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LSB Epiphany 2H Sermon – John 2:1-11

January 16, 2017

January 15, 2017 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.”

The Gospel Writer summarizes the miraculous events at Cana this way: “This, the first of His signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested His glory. And His disciples believed in Him.” Jesus performs a great sign at Cana, revealing Himself as the LORD Incarnate. The changing of water to wine manifested His glory. It demonstrated His power over nature. Jesus can give the command for all the molecules of hydrogen and oxygen to change to something new. This is only possible because of Jesus’ identity as the One through whom all things were made. When He speaks, things happen, just as it did at the beginning.

But Jesus’ sign reveals more than His power. His glory is greater than having the ability to manipulate nature. Jesus’ glory includes having a creation fully in line with His will. It was so at the beginning, when His word was spoken and the cosmos came into being. His glory was revealed when everything was in its proper order, including humanity being created male and female, fit for each other. When that was done, then the LORD gave His approval: “And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” To have all things in such order glorifies the One who made them.

But what had happened at Cana? Another incident that disrupted the LORD’s good order. That disruption is made known in a roundabout way, seen in the desperate words that Mary speaks to Jesus: “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.’” Misery and despair were replacing the joy and delight that this man and woman of Cana were to find in each other. The problem disclosed to Jesus wasn’t that the people who loved wine wouldn’t be able fill their bellies. No, it’s that the marriage feast of this bride and groom had been ruined. Perhaps such marring of what the LORD had established isn’t as severe as what we have done to the estate of matrimony as centuries have passed. But the situation at Cana was another in the long series of disruptions to the LORD’s perfect order.

So how does Jesus respond? At first it seems like He doesn’t care. That thought can be pulled from His answer given to Mary: “Woman, what does this have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” But something a bit different is being revealed by Jesus’ statement. His words speak of a prophesied hour that had not yet arrived. It is a reference to the LORD’s promise about reviving the house of David and the fortunes of His people Israel: “Behold, the days are coming…when the plowman shall overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed; the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it. I will restore the fortunes of My people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant them on their land, and they shall never again be uprooted out of the land that I have given them.”

That time which the LORD prophesied had not yet arrived. It would not appear until Jesus fulfilled His role as the Messiah, manifesting His glory in the power of redemption and resurrection. An hour was yet to come when Jesus would perform a great work, as the apostle describes: loving the Church and giving Himself up for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by water with the word, presenting the Church to Himself in splendor, so that she is holy and without blemish. This had not yet been done. Jesus’ hour to perform this divine compassionate act for the Church had not yet come.

But Jesus’ presence and actions at Cana foreshadow what He would accomplish later. A sign is given to manifest His glory, when Jesus acts for the benefit of the bride and groom at Cana: “Now there were six stone water 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.’” Jesus takes the water of purification and combines it with His word. By doing so, He removes the problem that had plagued the festivities. Misery and despair are washed away by Jesus’ act, so that the groom of Cana is declared perfect: “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.’”

Jesus’ miracle at Cana reveals His desire and ability to restore what had been marred. The greater redemption He would perform for humanity is prefigured in the other signs that would follow. Each of them manifests His glory. Each of them reveals another aspect of Jesus’ identity and His work to bring His creation back to perfection. Each of them shows that only He could be the One who accomplishes this.

Jesus’ signs culminate in His act of redemption—dying and rising to life again. When that last sign takes place, Jesus is praised for it. The LORD declares Him to be perfect. The LORD declares Him to be the only true offering that is fully acceptable. Even all the Jewish rites of purification could not complete mankind’s salvation. But when the LORD assumes humanity and offers Himself in sacrifice for the sins of the world, then a true purification is given. And in that act, Jesus begins to break out the “good wine,” so that all creation can rejoice. His people can celebrate that David’s house has been repaired. They can revel at the thought of being placed in their own land forever, with nothing to uproot them. Joy overflows at the knowledge that there is an hour and place where all that mars the LORD’s creation and all that disrupts His order will be removed. They look for the life of the world to come where only the fullness of His glory will be present—a glory that His people will share.

That is what we learn from this sign that Jesus’ performs at the wedding feast. His identity and character are on display at Cana. We see Jesus working for the benefit of mankind. We witness how He uses His abilities for the welfare of others. That runs all the way up to the drastic action that only He could take for our salvation: the giving of Himself in death, so that we would be washed and declared perfect without spot and blemish, sharing in the newness of His resurrected life. That leads us to believe in Him, just as His first disciples did. It sets our hearts and minds in hope on the hour that is yet to come.

But until that time arrives when we perfectly enjoy what the LORD prophesied, we are called to manifest Jesus’ glory in the ways that we can, even if they are feeble and frail. That is done in our worship and witness of what Jesus has done to redeem us. But it is done in other ways. First among them is striving for the LORD’s order in this world now by living as His will decrees. This includes how we treat the matter of marriage. Husbands and wives should act according to the pattern that is seen in the relationship between Christ and the Church. The Church should also work against all that would disrupt what the LORD has established, even pointing out how His order has been marred and showing the more excellent way of His will.

Manifesting Jesus’ glory is also accomplished in exercising the abilities that the LORD has graciously bestowed to us for the benefit of others: “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.” As we exercise good stewardship of ourselves who have been redeemed by Jesus, it brings about results that expand and improve His kingdom, further glorifying Him.

And manifesting Jesus’ glory happens as we act in the same way that Jesus did for us in this world. We reflect His character in the righteous works that we are exhorted to perform: “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” 

The signs that Jesus performed, including the first one in Cana, manifested His glory and His disciples believed in Him. We have learned from them that Jesus is our Redeemer, the One who cares about His people and works to restore His creation. That is the faith we share as Jesus’ followers. What we do in our renewed and purified lives expresses our living faith in Jesus as our Redeemer. So may His glory be manifested in us as we celebrate His work done for us, even the prefiguring of the great joy that will be ours when His hour fully comes.

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

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