My wife and I celebrate our 16th Wedding Anniversary today. Time flies. Has it really been 16 years? Happy Anniversary, Amy, I love you more every day!
As I scan my social media feeds, beautiful pictures of beaming brides and grooms remind me that late spring and summer always bring weddings aplenty. Our family experienced our first proper Scottish Wedding last month. It took place in majestic 12th century Fingask Castle and as you might expect, kilts of many tartans proudly decorated the ceilidh dance floor. For our churches in Edinburgh and Glasgow, we danced the night away because this happy occasion marked the first wedding for our church members in more than a decade!
Weddings: A Gift from God
Here’s why we instinctively celebrate weddings as Christians: They are a gift from the Almighty God. Marriage is the first institution created by God. Before he entrusted the law to Moses, God created marriage. Long before the establishment of the church, God gave us marriage. One of the first miracles Jesus ever performed happened at a wedding! As the flurry of summer weddings and anniversaries begins, here are some devotional thoughts from that magic moment in first century Galilee when Jesus saved the day and turned water into wine.
John 2:1–11 ESV 1 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 9 When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the groom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
First Century Jewish Weddings
In first century Jewish culture, a local wedding signified the crowning event of the year, especially among the poor. The wedding festivities lasted as long as two weeks. After the wedding ceremony finished, all the guests escorted the bride and groom to their new home in a torchlight parade through the city. The town considered the new couple to be king and queen for those two fairy tale weeks. The newlyweds wore dignified crowns, dressed in flowing bridal robes, and their every word was considered to be the law. For those two glorious weeks of their lives, all poverty and suffering were forgotten.
One of the greatest privileges I have as a minister is to officiate weddings. There are few moments in my life that can match the joy I recently felt when I officiated my first Scottish Wedding, the one I mentioned earlier. The groom and bride, Chris and Marlies Morrison, did an excellent job planning all the details of their own historic event and surprisingly, I can’t remember any glaring mistakes or awkward public moments from their wedding day. That’s not normal. With so many details and so many people involved in the planning of the ceremony and reception, you can almost always count on something going wrong at a wedding.
Common Wedding Bloopers
the photographer arrives hours late (this happened to Amy and me)
a family member is late
it’s an outdoor wedding and it rains
someone in the bridal party has a meltdown
someone faints during the wedding ceremony
the music goes haywire
the minister goes to the bathroom and leaves his personal wireless microphone on
the toasts: clumsy “Michael Scott Moments” just waiting to happen; you’ll typically find me hiding under the table during the toast
The Wedding Has Lost Its Joy
For the wedding in Cana, easily there could have been as many as 500 guests in attendance and here’s what goes wrong: “They have no wine.” In that culture, to run out of wine would be a major embarrassment. In those days, the groom’s family often paid for the wedding festivities. In fact, the groom could face a lawsuit from the bride’s relatives if they ran out of party supplies.
The wine is also highly symbolic. To the Jewish mind, wine symbolized joy. Immediately Mary goes to her son and breaks the news, “They have no wine. This wedding has lost its joy! This wedding is about to crash and burn. Jesus, you must do something about this.” (my paraphrase)
We know mom never stops being mom and she can still be pushy at times. In verse 4, Jesus tells his mom he’s working on God’s timing and certainly not any human being’s timing, including her. But let’s give Mary some credit. She gathers herself, decides to trust Jesus with the emergency, and tells the service team: “Do whatever he tells you.” More on that later.
At the wedding, they have six 30-gallon stone jars with water. These large water jars are so the Jews can keep their hands and utensils physically and spiritually clean. This is Jewish tradition.
Jesus decides he will now take action to bring joy to the wedding. He commands the servants to fill all six of the 30 gallon jars with water, all the way to the top. Next he tells the servants to serve the master of the feast the water. Then a stunning miracle happens: 180 gallons of water transform into wine.
Let’s give perspective to this miracle. That’s 180 gallons of wine that Jesus created on the spot, in an instant. 1500 pounds of wine. That’s 900 bottles of wine. Not only that, this is the best wine money can buy. The master of the banquet then calls over the groom and compliments him, “You have saved the best wine for last.”
Please consider how wine is normally made. It takes soil, sunshine, rain, grapevine pruning, and most of all, time. The best wines are always aged for many years. Jesus defies the natural order of things and creates the best wine instantly. Jesus displays his glory and the disciples place their trust in him. The verb tense here for believe is “they began to believe”.
This miracle is rich with symbolism. It’s a wedding banquet. It’s an enormous party. This is how heaven is described in the Scriptures. For Christians, we (as the church) are the bride and Jesus is the groom.
Life Without Christ is Life Without Wine
“They have no wine.”
What Mary says is true of our world today. Life without Christ is a life without wine. Joy, forgiveness, and true meaning will always be elusive. Without Jesus, there is no party. Without Jesus, one day the wine of this world will run out.
Jesus tells the servers: “Fill the jars to the top.” In other words, it’s time to lavish my grace and my joy to everyone with increasing measure. Jesus brings us the abundant wine of forgiveness, the sweet wine of victory, and the trustworthy wine of joyful obedience. In a world replete with unexplained suffering, unfulfilled dreams, and a constant search for meaning, Jesus invites us to celebrate with him at his wedding banquet.
Do Whatever He Tells You
Here’s the catch: If you want the very best, if you desire true, life-changing joy from Jesus, then Mary’s words must ring true today: “Do whatever he tells you.”
Just think, if the servants disobeyed Jesus there would be no wine, only a ruined wedding, unbearable shame, and a loss of joy. Just like the servants at the wedding, if we want to experience true life, if we desire eternal life, and if we want to significantly change anything in our lives, we must trust and obey Jesus.
Jesus has the power to change your life. He is superior and he is better. Just like he created 900 bottles of vintage wine from ordinary water, Jesus has the power to do extraordinary, unimaginable things in your life as well. As we celebrate numerous weddings and anniversaries this summer, remember that with Jesus, our best days as Christians are right in front of us!