Letters to the Prison - Week 29

Hello, everyone!  
We hope you’ve decided to read the Gospel of John along with us.  We’re considering chapter 2.  But first, let’s look back briefly in chapter 1 at a conversation Jesus had with his new disciple Nathanael:
•47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.”-John 1:47-50

One thing to love about Jesus is that he backs up what he says.  Here, after showing Nathanael that he knows him even though he had just now met him, Jesus answers Nathanael’s surprise with this promise: “You will see greater things than these.”  As we saw last week, Jesus went on to say that Nathanael would see “heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man” (John 1:51), and that’s an amazing promise to make.  But it doesn’t happen immediately.  

Instead, as we enter chapter two, we (along with Nathanael) will see other “greater things.”  So, let’s take a look!

Right away, we find Jesus and his disciples at a wedding in Cana where Jesus turns water into wine.  John 2:1-12 tells the whole story.  Nathanael was there to see this “greater thing.”  According to John, this act was “the first of his signs” that “manifested his glory” (John 2:11).  Clearly, it was sign enough for Nathanael for Jesus to have “seen him” under the fig tree.  But that was a more private “sign.”  This transformation of water into wine was a much more public act with numerous witnesses including not just the disciples and Mary, but the servants, the master of the feast, the bridegroom, and all the guests as well.

Yet there was an even more public act on the horizon.  John 2:13-22 reports how Jesus visited the Temple during the Passover and drove out the sellers and money changers.  Much could be said about the corrupt leaders (Annas and Caiaphas) who profited dishonestly from the “business” going on in the Temple.  The short version is that they were ripping off travelers who came to the Temple to worship God by selling sacrificial animals to them at inflated prices and using unfair exchange rates to convert their foreign currency.  So, they were robbing innocent worshippers of God from both ends.  But what is truly significant for our discussion is what Jesus says in verse 16:
•16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father's house a house of trade.”-John 2:16

In those days, the Temple at Jerusalem was God’s house.  It was the only acceptable place to make sacrifices to God.  The Temple has a long history, much of which is recorded in the Old Testament.  It was central to the Jewish religion and was also central to the early Christians.  Today, the site where it once stood is still the most revered place on earth.  Much could be said about this place (and will be) during our study.  But for now, it’s enough to notice that Jesus calls this hugely important and magnificent Temple “my Father’s house.”

So, Jesus is clearly claiming that God is his Father.  We’ve discussed before how, in that culture, a father and his son were considered to be one and the same person.  Thus, when Jesus claims that the Temple belongs to his Father, he is once again clearly saying that he is God.  Further, then, Jesus is claiming to own the Temple.  That is a wild claim indeed!

When the Jewish authorities ask Jesus “what sign do you show us for doing these things?” (John 2:18), Jesus has an interesting answer:
•19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” -John 2:19
John makes it clear in verses 20-22 that Jesus wasn’t talking about the physical Temple building –even though Jesus did predict that the actual Temple would be destroyed-- and the Temple indeed was destroyed by the Romans in 70AD just as Jesus predicted.  In verse 19 though, Jesus is talking instead about his own body.  He was claiming that even though the Jews would kill him, he would rise again from the dead after three days.  What a claim!  And, as we know (and as we will see later in John’s Gospel), Jesus absolutely backed that claim up!  And what a great hope and joy we have because he did!

The last few verses in John 2 are very interesting:
•23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

We see in verse 23 that Jesus was performing many signs in Jerusalem.  So, Nathanael got to see many of the “greater things” Jesus promised.  Many more were to come.  And the idea of Jesus’ name is very important, but we’ll discuss that more another time.  For now, verses 24 and 25 are more important because they relate back to what amazed Nathanael about Jesus in the first place:  The fact that Jesus knew Nathanael before he ever met him.  We see in these two verses that the same is true for all people.  That fact is about to become very important when we consider John chapter 3.

It’s also extremely important now as we consider that Jesus knows the hearts and minds of all people.  Even us.  Today.  Right now.  And he still loves us.  That might be the most powerful truth we could leave you with this week:  Jesus knows your every thought.  Knows everything you’ve done.  And still he loves you.  Don’t let anyone or anything convince you otherwise.  Understand this truth, beloved friends:  Jesus still loves you.  

And, so do we!  Until next week, start reading John chapter 3!

Dean A.

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