Sunday, January 17, 2010

Epiphany 2 Sermon -- John 2:1-11 (LSB Epiphany 2C)

January 17, 2010 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran ChurchMechanicsburg, PA

“This, the first of His signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested His glory. And His disciples believed in Him.”

Jesus enjoys weddings. He is always present at them, always talking about them. This is so in our day, as Jesus makes Himself present at the weddings of His followers. It has also been true in history, as you heard in today’s Gospel Reading: “On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus was also invited to the wedding with His disciples.”

Why does Jesus attend the wedding? It can be inferred from John’s account that Jesus was familiar with the bridal party. That His mother and His brothers were present implies that the entire family of Jesus knew the members of the bridal party. Perhaps the bride or groom was closely related to Jesus. Could this be the wedding of one of Jesus’ sisters? But His presence at the wedding is for more than social or family reasons.

Jesus’ presence at weddings—and His use of them as elements in His teaching—reveals something about His identity. You learn about who Jesus is by His attendance at weddings, especially this one in Cana. For at Cana, Jesus makes known who He is by His actions. What Jesus does at that wedding reveals who He is.

You heard that there was something wrong about this wedding at Cana. All the guests were there, so that isn’t it. The ceremonies assumedly were conducted without error, so that isn’t it, either. But during the banquet, the wine supply goes dry: “When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, ‘They have no wine.’” This is bad. It is socially awkward at best. It is symbolically damaging; as the wine represents the joy of married life, to have it run out at the banquet is a terrible sign. It would be what the guests remember forever about the ceremony, what they take with them from this event.

So what does Jesus do for this bride and groom that He knows? How does He solve their problem? First He responds to the news of the wine supply’s end: “What does this have to do with Me, woman?” Or more precisely according to John’s actual words: “What is there to both Me and you, woman?” That is: “What have we in common? In what way does this affect both Me and you the same?” And Jesus goes further: “My hour has not yet come” or “Has My hour not yet come?”

These are not dismissive statements to Jesus’ mother. Rather, with such a response, Jesus says that this is a problem that He must fix. The problem, the negative effects that the lack of wine will have on the marriage of the bride and groom actually affects Him. Jesus asks: “What does this have to do with Me, woman?” It has everything to do with Him. And His mother gets it, as is seen in her response to Jesus: “His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever He tells you!’” She knows that Jesus is going to act.

And act He does: “Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water!’ And they filled them up to the brim. And He said to them, ‘Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast!’ So they took it.” Jesus is acting here, using the creation that He has made and manipulating it for His great and gracious work. For the water loses its nature and becomes wine by Jesus’ direction for the benefit of the bridal party.

The Evangelist records: “When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now!’” What Jesus provides is very good. And this reveals something about His identity and character. As the One through whom all things were made, when Jesus acts He turns out good product. When Jesus acts, He does not do so half-heartedly, but to the fullest.

Knowing the value and character of Jesus’ actions is important for you. For by that knowledge revealed to you, you know what type of Savior you have. The One who does not act half-heartedly in this miracle is the same One who does not act half-heartedly for your salvation. No, He gives His all for you—even His own life—so that you may live. Such whole-hearted action will be seen in all the miracles, all the signs that Jesus does. For these testify about His identity and character as the Promised Christ; they reveal the glory that Jesus possesses and uses for you. This is what the Evangelist summarizes at the end of the miracle account: “This, the first of His signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested His glory.”

But let us return to Jesus’ response to His mother’s statement: “What does this have to do with Me?” As said earlier, it has everything to do with Jesus. The disaster that lack of wine will cause the bride and groom actually affects Him. And why is this so? Because of who Jesus is. He is much more than the One through whom all things were made, though His turning water into the best of wines demonstrates that. And Jesus is much more than someone who feels other people’s pain. Jesus’ concern over the bride and groom’s welfare stems from His identity as the Bridegroom. For being the Bridegroom is an essential part of who Jesus is as the Christ.

That aspect of Jesus’ identity is seen in the two portions of the Old Testament you heard today. In Isaiah’s prophecy about the Christ and His people, you heard the promise made: “You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is In Her, and your land Married; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married. For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you; and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” The identity and the work of the Christ are described in these terms of wedding and marriage.

That same imagery is used in today’s Psalm. It speaks about Christ, the One “who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways.” His work is blessed. And as the Christ works according to His Father’s will and according to His own identity, He brings about true goodness. As the Bridegroom, Jesus is spoken of in this psalm. And so is His Bride, the Church: “Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table.” This is what Christ achieves, as He has brought salvation to this world and distributes it to countless numbers of individuals through His Church on earth. This is what Jesus is all about.

Because Jesus is the Christ, the Bridegroom, He is vitally concerned with weddings. That is why He uses them as examples in His teaching. For Jesus speaks from His own experience, from His own person and identity. It is why He makes Himself present at the wedding of Cana and all weddings of His followers. But this identity motivates Jesus to act on behalf of the bridal party in Cana. As the Bridegroom of all His people, Jesus will not allow their wedding at Cana disintegrate before His eyes. No, He acts to make it good again, to restore the joy that was lost in their anxiety about the wine supply’s end.

From that miracle done by Jesus, you learn about your Bridegroom who cares for and acts for you. For the joy of the wedding banquet is connected to Christ’s work for you. It is the way that He speaks of the salvation you will possess. The wedding banquet testifies about the joy of Christ’s kingdom, the kingdom of which you are an heir because the Bridegroom has married you. What Jesus promises to you is the fulfillment of all the prophecies. He will fulfill what was spoken of Him and you: “You shall be called [Christ’s] Delight Is In Her. . . . As the Bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall [Christ] rejoice over you.” That joy is yours to have, to have for all eternity.

The joy that Christ’s salvation brings to you is experienced in part now. Forgiveness of your guilt is brought by Christ and delivered to you through His proclaimed Word, His Baptism, and His Holy Meal. Jesus says to you: “My delight is in you! You are the Bride that I love and will always love! Whatever made you desolate, whatever made you think you were forsaken, I remove from you! I hear your plight. Woman, it has everything to do with Me.” And such statements from Jesus bring you joy.

Yet, the joy that Christ’s salvation brings to you is experienced in part now. It is fleeting in this world of sorrow, shame, and sin. But Jesus will still act for you again. What you see happening at the Wedding of Cana is what your Bridegroom will do for you at His eternal wedding feast. You have Jesus’ good wine now. But at the Last Day, the heavenly Master of the Feast—Jesus’ Eternal Father—will say to Him: “You have kept the best wine until now.” For there will be nothing to challenge, threaten, or lessen the joy of Christ’s salvation for you then. So it will be for you when the prophecies about you are completely fulfilled by your Bridegroom at His Return, when His hour has truly come, an hour that you will experience without end.

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

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