The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God, and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
John 2:1 “And on the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; 2 and Jesus also was invited, and His disciples, to the wedding. 3 And when the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, ‘They have no wine.’ 4 And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what do I have to do with you? My hour has not yet come.’ 5 His mother said to the servants, ‘Whatever He says to you, do it.’ 6 Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each. 7 Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the waterpots with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And He said to them, ‘Draw some out now, and take it to the headwaiter.’ And they took it to him. 9 And when the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom, 10 and said to him, ‘Every man serves the good wine first, and when men have drunk freely, then that which is poorer; you have kept the good wine until now.’ 11 This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.” (NASB)
This morning’s Gospel lesson records the very first miracle of our Lord. In recording the event, St. John leaves little doubt about what stands at the center of the account. Jesus changed water into wine at a wedding feast. In verse eleven he wrote, “11 This the first of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.” That’s it. This first miracle of Jesus made known His divine glory, which was to create and sustain the fledgling faith of the disciples.
The whole matter seems rather spontaneous, especially against the backdrop of the rest of Jesus’s earthly ministry, where Jesus goes here and there and does this and that with some intentionality as He marched to and from Jerusalem.
By John chapter 2, Jesus had already called a few men to be His disciples. St. John tells us that Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. It is likely that the bride or groom were relatives of Mary, thus relatives of Jesus, thus the invitation.
Now if you were poor in those days, a wedding banquet would last just a day. If you were wealthier, it could go for a week. Regardless of how many days a wedding feast was scheduled to last, the wedding party was expected to have enough wine to last to the end. Running out of wine before the feast was over was more than a minor embarrassment. Running out of wine was a matter of shame and dishonor.
So Mary interceded for the bride and groom. 3 “And when the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, ‘They have no wine.’” Some believe that Mary was in a bit of a panicked when she came to her son. They think that Mary didn’t seek Jesus out because she knew and wanted her Son to perform a miracle. They think she was in a panic and was looking for Jesus to figure out how to solve the problem in the normal course of way things work.
Others believe that she understood that as God-in-the-flesh Jesus would and could honor her request and perform a miracle. Under this theory Mary doesn’t come to Jesus in a panic, but rather in confidence, knowing that He will solve the problem and save the bride and groom from dishonor. I tend to be in this camp.
As for Jesus reply to Mary, English translations translate what the Greek says differently. Some say, “Woman, what do I have to do with you?” “Woman, what does this have to do with me?” “Woman, what does this have to do with us?” “Woman, why do you involve me?” “Woman why did you come to me?” “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me?”
There are other variations. The reason for these various variations is that Jesus employed a rather difficult Greek construction. A literal translations is, “Woman, what to you and to me?” But that does sit well with English speaking people.
Let’s start with “woman.” The Greek for “woman” does not denote any disrespect. But by using the word, Jesus is signaling that a new chapter has begun in the relationship between Jesus and His mother Mary. Jesus is signaling that He is now to be about the business of redemption and salvation. He is no longer just the dutiful son of Mary. He has to be about His heavenly Father’s business. “Woman what to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.”
Mary’s response is quick and pointed. She says to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” Luther, “Now observe how His mother acts and here becomes our teacher. However harsh His words sound, however unkind He appears, she does not interpret this as anger, or as the opposite of kindness, but adheres firmly to the conviction that He is kind, refusing to give up on this opinion because of the trust she received, and is unwilling to dishonor Him in her heart.” (Luther’s Postil, Second Sunday of Epiphany.)
But the account of the Wedding of Cana is one of those forest for the trees kind of things. It’s the whole situation and Jesus’s participation in it that we ought to consider first. Why was Jesus’s first miracle changing water into win at a wedding? Was it just a coincidence? Just something that happened amidst the collection of His disciples?
When it comes to Jesus and His earthly ministry, there is no such thing as a coincidence. There’s a reason for everything. There is a reason He was invited to a wedding. There’s a reason His first miracle is changing water into wine. There’s a reason that this [was the] beginning of His signs [that] Jesus did in Cana of Galilee and manifested His glory.” In fact this statement by John the Evangelist is the first clue. This took place to manifest His glory. There’s a lot that goes into that word “glory.”
