God’s Glory Revealed in Love
January 17, 2021
Rev. James Preus
What do you think? Is God’s glory revealed more prominently in his power or in his love? This is a major question, the answer to which determines very much how you perceive your relationship with God. Jesus performed his first sign at a wedding in Cana in Galilee, manifesting his glory, so that his disciples believed in him. While turning water into wine is certainly a miracle, it does not demonstrate the immense power of dividing the Red Sea in two or walking on water or raising the dead. Yet, by turning water into wine at a wedding, Jesus showed that his glory is not revealed primarily in his power, but rather in his love.
This is not to say that Jesus is not all powerful. Jesus is omnipotent, the almighty God. But we don’t believe in Jesus through the revelation of his power alone, but through the revelation of his love. And in turning water into wine at a wedding, Jesus shows his love and commitment both to our earthly marriages and to Christ’s heavenly marriage with his Church. The stone jars Jesus filled with wine were not meant for wine. They were meant for water used in ceremonial washing after the tradition of the Jews. Yet, by using them for wine, Jesus demonstrates that it is not human traditions that determine what marriage is, but God. And God has made both earthly marriage and the marriage between Christ and his Church to be a joy.
There are three God-given purposes for marriage: Companionship, Chastity, and Children. First, Companionship: God said in the Garden, “It is not good for man to be alone; I will make a helper fit for him.” (Genesis 2:18) So, God made a woman for the man and joined them together as one flesh (Genesis 2:24), so that Jesus says, “What God has joined together, let no man separate.” (Matthew 19:6) So, it comes as no surprise that God says that he hates divorce (Malachi 2:16 NKJV). Who doesn’t hate divorce? But God doesn’t simply hate divorce the way Tammy Wynette sings about it. God hates divorce so much that he undoes divorce and will never again be separated from his Bride.
When Adam and Eve sinned against God, they caused a great divorce between man and God. Sin separates us from God. And through Adam we are all born in sin. Yet, this divorce did not just separate man from God, but man from one another. The first man ever born murdered his first brother. And mankind was divided into factions; families dividing in hatred, nations rising in enmity against other nations. Yet, God did not stop loving our race, and so he sent a Savior, as it is beautifully described in that great hymn,
“The Church’s one foundation/ Is Jesus Christ, her Lord;
She is His new creation/ By water and the Word.
From heav’n He came and sought her/ To be His holy bride;
With His own blood He bought her, And for her life He died. (Samuel Stone, The Church’s One Foundation, LSB 644).
And this is the reason Scripture says that husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the Church (Ephesians 5:25). Neither the threats of the Law nor God’s demonstrations of power through a world-wide flood, plagues, and the destruction of nations could reunite his people to himself, but rather in love sending his only begotten Son to die for us. (That is where God’s greatest glory is revealed!) Likewise, a husband cannot get his wife to respect him by exerting force, but rather through love, even by laying down his life for hers.
This also leads to the discussion of wives submitting to their husbands. Few passages in Scripture are met with as much resistance as the passages, which tell a wife to submit to her husband (Ephesians 5:22-24; 1 Peter 3:1-6). And many women (and men) reject this, either dismissing it outright or trying soften it by saying that husbands and wives should submit to each other. Yet, that is not what the word means. Submit means to subordinate. Two people cannot submit to each other. One submits to the other. When St. Paul tells us to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ, he is not telling every single person to submit to every single person. Rather, he is telling each of us to submit to those whom God has placed over us, even as we submit to Christ. God has created an order (1 Corinthians 11:1-3). The husband is the head and the wife the body just as Christ is the head of his body the Church. The Church submits to Christ. Christ does not submit to the Church, rather, he lays down his life for her in love. Yet, Christ does submit to the Father’s will, even though he is equal to the Father. Likewise, the husband does not submit to his wife, but rather loves her, serves her, and lays down his life for her.
And so, you see that it is actually a strange thing to protest that wives should submit to their husbands. Except for God the Father, there is not a being who must not submit to another. All of us must submit to many people on a regular basis, from employers to people in government and the church. Yet, God here tells the wife to submit to her husband, the man whom God has commanded to love her unconditionally and to sacrifice all for her welfare. Of all the people a woman must submit to in her life, she should be most willing to do so to her husband, because by submitting to him, she is putting her trust in him. This is how the Church submits to Christ. The Church submits to Christ by trusting in his love, believing that everything he does for her is for her good. Yet, even if a husband does not love his wife as he should (which they never do perfectly), Scripture still tells wives to submit to their husbands to the glory of Christ, so that they may win them over by their Christian conduct (1 Peter 3:1). And Scripture spends many more words commanding a husband to love his wife, so that when his wife submits to him, she is putting her trust in his love for her.
