This is His Glory?
Three days after God the Father declared from heaven that Jesus was His beloved Son, 2 days after John's declaration that Jesus was the Lamb of God that carries away the sins of the world, and 1 day after Jesus promised that His disciples would see the angels of God ascending and descending on Him, Jesus shows His glory by making wine! This is His glory?
Well it does say a lot about who Jesus is. It says He loves weddings. Weddings and Jesus are inextricably connected. When Jesus wants to teach about the kingdom of God, twice He tells parables about a marriage supper. When Jesus wants to teach about His Second Coming, He tells a parable about 10 maidens waiting for their master to return from a wedding. In Revelation what is the heavenly banquet called? "The marriage supper of the Lamb." In Ephesians what does Paul say the relationship between husband and wife portrays? Christ and His Church.
Christ loves weddings. Contrast this is to John the Baptist. John is found in the harsh Judean desert, not at a wedding reception. He is clothed in a prickly camel hair shirt, not a festal wedding garment. He eats grasshoppers and wild honey, not finger sandwiches and wine. John is about repenting not celebrating.
This paradox was too much for the Pharisees and John's own disciples. Why did John fast and Jesus party? This paradox is too much for some Christians too. Go on the internet. Look up this text. You'll find sites dedicated to proving Jesus couldn't have made an alcoholic beverage. The don't want a God who causes "wine that makes glad the heart of man" as Psalm 104 says. They want nothing to do with a God who directs in Proverbs 31 to "give wine to the bitter of soul." They have no God who teaches in Ecclesiastes 9, "Go your way; eat your bread with joy and drink your wine with a merry heart for God has accepted your works." No, their God is one of austerity, severity, strictness.
That's your God too.ifif there is no Jesus. When Jesus was challenged with the fact His disciples didn't fast but John's did, He said that the friends of the groom can't mourn as long as the bridegroom was with them. In the presence of Jesus, the Bridegroom, we must rejoice. Apart from Him, there is sin, death, and servitude to the devil. Apart from Him, we're cut off from grace and know only judgment and punishment. Looking at your life, no matter how prosperous, healthy, young it might be, without the presence of the Bridegroom, there can only be fasting and vinegar. But in the presence of the Bridegroom who brings forgiveness, life, and freedom from Satan, there must be celebration and wine.
Our Divine Service is a celebration of the presence of the Bridegroom. We begin remembering we have been baptized into Him in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. We rise to our feet and praise His name at His presence when He speaks again to us His Holy Gospel. We praise, bow, and amen His presence in the Holy Communion. And we depart with His name on us blessing us, keeping us, and giving us peace.
As some of you suspect, seeing Jesus' glory in His making wine that gladdens men's hearts is really about Law and Gospel. John is illustrating for us what He meant when he said in the Gospel for Christmas Day, "For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." Do you remember what crowning sign the Lord gave to Moses to prove He had sent him? Turning water into blood. Let that sink in. Let blood be blood, and imagine the whole Nile River turned into it. The best Moses ever did was turning bitter water into sweet. Sweet water is nothing compared to wine.
Jesus takes water and gives lots of wine, about 900 750 milliliter bottles of it. By anyone's estimation, that's a lot of wine, but even when we take into account that it was also a generous wedding present, this miracle is nothing compared to the one you can experience every Sunday. In Cana, Jesus takes water and gives wine for enjoyment. In the Holy Communion, however, Jesus takes wine and gives His holy, precious blood for forgiveness, life, and salvation. And if that doesn't make your heart glad, then you're simply mired in Moses.
Moses only gives you the Law. The Law takes the water in your life, the water you see as refreshing, cleansing, invigorating and turns it into blood. The Law of Moses turns everyone into a sinner, and sinners always call to heaven to have their blood shed in punishment and payment for sins. You've seen those horror movies where the person turns on the tap and blood flows from the faucet. That's what Moses does. Everything about you, in you, done by you that you think to be as pure as a mountain spring he shows is really putrid blood.
