Epiphany 2| John 2:1-11| Pastor James Preus| Trinity Lutheran Church| January 15, 2023
“This, the first of His signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested His glory. And His disciples believed in Him.” John 2:11
When Jesus turned water into wine, He manifested His glory, that is, His divine glory. That means, that Jesus revealed Himself to be God. Now, this was clearly a miracle. Perhaps you don’t think this was the most glorious miracle. Yet, this miracle teaches us something about God’s glory.
God’s glory is made manifest in the Gospel, that is, when God shows grace and mercy. God caused a great flood to cover the entire earth, killing every living thing in whose nostrils was the breath of life. But God’s glory was revealed in how He rescued Noah and his family through the ark. God sent ten disastrous plagues on Egypt and destroyed Pharoah’s army in the Red Sea, yet His glory was revealed in bringing Israel safely across the sea on dry ground.
And so, here at this wedding, the people have already had enough to drink as the master of the feast says. They aren’t in any especial need. It’s simply a want they are lacking: more wine. And Jesus gives it to them. He uses His miraculous creating power to give to these party guests something pleasant to gladden their hearts. This epitomizes God’s grace. He gives to those who do not deserve it. Jesus’ glory is revealed when He shows undeserved love.
The purpose of Jesus revealing His divine glory is so that people will believe in Him and be saved. When Jesus manifested His glory by turning water into wine, His disciples believed Him. And this further shows that faith is created not by God showing wrath, but by God showing grace and mercy.
There were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification. Stone represents the Law, because Moses received the Law on tablets of stone. Jewish rites of purification remind us that the Law can only command your outward actions, but it cannot purify your heart. The number six is the number of the six days of creation, but it lacks the seventh day of rest. This shows us that by works of the Law, we will never find rest. Rather, we always fall short, as St. Paul wrote to the Romans in chapter 3, “For by works of the Law no human being will be justified in God’s sight, for through the Law comes knowledge of sin.” So, no matter how often you wash the outside of the body in ritually pure water, no matter how diligently you strive to fulfill God’s Law, it remains unfulfilled and you find no Sabbath rest.
Jesus turns the water of these six stone water jars into wine, demonstrating that He is the Creator who created all things in six days. Yet, by turning the water into wine, Jesus forever changed the function of those water jars. They no longer could be used for ritual purification. So, by converting us with the Gospel, we no longer can become slaves of the Law. We have been set free from the Law’s condemnation.
As the water in the stone jars could never cleanse the heart, so the Law can never make a person righteous on the inside. Yet, as the wine goes deep into the body and changes him from the inside out, so the Gospel penetrates deep into the sinner and changes him into a new man.
The Law can only threaten. Do this, or you will die. Don’t do this, or you will die. Yet, as much as you train your outward limbs and senses to obey the decrease of the Law, your heart remains untouched. The Law may threaten eternal hell with fire and torture, yet this cannot turn the heart from unbelief. The only thing that can change the heart of man is God’s love, as St. John says, “We love, because [God] first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
And so, it is fitting that the first of these miracles of grace, which reveals Jesus’ divine glory is done at a wedding. St. Paul tells us that the Church is Jesus’ bride. Jesus is the bridegroom. Moreover, he says that a wife should submit to her husband as the Church submits to Christ and that a husband should love his wife as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her. Well, how does a husband get his wife to submit to him? Can he do it with threats and rules and commandments? He may get a servant that way, but he will never get a devoted wife that way. And so, Jesus does not win His bride over with threats and rules. He wins her over by showing grace and mercy. The disciples believed in Jesus, because Jesus used His divine power to love. And we believe in Jesus for the same reason.
We are conquered by Jesus’ love. When we consider Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, the preaching of the Gospel, the Absolution, these are not things considered glorious by the world. They’re ignored, mocked, and neglected. But when these things confront a sinner, who has tried to wash himself over and over again by means of the Law, yet over and over again falls short, the glory of these means of grace is revealed. When we see that God is merciful to us and that He gladly forgives our sins, then we cling to the signs of that forgiveness and we believe in Him.
The Church is the bride of Christ. The Church is the community of believers. Those who believe in Christ’s promise of forgiveness and salvation are members of Christ’s Church. The Virgin Mary also is a symbol of the Church, because she is Jesus’ mother and she becomes our mother through faith. Every remarkable thing the Virgin Mary did was through faith in God’s Word. Mary told the servants to do whatever Jesus tells them to do. And so, the Church, the community of believers tell the servants of the Church, the pastors, to do whatever Jesus tells them to do. So, as the servants at the wedding feast poured water into stone jars and drew out wine, so do the pastors of Christ’s Church carry out seemingly mundane tasks, but Christ works miracles through them.
