Terry Virgo brings meaning from a familiar story about a wedding:
In first-century Israel, wedding parties would last seven days. They knew how to have a party. So the village would gather for this great celebration, a great highlight in the calendar.
It is an obvious thing to say, but notice this: Jesus was invited to the party, and was happy to be there. I wonder if that fits with your concept of Jesus. Sometimes as we think of Jesus, we construct a kind of very “religious” Jesus who would never be seen at a party. Many of us dismiss him altogether, because he seems to have nothing much to do with our reality. Others of us go to church for a bit of Jesus, and then we go off and get on with real life. But Jesus came to be in, and to enjoy, real life. He was happy to be at the party.
I’ve never been to a Jewish party but I’ve seen films of Jewish parties, and I’ve seen how the guys very often lock their arms around one another and dance away—and I can’t imagine Jesus was in the corner looking down on the other guests. I’m pretty sure he would have been linking arms and joining them. It’s really striking that in the four Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life he seems to have spent more time at parties and feasts than in religious buildings. He once said to those around him, I’ve come that you might have life, and have life abundantly (John 10 v 10). He didn’t say, I’ve come so that you might have meetings and have them abundantly. He didn’t say, I’ve come to shrivel up your life but, I’ve come to fill up your life.
Jesus came to be in, and to enjoy, real life. He was happy to be at the party.
Where does the idea that Jesus should be a dull, religious figure, doing religious things in religious buildings, come from? Well, not long before Jesus attended this wedding, he’d spent time in the wilderness and was tempted by the devil, Satan—and Satan had a different idea about what he should be like (you can read about it in Luke 3 v 9-13).
Why don’t you do a sign, Satan said to him, so that everyone believes in you?
Throw yourself down from the temple. Let the angels save you. Let that be a sign.
That’s very religious. But Jesus said No. He wouldn’t do that kind of sign in that kind of place. That wasn’t his agenda. Instead, he showed up at a party and did the first of his signs there. Indeed, the first time John tells us of him visiting the temple—the very next episode after this wedding party in Cana—we find Jesus driving out the people who were using their religion to get rich (John 2 v 13-22). Far from fitting in with the religious ways of his nation, Jesus started a one-man riot in the most religious place in that nation!
Isn’t that great? Jesus came into real life, and he wants to come into our real lives to be involved in the whole of our lives. He was happy to be at somebody else’s party, and to do his first sign there, to serve them. It’s amazing that Jesus did that.
The surprising truth
Many people have a negative view of the Christian faith. They think that following Jesus will cramp their style, ruin their fun and generally make life worse, not better. Perhaps you know someone who thinks like that. Perhaps you sometimes think like that yourself. Well if that’s true, I would love you to take another look. Because Jesus wasn’t a dull, boring, religious figure.
I want to show you the perhaps surprising truth that life tastes better – and we can enjoy life more – when we let Jesus deal with our deepest needs. When you invite Jesus to your party, he doesn’t just rescue it, he transforms it, and makes it the best party ever.
This is an adapted excerpt from Terry Virgo’s evangelistic resource Life Tastes Better. Bulk orders can be purchased at 67p each.