If you were throwing a party (like a real party that you want to be hype) would you invite Jesus?
That’s the question I had to ask myself earlier this week when confronted with a talk on the person of Christ. For a large part of my life I think the honest answer to that question would have been no.
This morning I was hanging out with some 7th grade guys that I’m discipling before they had to go to school, and I asked this question because it’s been so prevalent in my mind. Their answers didn’t surprise me, in fact they are the same answers I would have given a year or two ago: “Probably not, I would want people to be having fun and he’d probably start calling people out on their sin.” “No, he’s too good and perfect to want to be around that kind of stuff.”
If we are being honest this is how a lot of us look at Jesus, but the problem with these answers is that they aren’t based on a true picture of Jesus. Jesus is not some looming figure standing over us, waiting for us to sin so he can tell us we’re bad. Jesus is not some boring man who is only concerned with teaching. Jesus is not a holier-than-thou religious snob who sticks his nose up when other people are having fun. Why is it that so many people are caught up on this false picture of him? The reason that I’ve come to see in the past few days is this: We’ve been looking at the wrong Jesus.
The story that spurred this whole line of thinking is in John 2, when Jesus, his disciples, and mother go to a wedding. You’ve probably heard this story a thousand times, they go to this wedding, and Jesus turns water into wine. It is always preached as a display of his divine power, and this is stated outright in scripture as the very first sign that Jesus does in his ministry. This is true, Jesus does show his power through this act, but if we only look at that and miss out on everything else this story has to offer, we are missing an awesome glance at what Jesus was really like.
Throughout his public ministry, Christ was always surrounded by people who were drawn to him and his radical, authoritative teaching, but in one of the first scenes of that ministry, he is at a party! People in the church miss that so easily because they have a hard time believing that anyone would want Jesus at a party. We’ve created this image in our minds of Jesus as the one who kills the party, who sucks the fun out of everything to make us “be good.” He gets invited to this Wedding at a place called Cana, and the family invites Jesus. We often read this and think “oh, Jesus was only invited because his mom was there, and they probably were just family friends or something.” That’s not what I’m seeing here, I see Jesus, his mom, and a plus 12 invite. Whenever I am invited to a wedding I’m lucky if I’m offered a plus one (not that I ever use it), but Jesus brings 13 people along with him. That tells me that these people must have really liked him; because they didn’t just want him there, but all the dudes who were hanging around him too. I don’t think that crowds were always around Jesus because he was a good communicator. I think people were drawn to Jesus because they could see that he was full of life, and joy, and they wanted to be a part of that.
While he is at that wedding, the wine runs out. If it were a traditional Christian writing this story, they’d probably be perfectly fine with the wine running out. They’d say, “Good, they don’t need to be drinking anyways. That’s not how Christians behave.” That’s not what happens in this story though! Jesus, who we look at as a kill-joy who wants us to leave the party, is actually the one who saves it after the party has run dry. He tells the servants to fill several large pots with water. These pots are for religious cleansing. People would use them to clean themselves before performing their ritual duties to keep themselves holy, and that is what Jesus chooses to use to make wine. Is this the Jesus we normally think about? Is your Jesus the one who is telling you to clean yourself and put on your best religion face, or is he the one making wine in the jars used for religion?
Too many times we think that Jesus is too good for this kind of stuff. What we forget is that Jesus hung around sinners (Luke 15:2) and calls out the people who try act like they are perfect but aren’t following him (Luke 20:45-47). We ignore that Jesus was joyful and able to have fun. Our call as believers is to put our faith in Jesus and the work he did on the cross to take away our sins. He meets us where we are in our sin and shame and tells us that he has overcome it all. Our righteousness does not come from works, but comes from the work of Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:21). Yes we should avoid sin, but that is in response to Jesus and through his spirit working in us, so lets drop the perfect person charade.
The Jesus in scripture saves this wedding party, and serves the guests the best wine they’d had all night (John 2:1-11). Later on in his ministry, Jesus says he “came that they [his followers] may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). I love this verse, in fact I have the words “abundant life” inscribed inside my college class ring as a reminder that what Jesus offers is so much better than anything the world can give me. Jesus wants us to live, and not just live, but have abundant life. Psalm 16:11 says, “in your [God’s] presence there is fullness of joy.”
As a people we must stop believing the lie that Jesus is boring. When scripture calls us to follow Jesus, it is telling us to take hold of the abundant life that he is offering us. If we miss out on who Jesus was as a person, we let God become impersonal and lose sight of His attributes.