Text: John 2:1-11
A lot of ink has been spilled attempting to explain Jesus’ first miracle at the Wedding at Cana. It is not uncommon to find pastors trying to minimize the amount of alcohol in the wine or the size of the stone pots. Heaven forbid that Jesus would be supporting alcohol consumption!
If we look a little deeper however, the stone pots were used for ritual cleansing before and after eating. Everyone was to wash his/her hands. This tradition was put in place after the Jews returned from Babylon. It is part of the Talmudic (think 600 more laws added to the Old Testament laws) tradition. It is the very system that Jesus rejected when confronted by the Pharisees.
In other words, the washing wasn’t necessary according to Old Testament Law. The washing of hands was an added level of ‘purity’ to avoid God’s wrath (i.e., being sent back into exile).
Returning to our time, modern evangelical theology is a theology of sanitizing. The main goal of this theology is to make sure Christians don’t do ‘dirty’ things. So, it makes sense that many pastors try to minimize the first miracle of Jesus Christ. They don’t want to appear to be advocating alcohol consumption as the Scripture apparently does.
Sanitizing is not the same as sanctifying.
Sanitizing is the individual’s attempt to keep oneself clean from the dirtiness of sin. It is the self-made and self-focused religion of hazmat suits and Lysol. Gross sins are … well … gross. We must sanitize! This obsessive compulsive, type-A behavior is the underlying premise of modern evangelicalism. Christian living is centered around this principle.
Sanctifying has nothing to do with sanitizing. Sanctifying is not what we want. It’s not what we think we need. It is the work of Christ to kill the urge to sanitize. Actually, it is the work of Christ to kill the self-sanitizer and raise him up in resurrection with Jesus.
This is beautifully illustrated by baptism.
1 Peter 3:21 states:
Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ (ESV).
Note how this verse is ‘sanitized’ by another translation:
and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also–not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ (NIV).
Why do we need to justify God (Stephen Paulson is great on this topic in Lutheran Theology)? Why do we feel the need to sanitize His very word. Either it is true or it isn’t.
Attempts to minimize this word are the outworking of the Old Adam who hates the fact that God does the work. The Old Adam resents it and the Old Adam resents God. The Old Adam doesn’t want freedom. The Old Adam wants rules to follow and a ladder up to Heaven. In short, the Old Adam effectively sidelines Jesus and His work in favor of the self-made religion warned about in Colossians.
Self-sanitizing will not bring us closer to God. Instead, it denies Christ and His benefits. To all of this I pray, Christ have mercy!