Epiphany 2| John 2:1-11| Pastor James Preus| Trinity Lutheran Church| January 16, 2022
St. John tells us that there were six stone water jars at this wedding for the Jewish rites of purification. These six stone water jars are a symbol of the Law. They are made of stone. God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses on tablets of stone. Stone has no feeling, no emotion. The commandments of the Law are cold and calculated. They tell you what to do and what not to do. They do not ask you what you feel about it. They don’t care if you find them difficult.
These stone water jars held water for the Jewish rites of purification. This shows that the Law can only affect the outside, but it can do nothing to improve the inside. The Commandments can tell your hands and feet what to do, your tongue, eyes, and ears. The commandments can even tell your heart how to be, but it cannot change your heart. Like water used for ceremonial washing, it touches only the outside skin, but never purifies the heart within.
And there are six stone water jars. The Lord said in the Law, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work.” (Exodus 20:9-10a) Sabbath means rest. But there are only six stone jars. There is no seventh. That is because there is no true Sabbath rest under the Law. The Law gives you no rest. It commands you to do, but it never rewards you for having done, because you cannot fulfill what the Law commands. These six stone water jars are a symbol of the six days of labor. Yet, since there is no Sabbath, these six days roll into the next in an endless cycle of incomplete, imperfect work that never accomplishes what it is intended to accomplish.
And these six stone jars are at a wedding feast. And this shows that marriage too is under the Law. It has to be. The Law was added because of sin (Galatians 3:19). Sin is the destruction of what is good. God made marriage good in the Garden of Eden. Sin ruined marriage. So, the Law is added to marriage to keep it in tact, lest it be completely destroyed. So, these six stone jars sit at this wedding as a reminder that the Law must govern marriage as well.
“First comes love, then comes marriage”, so says the children’s rhyme. Yet, wisdom tells us that love alone cannot hold a marriage together, if love is interpreted as a mere emotion. Love as an emotion is fickle and quickly gives way to hate. If what is holding your relationship together is simply a good feeling, well that relationship will soon fall apart when feelings change. And because we are sinners, feelings do change, and for the worse! Sinners don’t think about others, but about themselves and what they want. But that cannot hold a marriage together.
So, the Law must govern marriage with dos and do-nots. And because we are so inclined to sin, rules are added on to the rules God has made. If you want a list of rules on how to keep your marriage in tact you can find plenty of used books for sale, books filled with dos and don’ts for a successful marriage. This is always how the Law works. Even those six stone water jars were not commanded by God, but were invented by men as an additional rule to keep people in line. Yet, if God’s own commands are ineffective in changing our hearts so that we truly love and desire to do what is right, our man-made rules certainly fail. In fact, they often have the opposite effect than what is desired.
And so, sinners despise the Law. They don’t like being told not to do what they want to do. So, they try to reform the Law to be easier to keep. This is no truer than with marriage. God has given us good commandments concerning marriage. Scripture gives three purposes to marriage: 1. Life long companionship; 2. Chastity; and 3. Children. And the rules God gives seek to protect these purposes for marriage. Yet, people are dissatisfied with these rules. They’re hard to keep. So, they try to change them.
Christ said of marriage, “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” (Matthew 19:6) This rule was so strict, it even caused his own disciples to say, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” (vs 10) And because many find it too hard, they have changed the rule. What God has joined together many have separated without biblical grounds. Calling divorce a sin is considered archaic. Jesus must have been naïve when he preached against divorce. He set an unrealistic standard. And so, Jesus’ standard is dismissed. God’s first purpose of marriage, companionship is rejected.
Most people no longer consider sex outside of marriage a sin. It’s the norm now. Only a prude would make a big deal of it. Of course, to maintain this norm millions of babies have been sacrificed at the altar of sexual freedom. Many more have been deprived a stable home with a mother and father. Millions of young women and men have suffered incredible heartbreak on account of this foolhardy sexual reform, but no one will admit the mistake. The next generation is already being indoctrinated into the new sexual orthodoxy by countless media. Jesus’ warning to keep even your eyes free from adultery has been ignored. And so, countless hearts and souls have been stolen not only from spouses but from God in this age of readily available obscene material. But, because many find it difficult to resist temptation, they simply deny that such lusts are a sin. God’s second purpose for marriage, chastity, is also rejected.
