Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sermon for 17 January 2010, Epiphany 2 C

Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.

St. John 2:1-11

The First of His Miraculous Signs

Second Sunday after the Epiphany, 17 January 2010

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Just as the word, “Epiphany” (which means “manifestation”) implies, the Epiphany season manifests the power of the deity of Jesus Christ for the good of all kinds of people. These manifestations in Scripture continue to be signs to us, just as they were to the first disciples, of Jesus’ power. These signs display that power not simply to show it off but to demonstrate what His power accomplishes for people whom He loves.

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.

Following His Baptism in the Jordan river by John, Jesus soon begins His ministry. The time has come to do the work of His Father in Heaven. Jesus has just called several of his disciples, namely Andrew, Simon Peter, Philip, and Nathaniel in the previous chapter of St. John’s Gospel account. We continue with chapter two.

3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

This was a major social faux pas on the part of the host of the wedding banquet. One was not supposed to run out of wine—especially not at a party that was to last most of a week! This was the celebration of a wedding! Mary wanted to help the host, and the newlyweds, avoid embarrassment. What was Jesus to do?

3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” 4 “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.”

The time had fully come for Jesus to be born. The time had come for Him to be Baptized. The time had come for Him to begin His ministry. The time had even come for Him to call His disciples. But he time had not yet come for Jesus to die. If He were to manifest His glory now, would it lead to opposition? Opposition would come soon enough. Later in chapter two Jesus cleared the Temple in Jerusalem of merchants and money-changers. He didn’t make many friends.

Jesus appears to have relented, in obedience to Mary, recognizing that the time had come for His first miraculous sign. He lends His compassionate aid to this request.

5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. 8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

Jesus produces an enormous quantity of wine, 96 to 144 gallons, scholars estimate. This should be plenty to last the rest of the time of celebration. It is often asked why Jesus made wine at all and particularly such a large quantity.

Wine and its quantity are important symbols in the Scriptures. In the Old Testament, wine and oil or milk are signs of the age of salvation, the time of the coming of God’s Messiah. The following verses are but two prophesies describing the time of the Messiah.

Jeremiah writes (31:12) They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion; they will rejoice in the bounty of the LORD— the grain, the new wine and the oil, the young of the flocks and herds.

And Joel (3:18) says: ‘In that day the mountains will drip new wine, and the hills will flow with milk; all the ravines of Judah will run with water. A fountain will flow out of the LORD’s house and will water the valley of acacias.

The image of abundance, bounty, plenty, cups running over, is associated with the blessing to accompany the arrival of the Messiah. When you see these things, know that the time is at hand. The Messiah has finally come! The image of the banquet feast goes hand in hand with this imagery.

The Messiah has come. He is present at the Wedding in Cana and blesses all with His presence. This sign gives the guests an Epiphany. They learn who He truly is what what He can do for them.

The Messiah has come—to us! He is present with us in this Divine Service. He is our Heavenly Bridegroom, giving us, His Bride, the Holy Christian Church, a preview of the Marriage Feast of the Lamb in His Holy Supper. He blesses us with His presence, with us according to His promise to be with even two or three gathered in His name, present in His Holy Word, and present in His Body and Blood in, with and under the bread and wine of the Sacrament. He gives us, His guests, an Epiphany. We learn who He truly is, the Son of God. We learn what He did for us, die on the cross and rise again. And we learn what He does for us, namely give us the forgiveness of sins. That is a miraculous Gift!

11 This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.

Signs. St. John always refers to Jesus’ miracles as “signs.” He does this for a specific reason. “Sign” is a word emphasizing the significance of the action, the importance of what is going on, rather than the marvel itself. A miracle may be misunderstood as a “magic show.” St. John helps us keep focused on the true purpose of signs. They revealed Jesus’ glory. That is our Epiphany for this week, Christ Jesus revealed as one who has authority over creation itself, changing water into wine.

This sign reveals Jesus as none other than the creator of Heaven and earth. In the beginning a word created everything out of nothing. Let there be…God said. The Word made flesh Himself used words to bring about this change. Fill, He says. Now draw some out, He says. The servants did as they were told. All is accomplished by His Word.

This was not a trick that food coloring could pull off. No one has yet invented instant wine. This was fully aged, mature, fruit of the vine. It was good wine, the master of the banquet tells us. “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” Not just good wine—it was the best he had yet tasted.

If Jesus our Lord, the Lord of Creation, could instantly create aged wine, why must we doubt that God is the creator of Heaven and Earth? Things may have been created looking older than they actually are. Would that be too difficult for one who created light by a word, changed water into mature wine, and even rose from the dead? We trust in all of these things by faith, not by sight.

This sign is just a foretaste of the signs to come: healing the sick, even those crippled from birth, walking on water, feeding five thousand plus, and raising Lazarus from the dead. But all these would pale in comparison to the fulfillment of Jesus’ words also from St. John chapter two: “Destroy this temple and I will raise it again in three days.”…But the temple He had spoken of was His body. After He was raised from the dead, His disciples recalled what He had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

We would do well to do the same, to believe the Scriptures and the words Jesus has spoken.

“You have saved the best till now,” said the master of the banquet. I say to you, He gives His best to you now, even the forgiveness of all of your sins. On the cross of Calvary, forgiveness of sins was won. At the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, forgiveness of sins is given you, now. We are given the very best—the Bread of His Body and the Wine of His Precious Blood to eat and to drink. In this miraculous meal, He reveals Himself to us. And we, His disciples, put our faith in Him. Amen.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.