Sunday, February 10, 2019

Come Follow Me - John 2-4

Come Follow Me - John 2-4

The Gospel of John's makeup

Scholars are uncertain where Cana is, but believe it was near the Sea of Galilee. John's Gospel is the only one that mentions the marriage event and is the only gospel that does not mention Mary by name. Instead, Jesus uses the honorific term, "woman."  This term ties Mary to Eve in the Garden of Eden, being the "mother of all living."  As Woman, she also represents the consort of God, called by several names in the ancient Near East. In the Bible, the first woman (goddess) is known as Wisdom (Proverbs 8), and is co-existent with God.

Changing water into wine is the first miracle, according to John. Christian tradition makes it the first public miracle. For John, it is the first of seven signs that Jesus is the Messiah.  John's book is often broken up into four sections by scholars: The Prologue (John 1:1-18), The Book of Signs (John 1:19-12:50), The Book of Glory/Exaltation (John 13:1-20:31), and the Epilogue (John 21).

Within the Book of Signs, the seven signs are as follows:
  1. Turning water into wine at the marriage at Cana (John 2)
  2. Healing the royal official's son in Capernaum (John 4)
  3. Healing the paralytic at Bethesda (John 5)
  4. Feeding the 5000 (John 6)
  5. Jesus walking on water (John 6)
  6. Healing the man, who was blind from birth (John 9)
  7. The raising of Lazarus from death (John 11)
Some scholars vary on this list, for example replacing one of the above signs with the cleansing of the Temple, as John notes this as a "sign."

These tie into the concept of New Creation Theology, with Jesus' resurrection being the implied 8th sign, representing a new creation for all mankind.  Basically, the world was created in 7 days. There are seven 1000 year periods to the earth's telestial existence (according to early Biblical concepts). The eighth day represents a new earth beyond the Millennial reign.  In these miracles, Jesus shows control over illness, paralysis, blindness, the elements, and death. In the resurrection, he also shows he has power over death, hell, immortality and eternal life.

The Marriage in Cana

Turning water into wine, and not just any wine, but according to the steward, it is the best wine. Normally, the best wine was served first, with the poorer wine later, usually when the celebrants were drunk and wouldn't notice. For the steward, this change in protocol was highly unexpected, but welcome.

One of Moses' first miracles was changing the Nile River water into blood. Turning water into wine become symbolic of the fact that Jesus was a prophet like Moses. Both performed great miracles. Both brought forth the Law of God and salvation.

Symbolically, as the water turned into the best of wine, so too is Jesus the best news for all of us. We make the best we can of life, usually expecting it to get worse as time goes on. Yet, with Christ, we can go through all the good and bad times, with hope that all things will get better. Our lives are plain water, but with Christ, he enriches life here in mortality and in the eternity.

Reborn of Water and Spirit

Nicodemus was an older man, a Pharisee and a member of the Jewish ruling council, the Sanhedrin. He is mentioned three times in the Bible: John 3 as he secretly comes to Jesus at night, John 7 as he reminds the other members of the Sanhedrin the proscribed rules for condemning someone, and in John 19 as he and Joseph of Arimathea anoint the dead Jesus' body with oils.

Why did he seek Jesus at night? Likely it is because going to him in daytime, when others were watching, he would have risked his position in the Sanhedrin leadership. There were many major Jewish sects and subgroups in Jesus' day: Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Zealots, John the Baptist movement, etc. Now there was a new sect rising up.  However, this one was different. Rumors of miracles and new teachings would create a powerful interest for many to hear and consider what it had to offer.

For most of the Jewish ruling class, the struggle for preeminence between the Sadducees and Pharisees was palpable. Like Republicans and Democrats in Congress, they held an uneasy share of power. One thing they agreed upon, they were suspicious of other parties that could possibly upset the balance. Essenes continually claimed to be the rightful proprietors and priests of the Temple, and awaited the time when they would kick the Sadducee priests out of office. Meanwhile, Zealots were continually producing new Messiahs that promised to rid Judea of all Romans and other foreigners.

It isn't hard then to imagine Nicodemus, cautious about new claimants, approaching Jesus at night. He was probably expecting Jesus to proclaim himself a Zealot Messiah and beginning to gather his own little army to fight the Romans.

Instead, Jesus told him that to enter heaven required rebirth. This was very unexpected to Nicodemus, even though he may have had discussions on resurrection, after life, and even baptism (Pharisees having checked out John the Baptist's ministry in the wilderness). It's reasonable for Nicodemus to ask for clarity from Jesus, as this would have been the first time anyone would have posed the idea of rebirth to him (or anyone else).

As the Lord earlier taught Adam:

“Therefore I give unto you a commandment, to teach these things freely unto your children, saying:
“That by reason of transgression cometh the fall, which fall bringeth death, and inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory;
“For by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified” (Moses 6:58-60).
To understand scripture requires understanding symbolism. Here, rebirth is compared to natural childbirth. A child is born of water, spirit, and blood.  When a woman's water breaks, the baby is born life sustaining blood and spirit. When we wish to be reborn, it also requires water, blood and spirit. In this case, the waters of baptism, the Holy Spirit, and the blood of Christ are the three things that give us eternal life.

