Second Sunday after Epiphany
Marriage Made in Heaven
When Jesus chose to manifest His divine glory for the very first time He chose to do so at a wedding celebration. This tells us something about Godís view of marriage. He believes that we should celebrate marriage. Were God down on marriage He certainly wouldnít choose to honor this estate as highly as He has.
This needs to be said again and again and again. Couples get married, fall into bad habit, fight, bicker, and generally make life difficult for the other. Drinking to excess, violence, infidelity, mismanagement of money, and a host of other problems combine to destroy one marriage after another. The fact that sin distorts what is holy should not surprise us. But people often come to a false conclusion. They see what sin does to marriage and instead of blaming sin and the sinners they blame marriage.
Many couples move in together and live as husband and wife without bothering to get married. In this way they can leave the relationship whenever they please. But the Bible says that marriage is the prerequisite for sexual intimacy. In Hebrews 13:4 we read: ďMarriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled.Ē The marriage bed is defiled not only when husbands and wives cheat on each other, but when single people do what God has reserved for the marriage bed.
More recently, the very definition of marriage had come under attack. Homosexuality is not only tolerated but even promoted. Just yesterday the Grand Forks Herald featured a glowing review of a movie that celebrates this perversion as a legitimate expression of true love.
All of this is an attack on a holy institution. All of this is an attack on the God who has blessed us with the holy institution. In the fact of the assault on marriage we look to Jesus to see what God thinks.
God creates and it is good. Consider the wine. The best the couple could afford was not nearly as good as the wine that Jesus made. This is as it was in the beginning. God saw everything that He had made and behold, it was very good. Godís creation is Godís creation. It is always flawless. The corruption that we have brought upon the perfect world God made does not change God. God remains the author of only good gifts.
What complicates things for us is the fact that we donít see the good that God made. We see it only as it exists today, corrupted by sin. We cannot look under the sin to see what a perfect marriage would be. Or is there anyone here who has a perfect marriage? You never argue, quarrel, or sin against each other in any way. The husband loves the wife with a pure and sacrificial love. The wife willingly submits to the husband. The children are all dutiful, respectful, and helpful. We donít see this. Itís human nature to judge according to what we see. So we judge marriage and the family by what we see.
We need to learn to judge instead by Godís word. The fact that Jesus withheld the manifestation of His glory for thirty years until the wedding at Cana is quite instructive. God doesnít do what He does for no purpose. Jesus intended for us to conclude that everything that happens in our marriages matters to Him. He blesses marriage as marriage even as he blesses us as individuals, whether we are single or married.
Mary knew that Jesus would bless the wedding. This is why she brought the matter to Jesusí attention when they ran out of wine. She knew that He would do what needed doing. When He told her that His hour had not yet come, she accepted this without complaint. The simplicity of her faith was remarkable. Instead of being put out by being put off, she told the servants to do whatever Jesus told them to do. She didnít know how Jesus would help, but she knew He would. She knew her Son. And she knew that if they did what Jesus said the celebration would be saved from ruin.
Jesus made good wine.
It is not a sin to drink alcoholic beverages. It is a sin to drink too much.
If you drink to get drunk you shouldnít drink at all.
The psalms speak of wine as both a blessing and a curse.
It depends on how it is used.
Jesus didnít change water into grape juice.
He made wine, good wine, the best wine anyone there had ever
tasted. And He didnít
make just a little. He made
over a hundred gallons of it. He
made more than they needed.
St. John recounts for us that Jesus was invited to
the wedding. He would not
have come without an invitation. The
Bible clearly teaches that we havenít got the spiritual ability to
make ourselves into Christians. We
rightly reject the notion that a Christian becomes a Christian by
inviting the Lord Jesus into his heart.
Once we are in a position to invite the Lord Jesus in, He has
already joined us and become one with us.
You donít become a Christian by inviting Jesus in.
