Epiphany 2 – January 19th and 20th, 2019 – John 2:1-11 (and Genesis 3)
In the Name of Christ Jesus, the Light of the World +
In the Name of Christ Jesus, the Light of the World +
“This, the first of His signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested His glory.” My friends in Christ, as Epiphany is the season where we focus on Christ Jesus revealing that He is both true God and true Man, it makes perfect sense that we would have a lesson telling us Christ's first sign – His first demonstration that He was the Messiah. Manifesting glory – that's a great Epiphany theme. However, doesn't our Gospel lesson seem at first glance to be a bit... small. I mean, changing water into wine is... nice. Not thrilling, but nice. And at Cana – Cana is a small town up in the hills – it's like small town Arkansas. And this is the first sign – come on Jesus, don't you want to start things off with a bang? Well, to be honest, this miracle at Cana is completely apt and appropriate and wondrous at revealing who Jesus actually is. Let's consider it.
First, the story itself. On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with His disciples. Okay, so the set up is this – Jesus probably has a cousin getting married, and His mom is helping to run the show. And Jewish weddings were big, giant parties, long celebrations – and Mary's in the back making sure the reception goes off well. Well – When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, 'They have no more wine.' And Jesus said to her, 'Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.' His mother said to the servants, 'Do whatever He tells you.' Well, they're out of wine. And Mary comes up to Jesus and gives one of those famous mom hints. They're out of wine. The trash is getting pretty full. You know, my birthday is coming up. She wants Jesus to fix this – Mary is eager like a kid on Christmas morning. She's been the mother of the Messiah for 30 years already, let's get this show on the road. Jesus tries to play it down – note again, he isn't giving Mary sass. That “woman” isn't an arrogant “let me tell you something, woman” - it's the way they said “ma'am.” He's trying to politely decline. Why? It's His cousin's wedding – you don't upstage your cousin at their wedding. You don't big time them at their wedding. “I see you were too cheap or poor to pay for a good meal – don't worry, Cousin J's got it handled.” That would be wretched. But Mary knows her son – just do what He says.
So, how can Jesus take care of His family and save the wedding, but do it without embarrassing folks? There's six stone water jars – probably 150-180 gallons in total, and Jesus says, “Fill the jars with water.” Okay, clean water. Then: “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” Wait... do whatever He says? Because if I'm a servant, and I bring the guy running the feast a cup full of water when he wants wine, I'm going to get fired... but, at Your word. And what do you know – the water has become wine. And not just wine – GOOD wine. Strong and rich – the master of the feast pulls the groom over – fella, why'd you keep the good stuff back? You give the good wine out first, and then when everyone's happy you pull out the mediocre stuff. Nice bottles first, then the jug wine. And the only people who see the miracle are the servants and the disciples hanging out with Jesus.
So, how in tarnation is this fitting and appropriate for Jesus' first sign? Just a handful of people saw it. He doesn't talk about it – He probably wasn't even in the same room with the master of the feast when the guy tasted it. We human beings are such glory hounds. Have been since the fall. We want everyone to see how wonderful and great we are, and we especially want them to know how we are better than that guy over there. That's our problem – we talk and boast, and our talk is cheap. If you are familiar with the phrase, “Just shut up and do your job,” well, since the fall, we don't really like doing either of those. Adam was put in the garden to tend it and love his wife – that wasn't good enough for him and the fall happens. Serious, the first words we hear Adam say in the bible are Adam complaining about God and throwing Eve under the bus. Contrast that with Jesus – just there humble, quiet, get the job done, take care of people, and then let them rejoice. Jesus isn't self serving. He doesn't brag. He's not swallowed up by pride. He just takes care of things and lets that be that.