We do not receive remission of sins by water baptism. Water baptism is the ordinance we must obey (the commandment), in order to receive a remission of sins. It is the blood of Christ that sanctifies us, giving us a remission of sins. It is this remission that turns us from evil to good. On a number line, our sins would put us in negative territory. Jesus' atonement and resurrection bring us back to a positive state (number 1). Then, the Spirit can work upon us, justifying us and making us more and more holy (increasing our positive number count). In John 1 and D&C 93, we learn that this process moves us from grace to grace, and we receive grace for grace, until we receive a fullness (eternal life).

      Sin {---- -4 -3 -2 -1  0  1  2  3  4 ----} Fullness

This was a revolutionary concept that Jesus introduced to Judaism. While others had been washed or even baptized previously, none had made the connection between water, spirit and blood. Nor had they connected it to entrance into heaven.

Living Waters in Samaria

Image result for samaria 

Samaria in Jesus' time was located north of Judea, and covered much of the original territory of the original Kingdom of Israel, after the split of Israel into the two kingdoms in Rehoboam’s (son of Solomon) day. Then, 700 years before Christ, the nation of Israel was carried off by the Assyrians, leaving just the poor in the land. Assyria brought many from other lands to dwell in Samaria, leaving it with a mixed genealogy.

When the Jews returned from their Babylon captivity, the Samaritans wished to help them build the new temple. The Jews refused to allow it, as they were not pure blood Israel. Josephus tells us that the Samaritans built their own temple on Mount Gerizim. Archaeologist Yitzhak Magen has been excavating the site for 25 years, and has found signs of its existence.

Still, even in the times of Jesus, the Samaritans were treated as second class citizens by the Jews. They were not allowed into the temple at Jerusalem, and their form of worship for God had changed over the centuries, a mixture of Israelite faith and pagan belief. In this environment, the Jew Jesus Christ went north to Samaria and sat by a well to speak with a Samaritan woman.

“9 Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.”

She was shocked that a Jew would even talk with her. His response was wholly unexpected:

“10 Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.”

The Lord then explains to her that he is the living waters that save the soul. The Samaritan faith system was flawed, and needed major fixing. In speaking of these things, the woman notes that Samaritan belief looked forward to the Messiah, who would teach them all things. At this moment, Jesus noted that he was the Messiah, even the Anointed One, they sought.

Their temple works and faith were all fulfilled in Christ. He was and is the living waters that flow next to the Tree of Life, which both symbolize the Love of God (1 Nephi 11:25).

“God is a Spirit”

In talking with the Samaritan woman, the Lord explained to her:
“22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.
“23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
“24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”

Verse 24 contains one of the few verses used by traditional Christianity to express that God is [a] Spirit. From this comes the development of the belief in the Trinity, established with the Nicene Creed three centuries after Christ. Then and now, it is a contentious issue. As discussed in New Testament lesson One in my blog, there were differing views on the Trinity/Godhead.

Discussing religion often in their later years by letter, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams discussed how they viewed Christianity. Both were Christian, yet differed greatly from ertain traditional beliefs. Jefferson was a Deist Christian, believing God wound up the universe and then pretty much left it alone to wind down on its own. Adams, known as a strong Christian of his day, still questioned certain issues. He wrote Jefferson once saying, “Ye will say I am no Christian” because he disagreed with the concept of the Trinity. He noted that Jesus said “God is [a] Spirit” and agreed with it. But then asked, “what does that mean?” The concept of Trinity expands further than what the Lord states in John’s Gospel. For John Adams, it meant that God is real, He lives, and he is our true God.

That God is a Spirit is true. The Bible also tells us that “God is love” (1 John 4:16), and a “consuming fire” (Deut 4:24, Hebrews 12:29), This does not mean either of these statements is the only thing God is, but only descriptive of some of his attributes. For we also know he is the “father of spirits” (Hebrews 12:9), and Christ commanded us to call God, “our Father which art in Heaven.”

God is our true Father of spirits, and Christ is our Messiah, the living waters who will cleanse us, purify us, and bring us back into the presence of the Father.

My previous blogging on  this lesson:


Meg Stout said...

I liked how John the Baptist, when told that Jesus's disciples were performing baptisms, rejoiced in this fact, rather than being irritated at the erosion of his market share.

seefilms said...

I don't fully undestand this comment: In the Bible, the first woman (goddess) is known as Wisdom (Proverbs 8), and is co-existent with God.
Am I to understand that some translation of woman means goddess and that the wisdom in Provers 8 is supposed to mean woman?
There is nothing further stated and no sources so I am intrigued.
Please advise.

rameumptom said...

Wisdom is understood to be the consort of Jehovah. She is often represented by the goddess Asherah in ancient Judaism.
Some of the sources:

Did God Have a Wife? - William G. Dever
Nephi and his Asherah - Daniel C. Peterson
Did God have a Wife? - NBC News

And one more link on Wisdom in Proverbs 8: