Unexpected Jesus #6 - Does Christianity = Deprivation?
Dr. Kurt Bjorklund points to Jesus' first sign, turning water into wine, as means of allowing joy and celebration to enter into our lives. Christ is the ultimate Bridegroom.
This is an auto-generated transcript, please excuse any errors.
Good morning, welcome to Orchard Hill, Wexford, and the Chapel, Butler County, the Strip. Let's just take moment and thank the worship team, tech teams in your venue for just providing us with the service of leading us in worship and song. I know we have seven different services in four different locations. People arrive early, practice during the week, do all kinds of things. The choir today in the Chapel sounded great, just different things that help create an atmosphere.
Well, let's pray together. Father, we ask that wherever we're coming from today, whatever our life experiences have been, that you would speak to us in these moments. Lord, we ask that my words would reflect your word in content and in tone and in emphasis. And we pray this in Jesus' name, amen.
So, I want to begin this morning with a quiz. I'm going to call it The Good Christian Quiz. My questions to you are not intended to say that this indeed true or should be true of every good Christian. My question is, have you ever heard this taught or implied? Some of these things, you may say that should be taught or implied, some of them you may should not be taught or implied. But my question is, have you ever heard it taught or implied along the way? Just kind of keep a tally in your own mind, we won't ask you to raise your hands or anything.
Good Christian, according to many, avoid bad movies or listening to music with a lot of profanity. All right? So if you've ever been taught that, implied that, just make a little mental note. Some profanity's usually okay, but a lot of profanity is usually out.
Good Christian dress modestly, usually as defined by other Christian women. All right.
Number three, good Christians don't drink excessively or use illegal substances.
Number four, good Christians don't self-pleasure or have sexual relations with anyone outside of marriage. Just got quiet in here.
All right, number five, good Christians care about and help the poor, the homeless, and are willing to get involved in the fight against any kind of systemic evil.
Good Christians, number six, are living in mission and thriving at work and contributing to culture.
Good Christians, number seven, know their Bible well and can explain it. In other words, they have been discipled and are able to make disciples.
Number eight, good Christians don't just tithe, but they give until it hurts. Even if it means self-denial.
Number nine, good Christians have clear political views that are rooted in the Bible and almost all true Christians agree with them, even if it makes them unpopular with others.
And number ten, good Christians love the difficult to love and often deny themselves to care for and befriend such people. In other words, they rarely or never say no to somebody who's hurting.
Now, my question is not so much do you see those as being true or not true, that's not my primary interest. But have you ever heard this kind of thing taught, explained. Again, whether you agree with all of them or not, or some of them. And they were intentionally designed that some, I think, have some biblical validity and some do not.
But here's the result of this, and that is for many people, what we just described, is their version of Christianity and so what they believe is that Christianity is restrictive and oppressive, that it's unpleasant, that it's difficult, and that the only way that you can get to heaven is if you put in hard time here on earth. That if you are willing to really be somebody who follows Christ, then you will live a life of self-denial and deprivation.
And what happens for many people is they grew up with either that being taught explicitly or implicitly and when they hit a certain point, they say, "You know what? I don't want this faith thing anymore. What I want, what I really want is I want to enjoy my life and so I'm going to put the shackles of faith aside so that now I can really live and really enjoy my life."
There's a story from a few years ago where the Brigham Young men's basketball team was cruising along and one of their players, one of their key players, Brandon Davies, was suspended from the team for violating the team's code of conduct. Now, Brigham Young is the Mormon College, University. Listen to the code of conduct, hear what similarities you hear.
Here's the code of conduct for the student body of BYU, "Be honest, live a chaste and virtuous life, obey the law and all campus policies," that's pretty all encompassing, all campus policies. Like, if you're not supposed to light a candle in the dorm and you light a candle, you're against the campus policy, walking on grass, all those things. "Use clean language, respect others, abstain from alcoholic beverages, tobacco, tea, coffee, and substance abuse." I love that categorization, coffee and substance abuse. "Participate regularly in church services, observe the dress code and grooming standards," I wonder which grooming standards. "And encourage others in their commitment to comply with the honor code."
What happened was, after this player was suspended, ESPN did a survey nationally and they said, how many people think that they could live by this honor code for one year? And about half the respondents said, "I could." And the other half said, "No." And again, what happens is people start to say, "Well, religion, Christianity, faith, is about this kind of improvement of my moral behavior and standing."
