My wife Nancy and I have presided over a fair number of weddings in our years as pastors. By my count I have performed 147 weddings in nearly 22 years. And that got me to thinking – how many of you have I been the one who helped you tie the knot? I have 7 weddings that I have scheduled this year, and one already for 2014.
And although I have not always been able to attend every wedding reception, I do make an effort to attend – when invited – your wedding receptions. Wedding receptions are great fun! Nancy and I always make it a point to stay at wedding receptions long enough to eat – of course – and to take in at least one slow dance. And then we leave – because – well – since most wedding receptions are on a Saturday – we need to get home because we both have to get up early to go to work the next day. So we never stay long enough to do the funky chicken. And quite frankly – although I’ve danced it once or twice – I never have learned how to do the electric slide.
With that said – I am sure that you all have stories that you can tell about wedding receptions – your own – or any one of the many I am sure you have attended over the years. Even Jesus enjoyed at least one wedding reception – the only one we know of anyway. And that wedding reception story is told to us today as read about it in John’s gospel.
And Jesus, we are told, did something – miraculous – at this wedding. His contribution to this wedding party was to make it one that people talked about for a long time. In fact – come to think of it – we’re still talking about some 2000 years later.
Wedding receptions today are pretty expensive affairs. According to a website called EasyFinance.com, the average cost – the average – for a wedding these days costs $27,000! That figure also includes the cost of the engagement ring as well as the honeymoon suite. But – it seems to me that it is only natural that we would want to celebrate these milestones in our lives.
Now, in Jesus’ day it was common for a wedding to last an entire week! 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 at this particular wedding where Jesus, and his mother, and his disciples are at, there is a problem. They’ve run out of wine. Again, in Jesus’, day, this would have been a big problem. It would have been embarrassing for the bride and groom and their families if this were to happen.
You see wine held deep significance in the Jewish tradition. In one sense, it did then what wine does for us today. Psalm 104:15 tell us that the Lord gave wine to gladden the heart. Now, as I say that, in no way am I or the Scriptures advocating that overindulgence is okay. It’s not. In fact, the Scriptures have a lot to say about the problems of drunkenness. I just want to be clear on this.
So wine was given to gladden the heart. But more than that, in Jesus’ day, wine served a spiritual function. Wine is often used in the Old Testament as a sign or a symbol of blessing. When things were going well for the Jewish people – when they’re hearts were right with God – when they weren’t chasing after other gods – wine was often used as a sign that God’s blessings were upon His people.
So in our story today about the wedding at Cana – the celebration came to a grinding halt when they ran out of wine. I guess you could say that they were awfully lucky – or maybe blessed is a better word – that Jesus showed up – and that he was there when they needed him the most.
Jesus makes sure the celebration doesn’t come to an end. And it is here – at this wedding reception in Cana – Jesus performs his very first miracle. He transforms – let’s say some 150 gallons of water or so into wine. Now folks – this is not the kind of wine that comes in a box. This is the best of wines! I guess you could say that Jesus saves the day for this couple and their parents.
But why? Why does Jesus do this? Why would Jesus provide wine for this party? May I suggest to you that beyond keeping the wine flowing and the party going for his friends or his relatives – or however it was that Jesus was related to these newlyweds – let me suggest three reasons.
Number one. This was the beginning – let’s call it an inauguration – something like what’s happening in Washington D.C. this weekend – the inauguration of a whole new kind of celebration. This is Jesus – the Savior of the world. Jesus could talk all he wanted to about the forgiveness and the Kingdom of God. But it was his miracles – as well as his power to heal – that showed to those who witnessed these things – that Jesus was precisely who he said he was. God incarnate. God in the flesh. And this, we are told is the first of his miracles. There would be many more to come. But this is the beginning of his public ministry.
But here’s the point. The same celebration – the same joy – that comes with a wedding reception is what comes to us in Jesus Christ. There is a joy – there is a celebration – in knowing that you and I live a life that – in Christ – has been forgiven. Like wine that gladdens the heart – God’s love – God’s mercy – God’s grace – gladdens our hearts – our lives – and gives us reason to live a life of joy and gladness knowing that our sins are forgiven. I can’t say it strongly enough. The forgiveness of sins leads to joy! Regardless of what else is going on in your life right now – no matter how tough things might be for you right now – the one thing that really matters – the one thing that really matters: being made right with God – is ours because of Jesus Christ! That is what we call Good News around here. So, just as wind gladdens the heart, so too, knowing that our sins are forgiven gladdens our hearts today.
Number two, a great wedding and the great party that follows always makes us feel good about the future. There’s something about good food and good drink, listening to a little Sinatra as you have that slow dance with your sweetie – sharing in a celebration that young love brings to a man and a woman – there’s just something about all that – well at least for me – that gives me hope for the future.
You see, in God's word, both wine and the imagery of a wedding are tied to the hope of eternity. Listen to what Old Testament prophet Isaiah says. He says that one day,
"...the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear" (Isaiah 25:6).
Folks – one day – one day we will enjoy a wedding feast to beat all wedding feasts –and it won’t matter if you know how to do the electric slide or not – but the feast to come is where we – as God's forgiven people – will celebrate our resurrected life with Him – forever. So, just as a great wedding celebration makes us hopeful for the future – so too does our new life in Jesus Christ give us hope for eternal life – and for the wedding banquet yet to come.
Number three. Good wine, good food, and a great wedding have a way of saying to us “you are blessed.” You are blessed! At wedding receptions you are surrounded by family and friends. And most everyone I see at wedding receptions are having a good time. The bride and groom are so happy. And we are happy for them. And when you are surrounded by people who know you and love you, well, you can’t help but feel blessed.
So there you have it. This episode in the life of Jesus at the wedding in Cana where he turned water into wine tells us that we have forgiveness – a forgiveness that leads to joy. We have hope as we move into the future. And we have a realization that in Jesus Christ, we are truly blessed.
Any questions? Actually the only question I have is why aren't more people – or maybe even more of us enjoying the party? Think about it. Good wine and a good time at a wedding leave us feeling joyful, hopeful and abundantly blessed. And let me tell you that the same thing is true with Jesus. God loves a good party. And In Jesus Christ – just like a good wedding banquet – we have joy, hope and blessings far beyond what we could ever hope for or imagine.
Jesus says – again in John’s gospel – John 10:10 – “I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Would that describe your life lately? I know – there are circumstances and events – worries and stressors in life that drag us down. But I want you to know that in Jesus Christ joy, hope and blessings are yours.
So let me suggest something. 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 by somebody else and that you're surrounded by those whom you love. Now, since it's a Saturday night, you don’t have to worry about going to work the next day – unless, of course, you’re a preacher.
Imagine that. Try and feel that. That is what life in Jesus Christ can be like.
By miraculously providing wine for the wedding at Cana, Jesus ensured a great party for those in attendance. At the same time – by doing this – he kicked off – he inaugurated – he announced that he himself is the Savior of the world. And he invites us to the banquet – and into a new relationship with God and with each other through him. The Bible in several places refers to this new relationship as a wedding banquet. A wedding banquet that is awesome – and we have been invited to it.
The Christian life is an awesome way of life. It is an awesome way to live. And let me tell you, it will fill you with more joy, more hope and more blessings in abundance than anything that a life without Jesus ever could. Amen.