If you would turn in your Bibles to John chapter 2, it’s found on page 887 if you’re using the Bibles located in the pew. John chapter 2. I heard a definition this week of “stress.” The definition of “stress” that I heard was that “it is the gap between our expectation and our reality.” Stress is the gap between expectation and reality. We all know the stress that comes with unmet expectations, that come with disappointments and letdowns and satisfactions that do not last long or they do not live up to what we hoped they would be. We may, in fact, be living in the shadows, or even worse. What we need to see tonight from John chapter 2 is that Jesus exceeds all of our expectations and Jesus gives to us fellowship and joy and blessing, but He also gives to us a way to worship and He gives to us true devotion and true worship of God. In other words, Jesus gives to us true life – the life that we all need; the life that we desire. And it is in Jesus that we find that life.
So with that in mind, let’s go to the Lord in prayer and then we’ll read John chapter 2.
Our heavenly Father, we’re told in the gospel of John that these things were written that we may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing we may have life in His name. So Father, as we come to this first sign that Jesus worked at the wedding in Cana of Galilee, we ask that You would help us to see Jesus, that You would grow us in our faith in Him, or turn us for the first time to trust in Him and to give our lives to Him and to rest completely in Him for life, for eternal life, for abundant life. We can’t do that on our own; we’ll miss Jesus, even as clearly as He’s presented to us, unless the Holy Spirit works. So we pray that the Holy Spirit would work in us, would illumine our hearts and our minds and our eyes to see Christ and that You would warm our hearts and send us out from here to worship and to follow Christ more fervently. We pray all of these things in Christ’s name. Amen.
John chapter 2:
“On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’
Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, ‘Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.’ So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.’ This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days.
The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, ‘Take these things away; do not make my Father's house a house of trade.’ His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’
So the Jews said to him, ‘What sign do you show us for doing these things?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.”
The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of our God endures forever.
Jesus is the Master of the Feast
I want us to really break this passage up in its natural break. It breaks up into two scenes. We'll study this passage along two points and see first that Jesus is the Master of the feast and that secondly, Jesus is the focus of worship. The first thing we see is that Jesus is the true Master of the feast. There's something disarming, isn't there, about the way that Jesus, His first act in public ministry, His first miracle, His first sign takes place at a party. It takes place at a wedding party. And this first sign, this first miracle, is one in which He turns water into wine. Now doesn't that seem too worldly or down to earth or commonplace for something for Jesus to do that? It shocks us a little bit. Maybe it's even scandalous that Jesus would attend a wedding party and that He would turn water into wine. But we have to remember, don’t we, that weddings play an important part in the story of the Bible. After all, the Bible starts with a wedding. Doesn’t it? As woman is made and brought to man, and Adam breaks out into the first poetry in the Bible. He says, “This is flesh of my flesh and bone of my bones.” And we’re told that “A man shall leave his father and his mother and be united to his wife and they shall become one flesh.” A wedding is right there at the very beginning of the Bible. It’s the most important and the first human relationship is that of a marriage. It’s the most basic building block of our society which gives structure to all of life around us. It’s through marriage.
Picture of God’s Covenant Love
But it’s more than that because it’s a picture to us. It’s a picture of God’s covenant love; of the intimacy of the relationship in which He draws us into by His covenant and through His promises and by His Son, Jesus Christ. And of His faithfulness to keep those promises, they’re displayed to us by marriage. So there’s a true sense in which Jesus, as He goes to this wedding in Cana of Galilee, that He is honoring and affirming the institution of marriage. And in a time when there is much confusion and breakdown in the marriage relationship and the marriage bond, isn’t it an encouragement that Jesus is not too important, He’s not so dedicated to bigger purposes that He will not take the time to attend a wedding celebration and to honor the institution of marriage? Isn’t that an encouragement for us that we would be clear and faithful in affirming and promoting the marriage bond, the marriage between a man and a woman? And that goes whether we are married or whether we are single or whether we are widowed or a widower – that we would give dignity and honor to the marriage institution just as Jesus did. Because the Bible starts with a wedding and Jesus is in attendance at a wedding.