Today, we're going to ask a question and that is, does Christianity equal deprivation? Is it necessary to be a person of faith, to be a good Christian, if you want to use that phrase, that we deprive ourselves, deny ourselves? Do those two things have to fit together? We've been in a series that we've been walking through the first couple of chapters of John. Today we're looking at John 2:1-12. We've called this, The Unexpected Jesus, because often what our culture sees as being true about Jesus is not the Jesus that we find revealed in scripture.
And so many of us, what we'll do is, even if we have studied the Bible, we'll still adopt or hold to some of these views that come from our culture. And we'll say, in order to be the kind of person I want to be, this is what it means. And so, what we'll do here today is we're going to look at this miracle, the first miracle told about in John and we'll try to understand something about this idea of deprivation.
Now, it's significant that this miracle is noted to be a sign. Verse 11 says this, "What Jesus did here at Cana of Galilee is the first of the signs." And just a note about the structure of the book of John, John 1 is truly an introduction. And then when you move into chapter 2, you begin here, the first sign. And so John has purposely brought this material together to paint a picture of Jesus. And what you're going to see, what we'll see in the weeks ahead, and even months ahead in some cases, is that there are seven signs throughout the book of John. There are seven "I am" statements where John is laying out a case about who this Jesus really is.
And it's often unexpected to us. Today, we're going to try to understand him a little more through this text. I heard a message years ago by a man named Tim Keller on this passage that was so influential that even though this is some of my own thoughts, some of these thoughts I'm indebted to him for and I'm not even sure exactly where my thoughts and his thoughts overrun.
But here's the first thing I want to do, and that is that we're going to ask and answer two questions. First, what do we learn from Jesus and the wine? Now, running out of wine was a faux pas in that culture. And we see this in verses 8 and 9, that there was this whole idea of the toast master or the master of the banquet saying, "What do we do when we don't have this wine?" It says this, "And he said, 'Now draw some out,'" this was after they had had that interchange, "'and take it to the master of the banquet.'" Verse 8, "And they did so. And the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine and he did not realize where it had come from. Though the servants who had drawn out the water knew and they called the bridegroom aside. And he said, 'Everyone brings out the choice wine first, the cheaper wine after the guests had had too much to drink. But you saved the best until now.'"
And so, what happened here was that as Jesus turns the water into wine and there's some people who have tried to explain this miracle away, I have no problem believing the miraculous nature of what Jesus did. What happened was that the master of the banquet, who would have been kind of equivalent to a DJ at a party today, at a wedding today. He was hired to make the party fun, is what the master of the banquet did. And when he had run out of wine, he said, "Okay, now what do we do?" This would have been an incredible social blunder to the people of that day. Can you believe that there was ever a culture so shallow that if there wasn't enough wine at the wedding that people would be upset? I mean, back then they were shallow, evidently.
And so what happens is, Jesus' mother comes to him and says basically, "Do something about this." And we'll come back to, in just a moment, his comment to her, "Woman, my hour is not yet come." Woman, what does this have to do with me, basically is what he says. But then he goes and he takes these jugs and he turns them into wine. And by the way, this was not grape juice, this was wine that Jesus turned this into. And there probably would have been 20 or 30 gallons in each of these different jugs, these ceremonial kind of basins of water. And so this would have been 120, 180 gallons worth of wine. So about 150 gallons of wine. This is a lot of bottles of wine, if you're tabulating.
Now here's the question that we need to ask, why would Jesus choose this for his first miracle? I mean, of all the things he could have done to say, "Here I am, I'm the Son of God," why would he choose a social embarrassment to an unprepared teenage couple as his way to say, "Let me reveal something about who I am." Now certainly, we could say that it teaches us that there's nothing too small to bring to God. And that would be a legitimate thing to say, and I think it's true. But I don't think that's the whole reason that we see this as the first miracle that Jesus does.
I think what we do instead is we see that Jesus is saying something about the way that he interacts with creation and what he's doing is he's saying that I am going to show you that I am the true master of the banquet. That I'm the one who as you come to understand me, will see that I'm not just a task master who calls you to self-denial in the hopes that one day you can come to joy. But there is a joy that comes along the way.
