Jesus and the "Lights-out" Wedding
Yeah, The Hangover was funny. Yes, Bridesmaids was crazy. And of course, Wedding Crashers was epic. But when it comes to lights-out wedding day antics nobody beats Jesus. Nobody.
Hollywood has always had a thing for weddings; making movies about them that is. Apparently there’s something about the drama of walking down the aisle, the commitment of saying, “I do,” the cost of a great reception and the wildness of a bachelor party that keeps screenwriters scribbling and the movie going public paying.
But Hollywood falls short when it comes to jaw-dropping wedding stories with the most cultural cachet. According to John’s Gospel that honor belongs to Jesus, who hijacked a wedding way back in the day. Yes, by miraculously providing wine for the wedding at Cana Jesus did more than ensure a killer party for those in attendance. He kicked off a wedding celebration so insanely awesome that it changed the world we live in and is, in fact, still going strong to this day.
Back in the first century a wedding celebration was a big deal. Sure, today getting married costs most couples a small fortune. In fact, according to the folks at EasyFinance.com the entire cost for a wedding—from the engagement ring right on through to the honeymoon suite—comes in at just under $27,000. That’s right, the average family drops almost 30 grand for just one day’s worth of partying.
However in Jesus’ day it was common for a wedding to last an entire week. Seven days was the Jewish custom. That’s seven days of feasting, drinking, abstaining from work and enjoying the company of loved ones, all as a way of celebrating and sharing in the new family’s joy. Now that is a party and one has to imagine that it couldn’t have come cheap.
Knowing all this it makes what John tells us about the problems at the wedding in Cana seem all the more pressing. “On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’” John 2:1-3
Wine held deep practical and spiritual significance for Jewish partygoers. Practically, it did what wine does for us today. It filled the stomach, gladdened the heart and helped the mind drift from matters that might hinder one’s effort at a weeklong Sabbath and celebration. Spiritually, it served as a sign and symbol of the joy and blessing that flows from God’s right hand into the hearts and lives of his chosen family. (Ps. 104:15; Prov. 3:10) Without wine—which was the centerpiece of the feast—the celebration would no doubt come to a grinding halt, with its absence leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of the guests and shame in the heart of the host.
So, in steps Jesus. At the behest of his mother Jesus makes sure the celebration does not cease. Filling six large, stone water jars Jesus performs his very first miracle, transforming some 150 gallons of water into an overflow of top-shelf, aged-to-perfection party wine. For sure, this was not the kind of wine that comes out of a box and can be bought in bulk at Costco. This was, according to the unsuspecting father of the bride, “the good stuff.” Crisis averted. Party on.
But as mentioned earlier this moment was about so much more than Jesus using his power as Messiah to keep the fun flowing for some cousin’s wedding. This was, as the servants and disciples who witnessed the miracle first-hand no doubt began to surmise, the beginning, the inauguration of a whole new celebration. This was the Savior of the World pressing play on a new era in the Kingdom of God and sending a message: that which the wine and wedding were a mirror of spiritually and culturally for the Jewish people was now available to be tangibly and fully enjoyed through him, the Christ. It’s a truth that has the potential to radically change the way we--those who know Christ and live under his gracious, sin-forgiving reign--go about our daily lives.
For example today, as in the first century, good wine at a great wedding lead to an undeniable sense of joy. You’ve been there. You uncork the merlot, hear the music in the background, glance at your date all dressed up and before you know it, the edge is off, the tie is loose and something in you is saying, “life isn’t that bad.” Not long after that you’re dancing the “Cha-Cha Slide.”
The same is true with Jesus. The forgiveness of sins leads to joy. At least it should. Knowing that through the work of the cross the God who confounds you, who convicts you and is a mystery to you has now forgiven you and is in love with you should take the edge off of you. Sure, the kids are a mess, the bills are piled up and work is unfinished. But because of Christ the only thing that really matters—being right with God—has been reconciled.
The apostle is himself overwhelmed at this idea when he asks, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31 In other words, “If God is really on our side through Jesus Christ then what could one possibly come up with that could drag us down?” Drink that in. Let it redden your cheeks. Raise your glass. Sins are forgiven and death is conquered. Jesus has filled you with joy!
Likewise good wine and a great wedding induce optimism about the future. It doesn’t matter if you’re in day four of a Galilean wedding celebration or in hour three of your nephew’s reception and listening to “Lady in Red” while the happy couple enjoy their first dance, something about having a drink in your hand, good food in your stomach, and young love before your eyes makes the average person wax positive—at least for a moment—about the road ahead.