But there’s a bigger picture there as well because we see that weddings are taking place throughout the Bible and that weddings are used as a time of feasting, a time of celebration, a time of rejoicing. In fact, Isaiah 25:6 says that “The Lord will make a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of food full of marrow and of wine well-refined.” That’s what Isaiah is pointing to – the promises and to the hopes of the new heavens and the new earth, of God’s kingdom as one of a feast, of a banquet. In fact, I had nothing to do with this, but it lines up very closely with our hymn that we sang just a little while ago. If you look at your hymn sheet, that song, “We Will Feast” – “We will feast in the house of Zion, we will sing with our hearts restored. He has done great things, we will say together. We will feast and weep no more.” That’s the feast; that’s the banquet that God is holding out for us in His Word in which the Bible takes to point forward to the one to come, to the Messiah, to the Savior who will bring about these realities. Jeremiah talks about it.
And even Jesus, when He's preaching and when He's teaching, He uses the wedding feast as a parable and He says that there was a king who arranged a wedding feast for his son. He killed the ox and the calf and he says to all those out, "Come to the wedding feast. Come to celebrate. Come to rejoice. Come to enjoy fellowship with us and with one another." And then we get to the end of the Bible in the book of Revelation and what do we find? It's that people from every language, nation, tribe, and tongue are come together to gather around the Lord Jesus Christ and to worship and to celebrate at the wedding feast of the Lamb. The image of the wedding feast is a picture of the blessing and the abundance of God. It's a picture of fellowship and joy and celebration with one another.
The Blessing of God
That’s because weddings are a time of celebration and a time of fellowship. In almost any culture and across all of history, weddings have been a time of fellowship and joy. And that was certainly the case in Jesus’ day as well. In fact, we’re told that weddings in Jesus’ day would last as long as a week and sometimes more than a week. And they were times to gather together from family and friends and neighbors coming together and taking part in wedding processions as they would go from house to house and there would be eating and drinking and enjoying the host’s generous hospitality. Weddings were a big deal. And it was a major embarrassment for someone to run out of food and wine for their guests. In fact, one of the traditions – it was recorded after the time of Jesus but it was coming from some of the oral traditions – it records to us that there was a part of the wedding feast that was called “the bridegroom’s blessing.” There were seven blessings that would be repeated each day of the wedding feast and the very first blessing that would be pronounced of those bridegroom blessings said this. It said, “Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who has created the fruit of the vine.” Now we don’t know if that was still in effect at the time Jesus was in Cana of Galilee and at this wedding, but wine was surely a big deal. And could you imagine standing up to say this blessing, say it’s the fourth day of the wedding feast and you say this blessing where you’re blessing the name of God who has created the fruit of the vine and,” Whoops, there’s no wine. We’ve run out of the fruit of the vine.”
It’s even bigger than that. D. A. Carson, in his commentary, says that there are indications that because the groom was responsible for providing the food and the wine, that the groom’s family actually stood at risk of a lawsuit from the bride’s family if they caused some sort of embarrassment and shame like this – running out of wine. It was a big deal. It was a major cause of shame and of humiliation. And that’s the problem that we find at this wedding in chapter 2 of John. And we hear that Mary comes to Jesus and she says to Him in verse 3, “They have no wine.” Now that’s the first time that Mary, Jesus’ mother, is mentioned in the gospel of John. And as we hear what she says to Jesus, immediately into our mind we’re filled with all these questions about, “What is going on here? What’s Mary’s role at this wedding? Why is this a concern to her and how does she have access to the servants and to be able to tell the servants what to do? Was she a close friend of the groom’s family or did Mary have some sort of a role as a wedding planner or an event coordinator?” And then the question comes into our mind, “Why does Jesus call her ‘woman’ when He says in verse 4, ‘Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come’?” And then right after He says that, what does she say? She says to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” That just seems like a loaded exchange between Jesus and His mother there; that in that silence between, “My hour has not yet come,” and “Do whatever he tells you,” something is communicated from Jesus to Mary about His role and His purpose, about His identity, even though it’s not all spelled out for us there.