Now one of the images that's used throughout the Bible for Jesus' relationship to his people is the image of a wedding feast. We see this in Revelation 21:9, where at the end of time there's this feast and this wedding party where the bride, the church, is given to Jesus Christ. We see it in Luke 14:15-24, which gives us a picture of this whole idea of Jesus saying in essence that the kingdom of God will be like this banquet. And then we see the idea of wine being used again and the idea of a feast in Isaiah 26:6 and following, "Feet trample it down, the feet of the oppressed, the footsteps of the poor, the path of the righteous is level ..." I'm sorry, is it 25:6? Yes. 25:6, not 26:6, "On this mountain, the Lord almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all people, a banquet of aged wine, the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all people and the sheet that covers the nations."
Do you hear it? God will one day prepare a feast, but Jesus, by coming and saying, "I am going to show my first miracle to be turning water into wine," is saying, "This isn't just a future image, but I want you to enjoy some of the good things that are happening here and now." And I think what Jesus was doing is he's countering this notion of a rule-based religion that says the only way to somehow make it with God is to stay clean, to buck up, to deny self. Now, don't misunderstand me, I'm not saying that aren't standards. I'm not saying that there isn't a time for self-denial, but what I'm saying is if that's your whole vision of what Christian faith is, you've missed this image of Jesus as the master, the ultimate master of the banquet. The one who provides the best wine.
Because even this little line that the master of the ceremony, the master of the banquet gives, where he says, here's the truth, he says, "Most people bring out the good wine first. You saved the good wine till last." It's Jesus' way of saying, "I'm going to bring you deeper, more richer fulfillment than you can even understand or see." And what this points to for us is that our faith calls for joy and celebration. That it's not just an affirmation of facts and things to believe, but what the Psalmist says in Psalm 34:8, that we're to taste and see that the Lord is good. That God has called us to something of an experience of joy and goodness along the way.
What happens for most us is when we have a pleasure, we want more of it. And so it takes restraint when you have a wonderful dessert, not to have a second helping. And we'll usually cut the second helping in half so that we don't feel guilty about it. Or if you go to a concert and it's spectacular, what do you do when you get in the car? Sometimes you'll find and dial up on your digital means of listening to music the artist that you were just listening to because you didn't get enough as you were at the concert. Or if you were at a game and you see a spectacular shot, you can't wait to get home and to see it on Sports Center or on YouTube or wherever you find it to say, "I want to relive that."
And what happens is we're always wanting more of something. And this doesn't suggest that it doesn't ultimately satisfy, but what it suggests is that it points to the deeper satisfaction. And here is again why Jesus is somewhat unexpected, because sometimes what we do with that is we say, "Well, then what we just need to do is we need to get through this life to get to the deeper satisfaction in the future." But I believe what this miracle is teaching about Jesus is that he doesn't want us just to delay gratification for the future, but he's giving it to you here and now in some tangible ways and even though it will be fleeting, it points to the deeper, greater satisfaction that lies ahead for those who come to believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
And here's what too often happens when it comes to faith, and that is we see faith like teaching a child delayed gratification. And this is one of the important things you can do as a parent, especially if you have young children, is teach them to delay gratification so that they learn that sometimes some of the best things in life don't come immediately, but you have to work for them, wait for them. But what happens sometimes is when we come to faith is we say, all of faith is nothing but delayed gratification. It's grin and bear it, but Jesus' interaction with the wine says, "I want you to enjoy the ceremony, the festivity, the life that you have here and now, as well as in the future."
And this is a message that's often lost, usually unintentionally, as people proclaim standards and call people out to higher levels of morality and goodness and rightness before God. Now again, don't misunderstand, I'm not suggesting that there's no room to call one another out to something. But what I'm simply saying is don't miss the Lord of the feast, the ultimate Lord of the feast, who will be Jesus, and that he chose a couple of disorganized teenagers' party as a way to reveal his first miracle and something about who he is.
But there's something else that we see here and this is the second question, and that is what do we learn from Jesus and the wedding? So in verse 4, we're told this, it says, verse 3, "They have no more wine," and this is Jesus' mother coming to him, and he says, "Woman, why do you involve me? My hour has not come." The older NIV used to say dear woman and it was an attempt to soften kind of the harshness of how this appears. In fact, in the expanded Bible translation, which is kind of an Amplified Bible for today, which does a really good job of putting some comments and alternate readings in the text, it says this in its comments, it says, "This was a respectful term of address in that culture." And here's what I would say, I think there's a movement sometimes to try to soften this moment where Jesus says, "Woman, what have to do with you?" Or, "What does this have to do with me?"
