The Wedding at Cana
On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." 4 And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come." 5 His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." 6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he said to them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast." So they took it. 9 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 10 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." 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
Gracious God, who gives generously, give to us again this morning the gift of Your own Son for our life and salvation. As we consider the first miracle that Jesus performed, please use these words to give and sustain our faith in Him. So that living by Your grace we might always have joy no matter what our earthly and temporary circumstances might be. Amen.
Last month when we were struck with a terrible ice storm I found myself in a bad situation. I was driving home from St. Louis while the ice was pouring down. Everything was going OK until drove under one of the bridges along I-64 and decided to turn off my windshield wipers. In a few moments I came out into the open on the Poplar Street Bridge. But my wipers had frozen, and wouldnít move. The ice quickly made it impossible to see, and there was no place to pull over. I was in real trouble until I spotted a set of tail lights ahead. Unable to see the road or the the bridge barriers on either side, I concentrated on those tail lights, and I followed them across the bridge. Once across I was able to pull over and break my wipers loose. The lights saved me.
In a lot of ways that little incident reminds me of the way John presents Jesus to us. The Apostle John tells us in the Gospel Lesson that Jesus "manifested His glory" at the wedding at Cana. In our dark and distress ridden world we need the glory of Jesus. In a world where we canít even see the dangers ahead let alone overcome them, we need the light and life of our Lord.
Jesus used a wedding celebration as a background for His first miracle. Marriage is a microcosm or a model that accurately represents much of what is good and what is bad in this world. Marriage is a helpful place for us to start this morning. But just as the ministry of Jesus continued on into many other aspects of this world, so the blessing that begins here at the wedding in Cana continues to make its impact in every part of life. The long shadow of sin that stood over this world has been overcome by the glory of God in Jesus Christ. As John said in the opening verses of his Gospel: "We have seen His glory, glory as of the only begotten Son of the Father"(1.14).
1. Jesus and His Disciples Were Invited to a Wedding
On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples.
It is still a Jewish custom to celebrate weddings on the third day of the week. When I was in Israel a few years ago our tour began on a Tuesday (the third day). While we were visiting the ruins of a crusader fortress, a Jewish bride and groom came up in their wedding dress and tuxedo to take some pictures for that special day. The reason for this custom is connected to the creation account in Genesis chapter one. Several times in the creation account God tells us that what He made was good. But twice on the third day of creation God says what He created was good. Jewish couples, even in Jesusí day, were looking for Godís blessing of goodness upon their marriage.
Marriage is a good thing, and it is very important to God. Jesusí acceptance of the invitation to this wedding and the fact that He chose this moment to perform the first miracle of His ministry show us that marriage is very important to God. The reason for this is that marriage is Godís idea. As a famous pastor said many years ago: "Marriage is from God not the gorilla." Sadly many people accept the mistaken philosophy of evolution. They are told that sex is an accident and that marriage is just a social institution that evolved along with everything else. There is nothing holy or sacred about it. And that is why we see people today advocating the legitimacy of homosexual marriage and even group marriage.
This is also one of the reasons why divorce rates are so high. People believe that marriage is something they make, and it is some they can "unmake" if they want. But God shows His concern for the importance of marriage in that the Bible says, "He hates divorce"(Mal 2.16). And, as Jesus Himself says later, "What God has joined together, let man not separate" (Matthew 19.6). The Bible does give two legitimate reasons for divorce: sexual immorality and desertion. But we have to be very careful these. They certainly do not mean that it is OK to divorce just because two people donít love each other anymore.
Godís concern for the importance of marriage is also seen in the way He likes to use marriage as an illustration of the relationship He wants to have with all of us. Isaiah quoted God saying, "as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you"(Isaiah 62.5). Listen to the way Martin Luther explained this:
(20th Sunday after Trinity; Matthew 22:1-14, 1523).
The great love Christ has for us is presented to us in this picture of the wedding feast. For there are many kinds of love, but none is so ardent and fervent as a bride's love, the love a new bride has to her bridegroom, and on the other hand, the bridegroom's love to the bride. True love has no regard for pleasures or presents, or riches, or gold rings and the like; but cares only for the bridegroom. And if he even gave her all he had, she would regard none of his presents, but say: I will have only thee. And if on the other hand he has nothing at all, it makes no difference with her, she will in spite of all that desire him. That is the true nature of the love of a bride. But where one has regard to pleasure, it is harlot-love; she does not care for him, but for the money; therefore such love does not last long.
Marriage is very important to God. He created marriage. He supports marriage. He views His love for us and our for Him like the love of a bridegroom and bride. It is no surprise that Jesus accepted the invitation to attend this wedding celebration!
2. This Wedding Celebration Had a Problem Ė Not Enough Wine
When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine."