“Oh, alright Pastor, it's nice that Jesus isn't a glory hound – but still, couldn't it have been a miracle at something bigger than a podunk wedding, maybe at something more important?” And here we miss the point. Jesus is God. Jesus is the Word of God by whom all things were made. This isn't His first wedding that He's been too. This isn't the first wedding He's been to where things went sideways. He had thrown and organized a great wedding for Adam and Eve – you do realize that's what the Garden was – it was a giant wedding celebration. This is why when Jesus talks about marriage, He points back to Adam and Eve. And what happened at that first wedding? It went sideways, and badly. Do you know how it went badly, how the fall actually played out? “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord... Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her.” There were Adam and Eve, in the midst of a wondrous wedding banquet of joy and wonder, and what happens? Wives submit (ut-oh, that dirty word – submit) to your own husbands as to the Lord. Submit isn't a dirty Word – it means follow their lead. Ladies, if your are dancing with your fella and he leads, you're “submitting” to him – and frankly you ought to rejoice in the fact that you have a husband who can dance. That's how it's supposed to work – but what happens? Eve isn't following Adam's lead – she submits to the Serpent instead. Follows Satan's lead. And Adam jumps in too. But here's the kicker – the really bad thing. Jesus shows on up – the LORD is there in the garden – uh, why are you two hiding in the bushes, that's no way to enjoy a wedding. And what does Adam do? Why do we pin original sin on Adam? “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church.” “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me the fruit of the tree and I ate.” Adam was to love his wife. He was to die for her if need be. And he doesn't. Blames her, blames God. And ever since the fall, all sin is just playing off of that – an expansion of that. People refusing to submit and do their jobs (because we all are supposed to submit and follow the lead of someone in something), people refusing to take responsibility and love their neighbor and instead throwing them under the bus. And because of that, because of this sin, things fall apart, and there are wars and fights and lack and things don't work out and so on and so forth until you get to a little wedding at Cana. Some other guy and gal, who are sinful folks, who will probably fight and argue, but at least we like to get through the wedding party with joy and hope... and they are out of wine. What's a party without wine? Wine is given to gladden the heart of man – a party with no wine is just a reminder of things going wrong. Poverty, lack, hardship.
Back at that very first wedding in the garden, Jesus didn't throw Adam and Eve under the bus. No, very quietly He clothed them, told them things were going to be harder now, but that He would fix it. He would come and bruise the serpent's head and win redemption. And then, years and years later, Jesus is at a wedding. God Incarnate, God getting ready to crush Satan's head is there – My hour hasn't come yet, mom. I'm not to the Cross yet, mom... but since I am here, let's fix this wedding up just a bit, nice and quietly so no one is disturbed – so this Adam and this Eve enjoy each other and laugh and rejoice because I have joined them together.
Do you see? Do you see how this is Jesus manifesting glory? It's not just that there's a “miracle” - the bible doesn't even call it a “miracle” - it's a sign. This lets you know who Jesus is. This is the LORD Almighty come to fix things – this is the hills dripping with sweet wine as Amos foretold. This is Jesus come into fallen creation and undoing a bit of the fall and it's lack and sorrow and shame. Jesus, very quietly, turns water into wine, and that little wedding that could have gone off the rails – no lack, no sorrow, no shame. Just bewildered joy at how good this batch of wine is.
My dear friends, Christ Jesus enters into your life as well, and He comes to you to remove sorrow and shame. He comes to you in His Word of forgiveness and in His sacraments. Because His hour would come, and He would go to the Cross, and He would crush Satan with His own death, and He would rise to give you life. But the same LORD whose first sign came quietly and without a lot of fanfare still comes humbly and quietly and gently to you. He rescued you from Satan's kingdom not with the rocket's red glare or bombs bursting in air, but with some water attached to His Word in baptism. He comes to you today to forgive you your sin and strengthen your faith, not with some costly or glossy-showy things. Bread and wine, Body and blood – take and eat, take and drink for the remission of all of your sins. Jesus doesn't big time you, He doesn't rub your nose it. He sees you, in the midst of the hardships of your life – and just as He came to Adam and Eve in the Garden, just as He came to that wedding in Cana – He comes to you, and simply and calmly, He does His job. And His job is to love you, forgive you, redeem you, make you to grow in faith towards Him and love towards others. And being your Savior will never be something too small for Him; Jesus will never move away from you and on to “bigger” and “better” things. You are His, and He loves you dearly. God grant that by the power of His Spirit we see love this ever more! In the Name of Christ Jesus, the Light of the World +