And I say soften, I don't think Jesus was disrespectful, but he was certainly being a little terse in his comment back to his mother right here. And he says, "My time, my hour has not come." So the question here is, what is going on that Jesus has this reaction? And here is a suggestion, and that is when you're single and you're at a wedding, what do you think about? Well what you tend to think about is your potential future wedding, is there anybody in your network that might be marriage material, or are you dating somebody? Are they somebody you could get to. In other words, when you go to a wedding, you look and you think about those things. And I think what Jesus was doing in this moment, at least in part, was he was saying, "My hour has not yet come." And an hour in the book of John, Gospel of John, is a technical term that's used repeatedly. It's used in John 7:30, in John 8:20, in John 12:23, and John 13:1. And it speaks to his hour of death.
And so when he says, "My hour has not come," what Jesus is doing in this moment is he's looking ahead to his own death, his own wedding. We've already that the future is a wedding between Jesus and his bride and he's saying, "My hour has not come." Now he takes this ceremonial washing and he imbues it with the wine and what this is showing is that Jesus is thinking about what it's going to cost him to have this great wedding with the church. And it's showing us that Jesus isn't just the true master of the ceremony, but Jesus is the true bridegroom. That he is the ultimate bridegroom and he's thinking about that future and what it will cost him.
I perform weddings from time to time, and unfortunately in a church this large, I can't be at everybody's wedding. I think this year we have 41 weddings that are happening around Orchard Hill. So we have different pastors that officiate and are part of it. But one time I was with a group of the groomsmen in the back room beforehand. And if you've ever wondered what happens in there, I'm not going to tell you, but sometimes it's helpful when I get, like the videographer will pin me up so that they can hear the video of everything. I'm like, "Guys, this is all going on the video. It's time to back it down."
But there was one time, and sometimes it's sweet and there's prayers and well wishes and advice, and sometimes there's revelry, it just depends on the group of guys. Well, this one time, one of the guys, you could kind of tell, he had been waiting to tell this joke for a long time. And he said, "Do you know why you're dressed in black and she's dressed in white today?" And the groom was like, "I don't know." And he said, "I'll tell you why, it's her wedding and it's your funeral." And if I had been quicker on my feet, I would have, when I went out for that wedding, retold the joke and done something. I wasn't that quick, so I'm doing it now.
What he said is funny in a sense, because we go, "Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, I get it." But do you know that that's actually an incredible picture of marriage because what does Ephesians 5 say about marriage? It says that the husband is called to lay his life down as Christ gave his life for the church and that the bride is to submit to her husband as the bride does to Christ. And the picture is saying that the man is called to die to self, to give his life away for this woman. And Jesus here is, in a sense, looking ahead and saying, "I'm going to give my life away by going to the cross. My hour, it's coming. And I want to think about that," almost, as he's walking through this, I want us to think about that because what he's doing is he is pointing ahead to the fact that he's the true bridegroom.
And this is a theme, by the way, that John will pick up again a little later in John 3, this idea of the wedding and what that will mean and how that will live in the days ahead. If you've been to a wedding, there's a beautiful moment when the bride appears at the back. And everybody stands up and turns and looks at the bride. One of the moments that I sometimes get as a minister, is standing next to the groom and you see a groom repeatedly just overcome with emotion as that woman comes down the aisle and the two of them usually, rarely is it not true, where they feel such complete acceptance in that moment. And I've heard it said, this is not my words, this is somebody else's, I want to be clear on that, that no matter what a bride actually looks like, she's always beautiful on her wedding day. Because when she comes down that aisle, there's a moment of saying, "This is a moment of full acceptance."
And what Jesus is doing here, I believe with this miracle, is he's looking ahead and saying, if you want to know what faith is, it isn't merely try harder, do better, deny self. Oh, there will be some moments of that, but is complete acceptance. It is a moment of joy. Now I've heard a few people over the years of hearing teaching in church, teach on this passage and what they'll do is they'll take this little phrase where Mary says to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you to do." And what they'll say is that this is symbolic of the whole Christian life that says, do whatever he tells you and then good things will come into your life. And then they'll teach something along the lines of saying, as long as you do everything right, then God will bless you. And I just want to say that there's a principle that might be true there, but it's not always true. And so be careful with that.