So let’s start at the beginning. God created them male and female (Adam and Eve) and gave them to each other. They lived together in the Garden of Eden for a period of time as God has designed. Then they fell into sin and brought with them the curse and death. They wounded the relationship between man and woman, between the husband and the wife.
Enter the language and image of marriage and the Bride and Groom is found throughout the Old Testament. God says that the Bride of Messiah/Christ (Israel/the Church) will be united with her Messianic Groom. In addition to passages that talk about the Messiah as Prophet, Priest, King, Shepherd, and more the Lord God makes it clear that the Christ is the new and perfect Bridegroom.
Joel 2:16 “Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, Assemble the elders, Gather the children and the nursing infants Let the bridegroom come out of his room And the bride out of her bridal chamber.”
Isaiah 62:2 2 “The nations will see your righteousness, And all kings your glory; And you will be called by a new name Which the mouth of the Lord will designate. 3 You will also be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, And a royal diadem in the hand of your God. . . But you will be called, ‘My delight is in her,’ And your land, ‘Married’; For the Lord delights in you, And to Him your land will be married.”
Revelation 19:7 “Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.”
It was the arrival of the Bridegroom that the faithful few were looking for. Jesus wasn’t just going to a family wedding. He was coming to His people as their Messianic Bridegroom. Here we are again, another advent of sorts. He was coming to His Bride as the Bridegroom.
Then there’s the wine. Again, running out of wine was no accident in the conventional sense of the word. The Old Testament is filled with the language and imagery of a super-abundance of wine with the arrival of the Messiah. Where there is the Messiah, there is an abundance of the best wine.
Amos 9:13-14 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, [meaning when the Messiah comes to His people] when the mountains will drip sweet wine And all the hills will be dissolved. Also I will restore the captivity of My people Israel . . . They will also plant vineyards and drink their wine.”
An abundance of good wine is a gift from God. It’s understood to be a blessing and that is what Jesus’s provides. Jesus’s “mother said to the servants, ‘Whatever He says to you, do it.’ 6 Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each. 7 Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the waterpots with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim.”
Here’s something else that is no accident. Jesus worked this miracle with the same jars of water that were used to “baptize” people. That is to make them ritually clean when they arrived and before they ate.
He also commanded that the jars to be filled to overflowing. He didn’t want any no room left in the jar for anything else. Now if those jars are all filled to the brim with wine, what are people going to use to be made clean as they come and go and before and after they eat? The water of cleansing is turned to the wine of the wedding feast. The Old Testament Groom has come to His Bride and is providing what is needed for the wedding and the feast, just as was promised in the Old Testament!
8 “And He [Jesus] said to them, ‘Draw some out now, and take it to the headwaiter.’ And they took it to him. 9 And when the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from . . . the headwaiter called the bridegroom, 10 and said to him, ‘Every man serves the good wine first, and when men have drunk freely, then that which is poorer; you have kept the good wine until now.’”
By way of this miracle, Jesus was fulfilling that which was written in the Old Testament. That is what He was always doing at every point in His earthly ministry. He was fulfilling that which was written by the prophets and it tying it all to the water of His own baptism and to His bloody atonement on the cross. Remember what came out when the spear went into His side, water and blood.
On Christmas morning, we celebrated the advent, the coming of the King of the Jews. On Epiphany Day we celebrated the advent of the Light coming to the Gentiles. Last Sunday in Jesus’s baptism, we celebrated the advent of the Prophet, Priest, and King, as God the Father said, “This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased.” And this morning, it’s the advent of our Messianic Bridegroom Who was manifesting His glory by the miracle He did and in so doing fulfilled what had been written by the prophets of old.
At the wedding celebration in Cana, our Lord revealed Who He is. In “this, the first of His signs,” Jesus points us to the restoration of creation, to the relationship between the New and Second Adam and His Bride, the New Eve and Second Eve, the Church. Through His first miracle, Jesus manifested His glory and gave us a foretaste of the heavenly banquet and wedding feast.
In the miracle of the wedding at Cana, we have a preview of the sacrament we celebrate every Sunday. The sacrament is a preview of the wedding feasts of the church and the Lamb of God. Revelation 19:7&9 “Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready. . . 9 Then he said to me, ‘Write, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are true words of God.”
The Bridegroom has come and has given you the wine of forgiveness, His body, blood, and life.
May the peace that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen