When Jesus goes to the party

Can you imagine what it would be like to attend a party where Jesus was an invited guest? If you saw him from across the room would you think that He would be someone you would enjoy having a conversation with? It is amazing to think about, what is even more amazing is that Jesus did attend parties, in fact it was at a party that He chose to begin his ministry. Who begins their ministry at a party?  Think about it, if you or I were to launch a national ministry with the goal of changing the world is a party the most effective forum? Why not a church or synagogue or mosque, venues where people are actually thinking about religion, or why not a college or university where the ideas and philosophies of the day are debated and discussed, or perhaps the halls of congress, the White House, or Supreme Court, or other government institutions, where the direction of countries are forged. But a party is exactly where Jesus chose to launch his ministry, but then again this was a King who was born in a barn, so it is at least consistent with the way Jesus conducts His business. 

Consider further that this was a party where no one, with the exception of His mother and disciples, really knew who Jesus was; to the majority attending the party, He was just another guest, another face in the crowd. Jesus would have remained anonymous had it not been for a party planning disaster. The wine ran dry. As anyone with any party going experience knows a party with out wine is just another meeting. In the midst of this crisis Jesus is confronted by his mother, which must have been slightly awkward. Imagine; you’re there with your disciples, you are getting ready to launch your national ministry, you are God, and your mother starts in on you about something that isn’t even your problem, and before you can even respond she turns to the waiters and says do whatever He tells you. Well at this point, you’ve got to come up with something, you are the Messiah after all, and what kind of Messiah would you be if you couldn’t provide wine for a wedding celebration.

So Jesus gives some instructions, “Fill the jars up with water”, now this must have been an unusual request to the ears of the wait staff. Jars and water is not the stuff of the spectacular. In fact they are two of the most common, ordinary items ever. Where was Jesus’ sense of showmanship? After all He is about to launch a national ministry, His disciples are watching, this is a great opportunity to impress them with raining down wine from heaven with just the wiggling of his pinky toe, but Jesus choose to use jars and water. As unusual as it must have been, the servants did as Jesus asked and filled jars with water, and then they poured it out and took it to the master of ceremonies, and low and behold, out of the ordinary jars and water, Jesus provided the best wine served at the banquet. This is how the Messiah, the God of the universe chose to launch his ministry, with ordinary clay and water. The way that Jesus chooses to continue his ministry is not so different than how it started, He still chooses to work through the transformation of ordinary clay and water. The Apostle Paul said it like this, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things are past away and behold all thing are become new.”

Jesus is still transforming the ordinary clay and water of humanity. It is the stuff of humanity to seek the spectacular, always looking for the best, brightest, and biggest; apparently it is the stuff of divinity to seek the ordinary. Throughout His ministry Jesus did extraordinary things in very ordinary fashion. He once healed a blind guy by spitting on the ground and mixing the water of his spittle and the clay of ground together, rubbing it on this man’s eyes, and then after washing it out the man could see for the first time in his life. Jesus once waited for his friend to die and remain dead for days, so he could then raise him from the dead by simply calling his name, He told a lame guy to get off his bed and walk, a sick woman once touched the border of his clothes immediately being healed, and a boy’s lunch once provided food for five thousand. In general Jesus did very ordinary things like speaking, touching, praying, He never found it necessary to hang around for his picture to be taken and He often told those he healed or delivered not to tell any one. Not exactly the stuff of televangelism. Jesus did the extraordinary in a very ordinary way.

Even when He died, He breathed his last, and three days later just got up. Now granted there was an earthquake, some angelic visitors and other supernatural phenomena. But basically, He just got up, and reveled Himself not to his critics or executioners but to those closest to Him, and in the first instance to women, whose testimony would not even be admitted in a court of law in their culture. Ordinary meets extraordinary; when Jesus got up from death it forever changed the world. And in much the same way as the governor of the wedding feast declared in John 2, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guest have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” Jesus declared that a new and better covenant was launched with the advent of His death, burial and resurrection. The point made by the master of the banquet is that the intoxicated are in no position to appreciate the quality of the products served them; the drunk doesn’t really care if he is drinking best value wine in a purple box with a smiling grape on the front of it or the finest vintage chardonnay. Amazingly, the finest wine came from ordinary water pots. It seems the finest still comes from the ordinary. The sun rises and sets every day, a baby breaths its first breath, a weary soul breaths their last, these ordinary extraordinary events transpire every day.

