Disciple, Profiteer, or Temporary Miracle-Believer: The Work of the Word in John 2

Our relationship with Jesus Christ is a two-way street, hinging on his discipleship of us through the Spirit, and our continued discipleship with him through the word of God.

We pick up in John 2:13-25, after Cana. The remainder of John 2 post-Cana seems like a disjointed collection of different accounts of Jesus moving southward with his disciples to Jerusalem. But there is a uniting concept there, and in the Gospel of John, which does not always follow chronological order, sequence is key. If John puts something in a particular order, they may be linked not by time, but by theme. The theme, friends, is discipleship.

After resting after the Cana (water to wine ) wedding at Capernaum, Jesus and his disciples went to Jerusalem, where Jesus cleared the temple of the livestock hawkers and the money-changers. He went on his rampage, and then his disciples recalled the scriptures that had forecast his zeal (John 2:17). Then, he was questioned apparently by some in the religious establishment, and he answered, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. (John 2:19). After the Resurrection, his disciples recalled what he had said “and they believed the scripture” that had forecast it (John 2:22). Finally, Jesus attended Passover, and performed miracles there, seen by many. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because knew all men. (John 2:24). Commit here is from the Greek word for “have faith” – pisteuo. Why did Jesus not commit himself to those people? Jesus did not have faith in those people in Jerusalem because their faith was superficial – they only saw his works, they did not know his words, and how his works fulfilled the Word of God. He needed to see them paging through scripture in search of the deeper, prophetic ramifications of his deeds.

This latter part of John 2, holds for us a classification for people who claim Christ into three groups:
1) Disciples: Believe not only in Christ or his miracles, but are students of the Word. They are Bible readers and studiers, like those at Berea. They pore over what they see in the scriptures to see if it was so. (Acts 17:11)
2) Temporary believers. These are the souls he won by performing miracles. They liked what they saw and signed on, but did not continue in his word. Jesus obviously did not continue on with them either.
3) Profiteers. These are people who profit from the selling of the word, and these are cast out of the Temple by Jesus. These are people more akin to Judas, who might walk among believers, but their hearts are only interested in material gain that they associate with their ill-founded belief in God.

The Gospel of John points to the need for us to be saved, but then gives us a choice about discipleship. I believe the two are connected. If we choose not to become disciples of Christ, then Christ himself will not commit himself to us.

If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. (John 15:7)

How do we abide in Christ? Love each other. But this also calls for the converse of that: the words of Jesus abiding, or living, in us. And to do that he must be willing to abide in us. That means that one of the key components of discipleship is staying in the Word. Is not the Gospel of John centered on the fact that Jesus Christ is the living logos, of God, made flesh? Not just a son of God, as someone holy, but the Son of God, the only begotten. Abiding in his Word was why Jesus chose to keep close to his disciples while he would not entrust himself to those believers who were just interested in the fanfare of miracles and free food.

So, in this way, we can conclude that his works on earth were of far less important than his words on earth. The works of Christ are recorded in the gospels, some of them, in fact just a very small smattering of them, John noted, were included, and they were included in John precisely to make us believers (John 20:30-31). But the words of Christ, of God, breathed through scripture, must be our compass and map for the rest of our Christian walks. Fulfilling the Word, and being ready for its complete fulfillment in his return, is the “works” that God wants us to do for the rest of our lives here on earth. Let us not misunderstand the task of discipleship.

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