by Dustin Cannon
Did you know the first miracle Jesus did was to make more wine to keep a party going? He did. And it was because his mother asked him to. He didn’t really want to and it clearly wasn’t God’s plan. In fact, Jesus pushed back initially and said to her that it wasn’t his time yet. He hadn’t planned on turning water to wine (see John 2:4).
Well, so much for the doctrine that God never changes his mind in response to our prayers.
After he said, “Woman, my time has not yet come,” his mom must have given him a look, because without another word from her or Jesus, she told the servants to do whatever he said.
Isn’t that just like a mother would respond?
By the way, this was after the guests had already clearly had too much to drink. In fact, the Bible says that people were drunk. And He didn’t just make a few bottles either. He was lavish in his generosity creating the equivalent of approximately 180 gallons of wine. That’s about 908 bottles.
That’s a lot of wine.
That doesn’t sound like the Jesus we often think of, does it? Why not? It’s right there in the Bible.
The problem is that for too long we have looked at Jesus only through the lens of religion , church culture and even the Old Testament.
We can be so arrogant in our theology. Always thinking we know everything about God and who He is.
That is why I love how Jesus always seemed to take delight in turning everything upside down.
Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.(Psalm 115:3)
The real Jesus was extravagant in his generosity, disruptive in his honesty, playful, cunning, humble, lavishly loving, and even scandalous in his freedom from the religious fog. 1
It seems like Jesus is often portrayed as a soft spoken, timid, Gandhi-type man, but this description is far from the real Jesus we see in the Scriptures. That is certainly not the Jesus we see in John 2:13-17. This Jesus became so angry at the religious leaders that he took the time to create a weapon from cords before going into the temple and driving them out.
That’s the real Jesus. Fiercely passionate in his desire that God be honored.
Explain this one.
Jesus answered the prayers of demons (see Matthew 8:31). You should read some of the nonsense the theologians will write to explain this. The truth is we can’t say why He would have done that.
Or that a lying prostitute made it into the James 2 Hall of Fame of Faith for doing lying in faith. She lied (sinned) in faith and it was credited her as righteousness.
Jesus was even playful and seemed a bit sarcastic at times.
In John 1: 43-50, we see Jesus getting ready to leave for Galilee. He grabs his friend Philip and asks him to come along. Philip says, “that sounds great, but hold on, let me go get Nathaniel. I think he would like to go also.”
Philip ask him if he wants to come and Nathaniel jokingly, and a little bit snarky, says, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?”
As they are walking up to Jesus, Jesus says, “Now here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”
It’s like Jesus, in the same joking manner, is taking a shot as well by saying, in a sarcastic tone, “Well, here is an honest man.” (you will see in a moment that he’s implying that he knows what Nathaniel said earlier.)
Nathanael then asks, “How do you know me?”
Jesus replies, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip found you.” Nathaniel then exclaimed, “Rabbi (he’s a little nervous now so he’s getting official), you really are the Son of God – the King of Israel.”
And Jesus replies, “Ok, so let me get this straight, you believe I am the Son of God simply because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? Really? Trust me my friend you will see much greater things than this.”
(the above is my paraphrase of John 1: 43-50)
Can you hear the joking sarcastic tone in that last statement?
It is a shame that so many refuse to let God out of their theological box. It’s unfortunate that we’ve created this religious fog that’s made it so hard to see Jesus for who He truly was. And when we do finally begin to appreciate his humanity as well as his divinity, we are seen as being sacrilegious and disrespectful.
It makes me wonder if we are looking at the Bible all wrong.
Jesus did and said a lot of things that don’t really fit neatly within many of the doctrines of the church. And so, what the church normally does is they interpret these situations in the context of the Old Testament and the epistles of Paul.
I want to propose that maybe we should be using the picture of Jesus we see in the four Gospels as the lens by which we view the other 62 books of the Bible.
In his letter to the people in Colossae, Paul wrote that Jesus is the image of the invisible God. In Hebrews 1:3, it says that Jesus is the exact representation of God’s being. The writer is saying that we can see the exact character and personality of God perfectly represented in the person of Jesus Christ.
God looks exactly like Jesus.
If that’s the case shouldn’t Jesus be the measure by which we validate everything else in the Bible?
Instead of trying to twist the Scriptures and explain away some of the things Jesus did and said to fit neatly within our doctrines about who we believe God is, shouldn’t we be doing the opposite?
