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Day 21: The Old Made New

"Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John 20:30-31

Text: John 2:1-12; John 2:13-22; John 4:1-15

Yesterday we looked at the New Birth from the story of Jesus’ interactions with one of the Jewish leaders, Nicodemus (John 3:1-15). The essence of Jesus’ teaching in that section focused on the comparison between the Old Man and the New Man, Old Birth and the New Birth. This actually belongs to a larger section of John’s gospel centered around the same theme: the Old Being Made New. We will look briefly at three stories from this section.

New Wine

“Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it.” – John 2:6-8

The first story that draws out this theme is that of Jesus going to the wedding at Cana. While at the wedding, the bride and groom, the hosts have run out of wine before the wedding celebration has ended. This is a serious faux pas in the Ancient Near East, but it hardly seems to be the situation one would expect Jesus to perform a miracle, let alone the first of His ministry. So what is going on, here? Tim Keller points out that He is thinking of His own wedding here, which explains the non-sequitor He delivers to Mary: His hour had not yet come. In the Gospel of John, that always refers to His death on the cross. Jesus is thinking about How his own wedding feast would be accomplished, and the new covenant ordinance of communion and the wine served there (which represents His blood). So He tells the servants to get the large water jars for ritual purification and to fill them with water. These purification rituals needed to be performed again and again; they were inadequate for true cleansing. Yet Jesus turns the water in these jugs to wine; this New Wine in the jugs shows us the how true cleansing happens. Jesus’ blood cleanses from all sin (I John 1:7)

New Temple

“So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body.” – John 2:18-21

The apostle John hits on this theme again in the very next story in his gospel when looking at Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple. Now we see Jesus go into the Temple at the time of the Passover. Again, we see our Savior thinking about the True Passover that will happen when the True Sacrificial Lamb is sacrificed on the cross. Going into the Temple, Jesus finds it filled with merchants and money changers. Seeing the Temple defiled like this, He makes a whip of cords, overturns the trade tables, and drives the merchants and the money changers out of the Temple. When challenged on this, Jesus makes a point of saying that his body is the New Temple, the actual place to meet with God. The old Temple was completely inadequate. People we able to defile it by their actions; idols could be set up in the midst of the Temple, as happened in 2 Kings and Ezekiel; the old Temple could be destroyed, as first happened in the Exile and again in 70 A.D. after the Resurrection. The New Temple could not be defiled or destroyed.

New Water

"The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”" – John 4:11-15

John ends this section of comparing the old and new looking at our Savior’s interaction with a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. Jesus went into Samaria, and He and the disciples stopped at the town of Sychar. While the disciples were away purchasing food, a woman came to the well, and Jesus asks her for a drink. After a brief dialog, Jesus makes yet another non-sequitor: they had been talking about actual water, but He transitions to talking about Living Water. Why? He is likely thinking about her drawing water from Jacob’s well; the “water” is the promises given to Jacob and the rest of the patriarchs, but the fulfillment of those promises was the person of Christ. Jesus is drawing out something that He would explicitly tell the Pharisees in the very next chapter. “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40) Turning to the “old water” and ignoring the True Water will leave her parched; the New and Living Water Jesus provides is the only way to quench your thirst.

Thanks be to Jesus for being the substance of our salvation.