Because think about it. Mary knows that Jesus is unique; Mary knows that Jesus is set apart and that He has come to do great things. And here she has been waiting for year after year after year and nothing has happened. You know, a lot of times I think Mary gets a bad rap in this passage about being concerned about something so trivial as the lack of wine, but I wonder if there’s not more in her question there. She knows the Bible. She knows the Scripture. She knows those promises in Isaiah and in Jeremiah. I wonder if she comes to this wedding and she sees that there’s no wine there and she knows that the Messiah is going to bring about the blessings of a new kingdom in which there is this well-aged wine and the symbols of blessing and of joy, and she’s saying, “Maybe this is the time Jesus has come for?” But what does Jesus say? He says, “No, woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”
What is Jesus saying there? Well, first of all, Jesus is not being dismissive or disrespectful to His mother by calling her, “woman.” Kids, I don’t recommend calling your mother, “woman”! That would not go well! Don’t try that! But probably, in this day, that was more of a term of respect. It may align more closely to what we think of or when we use the word, “ma’am.” It’s more of a respectful term that Jesus is using here. But don’t you hear, even as Jesus calls His mother, “woman,” rewind in the Bible a little bit, or a long way, and go all the way back to the book of Genesis to Genesis chapter 3. Genesis 3:15 – the first promise of the Gospel. What is the first promise of the Gospel? It’s that “The seed of the woman will crush the head of the serpent.” Can you hear that in this exchange between Jesus and His mother – “woman”? Jesus is saying, “I am the seed of the woman. I am the offspring of the woman who has come to crush the head of the serpent and to bring about victory over death and over sin.” This is a loaded exchange here between Jesus and His mother and He says, “My hour has not yet come.” He’s saying that, “It is not yet time for Me to bring in the full realizations of the blessings of My kingdom. It’s not time for Me to finally establish My kingdom. It’s not time to die on the cross.”
And yet, as if He gives a foretaste or a glimpse of all that He is going to do, a preview of life in His kingdom, what does Jesus do? He tells the servants to go to take the six large jars and fill them with water and then take some out and take it to the master of the feast. And after they do that, what does the master of the feast say? He tastes it and he says, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” Jesus has provided better wine than they had at the first part of the wedding. Now that is not an endorsement in this passage for drunkenness. I think there are some things that we see that and we can understand that. Brister’s told me stories about a former congregation in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains that the congregation got upset with him because this conjured up images of moonshining! And that’s not at all what’s happening here! This is not an endorsement of drunkenness! Because most likely in this day, the wine that was produced would have been diluted. And you remember, this is a feast or a banquet that took place over a week or longer, over many days. And there were many people there. People would come from all over. And so this is not an occasion for drunkenness. And yet, we see that Jesus is providing the blessings in abundance.
And there’s almost something funny, isn’t there? There’s something funny about this exchange between the master of the feast and the bridegroom. These are the two people who had the most to lose by them running out of wine. They were the ones who were responsible for providing all of the food and the wine for this party. And I love how the master of the feast – which, by the way, could be translated as "toastmaster." So here's the toastmaster and the wine has run out. The spotlight really falls on him as making a major gaffe in this situation. But I love how he goes to the bridegroom and he says, "Most people give the good wine first and then bring out the lesser wine, but you have brought out the best wine last!" And it's almost as if the bridegroom gives a sort of hesitant, "Thanks." Like, "Yes, I did do that." There's the confusion here; they're saying more than they realize. They are unaware of all that is going on and how this has taken place.
There's an irony here. And in fact, that's one of the themes of John's gospel is the use of irony. Over and over throughout this gospel, we find that people are saying more than they understand. And that was certainly the case with the master of the feast in this passage because he is the one who makes the profound statement. He says that Jesus provides the better wine. He makes the better wine. And that shows us, really, a couple of things I believe. It shows us first of all that Jesus has the power to change water into wine. And that power displays His glory. He has a creative power. The same word which created all things out of nothing is here making wine out of water. It shows the disciples the authority of Jesus and it points them to believe in Him, to place their faith in Him.
From Lesser to Greater
But don’t miss that change, also, from the lesser wine to the better wine because Jesus is demonstrating that He brings in the blessings of the kingdom. He brings in the fulfillment of all the blessings that are represented by a wedding banquet. He brings about true joy and celebration and gladness. Jesus is the true Master of the feast. And all the feasts and all the ceremonies in the Old Testament, they were merely glimpses or foreshadowings and foretastes of the abundance and the fellowship that would come through Jesus and through the fullness of God’s favor in Christ.
