Sometimes we wonder why things seem bland. Why words that seem to inspire others just seem flat when we read them.
I write knowing deeply that if the timing isn’t right for you, my saying these things will be just as flat. Just as uninspiring.
And yet (what a beautiful word- yet), it may be your timing.
Read John 2.
What do you see?
Do you see two or three stories that may or may not be chronological? Or do you see an example of the beauty of God’s timing, of Jesus’s gentlemanliness, and of our own choices?
I used to see two stories and a weird conclusion that just felt a bit disjointed. I knew that chapters and verses weren’t numbered in the original book so I always assumed that the person who numbered it all just counted out enough lines to make it seem chapter-ish.
Oh, but see. Look and see. There is a beauty in the way these stories connect- and even the conclusion brings the final piece into focus.
The thread running through the whole chapter is a thread of timely obedience. In the first story, we see the immediate and unquestioning obedience of the servants. The request was strange, and yet- in the action of carrying it out, the miracle begins. Jesus could have made it happen all by himself, but by their obedience the servants were able to share in the work of producing the first miracle in Cana.
The next story has been told so many ways, and much can be made of it on its own, but only in counterpoint to the first story, it caries forward the thread. Over time the priests had forgotten to be obedient. Instead of the order of purification and readiness represented by the whole process of offering sacrifices, they focused on convenience. Instead of relying on God to provide their portion, they became usurpers and defiled, degraded, and denied the true work of the cleansing process to themselves and to the people. Jesus actions were not an outraged overreaction, as I have heard some suppose, but a purification of the purification process itself.
The strange conclusion in verses 23-25 tells us the midpoint on the continuum of timely obedience. These are the fence sitters, the ones who live on the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They see with their eyes and believe in their minds. But they are not ready. Not ready to get close enough to build a relationship. Not ready to immediately obey. Not ready to do much but think about what they saw.
They saw Jesus take action and they were glad someone finally did something. But that was all. No true response of the heart. They believed- truly they believed. But only in their head- not their hearts.
Jesus will not commit himself to them because he knows that what is in their hearts is closer to disobedience than obedience.
I’ve heard it said that Jesus respects us enough that he refuses to force us- into salvation, into relationship, into anything we aren’t ready to obey him in. Jesus was aware that the people believed, but he also knew the timing of obedience was not in their hearts.
So the thread now comes to us. The final beauty of John 2 is in our choice. Will we, like the servants, obey? Will be, like the observers, think about obeying? Or will we, like the priests distort and twist our purpose into disobedience? Jesus is ready for you. He will straighten out your disobedience if it defiles or confuses others about him; he will wait if you aren’t quite sure; and he will welcome you into the beauty of the blessing if you obey.
Are you ready yet?