When we think of the cross, what do we remember? Although we were not present, we have a recollection of Jesus’ sacrifice each time that we partake in communion. It is through communion that we are able to venture back in time; our hearts connected to the moment where everything ended and where everything began. His blood, saturated with grace, poured out so that ours never would.
While reflecting on the crucifixion, a thought came to my mind: The memory of his bloodshed has all but become a faint memory, a story told at precisely 11:30am each Sunday morning; a ritual where we as a church body have come to take our fill and leave without a second thought of His pain, His suffering. Each week we come to the table desiccated and desperately thirsty. Why is it that our hearts have become so dry? Yes this celestial event took place over 2000 years ago, but that doesn’t excuse our indifference. We as a church body have become so accustomed to this event to the point where we can recite the story of His death in a Sunday sermon without falling on our knees; without tears in our eyes…
When the movie The Passion of the Christ arrived in theatres; it was at the forefront of every conversation but all together the least conversed about. Everyone desired to exchange opinions of the movie but no one ventured to voice what was felt when their eyes gazed upon His death. The movie was vastly popular but all together taboo. Public opinion held harshly contrasting sentiments, both advocating and protesting its viewing. Those who protested held claims that it was an excuse for sadism, too gory, and atrociously unacceptable for even young adult eyes. But even amongst those who advocated it, the majority remained speechless when burdened with the question of what their hearts truly felt watching that final scene.
At the time the movie came out my mother refused to watch it. Although a devout Christian, she asserted that she knew it would be too much to bare. At the time I hadn’t really given it a second thought because I was too young to comprehend what her answer implied. But it begs the questions:
Is the crucifixion too much for us to think about? If we had been present for His death, would we have turned our face? Would we have walked away; the sight too painful for our hearts to witness?
Now, I don’t believe that my mother was at fault in declaring her inability to face the cross; we continue to struggle with this each and every day. But I can’t help but to think that over the years we as a church body have downplayed the reality of the crucifixion, because in reality we are afraid that we don’t deserve His salvation.
The summer following my freshman year at Pepperdine (a challenging year of adjustment) I decided to refocus my devotion and seek His heart. My freshman year had finished in a whirlwind and I realized that I had lost precious time with my Saviour. During the first month of summer I woke each morning eager to read His word. This was finally “me” time in the sense that it was “me and Him”! And boy did we have loads to catch up on (despite the fact that he already knew my every move….). He lured me to retreat into vibrant sunsets and lush greenery, wooing me with simple sea breezes and landscapes that touched my heart. Everything was going exactly how I had planned. I regained my light and airy heart from the previously demanding year and was motivated to dive deeper in my faith.
All until He moved me to watch The Passion of the Christ. One night while my roommate was out of town, I finally pressed play. And from that point forward my heart was altered.
Maybe it was because I watched this movie nearing midnight. Maybe it was because I was all alone. I could blame it on my overly reflective disposition, or my egregious capacity for feeling, or even on the fact that I was a woman, because naturally women are expected to get emotional….(sarcasm intended). But truth be told, this movie retailored my heart because it was the first time where I was forced to come face to face with the reality of His death. Mind you – All on a tv screen! The scene allowed me to return to this moment in time, eliciting humbling visceral reactions. While my “better” judgement prompted me to pause, my heart told me to remain patient. I completed the movie in one sitting and in one sitting my heart was awakened to a depth of despair that I had not known prior.
I had grown so comfortable in my faith to the point where I had unknowingly safeguarded my heart against feeling any sort of sadness when thinking of the cross.
Seeing as my senior year at Pepperdine is right around the corner and me being my sentimental self, tonight I decided to flip through some of my old writings. Mostly just random thoughts, but I did however stumble on an entry about a personal reflection pertaining to the woman at the well. Upon reading this reflection I understood why I had felt so moved by The Passion of the Christ a few years back; I had been desperately thirsty.
Reading John 2, the passage of the Wedding at Cana reveals an inconsistency within our theological teachings. While our church body continues to preach obedience, we lack to educate one another on what it means to fall in Love with our Saviour. If we would spend more time teaching a foundation of Love and what Love looks like when translated into a relationship, we would have no need to demand obedience.
While many read this passage confused by the obvious contradiction to what most of scripture tells us in regard to alcohol consumption; I believe that this scripture serves a purpose far greater than our “interpretations” and obediences to law. Naturally, the Christian community generally gravitates toward the opinion that wine largely leads to sinful behavior. However, while it is easy to get wrapped up in the presence of alcohol within Christian communities, I think that this passage elicits a much more crucial teaching. A teaching that is often neglected from corporate worship: Joy found through loving Christ.
While Christian communities preach moderation, we see in this passage Jesus ordering another round for everyone at this wedding! Jesus is witness to the evident drunkenness, yet he turns their water into the most decadent wine to keep the party going. And it’s not just a small glass of wine he’s giving these people, these were 6 stone water jars that held 20-30 gallons each. Thats roughly 180 gallons of wine! Later in the passage we see that even the master of the banquet commented on how normally at banquet parties the best wine is always served first and the cheapest wine is given after everyone is already drunk so that they do not notice. Here we see that Jesus saved the best wine until the very end.
To summarize, growing up I understood wine as solely Jesus blood poured out for us, the wine was a symbol of our sins being washed away. During the last supper Jesus declares: this cup, this wine, is the new covenant in my blood, poured out for you. Without Jesus’ blood being shed on the cross, the whole core of our faith would be pointless. For this reason, we as a church have often understood salvation as obtainable if and only if we lead a perfect Christian lifestyle, prompting our churches to practice a set of laws rather than a doctrine of love. Our hearts have hardened in remembrance of the cross because our hearts are beating for God’s perfect law, rather than He himself.
I believe the main message of this passage is not about the wine itself, but the transformation of the water to wine. In this moment, the transformation of the water to wine represents a major shift that we each must take in our own faith journey; the point at which Christ our “Sustenance”, also becomes our “Delight”.
Comparing the passage of the Woman at the Well and the Wedding at Cana, we see that Jesus is both our Sustenance and our Joy. But we cannot know Jesus as our Joy until we have filled ourselves with His Living Water.
Our faith isn’t just about following God’s command or being a good Christian; God does not call us solely to a life of duty. Yes he desires our obedience, but being obedient to God and being joyous aren’t mutually exclusive. At the Wedding, the very fact that Jesus took these stone jars that were specifically used for ceremonial washings required under Jewish Law, and basically said “so what”, I am going to turn this ceremonial water into wine; just makes me think that Jesus has a wonderful sense of humor. He doesn’t want us to fixate on abiding by His law or His commands; once we develop our relationship with Him, following His commands becomes second nature, an inherent response, and the result of our commitment. Once we know Him, we delight in His law. Once we believe, once we have accepted Christ, and once we truly start loving Him, we don’t question His commands. We abide by His law simply because we Love Him.
Throughout my entire life I have understood Jesus as my Living Water, as my Sustenance; but as I have grown older I have begun to understand that Jesus isn’t just my sustenance and he isn’t just my redeemer; we can’t categorize him into distinct roles. Christ is multifaceted. The face of Jesus transforms according to the seasons of our life, but we must never forget that Jesus will always be our Delight.