Tuesday, 28 March 2017

The Weird Miracles of Jesus: Walking on Water

In my previous post I spoke about the peculiar nature of some of Jesus’ miracles and suggested that the turning of water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana had symbolic significance. Today I want to look at another one of Jesus’ miracles that at first glance seems slightly odd which is the time that He walked on water. Usually Jesus’ miracles were clearly helpful to other people but walking on water is a bit odd, one might even take it for a bit like showing off. But this was Jesus and that would hardly fit His profile. Now a lot has been said about the faith lessons that can be learned from Peter’s stepping out of the boat and subsequently sinking into the water but I believe that there was something deeper going on beneath the surface (see what I did there?). Yes, there is a lesson in faith to be learned in the story but there is more.

Beginning in John chapter 6 we see that immediately following the water-walk that the crowds are said to have been unaware of how Jesus had gotten across the sea therefore they asked Him how He had arrived, Jesus says to them in verse 26 that, “You seek Me not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled”. I believe then that this was more than a miracle but a sign as well communicating something else to us.

The sign I believe that walking on water reveals is that Jesus was and is God. Let me explain, in the previous chapter (John 5) we see that the Jews sought to kill Jesus because He said that God was His Father, thereby making Himself equal with the Father (verse 18).  So how exactly would walking on water be a demonstration of that? According to the Torah, Yahweh had power over the sea and most Jews would have been familiar with the passages below:

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD swept the sea back by a strong east wind all night and turned the sea into dry land, so the waters were divided. – Exodus 14:21.

And with the blast of Your nostrils the waters were gathered together; the floods stood upright like a heap; the depths congealed in the heart of the sea. – Exodus 15:8.

He stirs up the sea with His power, and by His understanding He breaks up the storm. – Job 26:12

This one is particularly interesting because in Matthew 8 Jesus calmed a storm simply by rebuking it. We read a similar verse in the Psalms as well:

He calms the storm, so that its waves are still. – Psalm 107:29

Perhaps even more convincing is this gem that I stumbled across in Job:

He alone spreads out the heavens, and treads on the waves of the sea. - Job 9:8

Then this one as well:

Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea and a path through the mighty waters - Isaiah 43:16

So Jesus was clearly doing something beyond amazing by walking on water, He was doing something only God Himself could do. In fact, in Matthews account when everyone saw Him walking on water and started freaking out. Jesus called out, “It is I, do not be afraid”. This is actually a poor translation and most English Bibles get it wrong. Jesus does not say, “It is I” but rather, “I AM” This of course is a reference to Exodus 3:14. It is fitting therefore that when Jesus climbs into the boat that it says that those who were in the boat ‘worshiped Him’ (Matthew 14:33). Were a bunch of Jews deliberately breaking one of the Ten Commandments or had they grasped something of whom Jesus was in that moment? I believe that it was the latter. Perhaps Jesus walking on water was not so strange then after all...

To see the previous post in this series, click here.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

The weird miracles of Jesus: water into wine

The four gospels contain numerous accounts of the miraculous. Everywhere Jesus went He cast out demons and healed the sick, even going as far as to raise the dead. He also did some crazy things with fish on certain occasions, whether it was catching them, feeding a few thousand people with a small quantity or finding money inside of them. Most of these miracles though could either be categorized as healings, helps, signs or by weirdness. And it is the weird ones that I am interested in looking at and there are actually quite a few of them; for example, the coin in the fish’s mouth, spitting in the dirt to heal a blind man and walking on water. To start off though, I want to look at the water into wine miracle at the wedding feast in Cana.

This particular story is recorded in John 2 and there are several aspects about it that are weird. Firstly, it appears to be helping inebriated people get even more intoxicated than they already were. Verse ten suggests that the wine had been flowing generously before it had run out. Secondly, Jesus’ words, “My time has not yet come” are immediately followed by Him doing the miracle anyway. Thirdly, at a glance turning water into wine seems more like a cool party trick than a miracle. John said that Jesus performed so many miracles that he could not possibly document them all, yet he chose to include this one right at the beginning of his book. Why?

The key I believe to understanding the water into wine miracle is twofold. First we need to recognize that His actions were recognized as a ‘sign’ (verse 11,) thus there is symbolic significance contained within the narrative. Secondly, verse 6 tells us that the water containers were not the usual clay pots used for storing drinking water in but were very large stone pots used for the purification rituals. What I find interesting is that wine later becomes symbolic of the blood of Jesus and the New Covenant:

Then He took the cup (of wine), and gave thanks, and gave it to them saying, “Drink from it, all of you, for this is My blood of the new covenant.” – Matthew 26:27-28.

Consider this then, what would have happened when people were looking for water for the ceremonial cleansings? The account does not tell us that Jesus said to fill one or a few of the waterpots but to fill all of them. I can imagine someone going, “Um, sorry guys there is no more ceremonial water left for purification because of Jesus’ wine…” Verse 7 tells us that the waterpots were “filled up to the brim”, in other words, there was no more space left for anything else. This I believe then is the sign behind the miracle. The new covenant was coming making the old soon to be obsolete. Verse 10 in the story is particularly interesting in that it has a double meaning behind it.

The servants drew some wine out and took it to the master of ceremonies, who then told the bridegroom, “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”.

Jesus is the better wine, filled to the brim and running over that never runs out as the unfortunate hosts wine had done. His time had not yet come but He still did the miracle because the old wine had run dry. In His death a new covenant would soon be established by His blood (symbolized by wine). The union of God and man (how appropriate that this occurred at a wedding) was never going to be fully realized through the law, only Christ could accomplish it.

What do you think?