Sunday, January 15, 2023

Sermon for the Second Sunday after Epiphany - Jn 2:1-11


Epiphany 2

                                                                                      Jn 2:1-11



          Amy and I were married in July of 1997. Having a wedding in central Illinois in July was a bit of a gamble.  You can run into sweltering weather that can make everything miserable. However, we had a gorgeous day with temperatures in the low 70’s.

          In fact, everything about the day was wonderful.  The wedding service was a great Lutheran wedding.  The decorations at the wedding reception were lovely. The food was great.  It was a joyous occasion with our family and friends. I enjoyed every minute, … and then I was ready to leave because our wedding night awaited.

          After all the work and anticipation, it would have been very disappointing if something had gone wrong at the wedding.  My brother was married the following summer, and there hasn’t been another Surburg wedding since then. That will change this summer when my niece Naomi is married.  As I see the work and money that must be spent on even a reasonable wedding, I certainly hope that everything goes well.  I want Naomi’s wedding to go as well as ours did so that she too will have memories of a wonderful event.

          Weddings have always been the focus of preparations and the expenditure of money.  There is certainly the concern that things will go well.  In our Gospel lesson we hear about a wedding where this was not the case.  In fact, a social disaster struck as the wedding party ran out of wine.  However, our Lord Jesus was there and he used this occasion to perform the first miracle in the Gospel of John.  This first miracle explains to us what we see in all of Jesus’ miracles, and in the person of Jesus himself.

          In our Gospel lesson we learn of how Mary, Jesus and his disciples were invited to a wedding held at Cana, which was just under four miles away from Nazareth.  Just as in our world, a wedding feast was an important social event.  Yet we learn that all did not go as planned because the wedding ran out of wine.

          This was a disaster.  People in the ancient world drank wine and it was certainly expected that a wedding feast would serve it.  A wedding without wine in first century Palestine would be like a wedding today without wedding cake for everyone.  It was unthinkable and would be source of embarrassment.

          Mary showed care for the situation as she told Jesus, “They have no wine.”  She obviously believed that Jesus could do something about this.  However, our Lord’s response seems unexpected. He said, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” The words sound like a rejection. Yet Mary did not receive them in this way. She had faith in her son’s ability to put things right and so she said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

          Jesus’ statement about the “hour” alerts us to the fact that what is about to happen involves more than rescuing a wedding host from social embarrassment. In John’s Gospel the word “hour” refers to Jesus’ saving work of dying on the cross and rising from the dead. His hour is the goal of his entire ministry and our Lord will fulfill this at the time ordained by the Father.  On two different occasions we learn that people tried to seize Jesus, but they were unable “because his hour had not yet come.”

          Our Lord acts in his time and his way.  Later, Jesus told servants to take the six large water jars that were present and to fill them to the top. Together they held almost one hundred and eighty gallons.  Next he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.”  Imagine how absurd this sounded.  But they obeyed, and when the master of the feast tasted it, the water had been turned into wine.  In fact, the wine Jesus had made was better than the good wine that had already been served at the wedding feast.

          Jesus performs this first miracle, and John makes sure that we don’t overlook its significance. This was not just a matter of Jesus rescuing people from social embarrassment. Instead John tells us, “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.”

          John describes the miracle as a sign that reveals Jesus’ glory.  We hear about this event on the second Sunday in Epiphany because this is what Epiphany is all about. The word “Epiphany” comes from a Greek word that means “appear.” During Christmas we celebrated how the Son of God entered into the world in the incarnation as he was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. Now, our Scripture readings will focus on how the saving glory of God was revealed through Jesus in his ministry.

          John says that the miracle revealed Jesus’ glory.  This recalls what he had said at the beginning of the Gospel when he wrote, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The Son of God revealed his glory through the miracle of turning water into wine. His other miracles did the same.

          Yet Jesus’ statement about his “hour” leads us to recognize that the great manifestation of his glory occurred in Jesus’ death.  Jesus said during Holy Week, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

          The revelation of Jesus’ saving glory occurred in a paradox. It occurred as he died on the cross.  Jesus said, Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” Then John adds, “He said this to show” – literally, ‘to sign’ – “by what kind of death he was going to die.” The miraculous signs all point to the miracle of the cross – a miracle that at the time when it happened did not look like a miracle.

          Jesus had told his opponents, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” The Son of God entered into the world to free us from our sin. That is why John the Baptist called him “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” 

          By ourselves, we are slaves.  We fail in sin again and again. We worship the unholy trinity of me, myself, and I, as we put ourselves before God and our neighbor. Yet Jesus Christ died on the cross in order to take away our sin. By the shedding of his blood on the cross he has fulfilled the Father’s will. Jesus offered himself as the sacrifice that takes away sin.  In ourselves we continue to struggle with sin. But through Christ we are able stand before God as those who are holy in his eyes.

          In our text John says, “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.” Jesus revealed his saving glory in death. Yet in John’s Gospel, the revelation of Christ’s glory is one sweeping movement that descends down into the tomb and up again in resurrection and ascension. 

          Jesus said, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”  On Easter Jesus took up his life again. He rose from the dead, and his exaltation continued as he returned to the Father in his ascension.

          In our text, the disciples see the sign of Jesus turning water in to wine. They see the sign that reveals Jesus’ glory and they believe in him.  At the end of the Gospel John says, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” 

You now see Jesus’ glory in his inspired word. Before his ascension Jesus said, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”  Through the words of John’s Gospel, the Spirit reveals the saving glory of Jesus to us here and now.

You have seen Jesus’ glory and God has called you to faith. You have been born of God. Because this is so, you have life.  Jesus said, And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”  You have eternal life already now, and you also know that the risen Lord will raise you up on the Last Day.  Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.”

Through Christ you have received God’s love that has given you life.  Because this is true, it changes the way we live. John said in his first letter, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”  Christ’s sacrificial love for us now guides the way we live. It is the source that prompts us to seek the good of others as we put their needs before our own. Christ’s action for us prompts to act, for as John says, “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

In the Gospel lesson this morning, Jesus turns water into wine.  By this first miracle Jesus provided a sign that revealed his glory. It was an action that called the disciples to believe in him.

The Spirit of Christ reveals the sign to us this morning through the Gospel of John. This sign points to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ through which we have received the saving glory of God.  By faith in the risen Lord we have forgiveness and life now – a life that causes us to act in love towards others.


















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