We see here the glory of Jesus, but we also see the glory of life in Him. And if I could say it as reverently as possible, Jesus is the life of the party. Jesus brings life to this party. And Molly has a painting, or it’s a print that she’s had for a number of years and it's called, it's a Renoir painting, "Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette.” I probably butchered the pronunciation of that! But in this painting, it’s a party; it’s a time of dancing and talking and it’s a happy, festive occasion. And the thing that’s stood out to me – and I’m not sure what all’s going on with the way Renoir painted this, but there’s one man sort of in the center of the painting, his back is turned to the viewer, we don’t know who he is but as you look around to all the guests at the party, the faces that you can see, they’re all directed towards this one man. I don’t know who the man is, but he is obviously the focus of that painting.
Well, you see, this sign that Jesus performs at this wedding, all of the eyes, all of our eyes are being directed to Jesus and to see Him. Do not miss Jesus. Do not miss the joy and the celebration that He brings. Because to miss it, is to remain in the shadows; it’s actually worse than that. It’s to be in darkness and to have no hope of the celebration and the blessing and the joy that Jesus provides in His kingdom. Jesus is the one who provides those great joys beyond anything that we can imagine.
Jesus is the Focus of Worship
And then the scene shifts. And it shifts to the Passover feast, another feast. It’s the Passover feast and it’s in Jerusalem. And we see that in the next part of this passage, verses 12 and following. Jerusalem, of course, was the capital of Judea. It was the hub of religious and political life for the Jews. And this was the time of the Passover, so the city would have been bustling. It would have been crowded. David talked about the Feast of Tabernacles this morning and the way that there was a sense of joy and celebration and a crowd that came to these feasts in Jerusalem each year. And as David mentioned this morning, the Feast of Tabernacles was oftentimes thought of as the favorite feast. And if that’s the case, then the Passover is the most important feast. It was the central feast in the life of God’s people. In fact, it was the first feast of their year and it marked the new year for God’s people. That’s because their identity was staked on what the Passover remembered and what the Passover celebrated. The Passover, of course, celebrated the people’s deliverance out of slavery, their release out of oppression in Egypt, and being sent to take hold of God’s promises in the Promised Land. That’s what the Passover remembered and celebrated. It was at the heart of their identity as God’s people, as God’s chosen people.
And so every year, people would come throughout the country to celebrate and to offer their sacrifices and to worship together and to celebrate in Jerusalem. But you see there was a business opportunity that arose because of the Passover. And you can only imagine that if you were coming from one of the distant villages throughout Judea to travel to Jerusalem with animals for sacrifice would be a major headache. It would be a major burden to travel with your animals that you intend to sacrifice. So what happened? Well, people in Jerusalem would have their animals ready to be so. And so the pilgrims from the outer areas would come with their money; they would buy their animals to be sacrificed at the Passover. It was sort of a cottage industry that arose. I think of it somewhat like Saturdays in the fall in college towns around America where people who come to football games, they don’t want to lug all of their equipment and all of their supplies and all their food and their drink, and so they do what? They pay someone in that town to set it all up and be ready for them when they arrive. That’s sort of what’s happening at the temple in this passage as Jesus comes in.
And there’s also the moneychangers. The moneychangers were those who would take the Roman currency that the people used in everyday life but they couldn’t offer it as a temple tax. It had to be changed over. And so the money changers would change the money from the Roman currency to the temple currency for them to offer the temple tax. Now we're not told that there's any corruption in the business and in the selling and the buying that's going on here, but you can only imagine that that would have been the case. And you think about markets that you've been in, local markets, and you think about the French Market in New Orleans and the way that there's haggling and bargaining and attempts to deceive. And there's the selling of "local goods" that were probably made in China! We're familiar with this idea of the market, the marketplace and the corruption that could exist there. And all of that is taking place in the temple. It's all man-centered and it's all displacing the worship that belonged to God alone. This is the place that represented the presence of God. This is the place that was to be set apart with reverence and awe for the glory of God, to be set apart for worship. And what do we hear? We hear the clinking of coins and the noise of animals that are filling the temple. This is not a place for reverence anymore.