Every day Jesus continues to transform me from the inside out. You, and me are like ordinary water pots stacked against a forgotten wall of humanity are chosen to produce the sweet wine of the extraordinary. “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” this is how the ancient Apostle describes us in 2 Corinthians 4:7, notice that the reason we contain such a great treasure in ordinary jars is to demonstrate the power of God and not of ourselves. Everything that Jesus does in us serves to glorify His name, the transformation serves to bring attention to Christ and his power to change lives. 

A trip to your local grocer will serve to illustrate this point, the grocery store has “name brand” and “off brand” items. The off brand items are often marketed under names like best value or always save or my personal favorite best choice, because after all anything else would be an inferior choice when you realize that the items in the white or yellow cans, contain the same green beans as in the cans with the oversized green guy who stole Santa’s catch phrase. Unfortunately, too often I’m a brand whore, buying the green guy’s green beans or something allegedly grown in a hidden valley to impress my friends and neighbors, like they care what kind of green beans I have in my cabinet, but it’s important that I portray something that I’m not, right? At least that is what television has taught me. What we often spend our money on is the feeling we receive buying the can of vegetables we’ve seen advertised on television, where the product is portrayed to make men successful, children obedient, and women sexy, young and beautiful. If you think that I’m exaggerating a bit, pay close attention to the commercials during your favorite television program. Advertising executives are counting on the cognitive dissonance, or that part of our depravity that tends to measure our wellbeing and success against the wellbeing and success of others, popularly referred to as “keeping up with the Jones.”  

There is something within us that seeks to turn what God desires into something of our own creation, where we endeavor to change the inside by what we do on the outside. We think the deficiency created by sin can be corrected with a make over. The problem is that we are endeavoring to make over what God says must be started over; this is why the language employed by Jesus and the Apostles are terms such as “New Birth” and “Born Again”. Christianity was radical in this respect, religion sought to transform the inside by the discipline of the outside, as far as this aspect of religion goes, the popular religion of the Jesus’ day had this covered. On one occasion the religious leaders challenged Jesus because his disciples did not wash their hands. “Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, why do your disciples break tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat. He answered them, and why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” (Matthew 15:1-3 ESV) Jesus then challenged their tradition of circumventing the commandment of God by making a donation to the religious institution of the day. In essence they had provided a loophole where a financial contribution could cover their transgression. (See Matthew 15:4-6) Jesus drives His point home by quoting the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:8-9; Isaiah 29:13). 

Throughout his ministry Jesus challenged this whole idea that the outside some how served as the means to justifying the inside, He sums up his thoughts in Matthew 15:10, “Hear and understand, it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” Jesus went on to explain that the problem with humanity is a heart problem, it is a defect in our soul, the stain of sin that can’t be washed away, “…But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.” (Matthew 15:18-20 ESV) God spoke truthfully of our heart through the prophet Jeremiah, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” 

Jesus served the best wine from the ordinary water pots but some how my depravity turns that into decorative wine bottles full of curdled milk. Jesus once again confronted the religious leaders of his day with this problem, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23:27-28 ESV) The bottom line is that there is nothing you and I can do to transform or change who we are, because we are in a disadvantaged position from the get go, everything that we do, even our attempts at self-improvement are steeped in depravity. As Dr. Michael Horton points out in his book, Putting Amazing back into Grace,  “We have distorted and disfigured God’s creation. We would have an excuse, perhaps, if we could say that there was a lack or a defect in our nature; yet the problem is not our humanness but in what we have done with our humanness. We have directed all of our gifts, our religious, moral, creative, and intellectual abilities, toward a declaration of independence from God. We have used the very assets with which he endowed us as weapons against him. Clothed in his very image, we have shaken our fists at God, and said with Adam and Eve, ‘How dare you!’” 

Only Jesus can transform the human heart, only Christ can take what is dark and depraved and make it new and full of light once again. Jesus began his ministry at a marriage party and the Bible tells us that the ministry of Christ will be concluded at a marriage party, but this time he is bridegroom.

The book of Revelation tells us that at some point in the future Jesus will be united with his bride the church, “Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”-for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” (Revelation 19:6-9 ESV) “For these men are not drunk as ye suppose…but this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit…” (Acts 2:15-18 ESV)