I recently posted something on Facebook that sparked a very interesting conversation. The other person has a name, but on the quote below I changed it to what he is, a preacher:
Me: If you believe in salvation by marriage or having children, as is taught by the majority of churches today, you’d better take some suntan lotion with you to eternity. You’re gonna need it.
Preacher: Who believes in salvation by marriage or having children?
Me: Take the population of the world, which currently is 7.3 billion, and subtract the number of Matthew 19:12c eunuchs you can name. That should give you a rough estimate.
Churches spend a great deal of time and money elevating marriage and family as the ideal lifestyle. Think of all the singles groups where people pair up and mate, the millions of wedding ceremonies every year, and all the wedding anniversaries that are celebrated. The married lifestyle is affirmed beyond recognition. I find this beyond ironic because a marriage ceremony is never described in the Bible. I can already hear people screaming, “but Jesus went to a wedding!” Yes, he did. But his attendance at the marriage in Cana is the only mention of a marriage in the New Testament. John 2:1-2: “And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.” What many people miss is that the wedding in Cana is not what is news here. It’s the fact that Jesus, a celibate man, chose a wedding to perform his first miracle, turning water into wine, thereby announcing his presence in the world. This was Jesus’ way of saying “I’m here.” I’m sure such a miracle turned many doubters into believers. He could have chosen any place in the world to do this. But he chose a wedding. In an instant, the ordinary nature of water and weddings was made supernatural by the presence of the King of Kings. You would think there would be many weddings to follow. After all, who wouldn’t want Jesus to show up at their wedding? But it’s the only one recorded in the New Testament. Could this in itself be telling us something? Could it be that Jesus had one hand on the urn of water and the other hand pointing to heaven where no one is given in marriage? I think so. He is telling us how insignificant marriage should be now. In an instant, he showed the “power of God” as described in the Gospel of Mark:
23 In the resurrection therefore, when they shall rise, whose wife shall she be of them? for the seven had her to wife.
24 And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God?
25 For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven.
So Jesus didn’t attend the wedding at Cana only to pronounce his blessings on marriage. He attended it to affirm celibacy and to show that the natural world of the Old Testament (water) had given way to the supernatural world of the New Testament (wine). The water of the well was transformed into the blood of Christ. Jesus could have written a letter to the couple at Cana, wishing them well in their new marriage. But he made his affirmation public by being there and taking his disciples with him. He could have gotten up and made a speech about the temporary nature of marriage and the importance of making spiritual children. But he chose this mellow transition of water to wine. It’s beautiful symbolism, but it’s been all but lost in a society today that worships sex and still holds marriage and family up to represent the be-all and end-all of human existence, one that still clings to the old Mosaic law of “be fruitful and multiply.”
It’s important to note though that Jesus found it necessary to attend the wedding. This should tell us something about the power of public commitments and the affirmation of witnesses. The names of the couple that got married that day in Cana have been long forgotten. It is Jesus’ presence and first miracle that are remembered today. He showed up to put marriage in a new perspective.
Which begs the question – How is celibacy being affirmed today? Who is checking to see if the water has been turned into wine? Are there any public ceremonies to affirm it? In the Protestant church, I don’t know of any. They have focused on the family so long that they’re walking around like blind zombies. Other than a few occasional words about how special “singles” are in mission statements, they don’t have a clue. It would behoove the church to remember that actions speak louder than words. If marriage and celibacy are of equal value, why should one be celebrated with ceremonies of public commitment and the other forgotten? Can you imagine celebrating a wedding anniversary in your church where the couple was not identified? The same thing holds true for celibacy. In order for it to be biblically affirmed and learned from, people have to be identified – whether that’s 3 in the whole world or 3,000,000. When the power of God is felt, the relationship between men and women is not governed by patriarchal marriages, sexual desire, or a man’s need to secure a name or heir. It is governed by worshipping the same God and respecting each other as equal in his site. Would you rather tell your children “it’s okay if you don’t get married” and that these people theoretically exist somewhere out there in the world or would you rather have them meet some in the real world? If you were at the wedding at Cana, would you be happy with the water, or would you want to taste the wine? Indeed, when a society is fully engulfed in idolatry, they’re not even aware of it. They know of nothing different.