November 17, 2018
Jason and Rebekah, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus says to His mother, “Woman, what does this have to do with me?” Jason, don’t try this at home.
It’s not so offensive as it sounds. The language calls to mind the first woman, the mother of all humanity. “Woman” evokes creation.
God’s created order is predicated on self-giving. The world itself is gift to mankind. Man and woman are then made to be dependent on one another. The woman’s life derived from the man’s body. God made her from man’s side, so she is bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh. And she in turn would give her body to him. These two, becoming one flesh, giving themselves to each other, find then a third—a child—who receives life from their union.
The structure of the world is centered around this self-giving. The story of the world begins and ends with a marriage. And at the center of world history stands Jesus, who in today’s Gospel is attending a failing marriage.
The wine has failed. The mother of Jesus calls on Him to restore what is failing. That is what provokes Jesus to say, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”
The hour of Jesus is the fullest time of His self-giving. The hour of Jesus is when He is revealed as the Bridegroom of the Church. As the side of the first man was opened to fashion His wife, so the side of Jesus will be opened on the cross; the centurion thrusts his spear, water and blood flow forth in a torrent. This death is the hour of His self-giving.
Jason, this is what you are to try at home. This is your life, a new life of self-giving. Your side is never closed, but always open to your Rebekah.
Now among God’s ancient people the Hebrews, the groom would give a betrothal gift to the bride’s father. (This seems a good and salutary custom, don’t you think, Mr. Reistad? Jason, I recommend an all-expenses paid trip to Minneapolis for your father-in-law to see the Vikings. Keep in mind that such a trip requires pastoral supervision.)
In the Old Testament, this betrothal gift, or bride-price, is depicted as something God Himself will pay. He purchases His people, the Church, to be His holy bride. The Lord says, “I will betroth you to myself in righteousness and in justice and in mercy and in compassion” (Hos. 2:19f); “You were bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:20), God’s Word tells us – not with gold or silver, but with the holy, precious blood of Jesus as of a lamb without spot (1 Pt. 1:18f). In other words, this Bridegroom purchases His bride at the cost of His death.
Your marriage, Jason and Rebekah, is founded in death—the death of Jesus, but also the death to your personal ambitions, personal fulfillment, personal comfort.
Are you familiar with The Young Lutheran’s Guide to the Orchestra? It goes through all the instruments in the orchestra evaluating which are appropriate for a humble Christian to play. I was thinking we could do a Young Lutheran’s Guide to the Football Team. What position would a pious Lutheran groom play? Wide receiver? Too flashy. Quarterback? Too proud. No, I’m pretty sure it would be long snapper. Nobody knows who the long snapper is until he messes up. Yet without him the extra point or the punt isn’t going to happen, and as soon as he snaps the ball he has to be ready to block for and protect the person who’s going to get all the credit. A Lutheran husband is a long snapper; he executes his job while under fire, and he gives the glory to another.
Rebekah is your glory, Jason. Have you ever seen anything so beautiful as when she turned the corner and began the journey down the aisle? The bride has made herself ready. That is the inauguration of heaven in the reading we heard from Revelation. “The marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.”
In our weddings this involves significant effort and expense by the bride and her friends and family. In the eschatological wedding that ushers in the new heavens and new earth, the readiness of the bride—her adornments and beauty—are themselves gifts from God: “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.” Even though the wedding dress is made of righteous deeds—i.e., good works the saints have done—still they are a gift: “It was granted her.” This is the mystery of being a disciple of Jesus. Everything the Christian does and is originates from within the love of God, the self-giving of Jesus our bridegroom.
So Jason and Rebekah, how will that shape your life together? Receiving both life and marriage as God’s gifts, there is no place for the assertion of rights. There are no demands for the fulfillment of obligations. When you feel pulled in that direction; when you are indignant or disappointed, listen to the mother of Jesus, who guides us this way: “Do whatever he tells you.” When the wine is running out, when joy is distant and doubt fills your heart, remember who has joined you together. The Lord has betrothed you in mercy and compassion; that’s how you live together: under the protective cover of His mercy. He will never leave you nor forsake you. +INJ+