Jesus’ Ministry Begins

It’s common in many churches to call the first year or two of a pastor’s tenure a “honeymoon” stage. The idea is that the situation is still new, and there’s often a hint that things will not always be this way.

In John 2, we see the honeymoon stage of Jesus’ ministry. Unlike the honeymoon period of many ministries today, the events in this chapter show us themes that will continue through the end of the book. So that the pessimists don’t get the last word, however, we also see that the themes in this chapter are like a true ministerial, or even marital, honeymoon — they point to better benefits and blessings in the future.

What are these themes?

The first is John’s emphasis on “signs.” They are signals that a new age is dawning. Chapter 2 contains two stories where Jesus’ disciples and the crowds believe in Him because of the signs (John 2:11, 23-25). In the first story, Jesus performs what John calls “the beginning” of Jesus’ signs (2:11). Jesus, His family members, and His disciples go to a wedding where the host runs out of wine. This mistake was far worse then than now; a joyous event was turning into a family’s disgrace. Jesus’ “sign” is turning an enormous amount of water for Jewish purification into wine that was better than the original wine. In the second story, Jesus violently clears out the business going on in the temple. The house of His Father has become the house for profit. The Jewish leaders ask Jesus for a “sign” to show that He has the authority to do these things. 

The second theme is newness. It’s no coincidence that the huge water pots are for purification (2:6). The old way of purification wasn’t enough. It would take God’s lamb, truly, to purify His people. Jesus’ sign fulfills the Lord’s promise to dwell in Jerusalem when, as the prophets said, sweet wine would drip from the mountains (Amos 9:13-15, Joel 3:18), and the Lord would destroy death forever (Isaiah 25:6-9). 

When Jesus cleanses the temple, He tells the people that if they will destroy the sanctuary, He will raise it up in three days. They assume He’s speaking of the temple, but He’s talking about His body, which informs those with eyes to see that a new sanctuary has come. God is no longer meeting with man at the old location; a permanent meeting place is being set up.

The third theme is incompleteness. When Jesus’ mother tells Him to take care of the wedding situation, Jesus gives her an answer like the answer He would later give to His brothers: performing signs and wonders is not why He came (2:4, 7:8). He didn’t come to fix inconveniences; He came to give His life (12:23, 13:1). In the second story, the disciples understand only after His death and resurrection (2:22).

These themes all connect. The signs show us what He has come to do. He has come so that we could meet with God, and that’s worth a feast like no other (Revelation 19:6-7). The signs, however, aren’t enough. Like the disciples, we need to know that He came primarily to die and rise again. Like Lazarus and Mary Magdalene (John 11 and 20), we will need more than pointers; we need His voice.

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