The Groom Gets The Girl | John 3.27-30
John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:27-30 | ESV
John composed himself – and his answer – carefully: “God plays the tune he wants, and we can only choose to dance to it.” Then John made his point clear. “This shouldn’t be a surprising turn of events to you – you can all repeat word for word what I’ve clearly said: ‘It’s not me – I am not the Messiah, the Chosen One, the Anointed.’ No. What have I said? ‘I have merely been sent before the One that really matters.’ Picture a wedding celebration, my desert friends. The groom gets the girl, right? The friend of the groom can only sit by and listen to the laughter of lovers – and, you know, it thrills his heart to witness his friend’s wedding bliss. That’s me. I am the friend of the groom. And to see him getting the girl and all of the attention doesn’t just make my day, it makes my life. Let his celebration grow into a deafening crescendo – this is how it supposed to be! – while my party dies away to nothing.” MAV
I love that John – who was accused of having a demon and being a killjoy because of his Spartan, austere message, dress, demeanor and lifestyle – thought of a wedding celebration when he thought of the kingdom of God. When he thought of Jesus. And I love that whereas his disciples are arguing with a lone Jewish man over a religious issue of purification, John takes them to the deeper issue driving their angst. How fitting that in doing so, he takes them, his desert companions with all of their diligent abstinence and fasting, to a party – at least in their imagination. John leads them over the threshold, and they hear the music. They see the dancing. They smell the food. They at least watch others taste the wine. And clinging to their austere rabbi in the midst of this imagined party, they now hear it. The unmistakable laughter of lovers, a bride and groom with eyes only for each other, in each other’s arms, dancing, reveling, kissing. And then they turn to look at John’s face – and does anyone else even know they’re here? Does anyone see them? No matter. John’s face is beaming, his lips uttering l’chaim! “My joy is now complete.” I don’t imagine John’s disciples got this any more than we often do. Our religious selves can have a hard enough time with the concept of the kingdom of God being a party – let alone embracing a party that isn’t about us – and we’re not even announced at the door. But John’s whole point was to lead the bride to the groom – and when the groom gets the girl, mission accomplished. And as he toasts the bride and groom, he can fade into the background and enjoy the party while they celebrate. So easy to make our celebrations, our parties, our life, about us. So easy, so natural, to preach ourselves, to name-drop our resumes at the door. So easy to become a Michael Scott from The Office and try to make someone else’s celebration all about us and then pout when it’s not. Welcome to the circle of John’s disciples. It’s a good bubble to burst.
What most challenges you here: the idea that the kingdom of God is a party, or the idea that it’s not a party about you? Why?
Lord, lead me out of my little pity party into the expansive celebration that is your kingdom that is you. Let me hear your laughter today as it suddenly dawns on me that I am the bride with whom you are dancing, and let me release myself into your arms. Through Jesus.
For all of this week’s small group resources including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.