Tonight we had a beautiful Dinner and Bible Circle together with a few traveller friends, and read through John chapter 2. We each took turns sharing our thoughts on the chapter, ideas that stood out to us, questions. It was deep and fun and beautiful as these Tuesday nights usually are. In the chapter we read are two stories from the life of Jesus that I really love. Two stories that give me an image of Real Life Jesus. Not some ‘holier than thou’, soft-focus, walking-six-inches-off-the-ground Jesus; but a Real True Person.
The first story is about Jesus changing water into wine at a wedding, at the behest of his mother. As I understand it, Jewish weddings in this era could be week-long affairs with plenty of eating, drinking dancing and joy. Jesus changing water into wine as we noted in our circle, was probably not a life-saving miracle. No-one had their sight brought back, or their ability to walk restored to them. The party just went a little longer, and perhaps the host’s face was also saved. The fact that the wine Jesus created was the best that there had been at the party is such a great part of this story for me. This whole story gives me a vision of Jesus as a man who liked to party! He wasn’t scolding people for drinking so much, or being a wet blanket. He was helping the party kick on deeper into the night!
The second story is the one of Jesus driving out those who were selling animals for sacrifice in the Temple. The Message version of this story has Jesus chasing the animals and sellers out, telling them
“Get your things out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a shopping mall!” (John 2:16)
We discussed how the area that these people had set up their market was inside the Temple - most likely in the area called ‘The Court of the Gentiles’, the closest that non-Jewish people could get into the Temple, the closest they could get to the Holy Place, to worship God. This was meant to be a quiet area where people could contemplate and worship God, not a busy market, full of animals and buying and selling. In Mark’s version of this story, Jesus tells the people selling in the Temple
“Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” (Mark 11:17)
This vision of Jesus is angry - angry about injustice, about outsiders not being welcomed in, about people excluding others from access to God, anger on behalf of the outsider. This is a righteous anger, a good clean anger. This is a Jesus who is emotional and deep and cares about those who want to step closer to God, and doesn’t want to see them excluded by those on the ‘inside’.
When we had a few minutes meditation during our Circle time, I imagined this man, the one who extended a party with really excellent wine, the man who overturned tables and threw coins to the ground in anger, chasing sheep away. I thought that this man is someone I would have liked to be around. I think he would have challenged me a lot - like some of my closest friends often do, in the best ways. I think I would not have understood many of the things he said. But still…I think I would have enjoyed being around this magnetic person who could enjoy a party, who wanted to welcome outsiders in towards God, and who got emotional and was a Real True Person. I thought, maybe for the first time - I know I love Jesus, but you know what? I also like him.
I like Jesus.
(A post by Ro.)