And so what does Jesus do? Jesus takes a cord of whips and He drove out the vendors and the animals and He poured out the coins of the money changers and He overturned their tables as we read in verse 15. And He said, “Take these things away. Do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” Now we don’t have much in the way of punctuation in the Greek, and in the ESV there’s just a period at the end of that sentence. But surely there belongs an exclamation point, because Jesus here is consumed; He’s deeply distressed and He’s zealous for the worship of God. And we find that just as it was surprising that Jesus would be at a wedding, isn’t this surprising to us a bit as well? It’s shocking in some ways, that Jesus expresses such zeal and such fervor that He would cause this dramatic commotion?
But I think there’s something helpful in that for us because we may be tempted to make Jesus one-dimensional and we think of Jesus as gentle and meek, as a Friend to sinners and tax collectors. And those things are true, aren’t they? And yet Jesus is also full of glory and He’s full of zeal for the honor of God and for the devotion that belongs to God alone. We cannot use Jesus to excuse our idolatries or to dismiss those things which we use to displace our worship. Jesus is demanding our reverence and He’s demanding holy fear. And that can be unsettling. It was unsettling for the people at this time because what do they say to Jesus? They say, “Show us a sign for your doing these things? What are your credentials that you would make such a commotion?” And what does Jesus say? He says, “Tear down this temple and I will raise it up again in three days.”
The Temple of Jesus’s Body
Now everybody knew that that was impossible. This temple, which Jesus is talking about, was an architectural marvel. Even the foundation, even though the foundation is all that remains of it today, the foundation stones are an architectural marvel. And Jesus is saying to tear it down and in three days He will raise it up. But what does John tell us? John tells us that He is speaking of the temple of His body. And His disciples will later recognize that Jesus is talking about His resurrection from the dead. What Jesus is saying is that by His death and by His resurrection, He is the presence of God in the temple and He is the way to true worship. You see, the days of worship in the temple, the days of sacrifices and offerings and of the Passover celebrations, those things are coming to an end. All of those things are but a shadow of the real thing, and the real thing has come. Jesus is the focus of worship.
Because you see, because of Jesus’ death and His resurrection, it is the once and for all sacrifice that forgives all the sins of those who trust in Him. There is no more need for sacrifices. And because Jesus gives this access to the Father, that we can relate to God as our heavenly Father, we don’t need a mediator other than Him. We have access to the Father. There’s no need for a priest. And because He is the object of our worship, and all of our life becomes an act of worship to God, we don't need the temple anymore. You see, the only way to a relationship with God the Father and to a life that honors and worships Him is by trusting in Jesus and not resting in what we have done or can do, but resting in what He has done for us. But you see, they don't recognize that. They don't recognize who Jesus is. They don't recognize who is standing right there in their midst.
I heard a story, I read a story recently about a man who was in Australia for a conference and he went into a local jewelry store and wanted to purchase some jewelry for his wife. And as he was making the purchase and trying to complete the transaction, the computer froze up and he was unable to finish the transaction. And so he asked the salesperson if he could take a look at the computer and he looked at it, made a few keystrokes, and got it up and running and made the purchase and was about to leave. And she said, “Oh, I guess you know a little bit about computers.” And he kind of smiled and nodded and said, “Thanks,” and went his way. A little bit later, the owners of the store were looking through the receipts from that day to see who had purchased these things from them and found out that the man who had helped them with their computer problem was Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft. He knows a little bit about computers! And yet, they did not recognize who it was that was standing right in front of them.
That’s something of what’s going on here in this passage. Jesus is in the temple and He represents the true meaning of the temple, the true worship of God, and the people do not recognize Him. See, Jesus meets and fulfills all of the expectations of the Old Testament – the temple, the priests, the sacrifices, the Passover. In fact, Jesus exceeds those expectations and He gives the reality to which those things looked forward, the things that they anticipated. He gives life. He gives true worship.
