January 17, 2009
“The REAL Bridegroom”
Jesus first miracle seems unplanned. It happened at a wedding, at the request of his mother. There was no pressing need, except the possible embarassment of a host that hadn't planned for enough wedding guests. One commentator (Bo Giertz) describes it this way:
...Let us ponder the reason behind Jesus' miracle: a small irritating mishap threatening a respectable Galilean family with great shame. This Sunday in the Church Year used to be called "Home Sunday" because it emphasized Jesus' relationship to our home life and how we immediately see what Jesus has to do in our homes. He is there--even during the trivial annoyances of everyday life. Christ descended into our everyday life when He became man. This is how He really shows us who He is. His glory is revealed to us not only on the Mount of Transfiguration, but as a helper and a friend at the very center of every day's prosaic reality.
Rightly understood, however, we see our Lord God as providing all the wine and food for every banquet, all the daily bread of life. So is it really a surprise that Jesus would tend to such an important detail?
But the significance of this miracle is even deeper, as it serves to help answer our Epiphany question, “who is this Jesus?”. We've already heard with the Wise Men that he is the one born King of the Jews. The angels announced him as “A savior, Christ the Lord”. God himself adds to the growing picture at Jesus baptism, “This is my Son, with whom I am well pleased”. And now this little miracle at the beginning of his ministry gives us another picture and pointer of Christ's identity. He is the true Bridegroom.
After all, it was the bridegroom at the wedding that was responsible to take care of the guests. Here Jesus, by providing the best wine himself, shows that he is the True Bridegroom, even if it wasn't his wedding.
Scripture, even from the Old Testament, uses the metaphor of marriage to teach us our relationship with God. In Jeremiah 31, God laments that the people “broke my covenant with them, though I was a husband to them”. The nation of Israel as a whole, and the individual sinners within it are described as adulterous. They pollute and disdain the true and proper relationship to God by following after and “having affairs” if you will with all sorts of false gods.
And we are no different. Our sins, of commission and omission, of thought, word, and deed, are a turning away from the true Bridegroom to some other, lesser, lover. When we, the bride of Christ, his church, do anything other than His will, we break the marriage bond and adulterate ourselves, and our relationship with him. When we, as a body, or as individual members of the body, do what we know is wrong, we forsake and divorce ourselves from him – it's a terrifying place to be.
But he is a forgiving husband, a loving bridegroom. His patience surpasses any human husband, his love is greater and deeper. He lays down his life on the cross to save the marriage, to save his people forevermore. He takes us back, time and again, with a forgiveness that is hard to imagine. Calling us to turn away from our false loves, and receive him our true love, according to his grace.
Our bridegroom, Jesus. He asks his mother, “why do you involve me, my time is not yet come?” But he responds to the requests and needs of his people.
His hour of glory was still on the horizon – his glorification at the cross, and his final coming in glory. But here in his first sign Jesus points forward to other miracles to come, and to the final feast of celebration at the consummation of all things.
The feast – we sing about it. “This is the feast of victory for our God”. We pray about it, “a foretaste of the feast to come” the “marriage feast of the Lamb in his kingdom which shall have no end”. We look forward to that day, that final day, at his second coming, when the Bridegroom brings all things together and fulfills his plan. When the dead are raised, and his people are judged righteous on account of him. When we enter into our eternal rest and celebrate the final victory.
Revelation gives us a picture of the final bride – the holy city of Jerusalem – adorned for that celebration. It stands in contrast to Eve, the first bride – who was ashamed of her sin and nakedness. The final bride – the entirety of God's people – we are adorned with the very glory of God.
So today, like every Sunday, we celebrate the wedding. We have a foretaste of the feast to come. And the Bridegroom who provided the wine at Cana, provides the bread and wine at the altar. The same Jesus who in miraculous fashion caused the creation of the best wine – he causes, by his word, the sacramental reality of his presence for our blessing. His true blood and true body, here for us. Not for our mundane needs, but to rid us of guilt and shame and sin. His feast for his people, his love for his bride.
Turning water into wine is a mighty wonder. But forgiving our sins is the greater miracle. As you come to the feast today – all you who hunger and thirst for righteousness – bring your infidelities and unfaithfulness, and receive his everlasting forgiveness, his eternal life, and his sure salvation. He is the true bridegroom, and we are his true bride forever. In Jesus Christ, Amen.