Epiphany Two Sermon
St. John 2:1-11
There is nothing so very remarkable about God
changing water into wine. He’s
been doing it for thousands of years.
He causes the rain to fall and the sun to shine and the vines to
grow and produce fruit. He
causes the crushed grapes to become good wine that makes glad the heart
of man, as the psalmist says. (Psalm 104:14-15)
What is remarkable is not God’s power to change water into
wine. Rather, it is the
manner in which He did so. He did not choose to do so according to the laws He set down
to govern what we like to call “nature.”
Instead, he chose to do so by means of a miracle.
It was not just any miracle; it was the very first miracle Jesus
St. John writes in the prologue to his Gospel:
It was thirty years after the Word became flesh
that He first revealed His glory as the only begotten Son of the Father.
Today’s Gospel Lesson concludes with these words: “This
beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His
glory; and His disciples believed in Him.”
Why did He wait so long?
Before the wedding at Cana, Jesus lived a sinless life as the
holy child of Mary, but he gave no evidence that He was God. Fraudulent Gospels that weren’t really written by
Christ’s apostles laid claim to all sorts of bizarre miracles done by
Jesus as a boy. He
supposedly made birds out of clay, tossed them in the air, and turned
them into living birds to the delight of his friends.
But our Lord’s miracles were never done for cheap entertainment
or just to show off. Yes,
they did prove his divine power and glory, but they showed much more
than that. Jesus’
miracles showed His divine concern for those who benefited from them,
and not just for them, but for us as well. The fact that Jesus chose to reveal His divine glory for the
first time at a wedding tells us much about what God thinks of marriage.
In the beginning, God made them male and female and
He blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the
earth and subdue it.” Even
after the fall into sin, God blessed marriage.
The very fact that God promised to destroy the power of Satan
through the birth of a Child shows us that God has always honored the
holy vocation of Christian motherhood.
Every Christian woman from the time of Eve onward has known that
God would bring salvation to the world by bringing a holy Child into the
world through a virgin woman. The
“seed of the woman” mentioned in Genesis 3:15 is none other than the
virgin born Son of God, Jesus. Here
in our text and again while suffering on the cross Jesus addresses his
mother as “woman.” To
our ears this may sound less than fully respectful.
But it is actually an expression of profound respect.
When Jesus calls His mother “woman” He is honoring her as the
one to whom Elisabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, said: “Blessed are
you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” (Luke 1:42)
Jesus honors Christian motherhood by honoring marriage.
When the Creator became flesh within the Virgin’s womb and
joined His creation, He did so in order to bless that holy estate into
which God, in the beginning, placed motherhood.
He joined our own flesh and blood to sanctify this holy
institution from which our flesh and blood comes.
It is from marriage that children come into this
Of course, those who deny God as Creator will deny
as well His divine creation. They
will regard marriage as a purely human arrangement and deny its divine
origin. Everyone knows
where babies come from, but it seems that fewer and fewer understand why
God has placed this special intimacy solely within the permanent and
unbreakable bond of holy marriage.
God made marriage and the family the foundation of
all civilization and culture. God
made a man from the dust of the ground and a woman from his rib and then
joined in marriage the two who had been one so that they were one once
more. This was not a
temporary arrangement. Moses
commented on the original marriage by writing, “Therefore a man shall
leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall
become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)
Jesus gave us the authoritative interpretations of Moses’ words
when He said, “So then, they are no longer two but one flesh.
Therefore what God has joined together, let not man put
asunder.” (Matthew 19:6)
Jesus chose not to reveal His glory for the first
time at a gathering of the high and mighty political leaders. He chose not to reveal His glory for the first time at a
gathering of illustrious clergymen or renowned scholars.
He chose to reveal His glory for the first time at a wedding of
one man and one woman.
In that time and place a wedding was a days long
affair. The ceremony itself
was held at night after a time of celebration.
Then, after the liturgical rites were completed, the bride and
bridegroom would enter the home and be treated as royalty for several
days. They didn’t leave
for a honeymoon as is common today.
They stayed put and entertained neighbors and relatives as if
they were, for the moment anyway, king and queen.
Drunkenness was virtually unknown among the Jews.
Public drunkenness was considered disgraceful behavior.
But it was equally unthinkable to have a celebration without
wine. With the wine gone,
the wedding celebration could not continue. The bridal couple did not just face a mild and temporary
embarrassment. They faced a
heart-breaking personal disaster. These
were folks who worked long and hard for little money a wedding
celebration was a very important social event.
Mary could see disaster looming. She went to Jesus for help.
Why Jesus? She knew
who He was. The angel had
told her some thirty years earlier.
