Jesus Makes All Things New
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
The Gospel of John is my favorite Bible book, and contains my favorite Bible verse (3:16). Its stories, conversations, discourses, and miracles are easy to read, but looks can deceive. I remind us; John was written by the same man who wrote Revelation, a book with symbols, hidden meanings, worded mysteries, etc.
We should therefore not be surprised when we learn there are in the Gospel of John lessons lurking below the obvious. It is shallow enough for a child to wade in, yet deep enough for an elephant to swim in. Whenever you read in it, stay alert.
John the Beloved said he wrote the book “that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name” (20:31b). To help us believe, he weaves through the book meaningful stories, conversations, discourses, and miracles he called signs because they point to truths beyond themselves. He used all these devices to convey several cardinal teachings.
Some of the talking, signs, and lessons are obviously connected. For instance, Jesus said, “I am the bread of life” (6:35a) after feeding the 5000; and before healing the man born blind, claimed, “I am the light of the world” (9:5b).
Some signs and lessons are less obvious, including the truth we are looking at in this message. One of the first lessons in the book is that Jesus came to make all things new. It was time for Judaism to be fulfilled. Israel’s greatest prophet, John the Baptist, knew a new era had begun. He said Jesus had “a higher rank than I” (1:30b), and testified of Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (3:30).
Commoners like Andrew, Peter, Philip, and Nathanael were eagerly looking forward to, and willing to try, something new (1:40-49). The greatest scholars Judaism produced, represented by Nicodemus, could not understand a truth as simple as what it meant to be born again (3:9). It was time for something new.
In our text for this message, we look at two events in chapter two, turning water into wine (2:9) and cleansing the Temple (2:15), that reinforced the fact that Jesus came to make all things new. He still does this, including in our lives.
John 2:6-11 (Holman) Now six stone water jars had been set there for Jewish purification. Each contained 20 or 30 gallons. “Fill the jars with water,” Jesus told them. So they filled them to the brim. Then He said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the chief servant.” And they did. When the chief servant tasted the water, (after it had become wine) he did not know where it came from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. He called the groom and told him, “Everybody sets out the fine wine first, then, after people have drunk freely, the inferior. But you have kept the fine wine until now.” Jesus performed this first sign in Cana of Galilee. He displayed His gory, and His disciples believed in Him.”
Jesus went with His mother and disciples to a wedding in Cana of Galilee. Marriage celebrations were festive occasions, usually lasting seven days.
Jesus clearly felt at ease in the midst of fun. He was no austere killjoy. Jesus never said it was a crime to have fun and be happy, but some believers spread gloom wherever they go. Ever remember, we were baptized in water, not vinegar.
While Jesus was present, the wedding festivities were about to be shut down because the wine ran out. To avoid embarrassment to the bride and groom, Mary asked her Son to do something, and told the servants to do whatever He suggested.
These six water pots used for purification had a total capacity of about 120 gallons. Much water was necessary because the many guests had to wash their feet upon entering, and wash their hands before the meal and between each course.
The practical, kind miracle of changing water into wine confirmed a vitally important truth about Jesus. This silent act of Christ’s will verified His power over material things, reminding us He participated in creation (1:3). When He willed the miracle, water became conscious, recognized its Creator, and blushed.
The miracle impressed the head waiter slightly, but totally overwhelmed the disciples, and bolstered their faith. What did they see that the main servant missed?
Ironically, the main clue to understanding this miracle’s importance is found in the words of the head waiter, who failed to see the significance of what he said. The lesson was, “You have kept the fine wine until now” (v. 10b). Usually a party host used top quality wine at first and then shared cheaper wine once palates were dulled. At this wedding, that was reversed. The host had saved the best till last.
This statement pointed to what Jesus was doing. The system of Judaism had been good in its day, but had fulfilled its purpose. It was now completed. The time had come for a new, better covenant. God had “kept the fine wine until now.”
This is why John share a seemingly trivial detail like six water pots? Six was a number of incompleteness. Six pots pictured things were unfinished in Judaism.
Something new was coming out of Judaism. Its rituals dealt heavily with externals. Jesus fulfilled that system (filled the pots), turning a religion of externals (water for purification) into one that could help us internally (wine for drinking).
Jesus makes things new. He has lifting, freeing power. We often try to improve ourselves, but self-helps usually fail. Judaism represented the best any humanistic religion could offer, but it was not enough. Early believers found in Jesus what they sought, power to transform them. This power is still available.
