January 20, 2013 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA
“On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with His disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, ‘They have no wine.’”
“They have no wine.” That is the message that the mother of Jesus gives to Him. She lets Jesus know that the wedding they are attending is about to take a turn for the worst. It’s going to be a problem, once the guests realize it. What problem is that? Not that the people hadn’t had a drink or two or three or more. That had already happened. The issue is the disgrace and embarrassment that are about to fall upon the groom who will be revealed as a poor host before all his peers. And if the groom can’t even get his own wedding right, just what type of husband and father will he be? What will that household look like in five, ten, or fifteen years?
“They have no wine.” Mary informs Jesus of this. Why does she do so? Because she believes that Jesus can fix the problem. She puts the bridal party’s plight right in front of Him. Perhaps she had been somewhat complicit in it, since she is there as an assistant of some sort to the wedding. She is implying: “You’re about to witness an absolute social disaster. Do something about it.”
So what does Jesus say when He hears His mother’s message? “And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what does this have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.’” What type of response is that? Perhaps we think of it as totally negative, a rebuffing of sorts. But that’s not exactly what’s going on. Jesus’ words are revealing the concern about the connection to the problem. It is more literally translated: “What to you and to Me?” or “What does this have to do with both you and Me?” In essence, Jesus is saying: “How does this problem of the lack of wine and the impending shame for the groom affect you and Me in the same way? In what way are we both connected to this issue?”
It is an interesting question to ponder. How did the running out of wine affect Mary? Since she is an assistant to the wedding, the groom’s disgrace will also fall in part on her: the job was shoddily done, a sort of wedding coordinator malpractice. Perhaps she will never be asked to help again with such a festive event again. If she were related to the bride or groom, then Mary would share in the clan’s shame. But how did the running out of wine affect Jesus? If He is just there as a guest, then it doesn’t really matter at all. At such an event, the guests are expected to enjoy the hospitality of the host, not to be suppliers of the food and drink. He is not constrained by the rules of society or the Divine Law to do anything. He is not connected to the issue by any sort of duty.
But when Mary hears Jesus’ response, she does not go away. She does not run around in panic looking for any other person to help. There is no quick assignment given to someone, “Take some denarii and find the nearest vintner.” No, it is much different: “His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever He tells you.’” Jesus’ mother expects her Son to remedy the situation. She anticipates that He will provide the wine needed. There is hope and reliance on what He will do. She instructs the servants to have the same.
And Mary is correct! For what happens as she leaves the matter in Jesus hands? The matter is fixed, but in a way that no one would have thought of: “Now there were six stone waters jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 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.” The servants do exactly as Jesus instructs them. When they do, the solution is provided: “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.’”
“They have no wine.” That was the message given to Jesus. But now, after He has acted for the benefit of the bridal party, the response message is the exact opposite: “They have wine in abundance.” But not just any sort of wine has been provided. No, there is now 120+ gallons of the finest vintage, the type that would impress the tongues of the best sommeliers and even gladden the hearts of the jaded drinker. That is what Jesus provides. And through that act that Jesus performs by His ability, the groom’s disgrace is removed; he is honored by Jesus had been done for him.
Jesus’ removal of shame and disgrace from the groom corresponds to what had been prophesied by Isaiah. Recall the words that you heard: “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a burning torch. The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord shall give.” There is the promise of the Lord’s action for a shamed and disgraced nation, the people who had been exiled due to their lack of righteousness, their rebellion against the Lord’s will and their idolatry.
But He declares the result of what His actions for them will be: “You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. 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.” Their shame and disgrace will be removed. The exile will come to an end. They will have a place of honor. And this is given because the Lord is pleased to do so; He desires to give His joy to them. That reversal of fortune given to Israel reveals how the Lord is: gracious, merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love. It shows how His glory will be used for the benefit of people—not because the Lord is constrained to, but because He elects to.
Likewise, the reversal of fortune that Jesus performs by His miracle at the Wedding at Cana reveals something about His identity. The Gospel Writer notes: “This, the first of His signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested His glory. And His disciples believed in Him.” The glory of Jesus is manifested by what He does. It is revealed in His mastery over creation, the turning of water into wine. But there is more than that. His glory is revealed in the reason for His actions.
Remember the response that Jesus gave to His mother: “Woman, what does this have to do with Me?” or “What does this have to do with both you and Me?” That response went to the question of how the situation had placed any burden on Jesus. It is a matter of onus: How was Jesus bound or compelled to do anything? The answer is that He wasn’t. And yet, what does He do? He manifests His glory in providing a benefit for a bride and groom in Cana. He reveals that His glory will be involved in the provision of what is needed, the granting of what could not be obtained. His glory removes the disgrace and shame that had befallen this young couple.
Such use of divine glory by Jesus will define His ministry. That is what His actions recorded in the gospels show. Throughout His life, Jesus will encounter people who are afflicted by all sorts of difficulties, issues that they cannot remedy themselves. And He uses His divine ability to restore them, to overcome their diseases and sufferings. The turning of the water into wine at Cana is but the first of His signs. It initiates a sequence of miraculous acts that reveal His identity as the Christ, the Son of God, so that by believing you may have life in His name. That sequence leads up to Jesus and His glory being suspended from a cross—what is meant to be the ultimate shame—so that the world’s sins may be atoned for and salvation be granted to all who fall under the righteous wrath of God. This is Jesus’ identity. This is His purpose. This is how His glory will be manifested, so that He will have disciples believe in Him.
That result is also meant for you. Jesus comes to bring pleasure eternal, to remove the shame and disgrace that have befallen you. Jesus’ mother told Him the plight of the bridal party: “They have no wine.” His Father told Him the plight of the world: “They have no righteousness. They have no life. They have no hope.” What does this have to do with Him? How does your lack affect Him? There is no constraining or compelling, but Jesus takes on the burden and acts to reverse your fortune. You benefit by being given His forgiveness, His life, and His salvation. These could not be obtained by yourselves; they are given as the Lord Jesus does as His Father commands.
That reversal of fortune happens as Jesus manipulates the creation. He becomes part of it, assuming human nature and dwelling among us, full of grace and truth. It leads to the death of God Himself, but also to His resurrection. His gifts are distributed to you, as His servants follow the command, doing whatever He tells them: joining His word to water, to make it a life-giving washing of regeneration; exercising His authority in speech, making their words a sin-loosing absolution; connecting His promise to bread and wine, turning them into His Body and Blood given as a banquet of life everlasting.
This is what Jesus does, so that you are taken from shame and humility to honor and exaltation. What He gives you is the best, just as He gave the Cana bridal party the finest of wines. And so it is no longer said of you: “They have no life.” Instead, you have life to the fullest. That is what Jesus provides, manifesting His glory, leading His disciples to believe in Him. So it is for you, who do the same: “Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord.”
+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.