2960RE: [John_Lit] Filling to the Brim?
- Jan 1, 2003Jeffery asked:
"In John 2:7, the servants fill the jars to the brim
with water. Was this normal procedure for large stone
jars used for ceremonial purification?"
Although I do not know to what extent such jars used to be filled, I would
like to remark that an abundant supply of 'traditional' water is surely
"normal procedure" in John 1-7.
This supply is both in some sense praparatory to, and stands in opposition
to the new gift that Jesus is offering.
In John 2 it is plenty of purification water in the jars - which seems to me
to symbolize fulfilment of the law "to the brim". It will not bring
salvation if it remains external, at the door - but brought inside and
touched by the word of Jesus it becomes a purifying power of another kind.
Wine is more like fire than like water..
In John 3 there is plenty of water where John is baptizing - whereas no
water at all is mentioned when the mysterious baptismal practice of Jesus is
mentioned. The Baptist states the opposition: I am baptizing with water, he
will baptize with fire and spirit. The Baptist, the utter representant of
the Old Covenant, needs a full supply of water to prepare people for the
qualitative change that he himself cannot perform. In his last speech in
John, about the bridegroom, he himself is the one that, as it were, carries
the water into the wedding room where Jesus takes over to baptize with fire.
In John 4 Jacob's Well presents a water supply sufficient for father Jacob,
all his sons and all his flock (verse 12). According to Jewish tradition,
Jacob's Well used to be filled to the brim every time when Jacob came to
draw water. Again, though not in the same way, this place of traditional
abundance is the starting point where Jesus takes over and offers his own
new gift instead.
In John 5, Jesus comes to the pool of Bethesda and, not denying the actual
saving power of this abundant supply of water, touches the lame with his
word, offering his saving gift instead.
In John 7, finally, Jesus appears at the Feast of Tabernacles, which
involved abundant outpouring of water by the priests in the temple court, at
the place where according to prophecy a river would spring forth at the day
of salvation and water all the land - and without bringing water Jesus
proclaims that faith in himself will make that river to flow out of your
inner self. And look - Jesus does not proclaim so at the beginning of the
feast, but at the end (7:37), when the feast is "filled to the brim".
Is this to say that you cannot accuse the Johannine Jesus of not taking
tradition seriously? Or is it to say that Jesus'gift enters precisely there,
where the holy tradition is fulfilled to the brim - as its utter fulfillment
which fully acknowledges its weight before taking its place?
Thank you, Jeffery, for this occasion to arrange some loose threads in my
Kind greetings and best wishes, let us fill this new year to the brim, and
may the word of Christ change all the water we'll carry into it, into wine!
Piet van Veldhuizen
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