A reflection for Easter 2014
"John seems to be saying that we’ve got to read Jesus from the end, not the beginning. Some of us say that when it all really comes to an end, when the Lord returns, it will be just like a wedding." By John Rackley
The New Testament was compiled by people who believed in the Resurrection of Jesus. It is important to remember this when reading the Gospels in particular. They are all Easter stories. So in John’s Gospel we are told that the author has made a special selection from the material available to convince his readers that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. This reflection imagines the impact of this on John’s scribe as he realised what was going on.
“You’re late”. My sister was angry. The food was spoiling. I was not home when I said I would be.
“He kept me longer”.
“What was it this time? Another one of his letters? What’s he found to say now?"
She found it hard to understand. She enjoys the discussion when we all get together. She has ideas of her own and when she speaks everyone listens. She just found the writing it down unnecessary. If I am honest so do I. But John insisted and this time I think he was on to something.
“Let’s eat, then I’ll tell you. I think it’s really important. He says it’s the best thing that we will have ever written together."
The food was as good as usual. We sat together afterwards and I told her what had happened earlier that day.
“He wants to write out the story of Jesus. He feels he has to do this before it’s too late. But he wants to tell it in such a way that people who never knew him can understand how important it is to believe in him.
"He says our gatherings have brought out so many ideas. He likes the way we come from our different backgrounds. Greek. Jew. Cyrenian. Egyptian. He wants to blend it all into an explanation of why we believe Jesus is the Messiah. But first he’s going to select just a few stories about him to make the point”.
She interrupted. “That’s going to be difficult. I don’t think there are enough books in the world to contain all that Jesus said and did."
I thought that was a good line; maybe I could use it.
“Well he’s done it. At least he’s chosen the first one. It was a new one to me. It’s about something that happened at Cana. It’s somewhere near where Jesus lived. I asked him where he got that one from. He said he couldn’t remember."
“Maybe he made it up; you know what he’s like”. My sister had never really lost her scepticism. It could be very trying. It had occurred to me too but wherever it came from it was a brilliant choice to start off his compilation. It was quite unlike other stories about the wonderful signs and wonders that flowed from Jesus. It was about a wedding and the wine running out. That must have been some occasion. Anyway Jesus was there and made fresh wine out of water. His mother was involved in some way. I’ve noticed before how John makes opportunities to mention Mary.
I asked him why he was going to start with that.
Then he began to lose me a bit. Water into wine! What better way to introduce Jesus. The game changer. Well God, really. He even made us put it into a sequence of three days. On the first day John the Baptist was telling his disciples that Jesus was the sacrificial Lamb of God. And then we started the Cana story with one of those iconic expressions the first Christians used to say: on the third day.
This was Resurrection-talk. This was a huge hint. John was telling the story of Jesus backwards; even though the story-line went forwards. Do you see what I mean?
I’m getting confused myself. It’s about not clinging to the old ideas about Jesus; releasing him from his past; letting new thinking break through now. It’s taking a fresh look at Jesus through what happened when he rose.
My sister’s eyes were glazing over and she murmured, “That would be a cheap way to get wine”.
Not cheap but costly – for Jesus. John explained it to me. He said religion, faith gets tired. But we get frightened by change. We feel we have to hang-in there. We think it’s about protecting God and feel threatened by what we won’t expect. If I’m honest it happens to us Christians. We can get trapped into re-cycling the old ways and going over and over the famous beliefs. But Jesus brings new life out of the old. That’s the Resurrection for you.
John seems to be saying that we’ve got to read Jesus from the end, not the beginning. Some of us say that when it all really comes to an end, when the Lord returns, it will be just like a wedding.
I’m not sure whether John thinks that, but it’s a good way to introduce Jesus – welcome to the wedding.
My sister got up and looked in my direction.
“And who cleared up the mess?”
John Rackley is a Baptist minister living in Bath
Picture: Gaetano Gandolfi - The Marriage at Cana/Wikimedia Commons