Sermon title:  The Kindness and Severity of God   John 2:1-16

 

    Immanuel Baptist Church – January 28, 2018

 

 

Back to ImmanuelBaptistNB.org

 

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. 

What severity!

 

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,

which says,

“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.

It’s usually

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." 

Hint!  Hint!

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?”