A while back I put a post up based on a sermon I did from John 1 (here). What follows is the next instalment: a post based on a sermon from John 2. It's in danger of becoming a Blog series so I better be careful!
Dancing, fancy clothes, free food. But is it hard for you to imagine Jesus at a wedding?
Did he dance? Did he chat and mingle and make small talk? Did he hang around the
buffet, picking sausage rolls off the serving dishes, or did he load a plate up and take it back to his table? Oh and here's one:
Did Jesus drink? I think it would stretch credibility to say otherwise - of course he drank wine! You could hardly be a jew back then and not drink wine. The likelihood is that Jesus, just like everyone else back then, drank, chatted, danced and had fun. And even more so, I reckon a wedding party was the perfect setting for someone like Jesus.
Jesus was a celebrator. That was his reputation. He was known, as a miracle maker and as one who preached with authority. But He was also known as someone who feasted and went to parties! As someone who would frequently enjoy social occasions and recline with friends and strangers and tax collectors and sinners.
There’s a moment in Luke’s gospel when the pharisees even criticised him for it? And he had to respond to them. [Luke 7:33] The Pharisees also picked up on how he led his disciples to feast rather than fast too. And Jesus had to say to them: “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast, when their bridegroom is with them!” [Mark 2:19]
And think: how many of Jesus’ parables pivot around a huge banquet that everyone is invited to? That’s how the prodigal son ends, and the parables of the lost coin and the lost sheep (luke 15). Or how about this in Matthew's gospel:
"Thee kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding feast for his son"
Jesus loved parties. So no wonder that here we have a gospel writer putting Jesus at a party right about the time he's about to start his public ministry. Its a strong message to us that Jesus thought that there was good reason to celebrate!
Anyway, back to that wedding. I want to say two more things that make this moment particularly stand out. And maybe we'll have an idea as to why John included it near the start of his gospel too (None of the other gospels have it!).
Firstly… it all revolves around wine. It is a miracle story about turning water into wine. Think about it? Whilst it’s still incredible that he had the power to do it, when placed against his other miracles I can’t help but feel it seems a little trivial. We’ve grown used to it now, but if I were to tell you that Jesus also turned milk into cheese, or eggs into a sponge cake for his friends birthday cake we’d think it was nothing but ridiculous, self-indulgent magic tricks. The triviality of it all makes this event stand out in the gospels.
And secondly, no one in the story knows what he has done. He performs a miracle which produces enough wine to to keep a hen party happy, and in the end the master of ceremonies turns to the bridegroom and says “you have kept the good wine until now.” (vs.11) In other words, he thinks the bridegroom pulled the stunt! Everyone, except for a few servants and perhaps his mum and disciples, have no idea who Jesus is, or what he has done for them. Jesus did all this, on the sly.
If we contrast that with Jesus’ first public appearance in John 2:15 (a few lines down) where he literally turns tables on people, and causes havoc in one of the most sacred and public places of the jewish religion: the temple. Then he claims he can and will rebuild this temple in 3 days! You can’t get more of a public, political statement then that. From that moment, everyone started talking about Jesus... And yet at the wedding, where he apparently ‘displays his glory’ (11) no one even notices he is there. The fact that this is a secret miracle, makes this event stand out in the gospels.
For me, the big point that comes out of all this is: Jesus knew his mission.
And his mission was to usher in and proclaim the kingdom of God on earth. Through his teaching, his healing, his sacrifice, his resurrection, he made it abundantly clear that he was the new king, the old tyrant had been done away with, and a kingdom of peace and joy could be experienced by all who entered into this Kingdom.
His feasting and his drinking and his ‘reclining with friends and sinners - his refusal to fast on the sabbath and other public fasting days. These also were acted out messages to the people around - of just what this new kingdom is like - it is a joyous life when you are at peace with God and the people around you.
He was right, when he spoke to his mother at the wedding and said: my hour has not yet come. He knew then how he was going to start his public ministry and he had planned to do it in a more public way than this. And yet he also knew that he had come to show the world what the kingdom of heaven is like: it is like a king who organised a wedding feast for his son.
Jesus talked about the kingdom and he showed dramatically what it was like too. Not only was forgiveness of sins on offer, but a transformed and joyous life: a banquet! The church must do the same. We must not only talk about the kingdom, we must show it lived out. And it is not merely about forgiveness of sins, it is about joy and living life to the full .