It is through this relationship of love being given and love being trusted that God designed the companionship of marriage to survive. It involves continued repentance and forgiveness, patience and kindness, humility and selflessness. And this is what our Lord Jesus has demonstrated to us by continuing to forgive us with patience. And he promises never to divorce us.
Chastity is sexual purity. Sexual relations are only permitted within marriage between husband and wife. Outside of that bond it is called fornication and adultery. Yet, within marriage it is a blessing from God, which helps prevent sin, as St. Paul says, “But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each wife her own husband.” (1 Corinthians 7:2) Sex outside of marriage is a sin and an attack on marriage. It harms men, women, and children, and cannot be considered an act of love, but of selfishness. Therefore, all Christians should abstain from sex until they are married and then be faithful to their spouse. Such faithfulness God rewards with happiness and children.
Faithfulness in marriage relates to faithfulness to Christ. We are to have no other gods and we are to trust in Christ alone for salvation. So, just as husband and wife should be faithful to each other and remember their wedding vows, so each Christian should remember that we have one Lord who has bought us and joined us to himself forever. He is our Redeemer.
When God first joined man and woman together in marriage, he blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply.” (Genesis 1:18) And the Psalmist declares, “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.” (Psalm 127) And so, children have always been a God given blessing to marriage and the fruit of marital fidelity. So likewise, Christ’s union with his bride the Church begets children born of water and the Spirit. And within the household of God, these children are nourished by the proclamation of the Gospel, Absolution, and the Sacrament of Christ’s body and blood. In the Church he strengthens and shelters his children by forgiving their sins and filling them with his Holy Spirit. And everything he gives to his children, they receive from their Mother, the Church.
Yet, despite how Scripture praises children as a wonderful blessing from God, children are often despised. People think they get in the way of life. They disrupt plans. They’re expensive. They wreck things. So, more and more married couples choose to prevent having children so that they can save more money to spend on stuff or they wait to have children until they think they have enough money, as if God would let their children starve or go naked. And of course, many learn that it isn’t for them to choose anyway. God is the one who gives and withholds children.
Marriage took multiple blows even before so-called “same-sex marriage” became a thing. Divorce destroyed the lifelong companionship instituted by God. Fornication has defiled the marriage bed. And people value stuff that will turn in to junk in a few years more than children they can baptize and teach the Gospel to, so that they can live with them forever in heaven! And many young people are forsaking marriage all together, choosing rather to fornicate, since it is now socially acceptable. Marriage is looked at as a burdensome undesirable thing.
This is sad. God didn’t create marriage to be a burden. He doesn’t give us children, because he hates us. Marriage isn’t a life-long prison sentence. God gives us marriage, because he loves us. Outside of the Mystical Union between the Church and Christ, marriage is the most blessed union on earth! God created marriage to be a joy! This is shown in how Jesus blesses this wedding with wine. Wine is considered a non-essential, a luxury you can do without. Yet, Jesus uses his first miracle to make wine, because, as Scripture says, wine gladdens the heart of man. (Psalm 104:15) He does this to show that joy is not a non-essential. God created marriage to be a joy, just as he sent his Son to rescue us from our sins, so that we may have joy with him forever in heaven.
Yet, we must not confuse the joy God gives to marriage and to his Church with the lusts and passions of the sinful flesh, which pass away, give headaches, and fill you with regret. The joy God gives his Church stems from the forgiveness he won for us for Christ’s sake, which brings us into Communion with him and one another. God gives joy to marriage even when our sin tries to ruin it. God honors marriage by likening it to Christ’s union with the Church. He gives joy to marriage by blessing it with his children, whom you raise as God’s holy instruments. Even when God withholds children from a marriage, he still blesses it with love. He blesses marriage with the forgiveness of sins, so that husbands who fail to love their wives and wives who fail to respect their husbands can be reconciled. And in his Church, Christ even gives joy to those who have unlawfully divorced, who have committed adultery, fornication, or have otherwise dishonored marriage, by forgiving them and joining them to himself again.
Jesus turned water into good wine even after the wedding guests had already drunk enough wine. He did this to show that he gives his joy to those who don’t deserve it out of his own grace and mercy. He forgives us sinners. He blesses our marriages. He gives us laughter even in the midst of this sinful world.
Jesus performed this first miracle in the village of Cana in Galilee, a town forgotten by history. This shows us that Christ values our marriages and our families and desires to dwell in them to make them holy. Although history will most likely forget you, your marriage and children, God will never forget you. The most sacred house is not the Capitol or even some ancient cathedral, but the Christian home where husband and wife dwell with their children in the Word of God. That is where Christ desires to dwell, to forgive and strengthen them through his word. To such a meek and despised setting, Christ continues to reveal his glory through his love in the Gospel. Amen