Desire for Life and Fear of Death
And I think that as we come to a conclusion and we think about that life that Jesus brings, what is this true life? If we were to boil down really all of our desires and all of our fears in a really simple way, I think that we could say that they’re based on a desire for life and a fear of death. And what do we do to pursue that life? I was reading an interview with a man who’s in the hotel industry and he was talking about some of the changes that were being made in the hotel industry and in hotels around the country. And it was really a good illustration of some of the things that we hold as important, as the things that represent the good life. And he discussed two trends in particular – the trends of what he calls “wellness” and “socialization.” He says that people like to be pampered. We like to look good and to feel good, so hotels are becoming more and more focused on bigger bathrooms and better bathtubs and ways to pamper ourselves. And he says that because we want to experience social interaction, that a lot of times the lobbies in hotels now are becoming more than just a place to check in, but a place to bump into folks and to be around other people.
And all of us are tempted to find satisfaction, to make life about what we eat or what we drink or the experiences that we pursue, how we exercise or the way our homes are set up. We want the perfect wedding. We want the perfect Thanksgiving. We want to entertain our guests when everything is just right. And the problem is that those things will fail us. They cannot live up to their expectations. There’s nothing wrong with good health and sports and traditions, but they cannot live up to the expectations that we place on them. They will let us down because ultimately they become focused only on ourselves and we can become so busy in the different parts of our lives to organize them in such a way that it makes us look good and makes us feel good. And yet even ourselves, we disappoint ourselves. Don’t we? We let ourselves down. And that’s the problem that comes with this way of life that this man was getting at in the hotel industry.
Worship and Fellowship
What does the Bible say? What does the Bible put forward to us as the way to true life? If we look at the high points of the Bible, the places where there are times of celebration – and really they’re the ideal points in the history of God’s people – what’s happening there? I think we see two things. We see worship and we see fellowship. You see that with Adam and Eve in the garden. We see that when Moses makes the tabernacle, the tent of worship, and the glory of God fills the tabernacle. They are worshiping God. God is their God and they are dwelling together in harmony. We see that when the ark comes into Jerusalem. God is their God and they dwell together in harmony. When Solomon builds the temple and the glory fills the temple, God is their God and they dwell together in harmony. There’s worship and there’s fellowship. Those are the things that really represent true life – the life of God in the soul of man.
And what do we see Jesus providing here in this passage? He provides fellowship, He provides the joy of the banquet and He provides true worship, the true temple. Jesus will not disappoint us. Jesus, the life that Jesus gives, will not disappoint.
There was a church father, perhaps you’ve heard of him, named Polycarp. And Polycarp was martyred for his faith. He was martyred for his confession in Christ. And as he was confronting his captors and as they held his life in the balance, they said to him, “If you reproach Christ, if you renounce Christ, I will set you free. You will live!” And here’s what Polycarp said. He said, “Eighty-six years have I served Him and He has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?” You see, Jesus will not disappoint us, whether it’s in old age or in illness or in loneliness or uncertainties or disappointments. Jesus will not disappoint us. He has greater things in store for us – things that are beyond our imagination, those blessings which give us hope – hope to endure through disappointments and unmet expectations in this life. And Jesus even gives us this life now. He gives us the firstfruits of this life so that we may enjoy love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and the fruits of the Spirit. And the thing about the joy that Jesus gives to us, the life that Jesus gives to us, is that they are not dependent upon our health or our relationships or anything else. We do not have to have perfect health or perfect relationships or perfect holidays in order to have the joy which Jesus gives to us. In fact, Jesus uses even the difficult things – the letdowns and the disappointments and the sufferings and the trials in our life to work in us eternal life and to produce in us this lasting joy and a hope which grows greater all the time.
Who else can offer that? What can compare to that? You see, Jesus surpasses all of our expectations. And the call for us is to make Him the most important thing in our lives, to make Him the most important thing in our career or in our family, in our school or in our friendships, in our holidays or in our disappointments, that we can say with Polycarp, “He has done me no wrong.” Or we can say as we sang earlier tonight, “He has done great things, we will say together. We will feast and weep no more!”
Our Father, we give You thanks for the life that Christ gives to us. The glory, the glory of Christ, the glory of the new heavens and the new earth – true life. And so Father, we pray that You would help us to put aside all of those things, to turn away from these things which distract and which disappoint and which let us down, that we would live with a focus and a zeal for You and for Christ Jesus. And we pray these things in His name, amen.