Because Hebrews 11 shows us that there are some people who did everything right and yet they didn't get the good stuff in this life. Certainly John 16:33 says, "In this life you will have trouble." In other words, Jesus' message was not, "Do whatever I tell you to do and then you can count on good things." In fact, that's what leads us many times to all the self-denial and the extra rules on top of maybe the genuine biblical principles to say, "If I do these things right, then God will say, 'You've done well and I'll give you all the good stuff.'"
See, this story, this miracle is not about what you and I do, it's about who Jesus is and it's that he's unexpected, he's the true master of the banquet, he's the true bridegroom.
Now I would guess that as we've talked about this here today, that some of us as we hear this, are struggling a little bit. 'Cause I've talked about the beauty of what marriage can be. And some of us are struggling because we're single and we long to be married, and for whatever reason it hasn't happened. Now I know there are many singles who say, "You know what, I'm good being single. Single's a gift, I don't need to be married to be complete." And that's good and right. But at the same time, there are many who would say, "I wish I were married."
And then there are many who are probably part of this gathering today who are saying, "You know what, I'm in a bad marriage. My marriage is painful and hard." Maybe it's not even obvious to people around you, you've held it together for the sake of the kids, for the sake of extended family, and you're just in a place where you're saying all this talk about marriage, it makes me sad.
But don't you see that what this is saying is that your ultimate joy, your ultimate fulfillment is much greater than a human marriage can ever give you? That at best, a human marriage is a taste, it's a picture of the good things? But that your really best things are rooted in what Jesus Christ comes to give and what he provides through his death and what we need to experience this is two different things that we see here.
First, we have to admit that we don't have enough, that we're empty. In other words, if they hadn't said, "We don't have enough wine," it's doubtful that we would've seen Jesus do this miracle in this moment. And one of the reasons that some of us don't experience joy, some of don't experience the freedom of this acceptance that we're talking about is because what we do is we think that our moral effort will amount to enough that God will be pleased with us and he'll give us good things. We may give lip service to the idea that Jesus died on the cross, that we have salvation because of what Jesus did, not because of what we did. But down deep, what we really believe is that functionally, when we perform, God brings good things into our lives. So we're always on a performance treadmill rather than simply saying, "I'm empty, I blew it. We didn't have enough wine."
And it's in this admittance of the emptiness that we find grace. But when we deny our need, we often miss the provision and the beauty that God wants to bring into your life. And then we have to receive what's given. And what I mean when I say this is what some of us will do is we'll try to pay it back, instead of taking the gift of grace, the gift of the wine, the gift of the blood of Jesus, and saying, "Yes, I'll take that." What we do instead is we live with the mindset that says, because he did for me, now I have to do. And we get right back on the performance track.
You see, it's his grace, the beauty of God's grace, which is always counter-intuitive to us, it's always against our natural way of thinking, that brings joy into our lives and brings the motivation to say, "Now, I want to do, I want to sacrifice," without compulsion.
One of the great words in the Bible is the word but, especially when it appears with God, "But God." Romans 6:23 says, "The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life." Ephesians 2 tells us that we're dead in sin, but God has made us alive. Romans 3:20 says, "It's through the works of the law that no one's justified, but now the righteousness of God is being revealed." In other words, God's law, God's grace, together when we understand them, are what actually produce this joy and this sense of acceptance.
And again, it's so unexpected in our world because most people say Jesus is the giver of a life code, of the implied commandments. And what's startling to me about this, if you really think about it, is that the very phrase "good Christian" is actually an oxymoron. Because what we need to actually live the life that God calls us to live is to admit we're empty and to receive what he gives us.
Here's what one author said about this, "God promises righteousness and freedom to sinners. That promise contradicts ordinary human expectation. Sinners ought to receive punishment rather than pardon, and correction rather than freedom. Incarceration rather than freedom, but by the double work of his law and Gospel, God teaches sinners to close their eyes to ordinary human expectations and to the conclusions of common sense and to open their ears to the promise which offers life and freedom."
Jesus has brought, through his first miracle, a picture of grace and beauty and redemption for each person to say the call of God to our live is not to a kind of deprivation, but to a fullness. Which will bring joy to us and to the world in which we live.
Father, we pray today that you would help each one of us to understand this story, this account, and to live in the reality of grace. And through that, to enjoy you and your creation and to bring that joy to this world. And pray this in Jesus' name, amen.