The Second Sunday after the Epiphany| Rev. Rolf Preus| January 18, 2009| St. John 2, 1-11
“This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.” St. John 2, 11
When God became a man he did not change. God cannot change. He is immutable. This means that he lost none of his divine glory. He hid it but he did not lose it. He chose to cover up his glory under deep humility. He was born in a stable. His first crib was a manger. He did not hobnob with the high and mighty. His mother Mary prophesied concerning him in her Magnificat. She said:
He has put down the mighty from their seats
And exalted them of low degree.
He has filled the hungry with good things
And the rich he has sent empty away.
Jesus was no name dropper. He was unimpressed with the pomp and ceremony associated with human pretensions to greatness. He upended the false standards of this world. He associated with the lowly.
But he manifested his glory. He showed the world that he was God. The Bible says he was God in the flesh. He showed it. He did what only God could do. In doing what only God could do he not only taught us that he was God he also taught us what God wants for us. Today we consider the first miracle that Jesus ever did. We learn what God thinks of marriage.
We know that Jesus is God because he did what only God can do. Only God can turn water into wine. God causes the rain from the sky to fall upon the ground in which the vines have their roots. He causes the sun to shine on the leaves. The vines grow and produce grapes. The juice of the grapes is squeezed or stomped out. This juice ferments and becomes wine. God makes water into wine. He’s been doing it for thousands of years. The process takes a while. We think it happens naturally but what we call nature is God’s handiwork. God works through means. He works through the rain, the sun, the good earth, the grapes, and the process of fermentation.
Now God appears in the flesh. The time has come to reveal his glory to the world. He chooses to do so by turning water into wine. What under the laws of nature might take years Jesus does instantaneously. And nobody had tasted better wine. It was not just so, so. It was good. Jesus did what only God could do. In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth the verdict upon his creation was stated by Moses: “Behold it was very good.” The verdict upon the wine Jesus made was given by the master of the feast: “You have kept the good wine until now.”
Jesus does what only God can do. In this way he shows that he is God.
If Jesus is God then he can help us in any difficulty we face. If he is God he is almighty. If Jesus is God then he knows all of our troubles. If he is God he is omniscient. If Jesus is God then he cares about every single detail of our lives. He isn’t just concerned about humanity in the abstract. He cares about each one of us individually.
This he makes crystal clear. He chooses to do his first miracle at a wedding celebration. St. John tells us that the changing of water into wine was the first sign or miracle that Jesus did. For thirty years he hid his glory. He first revealed that he was God in the flesh at a wedding.
We don’t know the couple’s name. It doesn’t matter. We know that Jesus’ mother was there. We know that there were many people there. We know that they had not planned for as many guests as there were. To run out of wine would have been a humiliation. Mary knew it. She also knew that her Son knew it. She also knew that her Son would do what needed to be done.
The Holy Spirit chose to record for us the single event in Jesus’ life from the time he was a baby until the time he was thirty years old. The twelve year old Jesus in the temple teaches us to love God’s house, to hold God’s Word sacred, and gladly to hear and learn it. The thirty year old Jesus doing his very first miracle at a wedding teaches us to honor marriage. If Jesus honored it so should we. For Jesus is God in the flesh. He’s the one who instituted marriage.
When the Creator joined his creation he chose to reveal his glory at a wedding celebration. God established marriage in the beginning. He joined one man to one woman. He made them one. He gave them a gift of intimacy by which to express their mutual love. Through this gift he continues to create new life. Marriage and the family did not evolve over time. They were established by God in the beginning when he made us male and female in his own image.
There is no question that sin has distorted what God made. Men and women engage in the intimacy that belongs to marriage as a form of recreation. They take a beautiful gift and rip it away from where God put it. They take what is holy and they make it dirty. They use it solely for their own pleasure and then they wonder why their relationships don’t last. Entire industries thrive and prosper by perverting and debasing what God in the beginning made pure and holy.
But the God become flesh is determined to sanctify what has been spoiled. He is going to elevate what has been debased. He is invited to the wedding. He turns imminent disaster into a wonderful celebration. The Bible condemns drunkenness in no uncertain terms, but God does not disapprove of the moderate use of alcohol. Jesus made good wine. He celebrated with the couple, their families, and their friends. He was invited, he came, and he turned potential humiliation into a wonderful blessing.
And so he does today.
He’s the only one who can. The love with which marriage begins faces strain. What begins as joy often degenerates into bickering, arguing, and fighting. Husbands and wives become trapped in their own sin. They do to each other what breeds resentment and anger. And they teach their children by their example.
Then Jesus enters in. Jesus is the bridegroom. The Church is his bride. Listen to how St. Paul describes Jesus’ love for his Church in his Epistle to the Church in Ephesus:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5, 25-27)
How does Jesus sanctify his Church? How does he make her holy? He does so, not by laying a burden upon her to fulfill, but by bearing her burden for her. He gave himself for her. That is, he died for her. He suffered for her. He bore in his own body her sins. After dying for her and rising from the dead he instituted Holy Baptism as a means by which he might sanctify and cleanse her. The blood he shed for her on the cross is now applied to her in this washing. God joins the then and there to the here and now.
The water that was used for ritual cleansing took no sin away. But the Lord Jesus has joined himself and his holy death to the water of Holy Baptism and this most surely does take sin away. The wine that made the hearts at that wedding celebration glad did not take any sin away. But the wine that we drink at the altar of this church is most surely the very blood of Jesus that was once and for all shed for us for the forgiveness of sins.
We are the Church. Jesus gave us life for us. He is the bridegroom and we are the bride. Jesus continues to sanctify marriage today even as he did nearly two thousand years ago. He and his disciples were invited to that wedding. He was welcomed into that home. He came with blessing.
He always comes with blessing. He makes us happy. He brings what we need to make our marriages happy and our homes secure. We don’t need a better job, a bigger house, more money, or more leisure time. We need Jesus. We need the forgiveness that he gives. It comes from God. This forgiveness was earned by God become flesh. This is how we know it is real and certain and valid. God himself guarantees it. This is the forgiveness that we can share with each other. We have the divine right to forgive each other our sins. This is more precious than our good intentions and sincere promises. When Jesus enters in he always comes with forgiveness. It is new every day. This is how we find marital happiness together. We embrace Jesus together. And the love we find in him is the love we share with each other.
If we want to know what a happy marriage is all about we look to Christ’s marriage to his bride, the Holy Christian Church. We don’t look to the popular culture that despises what is pure and holy. We don’t look to our own fickle feelings. We look to where God has joined us. He became one of us not only to share our flesh and blood. He became one of us to bear our burdens and our sin. He became one of us to join us where we live. So we welcome him into our marriages and homes. He comes willingly and in his own time he will turn our every failure into blessing. Amen