If you don't see it this way, it's because you've taken the Law of Moses and made it doable. Moses is satisfied if you don't misuse God's name out loud but only under your breath. Moses is satisfied if you only worry about the big things in life. Moses is satisfied if you love God with most of your heart. No, he's not, and when you try the water of excuses or promises to do better next time to wash the dirt of your sins away, what you find is that you're only washing yourself with more putrid blood.
Not so Jesus Christ. Grace and truth come from Him. The grace and truth that He covered your sins before God with His blood; that though your sins are scarlet, His red blood makes you white as snow; that though you deserve to be fed on bread and water, Jesus, by His innocent life and death, has won the right to feed you with His Body and Blood. But when you dine with Him, on Him, you taste neither Body nor Blood, but Bread and Wine.
This is the glory of Jesus to take water and give wine, and to take wine and give His forgiving, empowering, saving Blood. His glory is seen in another way. Christ is no Genii. Many people wish He were. Many people try to use Him as if He were. Mother Mary approaches Jesus as such. She anticipates a future problem and wants Jesus to act to avoid it. The Greek doesn't say, as the insert translates, "when the wine was gone." It says," The wine was lacking." Jesus refused to perform a miracle on demand. He indicates that there's a time for Him to act that's not based on what Mary thought.
And that bothers us. Jesus would be so much more glorious to my puny brain, if He acted when I thought He should. It would be glorious if He provided for the needs of people when I thought He should. It would be obvious to all that my God, Jesus, was glorious. But He doesn't do that. The true God's glory is to work when men think it's too late, when men think there is no hope, when puny-minded men conclude nothing can be done. The true God waits till Moses is facing the Red Sea with the Egyptian army at his back; then He parts the sea. The true God waits till the widow has only one more meal; then He sends Elijah to feed her. The true God waits till the disciples are sure they're drowning; then He stills the storm. The true God waits till people are dead; then He raises them.
It's not only the timing of Christ that seems so inglorious. It's His means of working. Mary says they need wine, and what does Jesus do? He sends for water. Duh? He has the servants fill empty jars to the brim with water. Who goes seeking wine in water? The same God who seeks saints in sinners and the living among the dead.
In all these cases, the water, the sinners, and the dead, it's the Lord's Word that makes the difference. Jesus says fill the jars with water. The servants watch as water gurgles into the large jars. When Jesus commands them to take some of it to the banquet master, the implied promise of His Word is that it is now wine. What servant in his right mind would take water to his boss for tasting? Likewise when Jesus commanded the lame to rise, the implied promise is that they can walk. So, when the Word of the Lord declares sinners forgiven and the dead to live, the implied promise is that they are now saints and really alive.
Jesus glory is waiting to act till men conclude nothing can be done, and His glory is to use things that men think useless. They needed wine, Jesus calls for water. You need healing and Jesus calls for sickness. You need marital happiness and Jesus calls for strife. You need money and Jesus calls for bills. You need forgiveness and Jesus calls for a deeper sense of your sins. Do you see the path out? Mary and the servants did.
Mary asks Jesus to solve an approaching problem. He replies it's up to Him not her to determine when and if to act. But what does Mary do? She tells the servants, "Do whatever He tells you?" Jesus calls for water and they go get water to solve the wine problem. Jesus tells them to take what they put in the pot, which they know is water, to the banquet master, and they do.
The path out of your needing wine and Jesus sending water, your needing relief and Him sending pain, your needing forgiveness and feeling only more guilt, is trust. Mary and the servants trusted that Jesus could do more with water than they could with wine. Jesus is calling you to trust that He can do more with your problem than you or anyone else can do with a solution. He's no Genii. Geniis do what you want when you want it. Jesus does better than you want when He wants it.
You came into this world dead in your sins, and Jesus sent for Water, the Water of Baptism to save you. In the world, you can't get away from your sinfulness; and Jesus sends Words to forgive you, to send your sins away. But you still see the wages of sins being paid to you in the death you feel at work in you. What does Jesus send for? Health? Healing? No. He sends for Bread and Wine to give you His Body and Blood for everlasting life. God's glory is to work the extraordinary with the ordinary. Not just water into wine, but water into salvation, words into forgiveness, and bread and wine into His holy Body and Blood. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
The Second Sunday after the Epiphany (20070114); John 2: 1-11