But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ Luke 15:22-24
“William Tyndale, the man who translated the Bible into English in the 16th century, said:
Evangelion (what we call ‘the gospel’) is a Greek word, signifying good, merry, glad and joyful news, that makes a man’s heart glad and makes him sing, dance and leap for joy.
A church without the gospel fails to be a church. It’s something else—a social club or political action committee or a rallying point for pet projects or hobby horse hermeneutics. Those are man-centered organizations. And they can’t last. They make us sad. Maybe not immediately, but ultimately. Every man-made institution ends in tears. But the gospel ends with a party. It’s good news of great joy.” — Adam McClendon, The Gospel is Big Enough for Your Church (blogged recently by Dr. Peter Cockrell https://pjcockrell.wordpress.com/2020/10/06/the-gospel-is-big-enough-for-your-church/ )
Henry J.M. Nouwen also writes that God’s irrepressible love is the “love that always welcomes home and always wants to celebrate … ‘Rejoice with me,’ the shepherd says, ‘I have found my sheep that was lost.’ ‘Rejoice with me,’ the woman says, ‘I have found the drachma I lost.’ ‘Rejoice with me,’ the father says, ‘this son of mine was lost and is found.’” i
I love that God’s love always wants to celebrate, that his good news ends with a party. He is always calling out to us, “rejoice with me!” He is always preparing, and calling for us to join in the preparation of this great party he wants to give.
Timothy Keller notes that “in his first public exercise of divine power, Jesus turned several large containers of water into wine. Amazingly, John the gospel writer calls this miracle a ‘sign,’ a signifier of what Jesus’s’ ministry was all about. Why would Jesus, to convey what he had come to do, choose to turn 150 gallons of water into superb wine in order to keep a party going? The answer is that Jesus came to bring festival joy … Jesus’s salvation is a feast …” ii
It is not surprising that the first miracle done by Jesus in this great story of the gospel celebration was at a marriage. Even though Jesus told Mary that it was not really his time yet, I don’t think he could resist a celebration – especially one of a marriage. Because that is how, finally, the gospel story will end:
Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Revelation 19:7
“… his bride has made herself ready.” The word translated “ready” is hetoimazo, which means to prepare, to make the necessary preparations, get everything ready. We take part in the preparation by getting ourselves ready – working out our salvation, allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us, dying to self, becoming holy. But we also help prepare by going out and inviting others to the party and helping them prepare.
The father in the parable of the two sons calls for the preparation of a great celebration. Mark recounts the beginning of the gospel – the joyful celebration – also as a preparation.
The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is written in Isaiah the prophet: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way — a voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” Mark 1:1-2
Jesus told another parable, that is called the Parable of the Great Banquet. Again, it includes an invitation to a party that has been prepared.
Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ Matthew 22:4
If we are his servants, let us go out and proclaim the joyful news: There is a great party that has been prepared for you if you will come. Return! Come rejoice with the Father! Come in! You are invited to the wedding banquet of the Lamb!
But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. Luke 15:32
I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. Luke 15:7
No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him. 1 Corinthians 2:9
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.“ Revelation 22:17
Photo by stainedglassartist, Cana detail jars, https://flic.kr/p/7bUyuv