The Second Sunday after Epiphany
January 17, 2016
“God Sanctifies Marriage”
St. John 2:1-11
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, "They have no wine." Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come." His mother said to the servants, "Whatever He says to you, do it." Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. Jesus said to them, "Fill the waterpots with water." And they filled them up to the brim. And He said to them, "Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast." And they took it. When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. And he said to him, "Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!" This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him. St. John 2:1-11
Jesus first showed his glory as true God at a wedding. In the prologue of his Gospel John writes, “We beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” And here he writes, “This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.”
The glory belongs to God alone. “To God alone be the glory.” If the glory belongs to Christ then Christ must be God. This miracle shows that Jesus Christ is the almighty God. The master of the feast said, “You have kept the good wine until now!” Moses writes in Genesis 1:31, “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31a) Jesus didn’t make cheap wine. He made the best. Behold, it was very good.
Jesus did his first miracle at a wedding. God joined the human race. In our assumed flesh and blood he did what only God can do. He created. He did so at a wedding. God sanctifies marriage. What did Jesus say to his mother when she told him that they had no more wine? He said, “My hour has not yet come.” What had happened when Jesus changed water into wine? His hour had come.
Marriages are not made in heaven. In heaven there is no marriage. Marriage is made here on earth. In the beginning God made them male and female. He formed the man out of the dust of the ground and he made the woman out of the man’s rib. He brought the woman to the man and married them to each other. Adam and Eve did not evolve out of the slime. God made them in his own image. Marriage didn’t evolve either. God established marriage in creation. When Jesus spoke of the permanence of marriage in Matthew 19, he appealed to what God did in the beginning when he joined Adam to Eve and he concluded, “Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” Marriage is God’s doing.
An attack on marriage is an attack on God. When men and women, unable to govern their sexual urges, engage in sexual intimacy outside of the marital bond, they sin against God. It doesn’t matter if you are in love. It doesn’t matter if you think you are in a committed relationship. What matters is if you are legally married. If you are not, and you engage in sexual intimacy, you commit fornication. Fornication is an attack against marriage.
Adultery is an attack on marriage. We read in Proverbs 5:15-20,
Adultery is not only a sin against the husband or wife who is being defrauded. It is a sin against God who joins this man to this woman. Adultery destroys marriage. The same God who said in Malachi 2:16 that he hates divorce, makes adultery grounds for divorce in Matthew 19:9.
God established marriage in the beginning as the lifelong union of one man with one woman. He blessed that union and continues to bless it with children, according to his fatherly creative will. The union of a man with a man or a woman with a woman is not and cannot be a marriage for the simple reason that God has not ordained it but explicitly forbidden it in both the Old Testament and in the New Testament. Same sex “marriage” is an oxymoron: a contradiction in terms. Such unions cannot possibly bring forth life. They can only bring forth death.
How do we know that marriage is an institution of God, blessed by God, and sanctified by God? The Bible says so. Jesus sanctified marriage – he made it holy – by choosing a wedding to be the time and place when he first manifested his glory as almighty God. He changed water into wine to signify his love for marriage.
You see marriages fail. You see husbands and wives at each other’s throats. Husbands cheat on their wives. Wives cheat on their husbands. They drag marriage through the mud. Drunkenness, drug use, violence, irresponsible spending, and the constant pick, pick, picking away of unabated criticism, like the Chinese water torture, drives the spouse into the ground. We see all this and think that marriage is in bad shape. No wonder people decide to forego marriage and just move in together, pretending that fornication isn’t fornication and if it is, God doesn’t mind, or if he does, he’ll forgive anyway because, after all, God is love.
What folly! As if God can be mocked! No, instead of treating what is abused and distorted and trashed as if it is used up junk, look to him who takes what is abused and renders it whole, who takes what is distorted and refashions it according to God’s own design, and who takes what is trashed and makes it beautiful once again. Marriage is a wonderful estate! Christ comes into marriage and makes it wonderful.
Christ is the bridegroom who gave his life for his bride, the church. He became her head by becoming her Savior, by bearing in his own body all her sins and by washing away those sins and filling her with his Spirit in the washing of Holy Baptism. Christ sanctifies his bride and makes her holy.
The Church submits to Christ as to her Savior. She is not afraid of him abusing her and disdaining her if she fails to please him. She knows she pleases him. He tells her so. Christ rejoices in his Church and loves her. He purchased her with his own blood, washed her clean of all her sins, and claimed her as his beautiful bride.
“My hour has not yet come,” Jesus said to his mother. The hour came for the miracle at the wedding of Cana. But the hour to which our Lord was looking was three years beyond that wedding when he was facing imminent crucifixion on the cross and said:
Then God glorified the name of Jesus. It was on the cross. There he bore the sin of unfaithful husbands and wives, of wife-beaters, drunks, fornicators, adulterers, homosexuals, and every kind of sinner who has violated the holy institution of marriage. By bearing those sins he took them away. And now this same Jesus comes into our marriages to sanctify them.
There were six waterpots. They were used for ritual purification. Six is the number of imperfection. It is one short of seven. Seven signifies God’s blessing on the world. Six cannot sanctify. Six signifies a purity it cannot give. Christ’s signs seal what they signify. Whatever Jesus touches is sanctified by his most holy and vicarious obedience, suffering, and death. Jesus fulfills and replaces the Old Testament rituals with his gospel. He does not sanctify us by means of legal regulations, but by his grace, by bearing our sin away and forgiving us.
Jesus’ mother, Mary, symbolizes the Church. Mary says to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” The Church says to her pastors, “Whatever Jesus says to you, do it.” The Church’s agenda is whatever Jesus says. Just as the husband and the wife are one flesh, so Christ binds himself to his bride, the Holy Christian Church, and permits nothing to come between them. Jesus is Lord of the Church. Mary, the God-bearer, submits to the authority of him she bore. So also does the Church.
Jesus first showed his glory as God at a wedding. He told the whole world what God thinks of marriage. God doesn’t change his mind. He doesn’t get tired of putting up with us and decide to scrap the whole thing. He stays with it. He stays with marriage. He stays with us. When we look around us and see how a dying and increasingly godless culture discards with contempt what God sanctifies as precious, we will remember who we are and to whom we belong. We are the bride of Christ. We are washed clean of all our sin by Christ’s blood. We are joined by Holy Baptism to him who will never be unfaithful to us, who will never divorce us for someone prettier or more appealing, but will hold us safe in his keeping. He is faithful. He cannot deny himself.
Since Christ holds onto his bride, we, both husbands and wives, hold onto each other, freely forgiving one another as we have been freely forgiven. Husbands imitate Christ’s faithful love for his Church and wives imitate the Church’s faithful submission to Christ. Whatever is lacking in our imitation is not lacking in God’s grace. God sanctifies marriage. He stays with this holy institution and sustains it until the end of time.
Rolf D. Preus