A pastor pours water on a child’s head and says the words of Jesus, and that child becomes a child of God washed clean of all sin. The pastor says the words of Jesus over bread and wine, and the bread and wine become the very body and blood of Christ ready to forgive the sins of all who eat it in faith. The pastors preach a message prepared for them by Christ, and the Holy Spirit works through their words to change hearts, forgive sins, and make saints out of sinners. Through the service of these men, Christ manifests His glory to sinners and wins them over as believers and members of His Church.
When Mary first told Jesus that they had run out of wine, Jesus responded by saying that His hour had not yet come. Jesus’ hour usually refers to His passion, when He is betrayed into the hands of sinful men, flogged, spit upon, mocked, and finally crucified to death. Yet, this was to be Jesus’ first miracle. After Jesus began performing miracles, His course to the cross was accelerated. Soon, He would find no place to lay His head and would be pushed out into deserted places until He finally returned to Jerusalem to be crucified.
It seems peculiar that Jesus told His mother that His hour had not yet come, and then shortly after He performed the very miracle needed. When Jesus told His mother His hour had not yet come, was He speaking of mere minutes? Did He mean to say, come back in five? Why this soft rebuke over a few minutes?
The hour of Jesus’ crucifixion was determined from eternity, just as Jesus’ return to judge the living and the dead, and as Jesus’ coming in human flesh in the fullness of time. Yet, this does not mean that God is not moved by prayer. “My hour has not yet come,” Jesus says. Yet, then He does what He has been asked. It seems that Jesus accelerated His hour planned from eternity on account of the prayer of His mother, who herself is a symbol of the Church. So, also Jesus accelerates His mercy toward us when He hears the prayers of His Church.
“It’s not the right time.” I hear that in one form or another quite often. People say they’ll start coming back to church when things calm down, when their health improves, when work is under control, when they’ve sorted out some personal thing in their lives. And people say such things to themselves much more than they say it to me. “I’ll go to Christ at the right time.” But the right time is now. You need God’s grace now. Tomorrow is not a given. But Jesus stands ready to give you His grace, even if it isn’t the right time!
So, don’t wait until you’ve sorted it all out, until you’ve gotten control of your sins or emotions or work or health. Ask Jesus now and expect His forgiveness and mercy as He has promised in His Word. If He can perform His first miracle when His hour has not yet come, if He can change the hour, then He certainly can help you when you’re not ready.
Jesus turned water into wine without growing a vineyard or harvesting grapes or crushing the grapes and aging the must. And so, in the Sacrament of the Altar, Jesus turns wine into His own blood. Yet, that blood did not get there by such peaceful means. The Sacrament of the Altar is the true body and blood of Christ under the bread and wine for us Christians to eat and to drink. Bread is made from grain. Yet, before the grain can be turned into bread, violence must be done to it. The grain must be crushed, pulverized into flour, and baked. And so, Jesus’ body, which is given to us with the bread, was crushed. He was nailed to the cross and baked to perfection, so to say, as He gave up His Spirit for our sake. Wine too is made from grapes through violence. The grapes must be squeezed and crushed until the juices pour. And so, Jesus’ blood was poured out of His body for the forgiveness of our sins.
The grace we receive in Church through the proclamation of the Gospel and the Sacraments is given freely to us. We receive it as a gift through faith apart from our works. Yet, this grace is not free. Jesus paid the ultimate price for it. There is no Sacrament of the Altar or Baptism without Jesus being killed and shedding His blood for our sake. There is no Absolution, nor can you see God’s glory apart from the cross of Christ, where our God died for our sins.
Jesus’ disciples believed in Christ when His glory was made manifest at a wedding. The entire Christian Church believes in Christ, because His glory was made manifest on the cross. It doesn’t look like glory. It looks pathetic and gruesome. Yet, on the cross our God showed His greatest love and mercy and accomplished the greatest good for us. He won for us forgiveness of sins and made Baptism, the Sacrament of the Altar, Absolution, and the proclamation of the Gospel effective cures for our sin.
On the cross, Jesus laid down His life for His bride. His glory was made manifest in His love. And so, the Church believes in, trusts in, and submits to her Husband willingly, and gladly receives every good from Him. Amen.