Summary: Jesus atones for the sins of our judging
There are plenty of glass houses in our lives and one of the most celebrated comes in the form of a wedding. A wedding is ripe for judgment. From the guests showing up, to the crazy family member’s behavior, to the bridal parties’ actions, the pastor’s homily and even the bride’s wedding dress. It’s all one big judgment fest. A festival we love so much that there are two Women’s Entertainment television shows: Bridezilla and Boot Camp for Bridezilla’s. The two shows debuted in May 2013 garnishing around a million American women viewers. Why? Because Ladies dream about the wedding day, plan it for years and some will do anything in the world to have the wedding they have always dreamed of.
I read a story of true to life Bridezilla, Jessica Vega. It happened in 2010. She really wanted to marry Michael O’Connell in upstate New York but neither had the resources to pay for a big wedding. So Jessica decided to fake having Leukemia to get people to donate resources so she could have the wedding of her dreams. She ended up having her wedding but afterward a reported broke the story of the lie. In the end, she was charged with a number of felonies and misdemeanors. The couple ended up divorcing because Michael never knew the details. However, he was recently quoted as saying, “She should repay the donors but she shouldn’t have to do jail time – just mental treatment. She’s a good mom and that’s all that really counts at the end of the day. I want my kids to have their mother back.”
While the example is extreme and the actions illegal, the importance placed on the presumption that a perfect wedding is pre-cursor to a happy life creates a lot of undue pressure. It reminds me of a moment in scripture when Jesus went a wedding in Cana. A social faux pa had just occurred. The wine had run out. This is equivalent to this era’s rain on the wedding day, along with the limo not showing up, the dress in a color other than white and the wedding dinner coming from Taco Bell. The wedding steward first comes to Mary about the problem who beelines to Jesus. Now, you and I might not think this is a big issue, but it is a big issue in this society of shame and honor. The wedding was a public feast and a community affair. The wedding was more than two people coming together. It was a ceremony of the coming of age of the participants and of a new partnership of survival between families. Both families would be on display and both would work to insure the marriage success and to increase their overall prosperity. Hence, Mary reaction to the social blunder has many a scholar today believing this wedding was for a close relative of Jesus’, maybe even a sister. There is no way to prove that theory but it does help us understand the context of the conversation between Jesus and his mother.
Jesus reaction to her request is interesting depending on where you put the inflection in reading it. It could even be considered curt or rude by our standards, “Mother, why do you include me, my hour has not come.” What? Mary must have been used to these kinds of phrases from Jesus because she just turned to the wedding steward and says, “Do whatever he tells you?” I know how I would react but Jesus, he obeys/honors his mother and tells the staff to fill the 20-30 gallon ceremonial washing jars with fresh water. After they do, he instructs them to take a cup to the wedding steward. Somewhere between the filling of the jars with water and the first cup being extracted the water turns to wine. The wedding steward is so impressed by the wine he wonders aloud to the groom, why bring the good wine out later in banquet? John then comments that this sign was to reveal his Glory and for the disciples to begin to believe in Him.
Often when I read the story of the wedding at Cana, I’m struck by the cultural aspects of living out one’s life in culture of honor and shame. A life of being worried about how everything looks to others and how it will reflect on one’s family seems awfully confining and prone to anxiety. We, as Americans who pride ourselves on independence often claim not to care how it looks to others but deep down we do. It may not rule some of our lives, many are worried about being seen or judged as productive members or over achievers in this society. It’s almost a badge of honor to say, “I’m busy.” We are a performance based culture – from our kids band concerts, to high school sports, to the name of colleges our young adults attend, to the companies we work for and our positions within them – we want to be known as the achievers. Many see it as a badge of honor to be “work –aholics.” The question for all of us is, why? Why are we so obsessed with being seen as achievers? Why are we striving so hard, ignoring those close to us, just to be judged by mankind as productive? Many of us would admit that deep down within us there is something wrong, with us, the society around us and even our understanding of what life is really all about. It’s not about the big ideas the culture masquerades as the most important aspects of life but the small details.