The Second Sunday after Epiphany| Rev. Rolf Preus| January 19, 2014| 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
When Jesus changed water into wine he did what was humanly impossible to do. He created something out of nothing. He didn’t add ingredients to the water. He didn’t substitute wine for water. He changed the water into wine. It was a miracle. It was a sign. As a miraculous sign it signified something about Jesus and it signified something about marriage. So today we will talk about Jesus and we will talk about marriage and we will talk about Jesus and marriage.
First we talk about Jesus. The changing of water into wine is a sign that reveals who Jesus is. Jesus is God in the flesh. The entire Christian Church confesses this. We confess in the Nicene Creed that he is “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.” He is the eternal God who, in the fullness of time, “came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man.” What happened to his deity? Well, God cannot cease to be God. Were he to become something other than God he would be mutable – changeable – but God cannot change. A god who can cease to be God was never the true God in the first place. One of the reasons we know that the Mormon religion is not Christian is their false view of God. The so called Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints teaches the doctrine of eternal progression: “As man is, so God once was; as God is, so man may become.” Their god became god. That proves he is a false god. The true God is eternally God. He is immutable – unchangeable.
Jesus did not become God. God the Son became a man. St. John writes, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld his glory.” (John 1:14) St. Paul writes, “In him [that is, in Christ] dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” (Colossians 2:9) We call this the personal union. From the time of his conception in the womb of the Virgin Mary there was a personal union between the eternal Word and the human nature he assumed. God and man are united in one person. This is a wonderful mystery. St. Paul writes in 1 Timothy 3:16,
And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:
God was manifested in the flesh,
Justified in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Preached among the Gentiles,
Believed on in the world,
Received up in glory.
Yet for thirty years after the incarnation of God, the incarnate God hid his divine glory. True, the twelve year old boy Jesus was quite obviously an exceptional boy whose knowledge of the Holy Scriptures amazed his teachers. But it was not until he was thirty years old and a guest at a wedding in Cana of Galilee that Jesus first revealed his glory as God. Our Gospel for today concludes: “This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.”
Some of the fake Gospels that were authored by false apostles portray Jesus as doing all sorts of impressive miracles as a young boy to show off his power and impress his friends. Leave it up to the false teachers to invent such foolishness. The four Gospels record for us the true historical account of Christ’s life and St. John, who wrote the Fourth Gospel, was an eyewitness of what he described. He saw Jesus do what only God could do. He created. As in the beginning, it was very good. Christ’s miracles show that he is God in the flesh. He hid his divine glory under humility and he did so for a reason. It was for us. It was so that he could take our place under the law, live a life of humble obedience as our substitute, and to die in our place on the cross to take away our sin. We cannot know God apart from this humble life and death. If God appeared to us in his undisguised glory we would run away from him. Hiding his glory under humility we can approach him with confidence. He comes to bless, not to judge. But don’t mistake his humility for weakness. He does what only God can do. He is God in the flesh.
Now we talk about marriage. Jesus did his first miracle at a wedding. This tells us what he thinks of marriage. He honors it. He blesses it. He approves of it. This matters. It matters to all of us, whether or not we are married. God established marriage in Paradise when he made Adam out of the dust of the ground, made Eve from his rib, and brought her to him. God married Adam to Eve and Eve to Adam and in so doing he established marriage as his good work. Marriage will last until the end of time. God joins one man and one woman as one flesh for as long as they both shall live. God blesses this union with children. Everything that God says in the Bible about marriage is confirmed by the fact that God in the flesh first reveals his divine glory at a wedding.
Marriage is under attack among us. This is an attack on the Lord Jesus Christ, the heavenly bridegroom who gave his life for the Church, his bride. The assault on marriage takes on different forms.
The first assault against marriage is the public approval of fornication. Fornication is the sin of engaging in sexual intimacy with someone to whom you are not married. The Bible condemns fornication and says that fornicators do not inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9) Sexual intimacy outside of marriage is sin. It is rooted in selfishness. It contradicts the Christian confession. It is the way unbelievers live. The notion that a man and a woman may enjoy the intimacy that belongs to marriage even when they are not married is a godless notion.
