The Second Sunday after Epiphany
January 19, 2020
“God Loves 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. John 2:1-11
Jesus did his first miracle at the wedding in Cana to teach us. The word the New Testament uses for miracle is the word sign. Christ’s miracles signify things. They teach us. The miracle or sign of Jesus changing water into wine at the wedding of Cana teaches us about Christ and about marriage. We learn about Christ’s marriage to his bride, the church, and we learn about the marriage between a man and a woman.
Marriage here in America has fallen on hard times. More and more couples choose to move in together and fornicate instead of getting married. More and more people are doing it. What people are doing is for many the standard for what should be done. They follow the crowd. Christians follow the crowd right out of the church. God’s written law, not what “everyone is doing,” is the standard for conduct among us Christians. The Sixth Commandment says, “You shall not commit adultery.” What does this mean?
The translation I learned and taught for many years uses the word “chaste” for sexually pure. Chastity is sexual purity. To be chaste does not mean to be celibate unless you’re not married. Sexual purity for boys and girls, men and women, who are not married means that they don’t engage in sexual intimacy. If a man loves a woman or if a woman loves a man, this does not give them the right to engage in sexual activity with each other. Marriage does. God himself is the One who has confined sexual intimacy to marriage. God established marriage in the beginning as the lifelong union of one man and one woman. One man and one woman – this is what God did in the beginning. This is what God commanded in the Law he gave to Moses on Sinai. This is what our Lord Jesus sanctified when he did his very first miracle at the wedding of Cana.
Within marriage, sexual activity is pleasing to God. God made it a joy for married couples. He ordained that this expression of marital love would be the means by which he would create new life in the womb. God sanctified childbirth by choosing to be born of a woman. The Virgin Mary became the mother of God, for the little baby Jesus was God in the flesh.
Christ sanctified marriage by doing his first miracle at a wedding. He showed himself to be the Creator who established marriage at the beginning of time. God looked at what he made and behold it was very good. Just so, the wine that Jesus made at that wedding was very good, the very best. The couple was out of wine. The company had already drunk enough that their palates would tolerate a cheaper wine than they had already drunk, but our God doesn’t make cheap stuff. He makes only the very best!
Marriage is the very best! It is his first institution. Before he instituted the civil authorities, before he established his church, he who made them in the beginning made marriage. The sin that sinful husbands and wives bring upon marriage cannot make marriage any less holy than God made it at the beginning. Christ’s miracle at Cana teaches us this! The first time God in the flesh gave a sign to show he was God in the flesh was at a wedding. What does that tell us about God’s view of marriage? Is he willing to give up on it? By no means!
Underneath this account of an ordinary wedding to which the Lord God in the flesh was invited is a picture of another marriage, the marriage of Christ to his church. So as not to confuse metaphors, Mary is also a picture of the church in this story. She is the church as our mother. She tells Jesus that the wine is gone. The church tells her Lord what the people need. But the Lord does not take orders from her. He says, “What does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” The church doesn’t tell Christ what to do. But she does tell her servants what to do. And what is that? Mary said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” The church requires her ministers to do what Jesus says. Not what the church says. What Jesus says.
The church as our mother is represented by Mary, Jesus’ mother. The church as mother is the church as she gives. Mary gave birth to Jesus. She received her baby from God. Her baby was God. Just so, the church as our mother gives birth to us. She has received Holy Baptism. She has received the gospel of the forgiveness of sins. She has received the sacrament of Christ’s body and blood. Through these treasures that belong to the church we are born into the church and nourished by the church. She is our mother.
The church is also the bride of the bridegroom. This is a different picture. This is the church as she receives. The bridegroom gives himself to his bride and she receives him. They are joined together as one. They are one flesh. How does this union between Christ and his Christians take place?
Some might suggest that we make Jesus our Lord and Savior by submitting to his authority over us. As if we obey the law and in response to our obedience to him he welcomes us as his own. But that’s not how it works. The law is symbolized by the six waterpots of stone. Six. Not seven. Six. Six is all we can do. We can work for six days, but we cannot bring about the seventh. The Sabbath rest is God’s gift. The six waterpots signify the ritual purification of the law. It signifies purity but doesn’t actually purify. Only Christ can do that. He changes the water of ritual purification into wine. This signifies that he fulfills all legal requirements for us and gives us, freely by his grace alone, the wine of salvation. The miracle at the wedding of Cana is not only Jesus sanctifying that man and woman’s marriage to each other, but it is also a picture of Christ’s marriage to his church. He gives her what she needs most. Good wine, the very best wine, is the wine that is the blood of Jesus Christ, shed for us for the forgiveness of sins. The greatest joy of our union with Christ is that he graciously covers all our sins by his blood, sets us free from all worry and anxiety, and brings joy into our lives.
Christians sometimes find themselves in marriages that bring anything but joy. They prove to be burdens that bring sorrow and anger. Sin must be confessed. Sin must be forgiven. Sin must be forsaken. A man or woman who cheats on his wife or her husband, in so doing is denying the marriage between Christ and his church, for Christ cannot cheat on his church, nor can the church remain the church of Christ if she goes whoring after other husbands. Sexual immorality is a very popular sin, not just because it feels good at the time. In fact, the good feeling doesn’t last nearly as long as the painful knowledge of your own cravenness, dishonestly, and lowdown betrayal of the one who trusted in you. The reason fornication is so popular today is because the devil hates the love between Christ and his church. He wants to get between us Christians and our bridegroom, Jesus Christ. The assault on Christian marriage is a wedge he uses to separate us from our Savior.
The gift of children is the greatest blessing with which God blesses marriage. Sometimes women conceive and cannot see that the birth of a child is a blessing. Often it’s because they are not married. Or perhaps they are married to an unfaithful husband. Everything they can see suggests that the little baby inside their womb is more trouble than he’s worth and they are tempted to abort the preborn baby. After all, it’s legal.
At times like this Christians are called upon to offer whatever help they can give to encourage these mothers to protect their children from harm. Abortion is not the answer. A child is never a curse. A child is always a blessing from God. When the Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus – God in the flesh – God sanctified motherhood until the end of time. Jesus loves the little children. He warned those who would cause them to fall from him. He wants them in his church. He established marriage for their benefit.
Marriage is a wonderful, precious, holy gift that God gave our first parents in Paradise and sanctifies for us today. It is true that husbands and wives are sinners who do each other wrong. It is also true that we Christians have the authority from God himself to forgive one another. Forgiveness doesn’t excuse sin. It rather empowers sinners to live as saints. Christ has washed his church with his own blood. That’s what baptism does. It washes us in the blood of the Lamb. This is a continual cleansing.
Surely, if Jesus will purchase his bride with his own blood, he will bless our marriages with whatever we need. He who changed water into wine can meet every need we face in our marriages. He can and he will.
Rolf D. Preus