This is an excerpt from my upcoming book, “King & Country: The Story That Changes Everything,” coming in summer 2017.
One future day, everything will be turned upside down (or, rather, right-ways up) by Jesus’ kingdom. The news which the gospel writers announce with breathless wonder is that, in the person of King Jesus, this future had come early. Wherever he went, this future kingdom went around with him, interrupting the upside-down processes of death and decay with the future realities of life and restoration. This is what you see everywhere in Jesus’ ministry. Jesus touches lepers and—unlike the way the Levitical law lays it out—his purity doesn’t become corrupted by their infection. Their infection becomes corrupted, so to speak, by his purity. When he runs up against sin and brokenness, the future comes pouring in like a wave of mercy, and the repentant find life and freedom. When he runs up against the pompous pride of the spiritual elite, the future comes in like a wave again—except this time it’s a tsunami of judgment and reversal of all status quos. When he crashes a funeral—as he does three times—death starts working in reverse, and corpses begin breathing again.
His first miracle at a wedding in Cana was an example of this future kingdom bleeding into the present. When the wedding hosts ran out of wine—a shameful social faux pas that would have cut short the festivities—Jesus transformed water into wine. And it wasn’t just any wine; it was the best wine anyone at the feast had ever tasted, so much so that the master of ceremonies exclaimed, “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!” (John 2:10) John remarks that this surprising miracle of taking a lame party and making it awesome “manifested his glory” (John 2:11). In other words, this act of injecting new life and joy into a celebration is what Jesus and his kingdom are all about.
Why? Because the kingdom of God is a party, a celebration of light and life and joy that overturns the present age’s darkness, decay, and despair. One future day, that kingdom will come in fullness, and the sons and daughters of the kingdom will sit down to “the wedding feast of the Lamb,” the celebration of which every earthly party has been a dim shadow. That future day came early in the person of the King, who made wine flow at weddings, turned funerals into parties, and had such a reputation for merriment that the staid religious people frowned and called him “a drunkard and a glutton.” And in the meantime—in between the first and second acts of the party—the kingdom of God advances today through celebration. Today, the kingdom comes on earth as in heaven through joyful worship (of all the world’s major religions, only Christianity is a singing religion), through the celebration of new life in baptism, through the proclamation of “good news of great joy,” and through the glad work of bringing hope and happiness and healing to the nations. The party which Jesus began in Cana and which will culminate in the new creation rolls on today, little by little making all things new.