The second assault against marriage is divorce. God’s word forbids it. The Bible gives only two grounds for divorce: adultery and desertion. Committing adultery or leaving one’s spouse is tantamount to divorce. God does not require Christians to remain married to adulterers and deserters. The Church of Rome goes beyond the Holy Scriptures when they forbid divorce even in cases of adultery and desertion. They end up granting annulments that are, in effect, divorces by another name. On the other hand, the Protestant mainstream has turned a blind eye to Christ’s strong words against divorce and the result has been the ruin of countless families.
Children are the victims of divorce. Through the prophet Malachi God says that he hates divorce because he wants godly children. Marriage is not simply for the purpose of gratifying whatever desires men and women may have. It is for the benefit of the children. Children need the care of fathers and mothers who are devoted in mutual faithfulness to one another. God hates fornication and he hates divorce because he loves children. Fornication and divorce hurt children.
A more recent attack on marriage comes from the promotion of homosexuality. This perversion is condoned and widely celebrated. Even the president of the United States advocates changing the law to permit a man to marry a man and a woman to marry a woman. This kind of absurdity comes from the sanctification of selfishness. Homosexuality breeds death. It cannot bring new life. It is the defiant denial of God as Creator. Yet civil authorities and even some who pretend to speak for the Church set this perversion of marriage alongside of God’s holy institution of marriage as if they are the same thing. They call it “marriage equality” as if honoring God’s institution and debasing it are equal. God cannot join a man to a man or a woman to a woman because he who made us male and female in his image cannot deny himself. Marriage is God’s good work.
This miracle is proof. God joined the human race. God became a man. He gave evidence of this mystery of mysteries by blessing a wedding with a miraculous sign. Let us talk a bit about Jesus and marriage. Mary speaks for the Church. The Church tells the Lord Jesus of her need. She prays. What does Jesus say to his Church when she prays to him? He says, “Leave it to me. I will do what must be done when my hour has come.”
Did Jesus do what needed to be done? Yes, he did. And why did he do it? He cares about marriage. He cared about that specific marriage and he cares about our marriages. He cares about our homes, our families, our lives, from our deepest needs to every detail. Jesus told Mary to leave it to him. That’s what we do. God is in charge of our troubles and that’s enough.
Husbands and wives face conflict with each other. The selfishness of the one causes the other hurt and then the hurt leads to more hurt and their love becomes strained. They turn to friends for advice and get rotten advice because the godless culture has done its godless work in promoting its godless values. It teaches us to look out for our own needs first. There’s a recipe for conflict if there ever was one. Look out for number one! The false gospel of self-esteem denigrates selfless service to others. It promotes self-seeking and self-centered selfishness as a virtue. Christian couples who face the pains that their sin inevitably brings upon their marriages find no help from those who don’t believe what God says about sin and repentance and don’t care what God says about forgiveness.
But it is forgiveness that we most desperately need. Forgiveness is at the heart of this particular sign. Let us pay attention to the details. There were six waterpots of stone used for ritual purification. Six is one short of seven. Seven is the perfect number. It is the number of God blessing the world. Six falls short. Outward purification doesn’t get the job done. Wearing makeup doesn’t make you pretty, nor is your beauty to be found within you. Indeed, your biggest problem is within you. You cannot cover up. You cannot find the truth within you. Such a quest will lead you astray. Marriage, family, and life itself are sin-wracked and unmanageable messes until Christ changes the water into wine. He makes all things new by forgiving us all our sins.
My hour has not yet come. But it came. It came, not when he rescued that wedding from ruin, but when he rescued this world of sinners from the ruin of their sin by bearing the sin of the whole world in his body on the cross. That was the hour of God’s glory. The incarnate God who first revealed his glory by blessing a wedding purchased the Church with his own blood when his hour had finally come. He invites us to that hour. The Holy Spirit leads us to the hour of Christ’s suffering and death. Husbands and wives, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters – there is where we find our identity as God’s children. It is where God’s anger against us is taken away forever. It is where our baptism obtains its power to wash away our sins and set us before God as his beautiful bride. Where Christ’s hour came is the time and place of our salvation. We experience a greater miracle than water becoming wine. We eat the bread and drink the wine that have become Christ’s body and blood. When we do, we proclaim the death by which our sins of selfishness and pride are buried in Joseph’s tomb and we are set free to love one another.
God blesses marriage and the family. It is perfectly obvious that that young couple who got married in Cana of Galilee did a poor job of planning. But they invited Jesus. That’s all they really needed. All our marriages need is Jesus. When he is invited in he takes care of our problems when his hour has come. Amen.