Saturday, January 16, 2021

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.

In the Bible, wine represents joy, a gift of God that gladdens the hearts of men. Isaiah compares the joy of the kingdom of heaven to a feast of the finest meats and the choicest of wines. At the Last Supper, Jesus comforted His disciples who were saddened that He would be leaving them with the promise that He would drink wine with them once again in the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus’ first recorded miracle took place at a joyful wedding, a wedding, however, that was at risk of becoming a sorrowful mess because they had run out of wine. Not only were the bride and groom at risk of their joyful wedding being ruined, but they were also at risk of social embarrassment and humiliation. Their marriage would be marked forever by that singular bad omen: They ran out of wine.

“They have no wine,” Mary said to her son. The strangeness of this statement draws our attention to it. Last Sunday we heard Mary’s distressed words to the boy Jesus concerning His remaining in the temple while His family made their pilgrimage back to Nazareth: “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” Jesus mildly rebuked her saying, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” Mary treasured up all these things in her heart. Mary had treasured and pondered Jesus’ words for nearly twenty years by the time of the wedding in Cana. By informing her son that they had run out of wine, it is clear that Mary believed that Jesus could do something, and would do something, about it. She didn’t know what He would do, but she believed in Him, she trusted Him. Once again, however, Jesus answered here with a mild rebuke saying, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” Mary accepted the rebuke without insult and she instructed the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.” And, they did.

While the address, “woman,” was not as derogatory, harsh, or even sexist then as it sounds to us today, it was nevertheless a rather impersonal way of addressing one’s mother. Jesus used that very same address to Mary from the cross when He said, “Woman, behold your son.” Jesus used this address to Mary, not to be derogatory, but when what He was about to say was a matter of great significance. In the temple as a boy, Jesus proclaimed that God was His true Father and that He must be about His Father’s work. At the wedding in Cana, Jesus revealed that the time of His divinely appointed work, to offer Himself as the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world, had not yet come. It would come soon enough, but not an hour before the time appointed. Then, Jesus would bring joy, not merely to a wedding, but joy to all the world. And, that’s what this story is truly all about. It’s not about wine, or even a wedding, but it’s all about Jesus – who Jesus is and what He has come to do. Jesus is the joy that wine and weddings are but a dim shadow of. Jesus is joy to the whole world and peace with God. This was the first of Jesus’ signs, and His disciples believed in Him, His mother believed in Him, and we believe in Him too.

The six stone water jars were for the purification rites of the Jews. According to rabbinic law, guests must ceremonially wash themselves in order to participate in the wedding feast. This was not potable water. Countless filthy hands would have dipped into it. The water was not there for drinking. Nevertheless, in response to His mother’s announcement that they had run out of wine, Jesus instructed the servants to fill the jars with water to the brim. They did. Imagine their thought, then, when Jesus instructed them to draw some of the water and take it to the master of the feast! Nevertheless, they did as Jesus instructed. When the master of the feast tasted the water, now become wine, they had to be truly stunned, for they knew what was in those jars and for what purpose that water served, and, likewise, they knew now that something truly miraculous had happened, and they knew that Jesus was the cause of it. But the master of the feast did not know, therefore he praised the bridegroom saying, “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 laws of purification involving the water were rabbinic laws. They were manmade laws. The practice of symbolically purifying oneself before a sacred event or meal is not a bad practice in and of itself, in fact it’s a pretty good practice, but the rabbis, whom the New Testament writers came to refer to as Pharisees and scribes, bound the people’s consciences by such laws and oppressed them to obedience and justification by works under the law. Because of this legalistic oppression the people were robbed of the Gospel, they could never be assured of their forgiveness, and so they had no joy, but only fear, resentment, bitterness, and sorrow. In transforming the water of purification into the finest of wine Jesus demonstrated that He was fulfilling the law and removing its demands setting the people free that they should keep the law without fear in love, peace, and joy.

The fact that only a few knew that the miracle even happened is simply the way the LORD works: It all began with one man, Adam. It began anew with one family, Noah’s. The covenant was broadened to all nations through the call of one man, Abraham. The covenant was fulfilled in one man, Jesus, the only name under heaven by which we must be saved. God is not slow, as men consider slowness, but He is patient, desiring that all should repent and be saved. God works through means, over time, through a few people, who tell a few more, who tell a few more again, and again, and again, etc. God works through you.

The miracle occurred on the third day. It was also on the third day that Jesus’ parents found him in the temple teaching the teachers. The third day is the day of Jesus’ resurrection, the day all previous third days were pointing to. At the time of the wedding in Cana, that hour and day had not yet come. Nevertheless, Jesus gave a sign of what that hour and day would bring. It would bring joy to all the world through peace with God. No longer will there be laws of purification, for no longer will there be sin. Sin will be atoned for all people in Jesus’ blood and death upon the cross. It won’t merely be good wine, but it will be the best wine imaginable and forever.

For Jesus and for the wedding guests at Cana, the hour had not yet come. But for you here today, that hour has indeed come and is even now present: Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. And Jesus Christ, our Lord, Savior, and Heavenly Bridegroom is present with you His Church, His Bride right now that He might feast with you and commune with you in this Holy Supper, a foretaste of the Marriage Feast that is to come, that you may have joy and peace with God and with man, and persevere in faith, hope, and joy until He comes. Through His Word and Sacraments, through the fellowship of this family of faith, the Church, through faith and trust in Jesus, we have that joy right now, and joy to spare and see us through times of darkness and unrest such as we are experiencing at this hour. Don’t keep it to yourself. Let the Light, Love, and Joy of Jesus shine through you bringing joy to this world that could desperately use it.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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