Copyright 2012, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

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