Wednesday, April 29, 2020

A Tale of Signs and Trust

Then on the third day a wedding took place in the Galilean Cana, and the mother of Jesus was there, so Jesus and his disciples were invited to the wedding. Then, the wine having run out, the mother of Jesus says to Him, "They have no wine."

Then Jesus says to her, "What is it to me and you, ma'am? My hour is not yet."

Says His mother to the servants, "Whatever He might tell you, do."

Now there were standing there six stone water-jars for purification in the Judean style, with room for two or three metetes. Says Jesus to them, "Fill the water-jars with water." Then they filled them to the brim.

He says to them, "Draw some out and carry it to the one presiding over the feast."

And they took it, and when the one presiding had tasted it, the water having become wine and he not knowing whence it was -- though the servants knew, having drawn the water -- he calls the bridegroom and says to him, "Every man sets out the good wine at first and the worse after they have drunk freely; you have kept the good wine until now."

This Jesus did in Galilean Cana, the beginning of signs. Then He manifested His glory and His disciples trusted in Him.

After this He went down to Capernaum, He and His mother and His brothers and His disciples, and they stayed there a few days.

Then the Judean passover was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Then He found in the holy place those those selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the moneychangers were sitting down. Then, having made a whip out of ropes, He drove it all out of the holy place, the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the coins of the moneychangers, and overturned the tables. Then to those selling doves, He said, "Take these away; do not make my Father's house a mercantile house."

His disciples remember that is written: Jealousy for your house will consume me.

Thus the Judeans answered and said to Him, "What sign do you show, that you may do these things?"

Jesus answered and said to them, "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it."

Thus the Judeans said, "This temple was forty-six years in the building and in three days you will raise it!"

Yet He was speaking about the temple of His body. When therefore He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this. Then they trusted Scripture and the word Jesus had spoken.

And when He was in Jerusalem at the passover, at the festival, many trusted in His name, seeing the signs He was doing. But Jesus did not trust them, because He knew them all, and because He had no need for evidence about man, for He knew Himself what was within man.

John 2, my rough translation. I was struck by a few things. First, which I've thought before, the wedding story is rather funny. Jesus' mother essentially ignores His entirely reasonable protest, a phenomenon every mother's son has experienced at some point. And the architriclinius (presider over the feast) is quite clearly implying that the bridegroom (who can't possibly know what he's talking about) is an idiot who hadn't figured out something everyone knows.

Second, these two stories together have some interesting interplay between evidence and trust. In both the people technically in charge don't have a clue what's going on; in both it is emphasized that the disciples trusted Jesus after signs that made things obvious. And then we have the interesting bit at the end, in which many people trust Jesus because they see the signs -- in the context of a festival, the verb seems often to suggest being a spectator -- but Jesus does not reciprocate the trust because He does not need to draw His conclusions on the basis of things, like signs, that serve as evidence ('testify', as the translations usually have) -- He already knows.

The word for testifying or serving as evidence has been used before (John 1:7-8), in talking about John the Baptist, who came to serve as evidence of the Light. Later (also in the temple) he will get into an argument again with the Judeans, and says that if He gives evidence for Himself, the evidence is not true; another is giving evidence for Him and the evidence that one gives is true -- John had previously given evidence, but now His evidence is not from man but from the Father, and seen in the works He does and in Scripture. Still later (again in the temple) Jesus will identify as the Light in question (John 8:12), after which the Pharisees will attempt to turn his prior claim against Him, telling Him He is trying to serve as evidence for Himself; Jesus replies that even if that were so, such evidence can still be true because He recognizes whence He comes and whither He goes, or more exactly, He says, "I am the evidence for Myself" (John 8:18), because His Father is giving evidence in having sent Him. (Naturally, they then want to speak to his dad to get this supposed evidence.)

Much of the Gospel of John is concerned with the theme of people trying to get evidence while being completely oblivious of what's going on right in front of them; evidence keeps being given, but even the disciples don't see it until Jesus makes it obvious. But of course, immediately after the above stories from John 2, we get the discussion with Nicodemus, in which Jesus flatly says that no one can see the kingdom without being born from above. (The expression is often translated as 'reborn' or 'born again', but it's literally 'from above'. While the 'from above' was often an expression for 'again', given other things Jesus says, it is clear he does mean it literally, but Nicodemus, as if to make Jesus' point for Him, takes the 'from above' in the figurative sense, so asks how the elderly can be born.)

In John 6, the crowds are following Him because of His signs (around passover again); then He performs the miracle of feeding the five thousand. This causes Him more trouble with the crowds, and He accuses them of following Him because of the food rather than the signs; they should instead trust the one God has sent. At which point they demand that He give them a sign, like manna, so they could trust Him, as if He had not just recently done so. Jesus was right not to trust their trust, not to believe their belief. It's not an accident that John has the episode in which God literally speaks from the heavens and some of the people say it was just thunder (John 12:28-29).

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please understand that this weblog runs on a third-party comment system, not on Blogger's comment system. If you have come by way of a mobile device and can see this message, you may have landed on the Blogger comment page, or the third party commenting system has not yet completely loaded; your comments will only be shown on this page and not on the page most people will see, and it is much more likely that your comment will be missed.