TODAY’S READING: John 2–4
The Gospel of John is careful to underline the missionary passion of Jesus from the beginning. John recorded seven miracles, and the first one was culturally kind. Jesus helped a bride and groom evade the shame of being ungenerous hosts to their wedding guests. Jesus valued the honor of His friends more than the religious sensibilities of the elite and he ordered six twenty-gallon containers reserved for ritual washing be used to fuel the wedding festivities. God made flesh, and the first miracle is culturally kind!
His first visit to Jerusalem was missionary driven. John alone recorded Jesus cleansing the temple at the beginning of His ministry. Some think Jesus cleansed the temple twice, while others think John was trying to point out religious opposition. Perhaps John just wanted to remind us that from the beginning Jesus was passionate about His house having space for all nations. Jesus quoted Isaiah 56 as He whipped merchants around, for His house will be a house of prayer for all nations. The first miracle John recorded was cultural, the first visit to Jerusalem missional, and the first witness universal—it is focused on all the world. God so loved the world and He sent His Son into the world, not to condemn the world but that the world might be saved (John 3:16–17). The light of Jesus came expressly for the dark world (v. 19). John could not be clearer that Jesus’ mission was for every people to have salvation opportunity. John 3:36 must ever accompany 3:16: “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life, and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” The missionary must be faithful to tell all the world that they are under wrath and be faithful to tell all the world that Jesus offers everlasting life.
John continued to firmly establish the missionary motivation of Jesus from the beginning by detailing the first missions trip. Samaria was at odds with Israel as they opposed the reconstruction of Jerusalem (538 BC). They built their own temple on Mt. Gerizim to their version of the God of Abraham (4th century BC) and rejected the prophets building a case for the Messiah only on the law. In retaliation, the Jews completely destroyed the Samaritan temple (about 2nd century BC) and even considered their drinking vessels unclean (which is why the Samaritan woman was shocked when Jesus asked for a drink). In this missions trip, Jesus did not condone the Samaritan religion. In fact, He debunked both the Samaritan view and the second temple Judaic view bluntly saying, “Neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem…you worship what you do not know… But the hour is coming, and now is, when [you] will worship the Father in spirit and truth” (4:22–24). Astonished, the Samaritan woman ran into the city and spoke to the men (!), and they flooded out to see Jesus. And this is the missions context where Jesus declared the harvest is plentiful—away from home in hostile territory. And it was the Samaritans who were the first people group to declare that Jesus is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world (4:42). Oh, hallelujah! Jesus is our missionary God. Jesus is the Savior of the world!