Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Jesus and Symbolism

Symbols are really cool to me. Sometimes I even find hidden meaning in things that maybe were not even intended. I think the Bible is really cool for a number of reasons but I do particularly love the symbolism in it. The more I read and the more I contemplate meaning the more confident I am in at least two things. First, I don't think words are wasted in scripture. I am convinced that the VAST majority of scripture is there for a reason. Even if I don't know why it is there or I don't understand the cultural or religious implications, I know the language is intentional. The other thing I am sure about is that symbols are used many times for many reasons in scripture. I love some recent symbols I have seen...maybe others will see the same things. And by the way...I doubt I can type it all in one installment.

I have admittedly gotten a ton of mileage and sinful enjoyment out of the "water-to-wine miracle". It seems that my more fundamentalist minded brothers and sisters have trouble fitting the Jesus that would furnish wine for people when they were already drunk in their theology that strictly forbids the consumption of alcohol. Knowing that they face that theological impasse
I have been known to refer to less sensitive things like "the Hebrew Beer Run". I probably shouldn't do that but I have fun with it and it actually is in scripture.

Enough about my more sadistic side...why did scripture record this? What about water to wine is important? Why is it the first recorded miracle? What would you want to imply, directly or indirectly, at the beginning of your public ministry? You don't have to agree with me but here's my take on it.

Isaiah is a remarkable book for more reasons than I pretend to know. One thing that seems cool is that in many ways it seems to be SYMBOLIC of scripture as a whole...66 chapters compared to 66 books in the Bible is just the easiest comparison to make. Since I believe all of scripture points to Jesus and the redemption of creation, with what does Isaiah begin?

Isaiah 1:21-23:
See how the faithful city has become a harlot! She once was full of justice; righteousness used to dwell in her but now murderers! Your silver has become dross, your choice wine is diluted with water. Your rulers are rebels, companions of thieves; they all love bribes and chase after gifts. They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow's case does not come before them.

The problem with creation placing us in great need of a Messiah is that our goodness, Godly image and compassion has been watered down. We serve others when we want to or when serving them serves us as well. We are tainted with the ethics, morals and behaviors of the world and that isn't the plan God had in mind. So being saved from that and being redeemed to live a life like God intended means purifying the things we have made impure and making "concentrate", if you will, the "choice wine" God created us to be. Remember the whole idea of putting new wine in old wineskins? It makes sense right?

So Jesus comes along and his first miracle is what? Taking not just diluted wine and making it "the best wine"...but taking water itself, the very things that spoils the best wine and making it pure and whole and enjoyable. How cool is that?

The meanings in that are huge and numerous but for the sake of time let me just marinate on the idea that God is willing to take my broken containers, tainted with all I have been and have done in rebellion to my true calling and he makes "the best wine". He doesn't kind of make it tolerable or maybe, begrudgingly make it safe to consume...Jesus only makes one kind of wine...the best.

It seems overplayed but maybe we just aren't living it out so we need to overplay it...God is in the business of re-creating, purifying, making new and loving on us in ways that are amazing and beyond anything we can even imagine. So as much fun as I have had torturing the fundamentalist in my life, the wine was much more about God recreating me to a point that I no longer get great pleasure in tormenting people. It kind of gives new meaning to the whole idea of being drunk in the Spirit, no?

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