In God’s word wine and wedding imagery were tied to the hope of eternity. In Isaiah we hear the promise that one day, “…the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.” Isaiah 25:6 One day we will enjoy a wedding feast to beat all wedding feasts, where God’s forgiven people will celebrate their eternal, resurrected life with him—their love—in a brand new home.
John’s point is sharing this miracle at Cana is to tell us that in Christ the consummation of that promise has come closer than ever. When we look at the blood of the cross and the emptiness of the tomb we see more than a reason to be hopeful we see a guarantee of our hoped-for-future. We have more than a nostalgic moment. We have an undeniable destiny. With this being true we can aim for so much more than to simply feel hopeful for a moment while watching our nephew’s nuptials. We can live hope-filled through every storm, every fight, every up-day and down season knowing that Jesus Christ has fought, won, and guaranteed a glorious, feast-filled future for us. Feast on that truth and then let out a satisfying sigh of relief. In Christ there is every reason to be optimistic about the road ahead.
Lastly, good wine and a great wedding have long been triggers to recognizing and relishing in the fact that you are abundantly blessed. Seated around family and friends and enjoying the finer things in life stirs up a sense that the happy couple and all those who celebrate with them are lacking in nothing. When the wine and food flow, when everyone is looking their best and all you see are family and friends who know you and love you, one can’t help but feel rich. That’s part of what makes a “lights-out” wedding so great.
John purposely tells us that Jesus filled six stone jars, typically used for the Jewish rites of purification, with the water he changed into an abundance of wine. This is no insignificant detail. The jar would normally be used for the washing of hands and utensils, meeting the need for constant cleanliness as the law required. By transforming the water of these jars into wine for the party Jesus sending a message that the blessings he brings would meet the deepest of needs. He was sending a message that at his party the wine of his truth would do more than gladden the heart and redden the cheeks it would do and give the things of God. It would bring purity, providence and so much more. Those who drink from him would not simply feel rich for a week but would be rich and whole in the things of God for eternity!
In Christ there is no such thing as poor. There is abundance of the things that matter for those who have been baptized into his promises and cling to his cross. You want a party of people with whom you can let your hair down? You’ve got the family of faith. You want riches? Ask our Father for forgiveness and see if he ever says no. You want blessing? Ask what awaits you at the return of Christ. You want an education? Flip open his word and dig for truth. You are insanely blessed, my friend.
Great wine at a good wedding has always had an affect on us. It leaves us feeling joyful, hopeful, and abundantly blessed. And the same is true with Jesus. Having arrived on the scene he has kicked off a party for his people where joy, hope, and a sense of abundance are available in excess. This raises an interesting question: if all of this is true (that Jesus has initiated a perpetual wedding party) then why aren’t more of us, walking around with a smile on our faces, our ties loosened up, or our high-heels off and in our hands? You know, laid back and enjoying the party?
If all of this is true we should take on the character of those in the states of Nebraska and Iowa who—according to TheKnot.com—enjoy the best wedding parties in the United States, averaging 200 guests and downing the largest amounts of food and drink. In other words, they know how to enjoy a wedding. And we, as the followers of Jesus Christ, should too.
Later in John’s gospel Jesus would make this beautiful statement regarding the reason for his arrival and the whole purpose of his ministry. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10 Jesus came and crashed the party so that we might live richly—joyfully, hopefully, and abundantly. Have you been doing that lately? Have you been walking around as if you’re headed to a funeral? Have you been buried in worry, stress and shortsighted fears? If so, why?
This week, try something different. Imagine that you’re sitting at a wedding. In fact, imagine that your son or daughter just got married—to an incredible mate. Imagine that the party is paid for in cash and that you’re surrounded by those that you love. Imagine that since it’s a Saturday night there’s no worry about the work of tomorrow—all the more reason to raise your glass and toast the fact that all is right in the world today. Imagine that. Try and feel that. That sensation and so much more is totally and tangibly yours in Jesus Christ.
Yeah, The Hangover was funny and Bridesmaids was crazy. But Hollywood has nothing on Jesus. By miraculously providing wine for the wedding at Cana he not only ensured a killer party for those in attendance but he kicked off a wedding reception so insanely awesome that it’s still resonating today…and we’ve been invited to it!
May the hangover from the wedding feast initiated at the arrival of Jesus linger over you forever, filling you with more joy, more hope and more abundant blessing that any movie ever could.
This sermon was originally published at Homileticsonline.com