He sends His Holy Spirit who breaks down the hardness of our
hearts and changes us on the inside so that instead of running away from
Him we embrace Him in faith. Faith
is not our doing, but the gracious work of God in our hearts.
But a Christian most certainly does invite the Lord
Jesus into his life. Every
time we pray we invite Him in. Every
time we open our Bible to read it, we invite Him in.
Every time we engage in a theological conversation we invite
Jesus to that conversation because He is the center of all Christian
theology. And Christian
couples invite the Lord Jesus to their weddings and their marriages
because they know that without His blessing they will ruin everything.
Oh, we plan. But
what plans that you make actually work out as you make them?
If you can look back on how you looked ahead did you know then
what your life would be now? And
could you control what happened? Could
you determine that this or that would take place simply because you
planned for it?
While wedding celebrations have changed much over
the years, we have a lot in common with that couple that had no more
wine and a big group of guests who would soon learn that the party was
over. Simply put, weíre
not ready for life. I
recall when I was a young pastor in my twenties and parents would ask me
my advice on how to discipline a teenager.
Before I had any of my own I was an expert.
Iím not any more. The
more you do the more you learn that you donít know how to do it.
A successful marriage and successful childrearing is not a matter
of knowing what to do, it is a matter of knowing who knows what to do.
Thatís a fact.
Knowing Jesus and inviting Him into your home means
first of all knowing that you cannot make marriage pure and holy, nor
can you raise pure and holy children.
The six waterpots were filled with water for the purpose of
outward purification. This
symbolizes what we by nature can do.
We can only deal with the outside.
We cannot change ourselves and we certainly canít change anyone
else on the inside. We are sinners in need of forgiveness. If we donít know this we cannot enjoy a Christian marriage
or raise Christian children. We
invite Jesus into our homes by confessing that we need Him. We need what He alone can give.
His hour came.
The hour to help a family in need came and He did what was
needed. But the miraculous
signs were only signs. They
werenít an end in themselves. They
showed who Jesus was, but they didnít reveal His true mission.
That would be revealed later.
The signs showed Jesus to be true God in the flesh.
Only God can make something of nothing.
Jesus manifested His divine glory and His disciples believe in
Him. But they balked at His
true mission. When He said
that He would be rejected by the religious leaders, suffer many things,
be mocked, insulted, and crucified, and rise on the third day, they
could not believe it. But
thatís the heart of our faith. His
hour came to bear the sin of the world.
It was on the cross that He met our every need.
The sins that beset us, that bring misery and pain into our
marriages and homes, that cause conflict, division, quarreling, and
every kind of sadness are the sins that Jesus took away on the cross.
He bore them. This
is how He took them away. He
bore them, that is, He suffered what they deserved and in so doing He
forgave them. God doesnít
just say that we are forgiven. His words are grounded in truth.
We know what we do. We
know how we mess up our lives. We
know what we said that we shouldnít have said and how it hurt others
and by hurting them hurt us as well.
We know what we did that brought pain.
We know this. But
God our Savior knows something more powerful than our sin.
He knows the suffering of His Son Jesus.
He knows that while we couldnít purify ourselves except on the
outside, the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin, and makes
us pure and holy and without any spot or stain.
We know that Christís death for us all really does take away
all the failures and sins that beset marriage and disrupt the family.
Listen to what Jesus does for His bride as St. Paul describes it
in these words from Ephesians 5:26-27,
That he might sanctify and
cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present
it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any
such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
This is how the Church, washed in the blood of
Jesus by the washing of Holy Baptism, appears to her husband. She is pure and holy, forgiven of all her sins.
And this is how Christian husbands and wives should appear to one
another. This is what it
means to invite Jesus to our wedding.
We listen to what He says. The
six stone waterpots cannot make us clean.
But Jesus can. And
Jesus does. He says words
of comfort, absolution, and peace.
We receive them in the gospel and sacraments entrusted to His
church. We share His words with one another. This is how our homes are blessed and how marriage is
sanctified among us.
Rev. Rolf D. Preus