We arent animals. If we were, life would be so much simpler. Wed go through each day controlled by our bodily appetites and instincts, until that moment arrived when we died. And because we were animals we would have no idea we were dying, so we wouldnt worry about it. Our focus would be on getting enough to eat, staying safe and occasionally reproducing the species. But being human makes things much more complicated. As humans, were painfully aware of our impending death, and each of us carries inside a gnawing sense that were supposed to do something meaningful while were here, something that will help others. Our human children are born with an intuitive awareness of God. Without any religious instruction they begin to ask profound questions about who made this world, and why were here, and what happens when we die. And even the most powerful atheistic governments in history havent been able to change that. Our humanity just wont go away. We cant be turned into docile animals or contented worker-bees. We can be punished for pursuing those longings; we can be deceived by aggressive, systematic indoctrination; we can become discouraged and lose hope, but when those things happen we become miserable and have to medicate ourselves one way or another.
As humans we have practical needs, of course, but fulfilling those needs is not enough, we also have special needs. There are two that are particularly important: First, we need to know God, and second, we need to know ourselves
in that order. Because the truth is, only God can answer our deep questions about ourselves. Only He can take us beyond the godless claim that there are no answers.
And even Jesus, when He became human, though He was the Son of God, had the same special needs that we do. He too needed to know God the Father, and He too needed to discover who He was. In the story we read today about a wedding at Cana, John records a remarkable exchange between Jesus and Mary. We hear these two people say things to each other that dont make sense unless mother and son had held previous conversations about His true identity. And as we reflect on the ways Jesus may have discovered the truth about Himself, Hell teach us how to discover our own true identity.
A wedding in Cana (Jn 2:1-5)
v1: If the events we read about in chapter one took place near the southern end of the Jordan River, then it would have taken Jesus and His disciples about three days walking at a normal rate to travel back to Nazareth and then on to Cana. It was a distance of nearly 70 miles. The villages of Cana and Nazareth were only a few miles apart, and the fact that both Jesus and His mother had been invited to the wedding shows that the host family was either friends or relatives of Mary and Joseph. Since there is no mention of Joseph, its likely that he was deceased by this time.
vs2-3: When Jesus returned home, He arrived unexpectedly with five or six disciples, but the host family quickly invited them to attend the wedding as well. However, unless the host family was wealthy, adding five or six adult males to the guest list brought with it a significant financial impact because each additional guest must be fed. In Near Eastern hospitality the host will go without food or beverage rather than deprive a guest. So when the wine ran out, the host familys inability to provide for their guests became an embarrassment, and the last-minute inclusion of Jesus disciples may have helped to create this problem. Even without them, Joseph and Marys family was large. There would have been, at least, eight (Mk 6:3), and with six more disciples they may have brought a total of fourteen people. This may be why Mary went to Jesus and informed Him, They have run out of wine. If so, she was saying to Him, Theyre out of wine and cant afford to buy more. By including these disciples our family has helped to cause this awkward situation. What can You do to help? (paraphrase).
How did Jesus discover who He was? At what point did He learn that He was more than a normal young man growing up in Galilee? When did He realize that He had come from heaven, that He had existed before His birth, that He was literally Gods Son? Did He have an omniscient mind from the moment He was born? As a newborn babe was He analyzing the molecular structure of the hay in the manger, or had He been reduced to the bleary world of a normal baby? Of course we dont know the answer, but by watching Him in the gospels and listening to insights given to us by Paul (e.g. Php 2:5-8) and others (e.g. Heb 2:17-18; 4:15), we learn that He truly and fully became a man and thereby had set aside, or at least refused to exercise, His divine knowledge and powers. So He must have had to discover His true identity in much the same way as we do. Thats why by watching Him we can learn how to discover our own.
How did Jesus discover His true identity?
If we read the gospels and watch for clues, we find at least four different ways, three of which are sources we can draw on as well:
1) He heard His parents report: As we noted earlier, the dialogue between Jesus and Mary reveals a common understanding between mother and son. His identity is no mystery to her, and He knows that. The obvious explanation is that the two of them must have talked about what happened before and after He was born. In other words, His mother, and probably Joseph while he was still alive, taught Jesus what they knew about Him. Every parent is given insights into their childs abilities, interests and may even have received prophetic words concerning their child. God entrusts parents with a special gift to pass on to the next generation: Theyre able to help their child know who they are. In Jesus case that information was especially amazing.
2) He discovered Himself in Scripture: By the age of 12 (Lk 2:46-47), Jesus already had profound insights into Gods Word. Since He had no Bible of His own, this tells us He memorized large amounts and meditated on it. At some point He realized that He was the promised King He was reading about, as well as the Suffering One who would die violently and then be raised from the dead. At some point He must have said, Why, thats Me! The Bible taught Him His identity and His destiny.
3) He listened to the Father: On several occasions God the Father audibly spoke to Him (Mt 3:17; 17:5; Jn 12:28-29), but Jesus also spent much time in prayer, listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit. In fact He said over and over again that He never stopped listening and watching, so He could cooperate with what the Father was doing. Its no wonder that His understanding continually grew deeper (He 2:10; 5:8).
4) He remembered what He had seen in heaven: This one is mysterious because a persons spirit is their essential being. We dont have a spirit; we are spirit. It cant change without the person changing. So when the spirit of Jesus came to earth and joined human flesh, His spirit, which includes His mind, cant change. Its Him. And John reports Jesus saying things that tell us that He still remembered heaven. Listen:
Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what weve seen
If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man (Jn 3:11-13).
And again: He who comes from heaven is above all. What He has seen and heard, of that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony (Jn 3:31-32) (also: Jn 8:14; 13:3; 16:28; 17:5).
In other words, Jesus wasnt guessing when He told us about God; He was reporting what He had seen in heaven. How He dealt with that knowledge so that He would still be able to learn and grow as a human being, we dont know. Paul comes the closest to explaining this. He says Jesus emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant
being made in the likeness of men (Php 2:7). Maybe He simply refused to act on that knowledge in most cases, choosing to limit Himself to human capacities.
Discovering our identity
How do we discover who we are? The same way:
1) We hear our parents and grandparents report: This has become a missing voice for many. Theres a tendency to ignore, or be denied, the voice of those who watched our childhood years. As we grow older, many of us long for that voice and wish we had listened more carefully. Were wise, if its still possible, to ask our elders to tell us the family stories and to listen with interest to what God (even if theyre unbelievers) showed them about us.
2) Discover ourselves in Scripture: In the Bible we discover what it really means to be human. Were not animals, were not even angels. Were a special creation made in Gods image. And, He has a plan for each of our lives. Hes ordered our steps, if well obey Him, and numbered our days. He calls us to live at a high, disciplined level because were His children
not animals. What we do and what we say matters because of who we are. Like Jesus, we must discover ourselves in the Word and believe it!
3) Listen to the Father: We too can spend time in prayer and listen to the Spirit. We too can learn to hear His voice, and watch what Hes doing, and learn to do the things He shows us to do. And in the process, not only do we serve others, we discover our calling and gifts. We find out how He made us.
The power of our true identity
How did the knowledge of who He was change Jesus? Did it make Him proud? No, it made Him secure. Being sure of His identity released Him to serve others. Listen:
Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, got up from supper and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself. Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples feet
Knowing our true identity will release us to do the same.
1) Is there a story your parents or grandparents or even another older person has told you that helped you understand yourself? Would you share this with us?
2) Who does the Bible say you are? How does that change the way you live?
3) Can you think of a time when the inner voice of the Holy Spirit said something to you? What did He say?