“The Marriage Feast”
Psalm 33:1-12, John 2:1-11
January 31, 2016
In our story for today, Jesus goes to this Marriage Feast. Now, according to a number of historians, these marriage celebrations were a regular part of the life of those communities. They were among the largest and most joyous events in the lives of the Jewish people! One of them said that such celebrations could last for days! So it’s no wonder that the wine “gave out!” And it’s no wonder that, when Jesus made wine, he made a lot of wine – 60-80 gallons of it, if you do the math!
Well, the more I think about this, the more it appears to me that it’s no coincidence that Jesus was part of this event. I don’t think this was a “casual mention” by John, in telling Jesus’ story. “Oh yeah, Jesus also went to this wedding and performed a miracle.” No. I believe John used this as an illustration of the kingdom that Jesus came to proclaim. And I believe he saw that kingdom as a joyous kingdom. And I believe he was telling us that God wants to share that joy of life with us.
I also think this is bigger than just this one story, This story about this Marriage Feast in Cana, makes us think also about the Marriage supper of the kingdom of God that Jesus talked about in some of his parables. Do you remember the parable of the Wedding Banquet in Matthew 22 and Luke 14? Do you remember the song? “I cannot come to the banquet…” This story speaks of that. But it’s more than that. This story also makes us think about the “marriage supper of the Lamb” at the end of time. John tells us about that in his book of Revelation. In chapter 19, verse 6, we read, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns! Let us rejoice and exult and give him glory, for the marriage of the lamb has come and the Bride has made herself ready.”
As you know, one of my favorite authors is John Eldredge. And in his writings, Eldredge often points out that the relationship between God and his people – his Church – is often described in terms of a marriage. And that is the relationship with the greatest intimacy! Think about that. In a number of places in scripture – like the one I just read – the Church is referred to as “the bride of Christ.” And again, the importance of that is the intimacy between God and his people! It’s a good metaphor! That joyous, intimate relationship is what God wants to have with us. That’s amazing! But sometimes we forget that, don’t we?
I’ll never forget the picture I once saw of Jesus. When you see picture of Jesus, you often see love portrayed on his face, don’t you. Sometimes you see an intense and somber look in his eyes that speaks of the seriousness of his mission here on earth. And that’s good, of course. But the picture I saw was different. It was a picture of Jesus, and he was laughing! That brought me a whole new dimension of Jesus. It spoke to me of Jesus being joyous, and even elated! And that’s a side of him we don’t often think about.
When I stop to think of it, I can see Jesus as having that great joy. I see him sharing times with his friends when he wasn’t so serious. We know he told parables, and we know that he often wove humor into them. Jewish humor is great, by the way. And that humor has been part of their culture throughout the years. It’s one way they’ve dealt with the oppression they’ve suffered. And I’m sure it was part of Jesus’ life.
So here in this story, we have Jesus attending this marriage feast with his disciples. And I want you to take a moment and think about how you picture that! Was he there, standing off to the side with his disciples around him, loving the people, maybe adding his blessing, but not really taking part in the revelry? Or was he laughing, greeting his friends and neighbors with gladness and affection, feasting, sharing the wine, and sharing in the joy of the marriage celebration? That’s what we need to see!
I say this because it’s so important. I can’t emphasize this enough. God wants us to enjoy this life he gave us! And he wants to be part of our joy. And yes, there are times in life that are anything but joyous – and God wants to be part of those tough times, too. We can’t forget that. But we cannot forget this other side of God! He wants to share the joy! In the second century, Saint Irenaeus said this quote, which you’ve heard me use before. He said, “The glory of God is man fully alive!” I love that! And I think of it often! And remember that the second century AD was not necessarily a time for great rejoicing! It was a dark and difficult time! But even then, St. Irenaeus said these words. “The glory of God is man fully alive!”
I was listening to a “webinar” the other day on the subject of death. There’s a real “downer,” right? Well, it wasn’t! It was actually uplifting. And at one point, one of the speakers said, “the important thing about dying, is fully living.” Think about that. How many people are just slogging through this life, disconnected from others, knowing only the “rat race,” waiting for and fearing that inevitable day? Do you ever feel that way? Or, are you fully alive?
Have you seen the movie called “The Bucket List”? It’s a fun movie. It’s about two men with terminal illnesses, who put together a list of things to do before they “kicked the bucket.” Since one of them is incredibly rich, the list is pretty exotic. So they went skydiving, they raced and crashed classic cars, (Ooooh, what they did to that Mustang!) They attempted to climb Mt. Everest. And after all that and more, they came back home. And near the end of the movie, in his final letter to Edward, the rich but very lonely man, the other man, Carter, said, “Find the Joy in life!” That’s good advice! “Find the Joy in life!”
Now, I’m not suggesting here that you go out sign up for skydiving. (Or maybe I am!) What I am asking you to do is to think of St. Irenaeus. “The glory of God(!) is man fully alive!” I know I lose sight of that from time to time. We all do! I’ve got that bone in my head that makes me worry about things. I’ll bet you have some of that, too! And don’t get me wrong, concern is not a bad thing. But it shouldn’t get in the way of our living! And I want you to know that I need to hear this stuff, too!
So, maybe it will help if we picture Jesus at this wedding feast. Maybe it will help us to remember how he celebrated and shared the joy of that community. Again, if your mental image is one of Jesus coming to this feast, but standing to one side blessing the wedding with his presence, but not really reveling in the joy of the occasion, you probably wouldn’t be alone. But if that is your image, I “invite you” to “tweak” that image a little. Picture Jesus laughing! That’s a good start!
You might have noticed that I’ve said very little here about Jesus making wine. That’s intentional. People sometimes focus on that as the main thing in this passage. And yes, it was certainly the first of the “signs” that John was telling us about. Those were signs that said Jesus was the Son of God. And yes that’s important! But what’s perhaps even more important, and the reason him being the Son of God was important, is the context of that “sign” – that miracle. Jesus is God loving his people so much that he gave us his son that we may have eternal life. That means more than just “living forever.” It means sharing a “joyous life” with him! It is life, meaning us being “fully alive.”
That’s what I want you to leave thinking about today. “The glory of God is man fully alive.” “Find the joy.” Seek that joyous life God wants for you! He wants to share that with you!
Eternal God, we thank you for the life you have given us, and for the life you share with us through your Son, Jesus Christ. Help us to know the joy of your kingdom, and to include you in the bad times of our lives, and the good! Help us to show your joy to those whose lives are cheerless and those who despair. Let your light be seen in us. For we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.