Have you ever wondered what Jesus might look like if he would have been born into our day and age? Imagine what he might have been if Jesus were an American in 2022. Then ask yourself, what would his disciples be like? What would their jobs be? There are so many kinds of people in our society.
As we get started this week studying John 2:1-11, take a look at the wonderful depiction of the story of Jesus changing the water into wine at the wedding in Cana. This will give you an idea of what Jesus might have been like in his day. Then we’ll talk about about what he and his disciples might have looked like if they have lived in our culture.
I wonder if there was anything about that version that surprised you? When we read the biblical account, we play the role of director and actors in our minds. We imagine what it might have looked like. Then when we see someone else’s version, such as this version from The Chosen, we can think “Wow…I never imagined it was like that.” This week as we study this story in John chapter 2, I want us to intentionally take on that role of movie director.
But first, let’s review. So far in our sermon series through the Gospel of John, we have worked our way through John chapter 1. There we learned about someone called “The Word,” and that The Word is God who became human. The Word, we learned, is one way that the writer of the Gospel describes Jesus. Then the story began, and we met John the Baptist who introduced us to someone called “The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” The Lamb of God turned out to be another title for Jesus. Finally the story described Jesus’ first interaction with five of the twelve men who would become his disciples. All of them, Jesus and the five men, were from Israel’s northern region called Galilee, and they had all traveled south to where John the Baptist was ministering.
Between John chapters 1 and 2, we need to fill in some details. After John baptized Jesus, the men joined Jesus walking back north to Galilee. When they arrived, and we learn this from the account in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus went by himself into the wilderness for 40 days during which time he fasted and was tempted by the devil. The five men were fishermen, and they went back to their jobs, as they had mouths to feed. But eventually Jesus returned, sought them out, and called them to formally follow him. Up until this time, for his whole life, Jesus was a handyman, a carpenter, a mason. Now he was acting like a Rabbi, a teacher. Until this time, the men were fishermen. Now they were Jesus’ disciples, followers, apprentices.
It really is an unusual scene. Imagine how this group of ragtag men would be received in our culture. Imagine a person who works with their hands, maybe someone who has a small family business fixing or building things. Never had any biblical or theological or ministry training. This person wears Dickies or Carhatt and clips a multi-tool inside their front pants pocket. They often wear a baseball cap and drive a pickup with tools in the back seat and a toe hitch on the rear bumper for their trailer. You know the person. They just have a knack for plumbing, electrical, carpentry and masonry. Maybe welding and mechanics. They’ve been fixing and building things their entire lives. That’s who they are.
Then one day, this handyman person invites others to start following them. That’s not so odd, as in the world of working with your hands, you might not need to go to a trade school, as you can often become an apprentice. You can learn on the job. In fact, that’s how many fathers and mothers pass on knowledge to their sons and daughters. Last week the Amish neighbor boy two doors down, and I’m talking little boy, maybe three years old, was walking in their pasture/backyard swaying back and forth with a stick in his hand and making a motor noise with his mouth. You know what he was doing? Mimicking his dad using a weed trimmer to mow his back yard. That’s what an apprentice does. They do what the master teaches them to do, most often imitating the master. They do it so often that eventually the master gives them opportunities to do jobs on their own. As time goes by, the apprentice becomes a master.
The apprentices following Jesus are fishermen. Again, imagine who they might be in our day? I recently read the book, The Perfect Storm, about professional fisherman. It’s super hard work, dangerous work, and maybe there’s a connection between ancient fishermen and contemporary commercial fisherman. But I don’t think ancient fishermen had all that much in common with most fishermen or hunters in our day. Most of our fishing and hunting is a hobby, a privilege of the wealthy. If we want to think of what those apprentices of Jesus might be like in our day, we need to think of smelly, dirty, hard labor jobs that break bodies day in, day out. The people working those jobs are usually not getting rich. Instead they’re just making ends meet, or not making ends meet, without health insurance, without a good benefits package, working the jobs nobody else wants. The garbage men, roofers, Flagger Force sign turners, the burger flippers, produce pickers, and warehouse workers. These are the guys that become apprentices of the handyman with tools in his pick-up.
But their apprenticeship is different. It’s not different that the master handyman called apprentices. What makes their apprenticeship different is that the handyman doesn’t call the apprentices to become a handyman like him. Instead, the handyman is now a teacher, and he invites them to apprentice themselves to him, to follow him, to learn how to reach people for God. Think about how bizarre that is. A man who never went to Bible college or seminary invites other men with no religious training to reach people for God. As one who has had a lot of religious, Bible, theology and ministry training in my life, I find it highly unusual. But our story is not about a usual man.
It is at this point, that we pick up the story of Jesus at the beginning of John 2. We’ll get started in the next post.