Sermon title: The Kindness and Severity of God John 2:1-16
Immanuel Baptist Church – January 28, 2018
The 2nd Chapter of John
that we just read from in our responsive reading
is very instructive
in the way that it reveals Jesus’ character to us.
At a wedding feast at Cana in Galilee,
Jesus turned water into wine—
to keep the banquet from being ruined
when they ran out.
What a kind thing to do!
Then, a few days later,
He went into the temple in Jerusalem,
made a whip out of ropes,
and drove out the money changers
and those selling merchandise.
Could you imagine someone
coming into a large church’s fellowship hall today—
where something inappropriate was going on—
and throwing over the tables
with a whip in his hand
and driving people out?
The contrast between Jesus turning water into wine at a wedding
and then cleansing the temple
is a good reminder of Romans 11:22,
“Notice how God is both kind and severe.”
Jesus perfectly reflects the personality
of God the Father,
and we see that illustrated in this chapter.
At John 14:9 Jesus said,
“Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”
And Hebrews 1:3 says,
“The Son radiates God's own glory
and expresses the very character of God.”
So, Jesus is just like His heavenly Father.
That’s why it’s so important to read the Old Testament
as well as the New Testament.
God is the same throughout.
These two events
in the 2nd chapter of John’s Gospel
help us appreciate God’s character—
which is perfectly reflected in Christ.
Our God is a loving Father,
but does not spare the rod of discipline.
Proverbs 3:12 says,
“The Lord disciplines those he loves.”
The popular view today
is to talk only about
God’s love, kindness, mercy and forgiveness
without ever mentioning
God’s severity and sternness toward sin.
Before we look more closely
at what went on here in the 2nd Chapter of John,
I want to mention
something I heard on the radio.
It was many years ago when I was a brand-new Christian.
I remember hearing a pastor on the radio
talk about what he called “half-of-the-Word heresies.”
And I wondered what that could be.
A heresy is a false teaching
that departs from the true Christian faith.
an outright statement that contradicts the Bible,
like Mohammed’s claim that Jesus was just a prophet
and not the Son of God.
But a heresy can also be
a failure to teach what the Bible does say.
And that’s what that pastor on the radio
was referring to.
“Half-of-the-word heresies” would be
false teachings that result
from preaching just half of the Word of God,
not the whole message.
And we see a lot of that in churches today.
They talk only about
the kind and loving things Jesus said and did—
things that appeal to everyone
and that don’t make anyone feel uncomfortable.
And they fail to discuss
the tough and challenging things—
especially God’s standards of right and wrong,
and the fact that God requires us
to live up to those standards.
So, if you have a church
that reads from Scripture only what Jesus said about love
and fails to read aloud
what He said about sin,
that is a “half-of-the-Word heresy.”
Only half of the Word is being taught—
the half that keeps everyone happy
and doesn’t offend anyone.
That’s why it’s so important for a church—
at least some of the time—
to preach through the Scriptures,
discussing each passage when you come to it.
And that’s what we’re doing now,
as we go through the Gospels chronologically,
discussing everything that Jesus said and did,
in the order in which those events occurred.
So, here we are in the 2nd Chapter of John. [ OPEN ]
And this chapter alone
is enough to show us
that God is loving and kind,
but is also tough on disobedience
and won’t put up with it.
Let’s take a look at what happened there
in the 2nd Chapter of John.
Jesus had been baptized by John the Baptist
about a month-and-a-half earlier.
After spending 40 days alone in the wilderness,
being tempted by the devil,
Jesus returned to the area of the Jordan River
where John was baptizing,
a few miles from Jerusalem.
John introduced some of his own disciples to Jesus,
and they now became Jesus’ disciples.
Then Jesus took these disciples with Him
and returned to Galilee,
around 100 miles north of Jerusalem.
We pick up the story of what happened
in John 2, Verse 1.
1 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there,
2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.
Mary’s husband Joseph—
Jesus’ foster father—
must have died before this.