However the celebration didnít get very far when Mary, the mother of Jesus, discovered a serious problem. They had run out of wine. This was a great embarrassment. Perhaps some thought of it as a bad omen. This was not a good way for this couple to start their lives together. Nevertheless, all marriages have their difficulties sooner or later. Many marriages have serious difficulties. Half of all marriages do not make it. Why is marriage so often filled with problems? Why isnít it the other way around? It is because of the darkness that fills our world and even our own lives.
The lack of wine at the wedding in Cana can be thought of symbolically. It is symbolic of the neediness of this world. It is symbolic of the fact that problems grow naturally like weeds, but blessings have to come from above. The message of repentance here is that we must accept the world and our flesh for what it is. It is fallen and flawed. No matter how compatible a couple may be, no matter how many highly skilled counselors we seek, the fact is that our sinful human natures will perpetually turn marriage into difficulty if not disaster.
This problem runs through all of life. Love runs out in all our relationships from time to time: Children and parents, brothers and sisters, neighbors, conflicts with fellow workers, customers, or businesses. Arguments over community standards of morality as well as wars between nations are the result of people failing to live by Godís righteous standard. Sooner or later all human beings discover "thereís not enough wine" in this life Ė we just donít have the love and goodness that we need. We all end up being needy and empty.
3. Do Whatever He Tells You to Do
And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come." 5 His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."
Maryís words are perhaps some of the most important words that have ever been spoken by any human being. I was once teaching a Bible study in which I said that there is not a human being in the Bible that doesnít mess up somewhere. The Bible consistently presents all human beings as flawed people. A person in the class pointed out that this may not apply to Mary. She nearly always does the right thing. That is true. However there was one point in her life where she thought her Son was nuts, and it appears that she and the rest of her family were trying to intervene in His ministry. She too had her flaws, and if she were here today, Iím sure she would readily point them out. Thatís also why Mary referred to God "my Savior" in her great song in Luke chapter one. But if John the Baptist was the greatest man born or woman, I would say that Mary is the greatest woman born of woman. She amazes me. What amazes me the most is that what she does is rarely complicated or attractive by our standards. She probably did not have the beauty of Queen Esther. She wasnít a Harvard graduate. She didnít have a network of great friends. But she had the one quality that God looks for the most in people: She lived by faith.
After realizing the problem she goes to Jesus. She asks for His help. At first it seems that Jesus rebuffs her. Why does He do this? It is not a rebuff. It is just Godís way of always making sure we remember that He is God and we are His children. We can ask. We cannot order. You see when Jesus says, "My hour has not yet come" He is referring to the hour of His crucifixion, when all the problems of this world will get fixed. That special time is yet to come. But this does not dissuade a woman of faith! Nor should it ever dissuade any true child of God. You may think that God is not listening. You may think that God does not care. But God is only being God. He knows what you need even more than you do. Do not be discouraged just because God sticks to His overall plan of salvation and does what always needs to be done. Mary turns to the servants and says, "Do whatever He tells you."
Sidebar: It is not a sin to drink alcohol. Those who say it is a sin to drink alcohol are making the Bible say something it doesnít say. Such an approach is dangerous and can weaken the authority of the entire Bible. On the other hand there are those who ignore what else the Bible says about alcohol. It is a sin to drink alcohol in order to get drunk. Drunkenness is especially insidious because it opens the door to the demonic, to madness, and to a slavery of the soul.
Of course the result of doing what Jesus said to do is glorious. There were some stone jars which the servants filled with water. Jesus tells the servants to take some of the water to the master of the wedding celebration. In a matter of seconds the water turned to wine. It was not only wine Ė it was good wine Ė and lots of it. It was better than what was needed and it was more than what was needed. It was a miracle of quality and of quantity. But that is the way things work out ultimately when people follow Maryís advice: "Do whatever He tells you."
What need or lack are you struggling with in your life right now? Sometimes we describe sin as a burden that is difficult to bear. But another way to describe it is to consider it an emptiness. It can be a gnawing disappointment with life. When we feel like that, we would do well to follow the advice of Mary: "Do whatever He tells you to do."
What does Jesus tell us to do? He tells us to obey the Law: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soulÖ and your neighbor as yourself." He tells us to "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand"(Matthew 4.17). He tells us "Do not be afraid, only believe" (Mark 5.36). He tells us to go make disciples baptizing and teaching (Matthew 28.19). He tells us to "take eat, this is my bodyÖ and take drink, this is my blood given and shed for the forgiveness of sins" (Matthew 26.26 & 27). None of these things require a great deal of scholarship, wealth, or status. Everything that Jesus asks us to do He provides for us. But all of them end up producing glorious miracles in our lives. Like the stone jars, Jesus fills empty lives with the living water of His promises and salvation. "For with You is the fountain of life; In Your light we see light" (Psalm 36.9). "This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him" (John 2.11). Amen.
Pastor Michael P. Walther
Second Sunday after Epiphany, January 14, 2007
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 1300 Belt Line Road, Collinsville, Illinois, 62234
618-344-3151 / fax 618-344-3378
The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod
Michael P. Walther, Copyright, 2007
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