Summary: God’s good gifts insist that we believe in an overflowing joy and contentment found in the presence of the Messiah.
While attending seminary, I served as director of a college and career ministry. Seminary is the academic, the educational side of training. It is the study of the Bible, of the doctrines of the Christian faith, of the history of the church, of the relationship between Christianity and other religions. My work with single adults (on the other hand) was an “internship,” a chance to fit theology into real lives. It was the practical side of preparation for pastoral service.
Because I was involved with singles, my mentor often reminded the whole staff how he disliked weddings. “At a wedding, no one listens to the pastor! All they think about is the bride and how beautiful she is. Give me a funeral any day – death focuses minds on listening to the preacher!”
He was right! It is just about impossible to hear the pastor on the wedding day. There is too much excitement; more significant people are involved and more important realities are taking place than what I say. And yet there may be no honor greater for a pastor than officiating the marriage of a man and a woman. From the giddy silliness of the couple in pre-marital counseling to the rapturous joy in their faces as they are brought together by the bride’s march down the aisle, a wedding is an event of virtually unsurpassed hope and happiness in our lives. It is profoundly significant, therefore, that Jesus chooses a wedding at which to begin revealing his glory by performing a miracle which points to his being the solution to sin and sadness.
Now it may appear, at first reading, that Jesus “just happens” to attend, “just happens” to hear of the depletion of the wine, “just happens” to perform this miracle at this time. Such an interpretation would be a mistake.
Our family watched President Bush’s State of the Union address in January. Regardless of which side of the aisle pleases you, no one watching could miss the care with which the camera captured both Mr. Bush and Speaker Nancy Pelosi. There were moments when Republicans burst forth in thunderous applause – and Ms. Pelosi did not twitch a muscle. At other times she clearly approved of the President’s promises. Her responses did not “just happen.” Every smile, every grimace, every clap, and every refusal to approve, defined and described the Democratic position. She spoke as clearly without words as the President did with them.
More momentous by far is every action of Jesus. No situation catches him unprepared; there are no events for which he does not provide a premeditated and positive presentation of his character, compassion and commission. And this wedding is no exception. Far from “just happening,” Jesus intentionally chose this event, not simply to fill some water jars with wine, but to fill this miracle and all marriage with meaning. Good wine – God’s glory – signs asking: “Will we believe in the overflowing joy and contentment found in Christ alone? To hear that question of the signs, first please note…
1. We Must Greatly Value Marriage as a Good Gift of God (John 2.1-2)
You may recognize the traditional words: “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here in the presence of God to witness and bless the joining together of this man and this woman in holy matrimony…. God himself, while mankind was still without sin, created the first marriage. The LORD God said: ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’ God then created Eve out of Adam’s own substance and brought her to him. The LORD further honored marriage by his presence and first miracle at a wedding in Galilee. And he confirmed marriage as a divine covenant, not to be severed, when he declared: ‘What God has joined together, let not man separate.’”
In spite of the familiarity of the opening words of the ceremony, cultural observers have speculated that marriage is passé and will soon be recognized as unnecessary. God disagrees. God insists that marriage is to be held in honor among all people, (not just the church) and that the marriage bed must be kept pure and undefiled. God claims to have created this institution and that he alone can define its members and meaning. God decrees marriage as the first and central building block of any stable and healthy society. And Jesus, by attending this wedding and performing his first miracle here, not only honors marriage, but reminds us to do the same.
We do not know all the wedding details from this time. We do know that the ceremony usually took place in the evening, after a great feast. Then friends and family led the new couple in a torchlight parade through the village, allowing everyone to wish them well. Instead of a honeymoon, they would have an open house for as much as a week, where they were treated as king and queen. Living lives of much difficulty and poverty, this event was the one great celebration most people would ever have. And God attends.