Second Sunday after Epiphany| 2016| Rev. Rolf Preus| John 2:1-11
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 God’s view of marriage. He believes that we should celebrate marriage. Were God down on marriage He certainly wouldn’t 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: “Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled.” 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. God’s creation is God’s 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 don’t 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 don’t see this. It’s 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 God’s word. The fact that Jesus withheld the manifestation of His glory for thirty years until the wedding at Cana is quite instructive. God doesn’t 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 Jesus’ 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 didn’t 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 shouldn’t drink at all. The psalms speak of wine as both a blessing and a curse. It depends on how it is used. Jesus didn’t change water into grape juice. He made wine, good wine, the best wine anyone there had ever tasted. And He didn’t 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 haven’t 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 don’t 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, we’re 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. I’m not any more. The more you do the more you learn that you don’t 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. That’s 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 can’t change anyone else on the inside. We are sinners in need of forgiveness. If we don’t 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 weren’t an end in themselves. They showed who Jesus was, but they didn’t 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 that’s 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 doesn’t 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 shouldn’t 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 couldn’t 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 Christ’s 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.