She knew He was the Son of God, but she had yet to see Him prove
it. He had hid His glory
under a cloak of humility. Nobody
forced Him to. He did so
willingly. Mary knew that
her humble and dutiful Son would not want the bridal couple to be
publicly humiliated. So she
laid their need before Jesus. “They
have no wine.”
Jesus encouraged her to leave it to Him.
His hour to help had not yet arrived. He
could not do what He came to do if He placed Himself under human
authority in doing it. The task of redeeming the world and saving sinners is a
divine task. Only God can
do it. When the God-man was
in the process of doing it He could be submissive only to His Father in
heaven. As a boy in the
home and as a man in the nation Jesus submitted to the authority of His
parents and the government. As
the Redeemer of the world, He submitted only to the authority of His
Mary knew this.
And she knew as well that Jesus would help.
This is why she told the servants to do whatever Jesus told them
to do. She had every
confidence that her son was also the only begotten Son of the Father,
full of grace and truth.
Jesus told the servants to fill six waterpots with
water so that they contained between 120 and 180 gallons of water.
That’s a lot of water. He
commanded them to take a sample of the water to the master of the feast.
They did. He was
amazed at the water that had become wine.
It was an excellent wine, the very best wine.
He had no idea where it came from, but the servants knew.
There is a spiritual meaning here that we should
consider. Jesus is the
heavenly bridegroom and the church is his holy bride.
He came down from heaven to become her Savior. He gave His life for her, shedding His blood for her,
purchasing her as His own. He
continually cares for her until the end of time.
Mary is a symbol of the church. The church instructs her servants to do whatever Jesus tells
them to do. Ministers of
Christ submit to the authority of the church by submitting to the
authority of Jesus. Mary
willingly submitted to Christ, her Son.
His will must be done. So
she instructed the servants. So
the church must instruct her pastors.
Don’t make up your own religion for us, but rather give to
Christ’s holy bride what Christ Himself has purchased for her.
Give to her the pure gospel and the holy sacraments and in this
way Jesus will bless His holy bride throughout the ages to the end of
The six waterpots represent the Law of Moses that
can only purify outwardly, but not inwardly.
The Jews would wash their hands and their feet with the water.
They were forbidden to eat without washing their hands by means
of a certain ritual. The
six water jars symbolize the fact that outward obedience to God’s law
cannot bring God’s blessing. The
perfect number is seven. Six
falls short of seven. The
law cannot make us holy. It
can only remind us that we are not.
But Jesus takes what falls short and He fulfills it.
He gives them good wine, the best wine.
He gives His church the wine that is His holy precious blood by
which He once and for all redeemed His church from all her sins and
washed her clean to be His holy, pure, radiant church.
She looks ugly at times.
We see her ugliness as God’s people refuse to live as they
should. The Holy Christian
Church remains an article of faith.
We believe it, but we cannot see it.
The church’s holiness is hidden underneath much sin and
And so it is also with the marriages and homes of
Christ’s people. There is
ugliness. Husbands care
first of all for themselves and neglect to care for their wives.
They don’t honor them as Jesus does His church.
They take instead of give. They
make demands instead of sacrificing themselves as Jesus did.
And we see wives, who instead of submitting to their husbands as
to the Lord Jesus criticize them, boss them, and give them grief. On top of these daily failings, we see marriage attacked
within our increasingly godless culture where “God the Father
almighty, maker of heaven and earth” has given way to a god of
relativism and uncertainty. It’s
a god whose only teaching is that there is nothing eternally true.
And so unmarried folks live as if they are married when they are
not. Married couples live
as if they were single. Divorce
is considered an option for marital conflict.
Openness to sexual perversions too disgusting to mention in
God’s house is daily paraded before our children’s eyes by an
entertainment industry dominated by people wholly ignorant of
Well, if we can see all this, think of what God can
see! He, to whom nothing is
hidden, sees what is wrong with marriage in America.
He sees what is wrong with marriage at River Heights Lutheran
Church. And He insists on
blessing marriage in our day, as at the wedding of Cana. He brings the forgiveness He purchased by His blood into our
homes and makes it ours. He
not only washes us clean in Holy Baptism daily, but he enables us also
to see ourselves as saints and so to treat one another.
He who changed water into wine can surely change our cold hearts
to love Him and one another. And
He does. He made good wine,
plenty of it, more than enough to meet the needs of that wedding
celebration. And so He does for us today.
There is no need He won’t fill.
There is no sin He won’t forgive.
There is no loss that He won’t replace with the riches of His
grace. He loves marriage
and He loves children. Jesus
has joined Himself in permanent and unbreakable union to His Holy
Christian Church. That is a
marriage made on earth as He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows.
That is a marriage that will culminate in the eternal joys of
heaven where no sin or sorrow can ever enter.
Rev. Rolf D. Preus