Thursday, June 24

Random Thoughts on John 2:1-11 from a Lector

Yesterday, I read the scripture at church and made a mistake (horrors!). I completed a sentence I thought was unfinished in my copy.

I recited:  Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons of water. I added the water in. In fact, the next sentence has Jesus telling the servants to fill the stone water jars to the brim with water. Other than I roll my eyes at myself when I make a mistake reading, there is nothing remarkable about this mistake.


I began wondering why the jugs were not already full. Why?

I did a quick internet search (thank you for the internet!!) and found this information:

Purification rites had to be done with running water

  • All natural spring water, providing it is clean and has not been discolored by any admixtures is valid for a mikveh. With regard to rainwater, which is ideal for a mikveh, and melted snow and ice (even if manufactured from "drawn" water) which are also valid, care must be taken to ensure that the water flows freely and is not rendered invalid by the flow into it being stopped.  From

Hmm. So a jar full of water would definitely render the water invalid. So what about these jars? I'm now confused. Reading on,

  • Attitudes began to change about what should be purified and there was a "purification explosion"
  • Stone jars were then considered ok, especially for ritual hand washing. "Such vessels were perceived of as being able to maintain purity and as such were extremely popular in the "household Judaism" assemblage of that time (see Berlin 2005), with small mugs and large (kalal) jars serving a particularly useful task during hand-washing purification procedures." (From the same source as above).
  • This all came into popular being in about 50-60 CE
  • The water had to be fresh in order for it to be a purification rite, that is why it was not already in the stone jars.  This little exercise down the rabbit trail was much ado about nothing.

But my thoughts continue this morning...

So, this whole business points to Replacement Theology. In summary, Replacement Theology says that Israel is replaced by Christianity.

"Replacement theology (also known as supersessionism) essentially teaches that the church has replaced Israel in God’s plan. Adherents of replacement theology believe the Jews are no longer God’s chosen people, and God does not have specific future plans for the nation of Israel. All the different views of the relationship between the church and Israel can be divided into two camps: either the church is a continuation of Israel, or the church is completely different and distinct from Israel."

Here, The Gospel of John has Jesus replacing the purification rite. The good wine was served first and now the good wine (Jesus) has come.

Often, we take this and think, "Yes, Israel has been replaced with Jesus, the best was saved for last." But we forget, this is a Jewish community, not a Christian community. In my mind, the more appropriate thinking is a type of Covenant Theology where Jesus is part of the covenant God has made with Israel and the entire world through the Noahide Covenant (another conversation, another day). Not replacing Judaism, but joining it. Plus, there was no "church" during Jesus' time. Plus Jesus was Jewish.

So, in my estimation (and feel free to disagree), this incident grafts Jesus into the long line of prophets in the Israelite tradition. It establishes a continuous line through all the prophets culminating, here, in the person of Jesus.

Just my  random thoughts about a random mistake that I made yesterday.



    • First…nice reflection, thoughtful. Thanks for that. I just want to reflect with you in a less abstract and more poetic way: those jars…empty, waiting, with the potential to cleanse, to restore to right relationship, to make acceptable to the Holy One, or at least help to do so. Yet…empty. Into them Jesus commands that water be poured. In the Gospel of John, water is the Everlasting water of the well in Samaria, the baptizing water of the Jordan, the Spirit water of the womb into which all must enter and be born again, the water that quinches every thirst, the water of dying and rising of Jesus’ baptism and ours. It is this water that fills the jars when Jesus commands they be filled, this water that becomes wine not only at this wedding banquet, but also at the last Supper, at the Communion table and at the Heavenly Banquet where all will be welcome. The water becomes the wine, the life of Christ poured out for the world, the wine no old wineskin can hold, the wine given for all at the banquet, whether they are aware of its full power, or just its wonderful effect. The best saved for last. And are we not those empty jars who wait Jesus’ filling? Just some random thoughts to accompany yours.

      • I have an extensive paper on altars from Exodus to modern day in both the Jewish tradition and in the Christian tradition. When it comes down to it, the table mediates what leads both communities to a sacramental, covenantal relationship with God.

  • The way the account is written, it spoke to the size of the jars, therefore how much water they would hold.
    Replacement Theology; hummmmm?
    I reason that neither Adam nor the Hebrews lived up to God’s expectations but Jesus did (Matthew 17:5) and and God said “listen to Him”. If Adam or the Hebrews had pleased God, would He have said “Hear them”? Jesus received the ultimate reward. We that believe in Him are destined to share it via the doctrine of Justification.

  • I agree there is a contrast between the Jewish water of purification and Jesus’ new wine. A similar contrast comes just days before this story, when John says he baptizes with water but the one on whom he sees the Spirit descend and remain will baptize with the Spirit (1:31-34). Likewise in Jn. 4 is a contrast between the well water and Jesus’ living water; in 7:38-39 Jesus says his living water is the Spirit, which will be given to his disciples after he is glorified (after his hour to depart and return to the Father comes, as in 13:1).
    In Jn. 2 his hour has not yet come, but he goes ahead and gives new wine anyway as a sign (another liquid metaphor for the Spirit) of what he would give when his hour does come. In Jesus’ new covenant, the Spirit is the great gift that remains on Jesus’ disciples and empowers the new life (the fruit and gifts of the Spirit) that Jesus taught and lived.

Leave a Reply