For example, in the story in John chapter 2 when Jesus turns water to wine, the party planner is surprised at the quality of the wine that has just been brought out. This is because they usually serve the good wine first and after people are already drunk they bring out the cheap stuff.
“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.””
(John 2:9-10 NIV)
Well this is a real problem because the Bible teaches that drunkenness is a sin. By the way, it’s the same verse that Christians often use to condemn homosexuals (see 1 Corinthian 6:9-10).
The statement in John 2:10 alone seems to support the fact that people were getting drunk. It really doesn’t make much sense otherwise. I’ve done some research on the text and theologians have gone to great lengths to explain why the people were not really getting drunk at this party.
But the truth is the Greek word used in this text which is “Oinos” and it can mean either wine, beer or grape juice. The word used for “drunk” in the Greek is “Methuo”. This word means drunk.
” to drink to intoxication, i.e. get drunk:–drink well, make (be) drunk(-en).”
In the other instances where this word is used in the Bible it clearly means drunk. And so here’s the interesting part. Many Bible translations have translated it as “have drunk freely” and from the commentaries I studied, it appears that it was translated this way so it could mean they drank until fully satisfied.
10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” (John 2:10 ESV)
Yet, there is absolutely no justification for making this change except to make it fit within the doctrines of the church.
Considering the Bible verses that condemn drunkenness we can see why there might be such an effort to interpret the text consistent with the overall context of the entire canon of scripture. They try so hard to protect Jesus from church doctrine. But I don’t think he needs to be protected. He is God.
Jesus Is Bigger Than The Bible
I agree that we must believe that Jesus was without sin for the cross to make sense. But the fact of the matter is, there are contradictory verses found consistently in the Bible.
We can either choose to twist and contort these verses so our theology fits together neatly, or we can simply admit that God is bigger than the Bible and there may be things we do not understand. We can admit that maybe we do not fully understand the nature of sin. Maybe it’s not just about rules and dos and don’ts. Maybe it’s not always so black-and-white.
It’s All About Jesus
One thing that almost all Christian theologians agree on is that from beginning to end, the story of God is about Jesus. From Genesis to Revelation the Bible is saturated with Christ.
Jesus himself caught that the Old Testament was about him.
“You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me,”
(John 5:39 NIV)
In Daniel chapter 7, God is called the son of man and this is the same title adopted by Jesus.
In Revelation, Jesus said,
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”
(Revelation 22:13 NIV)
In The Context Of Jesus
Have you ever tried to put together a jigsaw puzzle without looking at the picture on the box?
It’s a lot harder.
The problem is too many have put together their theology of who God is based on the old testament and the letters of Paul and used that to paint their own picture of what God looks like. And when the behavior of Jesus in the Gospel’s doesn’t fit that picture, they find ways to explain it so that it does.
It’s kind of like giving people a handful of pieces from a larger puzzle and expecting them to figure out what it is supposed to be. If you gave different people a set number of pieces without showing them the box, everyone would likely come up with entirely different versions of what the final picture was supposed to look like. 2
Instead, what if we got out the box and looked at the picture?
What if we used the picture of Jesus given to us in the Gospels to figure out how the pieces all fit together.
What if we set our eyes on Jesus, “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature (Hebrews 1:3), without preconceived notions about who or how he is supposed to be, and allowed Him to be our guide for loving God and our neighbor.
What if we interpreted the Bible in the context of Jesus?
Would we be so quick to take isolated Bible verses and use them to condemn others or marginalize entire groups of people?
Would we be so anxious to argue about doctrine?
I wonder if we wouldn’t look closer at the loving kindness of Christ and how he always had time to minister to the needs of others.
I wonder if we wouldn’t see past the words on the page to his humanity.
Would we notice the little things that are so often overlooked?
Would we be more likely to notice the compassion of Jesus reaching out his hand and touching the man with leprosy (see Matthew 8:1-3)? No one touched lepers. In fact, the law required that they make their presence known so that people could stay far away. They were considered unclean. Jesus could have easily cured him with a word, but instead he reached out and touched him.
This is Jesus. This is our God. The one who got down on his hands and knees and washed the dirty feet of men.
May we see Jesus as he is and know that God looks exactly like Jesus.
May the grace of Jesus be with you.
*The above is from my upcoming new book A Hooker and A Homosexual Walk Into A Bakery: The Parable Of A Lavishly Loving God Who Doesn’t Give A Damn About Keeping Score which will be available December 2017. Please follow me on Twitter or join my mailing list to be notified when it is available. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to The Trevor Project.