Demythologizing Jesus

April 19, 2016

Dictionary.com defines “demythologize” as follows: “to divest of mythological or legendary attributes or forms, as in order to permit clearer appraisal and under-standing.” In reading the Gospel of John I find that I can have a clearer understanding of what are purported to be miracles if I ask what the probably truth is behind the miracles.

An example of this is found in the first ten verses if the second chapter of John’s Gospel:

  1. And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there:
  2. And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.
  3. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine.
  4. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.
  5. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.
  6. And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.
  7. Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim.
  8. And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it.
  9. When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom,
  10. And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.

Jesus grew up in Nazareth. Tradition tells us that his father was a carpenter, and probably the family didn’t have much money. It’s quite possible that at times the family didn’t have wine to bless and drink on the Sabbath; so Jesus, being a practical kind of guy, would take some water and bless it and the family would drink it as their Sabbath wine.

Wine was not only something used in Sabbath devotions, it was an important part of the Jewish marriage ritual, as it is today. So when Mary reported that they had no wine, she was saying that the ceremony couldn’t be performed. But Jesus was reluctant to do in public what he had done at home. He said he was not ready to assume the role of a spiritual leader.

Mary ignored this and simply told the servants to do what Jesus said, so Jesus had them fill six waterpots, blessed the water, and told those assembled to use this water as wine for their ceremony.

Here we have a compelling picture of Jesus as a man who identified with the poor. Not being able to afford wine was no barrier to God’s grace. His own family’s poverty had opened him up to the truth that it was the spirit and not an ancient ritual that brought blessing to everyone.

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