Finally, people despise children. They don’t think they do. They just value other things much more. But God doesn’t. Children are rejected, because people fear that they won’t be able to have all the other things they want. God must not have been serious when he said, “Be fruitful and multiply.” People do not trust that God will actually feed every mouth he creates and provide for their little ones. And so, instead of letting God’s Law transform their view of marriage, people change the Law to fit their own views.
People hate the Law, so they change the rules. They hate those stone jars, so they want to destroy them. This is called antinomianism. Antinomianism means to be opposed to the Law.
Yet, Jesus comes and turns the water into wine. He has the servants fill the water to the top. He does not destroy the six stone jars. Jesus comes to fulfill the Law, not to abolish it. Now, the contents of the jars are not useless water for ceremonial cleansing, which never actually clean the inside or change the heart. Now the jars are filled with wine.
The wine is a symbol of the Gospel. The Gospel changes your heart as wine works on the inside to gladden the heart of man (Psalm 104:15). The Gospel doesn’t just pour over your body. It isn’t like cold hard stone. It is lively. It reaches inside of you and changes your heart, so that you feel and think differently.
The Gospel does not make you hate the Law. The Gospel does not make you resent the rules God has given you or turn you into an antinomian. No, the Gospel gives you an affection toward the righteousness of the Law, because Christ has fulfilled it perfectly. The Gospel creates an affection for Christ and his work of righteousness.
The Gospel is the good news that Jesus, true God and true man, has fulfilled the Law in your place and died for all your sins against the Law, so that you are forgiven and saved through faith alone. So, one who believes in the forgiveness of sins, does not hate the Law, even though the Law formerly condemned him. No, the one who believes the Gospel rejoices in the righteousness of the Law, because Christ has fulfilled it in love. Not a mere emotional love, but a love that is made known in action; a love, which causes the lover to sacrifice himself and to suffer for others.
Jesus loved the Lord God with all his heart, soul, strength and mind. You do not resent that the Law commands that of you, because Christ Jesus has fulfilled it perfectly and gives his obedience to you as a gift. You do not resent that the Law commands that you love your neighbor as yourself, because Jesus has perfectly loved the world, even his enemies who murdered him. You rejoice that God’s Law commands such great love, because Jesus has fulfilled it perfectly and gives you the credit to be received through faith.
And so too, you do not resent God’s Law, which governs marriage, even though you often find the rules too difficult. Jesus has perfectly kept God’s Law concerning marriage, and anyone who believes the Gospel sees that this is very good! St. Paul compares marriage to Jesus’ relationship with his Church. Wives are to submit to their husbands as to the Lord and husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her. The teaching that wives should submit to their husbands is another rule of the Law, which has been rejected. People don’t like the rule, so they change it. But St. Paul shows us how we should not hate this rule or reject it, but rejoice in it.
The Church is Jesus’ bride. He is faithful to her. He will never divorce her. Rather he forgives all her sins. He baptizes her and presents her holy and without blemish. He provides for her all that she needs. And the Church willingly submits to Christ. It is not a burden to her. Submitting to Christ means that she submits to his love, forgiveness, and faithfulness. It means that she trusts in him for every good thing and is not disappointed. And so, Christian wives too should not resent submitting to their husbands, because this is pleasing to Christ. By submitting to her husband, a wife submits to her Lord Jesus, who bought her with his own blood, forgives her, and will always provide for her.
Likewise, Christian husbands should not resent the command to lay down their lives out of love for their wives. By loving his wife, caring and providing for her and forgiving her, a husband confesses what Christ Jesus has done for him and his whole Church. And neither husband or wife should resent these standards, because they fail to keep them. Rather they should rejoice that Jesus has perfected them. No husband will love his wife perfectly as Christ loved the Church, but through faith both husband and wife receive that perfect love. And this perfect love of Christ not only secures eternal salvation to husband and wife and all who believe, but it also preserves and strengthens marriage. Emotional love can’t keep marriage together. Rules and regulations build a fragile veneer. But faith in the love of Christ produces an active love that considers the needs of the other above its own. When husband and wife are willing to repent to each other and to forgive each other as Christ has forgiven them, their marriage is secure.
When Jesus turned water into wine, he saved the wedding. He didn’t cause the problem, but he certainly solved the problem. Jesus fixes what he does not break. He pays for sins he did not commit. And so, we find in Jesus, forgiveness of all our sins. In Jesus’ Gospel, we find the Law we have failed to keep, perfectly fulfilled, so that it no longer condemns us. In the Gospel we have a drink that will never run out, but will gladden our hearts forever. Amen.