The firewood is stacked on the side of our house. You don’t feel how cold it is outside until you turn the corner, the wind isn’t blocked there and blows sharply across the bricks. The chill cuts deep. Deeper than usual for the south in December. I make a fire to warm up the porch before my girls get here. My Bible is open on the table and the printed words are nearly audible with a proposal singing from the pages of John’s Gospel. I want our ears to be tuned to his message of radical, wild love this Christmas season, and every season, so today we are going to look at a wedding. From where I sit I can see our tree topper, twisted thorns held together by mockery. They’re painted a regal gold because it’s Christmas, but that day in the spring nearly 2,000 revolutions around the sun ago, they were stained red. It’s heavy to think of it, but I can’t not think of it.
Once you know and receive His story, you can never not think of it anymore.
I can’t look at the manger and not think of the cross. The same company of heavenly hosts who awed and overwhelmed the shepherds on a dark, silent night, would 33 years later grieve deeper than our minds can fathom. The manger is there and He is swaddled tightly, but He’s only there because The Bridegroom chose to spread wide His arms on the cross. Bethlehem and Jerusalem, eternally grafted together.
So if even we cannot think of the manger without remembering the cross, how much more the One who came to suffer? If you are the Bridegroom who came for your bride, would your thoughts ever wander from your mission? What if you are the One who came to die, knowing all along your purpose? What if the end goal of what lie before you was so big that all of humanities’ fate hinged on the outcome of your willing purpose? What if you are the Bridegroom who came to die for His bride, to redeem her and make her fit for the Wedding Supper of the Lamb, could you ever attend a wedding and not think of your own? Could you ever not think of the hour and the cost required for you to bring your bride to the feast?
I can’t fathom that Jesus could separate the two.
These girls I mentor come into my house, carrying with them their dinner and also all the worries of this world. They’re so young and this world is hard, even for ones like these who are so loved and cared for. They talk and eat in front of the fire, I keep my eyes on the crown of thorns on top of the tree, reminding myself He already overcame all of their struggles. I open my Bible and they do the same. There was a wedding in Cana and Jesus was there, and I want them to know it.
Jesus, the Bridegroom, was at a wedding.
Pure glory revealed.
How beautiful that picture, and if we are not careful, we will read through those words and miss it. I can hear Paul’s commissioning words in Romans, “And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” This world is longing for love and I don’t want my girls to miss this, because everything they are longing for is right here. Sure they know Jesus, but do they know the full extent of His love for them? Do I? Can we receive the beauty that Jesus, the Bridegroom, the One who would soon lift a cup of wine in the upper room and say, “This is my blood”, was standing at a wedding looking at His children and seeing that there was no wine?
And who did they come to for help?
Who was the only One able?
We don’t know with certainty what Jesus was thinking at that moment, but His response offers so much to me and these young girls sitting around me and to this whole world, to all of us who need to know how loved we are. Jesus looks at the empty wine vessels and responds, “My hour has not yet come.” A beautiful choice of words for the Bridegroom who knew He would soon say, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” (emphasis mine)
“There is no way Jesus can think of what it will take to give his bride the cup of joy and gladness without thinking about the cup that He was going to have to drink. If He is going to feast with us and have us in His arms, if we are going to drink from the rivers of His grace, if we are going to come into the festival joy of the marriage supper, He is going to have to go through the hour and drink the cup of justice. They will only have my joy through my sorrow.” Tim Keller
The marriage and mystery of joy and sorrow, we see it started in the manger and finished at the cross. The same joy that Mary treasured up and pondered in her heart, will one day pierce it. We can’t separate the two.
The master of ceremonies that day in Cana tasted the divine wine and called aside the bridegroom saying, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” Jesus must have smiled knowing His future, because God was saving the best till the end too. We all eat, drink, and are merry every Christmas. And we should be. He came and that is sweet wine for the soul. But the choice wine won’t be brought out until Easter. Yes He came at Christmas, and a weary world rejoices at His birth; but He came to die at Easter. He saves the choice wine for the end.