The Art of Secrecy

I wonder if secrecy is becoming a lost art?

Jesus, of course, was a master of knowing when to go public and when to be hidden.  Jesus first miracle of turning water into wine is a great example of this. The story is recorded for us in John 2 where an intriguing and unexpected conclusion is added to help us grapple with what Jesus has just done.

John 2:11 (NLT)

‘This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed his glory. And his disciples believed in him.’

This is the first time Jesus reveals His glory or ‘uncloaks’ Himself to show His nature. His ultimate glory is the resurrection but how interesting that a wedding party is the first time He decides to show or reveal something of His glory.

The setting for this miracle is strange –

  • Weddings in the ancient Near East were incredibly important occasions for families and individuals—just as they are in modern times.
  • A successful event would have brought honour to the groom, his family, and the village where he lived.
  • Running out of wine would have dishonored the guests and brought shame on all those involved.

Jesus very first miracle is not healing the sick, casting out demons, feeding the poor or even restoring a person back into the community,  this wedding party is occurring in the context of community.

Jesus very first miracle is purposed to bring a halt to shame that was about to fall like an avalanche on a groom and a family who seemingly miscalculated and were unprepared for a significant social occasion.

Shame is an epidemic that has no prejudice, it permeates every generation, every culture, and social class. It seemingly has no limits until Jesus steps in.

Anthropologist Ruth Benedict made an interesting observation in regards to the distinction between a guilt and shame culture –

“In a guilt culture, you know you are good or bad by what your conscience feels. In a shame culture, you know you are good or bad by what your community says about you, by whether it honors or excludes you.”

Jesus first miracle opens an invitation for every one of His followers to get involved in bringing a halt to Shame falling on people, families, and communities.

Notice how this miracle is outworked in this setting-

John 2:9 (NLT)

9 When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine, not knowing where it had come from (though, of course, the servants knew), he called the bridegroom over.

If the miracle was purposed to just fix the problem of running out of wine then there would be no need for this verse, but Jesus is doing more than just turning water into wine. He is apprehending the road train of shame and dishonour that is about to befall a groom and his family in this community. This would have been a tragic way for this couple to begin their life together.

It is for this reason that the ‘Art of Secrecy’ is deployed. Significant people at this party had no idea what had just happened, they may not have even been aware that there was a problem in the first place. However a few hidden people in the story knew exactly what had just occurred, the scripture says, ‘…though, of course, the servants knew’.

How challenging it is for us living in this social media hungry world to deploy secrecy when everyone around us is broadcasting everything and I mean everything publically? We display, we post, we market and promote our achievements to the world, yet Jesus very first miracle was done in secret because he was addressing the very real, transcendent, pressing issue that was at stake at this wedding – putting a halt to shame.

But that is not where the story ends, Jesus doesn’t just bring a halt to shame falling on this groom and his family He does something so spectacular –

John 2:9-10 (NLT)

9 When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine, not knowing where it had come from (though, of course, the servants knew), he called the bridegroom over. 10 “A host always serves the best wine first,” he said. “Then, when everyone has had a lot to drink, he brings out the less expensive wine. But you have kept the best until now!”

Instead of having to endure shame, the groom was publicly honored for his over-the-top hospitality—and for saving the good wine for last (John 2:10). The groom receives undeserved honour and Jesus doesn’t appear to take exception to it. He seems to be very content with undeserving people receiving unearned honor and praise…sound familiar?

 

I’d be the first to admit that this story rattles me, yet our life as followers of Jesus is not just to be shaped and conformed into the image of Jesus, there is also an expectation that we would follow and push forward His mission in our world today (Luke 4:18-19; John 20:21).

The Kingdom act of bringing a halt to shame befalling on people demands the Art of Secrecy, this may read like a simple task but I am convinced it is one of the greatest challenges we are facing today in the Church.

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