John 2:12-16 After this, He went down to Capernaum, together with His mother, His brothers, and His disciples, and they stayed there only a few days. The Jewish Passover was near, so Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple complex He found people selling oxen, sheep, and doves, and He also found the money changers sitting there. After making a whip out of cords, He drove everyone out of the temple complex with their sheep and oxen. He also poured out the money changers’ coins and overturned the tables. He told those who were selling doves, “Get these things out of here! Stop turning My Father’s house into a marketplace!”
Leaving Cana, Jesus and His entourage headed for the Sea of Galilee coast, where they remained a few days before heading for Jerusalem, the heart, hub, and capital of Jewish religion. Jesus was extremely displeased with what He found in the Temple, and performed another sign to prove He was making something new.
Judaism had become corrupt to the core. Even at its place of worship, where business dealings were overseen by the High Priest, Jesus found defilement. He became so angry that He drove out the money-changers and animal-sellers.
What infuriated Jesus? Greed among the religious leaders. Over two million Jews came to Jerusalem for Passover. Most wanted to make sacrifices and give offerings, but were impeded by three ludicrous practices of the religious leaders.
One, Temple authorities appointed inspectors to examine animals to make sure they were unblemished, fit to be offered as perfect sacrifices to YHWH. Here corruption began. The inspectors almost always rejected any animal bought outside the Temple. People thus had to buy animals inside the Temple at exorbitant prices.
Two, offerings had to be made with “holy” money. The money-changers exchanged Temple coinage for “polluted” everyday currency from Rome, Greece, Egypt, and other countries. Profit made by the Temple was exorbitant. Barclay says, when Cressus captured Jerusalem in 54 B.C., he raided the Temple treasury and took from it over five million dollars without coming near to exhausting it.
Three, all business was transacted in the Court of Gentiles, the only place in the Temple where Gentiles could enter. The religious leaders despised Gentiles and by noise and din took from them their only place of prayer and corporate worship.
By cleansing the Temple, Jesus made something new. He opposed prejudice, asserting the equality of all people before God. Where Gentiles worshiped was as precious to Jesus as those places where Jews worshiped. Jesus used force to drive none into the Temple, but did use it to drive out those who tried to prohibit others.
Are we guilty of obstructing others? “Is there anything in our church life, a snobbishness, an exclusiveness, a coldness, a lack of welcome, a tendency to make the congregation into a closed club, an arrogance, which keeps the seeking stranger out? Let us remember the wrath of Jesus against those who made it difficult and even impossible for the seeking stranger to make contact with God” (Barclay).
John 2:17-22 And His disciples remembered that it is written: Zeal for Your house will consume Me. So the Jews replied to Him, “What sign of authority will You show us for these things?” Jesus answered, “Destroy this sanctuary, and I will raise it up in three days.” Therefore the Jews said, “This sanctuary took 46 years to build, and You will raise it up in three days?” But He was speaking about the sanctuary of His body. So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this. And they believed the Scripture and the statement Jesus had made.
Jews believed Messiah would publicly display His power at the Temple. They saw Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple as fulfilling Psalms 69:9, which the Jews believed to be Messianic. The leaders, though, wanted an “out and out” miracle to be performed. They in essence taunted Him, “You claim to be Messiah, prove it!”
Jesus told His detractors three interrelated things. One, the Temple would be destroyed. Judaism’s usefulness was ending. Two, another Temple would be raised in place of the old one. Three, Jesus predicted His resurrection. By His own death, burial, and resurrection, Jesus destroyed the old Temple and established another.
How did He destroy the old? The Temple was where God and people met each other. The Holy of Holies, the Temple’s innermost shrine, represented God’s presence. Sacrifices offered by worshipers pictured their desire to approach God.
The usefulness of the Holy of Holies and the sacrifices ended with the death of Jesus, as the veil of the Temple was torn, and the only sacrifice that would ever be valid was offered. The Jews kept sacrificing, but God was not there to meet with them anymore. God in His glory was gone and the people did not miss Him.
What is the new Temple? First, Jesus Himself became the place where God meets us. He in Himself unites the God of the Holy place with sacrifices offered on the altar. The veil of the Temple represented Jesus’ flesh (Heb. 10:20). When His flesh tore, we had freer access to the Father, and the Father had freer access to us.
Second, believers are the Temple we now see (I Cor. 3:16). The purpose of a Temple is to be a physical visible place where people can look to see God’s glory.
If the world ever sees God as He is, it must be through believers. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus dwells with and in every believer. This means all believers have inside them God’s glory. In other words, each of us is a temple. God does not dwell in Temples made with hands (Acts 7:48; 17:24). People do things outside a church building they would never do inside it, but the building is not sacred; our body is. We should treat our body as sacredly as we usually treat a church house.