Otherwise, he would certainly
have been there with his wife.
But Jesus was 30 years old then,
and that would have made Joseph around 50, or older—
at a time when it was common
for men to die in their 40s, or earlier.
So, Mary attended the wedding feast
with her son Jesus.
And Jesus’ new disciples were there, too.
Verse 3 says,
3 When the wine was gone, Jesus' mother said to him, "They have no more wine."
4 "Dear woman, why do you involve me?" Jesus replied, "My time has not yet come."
Mary obviously knew her son,
and the power in His hands as the Son of God.
So, she tells Jesus, "They have no more wine."
You can picture almost any mother
hinting like that to her son
who was in a position to help.
Jesus’ response sounds harsh in some translations.
But I believe the NIV has it right
when it says Jesus replied,
“Dear woman, why do you involve me?"
"My time has not yet come."
Mary wasn’t going to take NO for an answer,
so Verse 5 continues,
5 His mother said to the servants,
"Do whatever he tells you."
By the way, Jesus encourages us to be persistent like that,
just as Mary was persistent.
He encourages us to be persistent in our prayers.
In Luke chapter 18,
Jesus gave the “Parable of the Persistent Widow.”
And Luke 18:1 says the lesson of the parable
was that we ‘should always pray and not give up.’
So, Mary wouldn’t take NO for an answer.
She told the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."
Verse 6 continues,
6 Nearby stood six stone water jars,
the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing,
each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.
7 Jesus said to the servants,
"Fill the jars with water";
so they filled them to the brim.
There were six of these huge stone water jars,
so we’re talking a total of
between 120 and 180 gallons of water—
like 2 or 3 55-gallon drums.
Now, Jesus apparently didn’t say anything out loud
and didn’t wave His hands over the water jars
or anything like that.
Verse 8 simply says,
8 Then he told them, "Now draw some out
and take it to the master of the banquet."
They did so, and the master of the banquet
tasted the water that had been turned into wine.
He did not realize where it had come from,
though the servants who had drawn the water knew.
Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, "Everyone brings out the choice wine first
and then the cheaper wine
after the guests have had too much to drink;
but you have saved the best till now."
So, it wasn’t just water with a taste of grape added.
The director of the feast recognized it
as the very best wine—
better, even, than the wine they started with,
before they ran out.
Why did Jesus do this?
Well, obviously He was being kind and helpful.
He supplied the wedding feast with the wine they needed
as an act of kindness.
And He answered His mother’s plea.
But Verse 11 tells us
He also turned the water into wine
for the sake of His new disciples,
so they could put their faith in Him.
It was only a few days earlier
that John the Baptist introduced these disciples to Jesus.
They had believed John the Baptist’s testimony
that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah.
But now Jesus gave them first-hand proof.
He showed them His miraculous power,
so they could know for themselves
who He was—and put faith in Him.
Verse 11 says,
11 This, the first of his miraculous signs,
Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee.
He thus revealed his glory,
and his disciples put their faith in him.
So, it was an act of kindness toward His disciples, too.
He gave them evidence of who He was,
so that they could put faith in Him.
But now this same 2nd Chapter of John
goes on tell us another aspect of Jesus’ character.
Verse 12 says,
12 After this he went down to Capernaum
with his mother and brothers and his disciples.
There they stayed for a few days.
Capernaum was still in Galilee,
around 10 miles away from Cana,
where Jesus turned the water into wine.
Then Verse 13 says,
13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
Capernaum, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee,
was at a lower elevation than Cana,
so that’s why it said they went “down” to Capernaum.
Jerusalem, on the other hand,
was at a higher elevation,
so that’s why it says they went “up” to Jerusalem.
And now, in Jerusalem,
Jesus does something unexpected
that reveals this other aspect of the character of God.
Continuing in Verse 14, we read,
14 In the temple courts
he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves,
and others sitting at tables exchanging money.
