Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Second Sunday after the Epiphany (Epiphany 2)

John 2:1-11; Romans 12:6-16; Exodus 33:12-23

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
There are three that testify: The Water, and the Blood, and the Spirit.
Water. Water is essential to life. A human body can live maybe three weeks without food, but only three days without water. Indeed, our bodies consist of 60% water, and every cell and organ in our bodies requires water to properly function and to remain alive. St. Peter even suggests in his Epistle that God created all material and living things out of created primordial water by the creative power of His Word and Spirit. It should be no surprise then that, in the Holy Scriptures, water is associated with cleansing, purification, and restoration. Thus, John the Baptist was out in the wilderness, calling people to repentance, purification, and restoration with God by the forgiveness of their sins through baptism with water at the Jordan River.
That is also why there were six stone jars of water at the wedding in Cana. The water was for the purification and restoration of the wedding party and the guests that they might eat the feast and participate in the wedding ceremony. The jars of water were there because of the Law of God, and because of the sin and guilt of the people. The jars of water were there because man’s sin had made ruin of his relationship with God. But, God, in His grace and mercy, had promised to look away from their sins and guilt if they were cleansed and purified by water. The water had no such power in itself, neither did the sacrifices in the temple and the tabernacle before that, but God had attached His Word of promise to the water, promising that He would look away from their sins – and so, He did. Thus, the water was not merely a symbol of the Law of God, but it was the Law of God. Even in the joyful occasion of a wedding feast, the Law stood threatening and demanding to be kept and fulfilled. For, the wages of sin is always and only death, a debt that we will all pay eventually.
And so it is that a proper understanding of Jesus’ first miraculous sign, changing water into wine, begins, not with Jesus, nor with the wine, but with the water and with the Law of God and with man’s transgression of God’s Law. The Law of God, and sin, and death hung over the wedding feast and the guests. The Law of God hung over the bride and the the groom. And yet, into this bittersweet occasion entered the Son of God Himself, the Word of God become flesh. Indeed, God so loved the world and the people whom He created that, instead of punishing and destroying His rebellious creatures, He became one of them, one with them, in order to cleanse, purify, and restore them. Jesus would do this, ultimately, not by the washing of water, but by the shedding of His holy, innocent, and righteous blood. For, the Law must be fulfilled. And, the water must be replaced, not with wine, but with Jesus’ blood which takes away the sins of the world. But, Jesus’ hour, the hour of His Passion, had not yet come. Therefore, for now, He would provide a miracle, a sign, that His people might believe in Him and trust in Him.
The occasion for this miraculous sign? The wedding feast had run out of wine. Now, Jewish wedding feasts were multi-day events, often lasting a week long. Family, friends, and guests had come from all around and they needed to be provided food and drink and water for purification for the duration of the wedding feast. It was early in the feast and they were already out of wine. This would have been a tremendous social embarrassment for the bride and groom and for their families. Mary, the Mother of our Lord, likely a relative or a close friend, was moved to relieve the situation, and she called upon Jesus to do something about it. What she expected Him to do is uncertain, but it is clear that Mary believed that Jesus could help. Jesus’ answered His Mother saying, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” Jesus’ reply seems strident and rude in our ears. Culturally, it was likely nothing of the sort, but Jesus did communicate something important to His Mother concerning His being the Son of God, His mission and purpose. Mary asked Jesus to perform a miracle, to use His divine power as the Son of God to solve the problem of the wine. Jesus addressed Mary as “woman” rather than as “mother” because she was asking Him to do this as the Son of God and not as the Son of Mary. The time would come for Jesus to solve the problem of the lack of wine, but that time had not yet come.
In the Old Testament times, wine was a symbol of both physical and spiritual joy. Wine was associated with the blessing of God’s presence and His favor upon His people. Jesus took the occasion of a wedding feast that had run out of wine to provide a revelation, an epiphany, of His true nature as both God and Man. Jesus turned the water set aside for the purification of the people under the Law of God into wine, the symbol of God’s favor, blessing, and presence with His people. This was a sign, a miracle, and a symbol of something even greater yet to come, for, when His time came, Jesus would pour out water, His blood, and His Spirit upon all people that they might be purified, cleansed, forgiven, and restored to a right relationship with God His Father.
“Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water’. And they filled them up to the brim.” In His Incarnation, Circumcision and Name, Baptism, perfect life of obedience, faith, and trust in God, Suffering, and Death, Jesus would fulfill all that the Law demanded. “And He said to them, ‘Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast’. So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘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’.” The wine that Jesus provides is the very best imaginable! The cleansing, purification, forgiveness, and restoration with God Jesus will provide for His people in water, His Blood, and His Spirit poured out for entire world upon the cross will be all-sufficient, complete, perfect, and final. The joy that He will provide for His people will be perfect and forever and for all who will trust in Him for forgiveness, life, and salvation and bear His fruits in their lives, words, and deeds.
In this, Jesus’ first sign at the wedding in Cana, we see God’s backside, that is, a foretaste of His glory manifested in His Son Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah. We see God’s anointed King of heaven and earth beginning to restore His Creation. It is also significant that Jesus’ first miraculous sign occurs at a wedding, for His death and resurrection will be celebrated with a Wedding Feast in heaven, the wedding of the Holy Bridegroom Jesus and His Holy Bride the Church.
There are three that testify: The Water, and the Blood, and the Spirit. When Jesus surrendered His life upon the cross He gave up His Spirit. Fifty days later, on the Feast of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured upon His Bride, the Church, anointing and sealing Her as His own. When the centurion pierced the side of Jesus’ dead body upon the cross, from it issued forth water and blood, cleansing and purifying all the world, a blessing of cleansing, purification, forgiveness, and restoration with God for all who will believe and trust in Him and bear His fruits in their lives, words, and deeds. The Water, the Blood, and the Spirit – that is what Jesus’ first miraculous sign at the wedding at Cana pointed to. There will be joy in Jesus, and there is joy even now in Jesus, for all who believe on Him. Through Holy Baptism and faith, through His Word and the Holy Supper of His Body and Blood, you are a new creation. Even though you die, you will live, for those who believe in Him will never die.
Each and every Lord’s Day, and on Feast days, we, the Bride, gather here to participate in and to receive into ourselves this foretaste of the Great Marriage Feast of the Lamb and His Bride the Church in the Holy Eucharist. We join in Cana’s Feast until the Great Day of the Lord comes when we will no longer need this miraculous sign to cleanse and purify and restore us, but we will see our LORD and God and our Bridegroom and Redeemer Jesus face to face. But, until that day, we have this sign, this Sacrament, along with Holy Baptism, His Holy Word, and Holy Absolution to cleanse and purify and restore us anew that we might abide in faith, hope, and love towards God, towards our neighbor, and towards each other to the glory of God the Father, through faith in Jesus Christ His Son or Lord, by His Holy Spirit poured upon us and into us to enlighten, sustain, keep, and protect us in faith until He comes. By the Holy Spirit of the Living God, the Bride, the Church cries out, “Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus! Come quickly! Come!”

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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