2nd Sunday after Epiphany + John 2:1-11
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Typically the wedding isn’t about the guests. This particular wedding in Cana of Galilee was like any other Jewish wedding, bride and groom surrounded by family and friends celebrating the fact that the Lord had once again given an Adam his Eve. Jesus and His disciples were there and by His presence there Jesus sanctified the estate of marriage as something good, holy, and God-pleasing. It was a joyous occasion, that is, until the wine ran out. It may seem like a paltry problem to us, an embarrassment at worst. It’s not a problem like leprosy or death. But it was a disaster nonetheless because the lack of wine threatened to end the joy of the newlywed’s beginning of a life together in the blessed estate God had established in the Garden of Eden. Mary, perhaps a relative of the bride or groom, goes to Jesus. “They have no wine,” to which Jesus brushes her off, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” Jesus will not be beholden to anyone’s timetable, not even His mother’s. Mary isn’t fazed by Jesus’ abrupt response but tells the servants, “Whatever He says, do it.” What faith she has. She had, after all, been treasuring up angel’s words, shepherd’s reports, and the Spirit-inspired confessions of elderly saints for nearly three decades in her heart. It may seem like a small request, perhaps too small for Jesus. But she asks Him nonetheless, and directs others to Him as well. She knows that He will act when and where it pleases Him and that He will act for good.
Now there were six water pots of stone there. They housed water to use for the purification rites prescribed by Moses. And these were big water pots, twenty or thirty gallons, and rightfully so. The Law of Moses was a burden and a yoke that no one was able to bear. Jesus tells the servants to fill those water pots with water. He intended to repurpose them. And the servants, heeding Mary’s words to them, didn’t fill them a good amount, or most of the way full, but all the way to the brim so that they had upwards of one hundred and eighty gallons of water. Jesus bids them to draw out some out and take it to the master of the feast and they obeyed. By Jesus’ command the water turns into something else entirely: the choicest of wine. We understand the steward’s reaction. The good stuff comes out first. Later, when, the senses are a dulled a bit and the heart is glad, the inferior doesn’t taste as inferior as it really is. “This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana in Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.” This is the sign that Jesus chose as His first. And as His first sign it shows His disciples, and us, what kind of God He is. It should be obvious that this sign reveals Him as true God, for only God can change one thing into another with only a word. The sign shows His glory, His divinity. But it also shows us what kind of ministry He has among the Jews and among those who believe in Him today.
By performing His first sign at a wedding, Christ shows what sort of business He’s about. He blesses and sanctifies marriage between a man and a woman because He instituted it in paradise before mankind’s fall into sin. Christ shows us that God is pleased with marriage. He wants to be present in it for the blessing of the man and wife. He wants to bring them joy. But more so He shows us that He comes to celebrate a spiritual wedding. St. Paul teaches us in Ephesians 5 that Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for her, that He sanctifies and cleanses her through Holy baptism, and presents her to Himself as a glorious church, “Not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27). So Christ baptizes sinners and cleanses them from their sins in that very act of baptism. This is why Paul calls it the “washing of regeneration” in Titus 3:5 and why Peter says in his first epistle, “Baptism now saves you” (1 Peter 3:21). In baptism Christ removes your sins and clothes you with His perfect righteousness earned through His innocent life and bitter sufferings and death. The Church is made up of the baptized and is Christ’s bride. We belong to Christ our Bridegroom and like a groom, He promises to give us everything that is His: righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, even as He takes everything that is ours: our sin, our weakness, and our condemnation. As the Bride of Christ, having been washed, regenerated, and sanctified in Holy Baptism, we ought to love Him alone as our treasure. We should forsake all others so that we look to Him alone for every good thing. And we ought to cherish all He gives us in His Word, for all of it is gift. By performing His first sign at this wedding, Christ shows us that He has come to claim sinners for Himself in love, as a groom pursues and sacrifices all He is for the sake of His earthly bride.
By repurposing the six stone water pots that housed the water of Law, Christ shows us that His ministry is different from that of Moses. Moses began His ministry by striking the waters of the Nile and turning them into undrinkable blood. Moses’ ministry was one of death and condemnation. That’s what Paul calls it in 2 Corinthians 3, a ministry of condemnation, because that’s what the Law does. It shows us the depth of our sinfulness. It shows us our sins and condemns us for our transgressions. It turns water into blood. It only brings death because no one can fulfill it, as Solomon, Paul and Peter all confess. John writes, “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). Jesus strikes the waters in Cana with the rod of His mouth and turns them into the choicest wine. Moses brings condemnation. Jesus brings joy, for wine gladdens the hearts of men. Moses condemns all mankind in its sin. Jesus atones for the sins of all mankind, earns a perfect righteousness under the Law, then offers that atonement and righteousness to all who flee to Him for mercy. Moses can only bring angst and regret and death. Christ brings peace with God and joy of heart for all who believe in Him.
Finally, He shows us what a loving and compassionate God He is. This problem at the wedding at Cana in Galilee may not seem like a serious matter compared to the problems Jesus confronts in His other miracles. It is simply lack that these newlyweds experience. But Christ doesn’t look at their lack and pass them by. While we may be tempted to say, “This problem is simply too small for Christ to deal with,” Christ does just the opposite. His mercy is on those who fear Him and He commands us elsewhere to cast our anxieties and cares upon Him, whatever they might be, no matter how large or insignificant they may seem. And though He may not answer immediately, He tarries in order to exercise our faith. Look at Mary. She tells Jesus they have no wine and Jesus brushes her off. Yet Mary is undeterred and tells the servants to do whatever He says, for she knows that He will answer her prayer in His own time, according to His own will. So we must not prescribe the manner and means by which God should act, and simply ask our Lord for help and aid, trusting that He will give us what we need when we need it. For He knows best when and how to turn our water into wine, our weeping into rejoicing, our lack into fullness.
All this He shows us with the first of His signs. As His disciples saw this and believe in Him, may God grant us grace to faithfully believe in Him as well, so that we might daily be cleansed from our sins and rejoice in our heavenly Bridegroom who as loved us and given Himself for us.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.