Jews came from all over the world
to celebrate the Passover at Jerusalem.
They offered their sacrifices at the Temple—
sacrifices that could include
cattle, lambs and doves.
Those from nearby
could bring their own animals from home.
But those travelling long distances
brought money with them
to purchase an animal for sacrifice.
They naturally had foreign currency
from their own country
that they needed to convert to local currency.
So, all of this was necessary business.
But, should they conduct this business
inside the courtyards of God’s temple?
It really didn’t belong there.
Also, the money changers
and those who sold animals at the temple
were known to be unscrupulous.
They had people over a barrel,
and they exploited them
by over-charging for the animals,
and by inflating the rate of exchange
for the money.
When Jesus cleansed the temple like this
a second time,
later on in His ministry,
He called them “robbers,”
because they were robbing their customers
by overcharging them.
Verse 15 tells how Jesus dealt with them:
15 So he made a whip out of cords,
and drove all from the temple area,
both sheep and cattle;
he scattered the coins of the money changers
and overturned their tables.
16 To those who sold doves he said,
"Get these out of here!
How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!"
Wow! That was stern.
That was severe.
That was, like, ‘over the top’
when it comes to boldness.
Verse 17 says,
17 His disciples remembered
that it is written:
"Zeal for your house will consume me."
That quote was from Psalm 69, Verse 9,
and the disciples realized it spoke prophetically of Jesus.
The Jewish religious leaders
recognized that the Messiah would have authority
to do as Jesus had done.
But they questioned
whether Jesus had such authority.
They wanted Him to prove it.
Verse 18 says,
18 Then the Jews demanded of him,
"What miraculous sign can you show us
to prove your authority to do all this?"
Jesus actually did perform many miraculous signs,
over the course of His ministry
from beginning to end.
But whenever He did so,
the religious leaders objected.
They complained that He healed people on the Sabbath.
When Jesus cast out demons,
they accused Him of doing so
by invoking the devil—the ruler of the demons—
instead of God’s power.
So, they didn’t really want
to see miracles
as proof of Jesus’ authority
at this time, either.
Verse 19 says,
19 Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple,
and I will raise it again in three days."
20 The Jews replied,
"It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?"
21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body.
When Jesus said “Destroy this temple”
He may have been gesturing toward His body.
Or, He may have used such language
just to confuse His enemies.
But He was talking about His body,
not the Jerusalem temple
that had just been rebuilt
in a 46-year-long building project.
Raising His own body from the dead
would be the ultimate miracle—
proving Jesus to be the Messiah, the Son of God.
Verse 22 says,
22 After he was raised from the dead,
his disciples recalled what he had said.
Then they believed the Scripture
and the words that Jesus had spoken.
And, meanwhile, Jesus was performing other miracles.
Verse 23 says,
23 Now while he was in Jerusalem
at the Passover Feast,
many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing
and believed in his name.
But those crowds were fickle,
and Jesus knew it.
Verse 24 says,
24 But Jesus would not entrust himself to them,
for he knew all men.
25 He did not need man's testimony about man,
for he knew what was in a man.
Yes, Jesus knows what we humans are like.
Despite our sinfulness
He is merciful and kind,
as we saw when He turned water into wine.
But He is not to be trifled with or mocked,
as we saw when He cleansed the temple
and drove out those who were turning it into a market.
Jesus wants us
to preach, teach and understand
all of His words, and all of His actions—
those that are harsh and severe,
as well as those that are kind and gentle.
In fact, Jesus said something pretty tough
about the need to do that.
At Luke 9, Verse 26, He said,
“Whoever is ashamed of me and my words,
the Son of Man will be ashamed of them
when he comes in his glory
and in the glory of the Father
and of the holy angels.”
So, we should appreciate all
of Jesus’ words and actions—
all aspects of God’s personality and character.
But, how many are still doing that today?
At Luke 18:8 Jesus asked the rhetorical question,
“When the Son of Man comes,
will he find faith on the earth?”