Saturday, April 06, 2013

The Wedding Feast

As I'm processing life, and reading through the Gospel of John, I find my self seeing Jesus' ministry in yet another light. Due to some recent developments in my own life, I'm really searching and turning my focus on how best to love people like Jesus loved people.

As I begin to read the story of the wedding feast at Cana, I'm keying into how he carried himself. Because I'm wrestling with the question of how to love people well, I find myself sensitized to the way and manner in which Jesus loved. As I make my way through the story, something amazing jumps out at me that I've never seen before. It revolves around his interaction with his mother, and his lack of interaction with the master of the feast and the bridegroom. Let me lay out the scenario for you.

Jesus and his friends are at this wedding feast that they've been invited to. In 1st century Jewish culture – in the Jewish culture in general, but especially at this point in history – weddings are a very important part of life. They're a celebration involving the entire community. It's kind of a big deal. In a culture in which lineage and family are the mainlines for both cultural relevance and religious significance, marriage is huge.

So, as you might assume, a great importance is placed on making the marriage celebration as awesome as possible. And it's at one of these celebrations that we find Jesus and his band of merry fishermen. John doesn't really give us the details, but it's probably safe to assume that the only agenda they had – that Jesus had – was to help this new couple celebrate the joining of two families together. To enjoy the party with his friends. There's already a clear focus for what's going on. Jesus probably wasn't interested in drawing any attention to himself, and for sure didn't want to take away from or upstage this joyous spectacle.

In fact, we can see this intention in Jesus' reluctance to reveal his real identity. At some point during the party, the wine ran dry. No more wine. I would imagine this is like going to a 4th of July celebration and finding out that they've run out of fireworks. Wine is important, not only because it was the preferred beverage of the day, but also because it holds some pretty specific religious and cultural symbolism. This is a serious problem for the folks getting married. It's not just a matter of people talking about how lame the party was that ran out of wine. Running out of wine at a wedding feast could possibly affect the marriage itself. It's not good.

So here's where Mary, showing her heart of compassion, approaches Jesus and tells him, “Hey, the wedding is out of wine”. But this is more than just her informing him of the situation. I'm sure there was some body language and some facial expression involved, because Jesus' response makes it pretty clear that she was asking him to do something about it. Jesus says, “What does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”

Jesus knows that Mary is asking him to help, and he also knows that the only way he can help is by bringing to bare his propensity for the miraculous. 'It's not time for that yet' he says, 'I don't want to deal with all that will follow when people figure out who I am.'

Here's where the amazing part happens. The part that I've just seen for the first time. Without saying anything to Jesus, she turns to the servants at the feast and simply says “Do whatever he tells you.” Even though Jesus was not directly addressed, Mary's instructions to the servants was pointed at him. At this very point, we can see Mary, Jesus' mother, still teaching her son. Jesus doesn't want to intervene here because he's not ready – his 'hour has not yet come'. But with her command to the servants, Mary is saying, “Jesus, these people need a love right now that only you can give them. It doesn't matter if you're ready or not. Lay down your agenda. They need you now.”

So Jesus proceeds to turn six very large jars of water into wine. Good wine. And here's the kicker. He doesn't tell anyone where it came from or what he's just done. He doesn't make a spectacle of it. There's no speech or teaching that he delivers in conjunction with this miracle, he just does it, and lets it be. In fact, in John's account, the bridegroom at the wedding feast gets the credit! The servants and the disciples know what just happened, but nobody else.

Jesus turning water into wine was pure, unconditional and selfless love. There was no ulterior motive, no expectation of anything, not even a need to be seen or heard. It was simply love with no agenda other than to love. It's incredible!

It is my desire to learn how to love like that. I want to love without expectation. I want to love without condition. I want to love without an agenda. Agenda's make things messy. I want to love people like Jesus loved the people at the wedding feast at Cana. Selflessly. Unconditionally.

1 comment:

Kansas Aunt said...

I like it. Unconditional love. As a parent, I get that. Living it out to others is definitely more of a challenge. Your revelation about Mary taking control of the situation and, with very few words, convincing Jesus to take action, was not a new revelation to me. I saw that the first time I read/heard this passage.. . Smile.....