Sermon – 2nd Sunday after Epiphany – John 2:1-11
St. John's Lutheran Church, Random Lake, WI
“The Bridegroom at the Wedding”
“Who is this guy?” That's perhaps the main question of the Epiphany season. We've heard quite a bit about him in Advent, as we expected his long promised arrival. Christmas tells us more of who he is– born in Bethlehem, son of Mary... A savior, which is Christ the Lord. But Epiphany further unpacks the one who has appeared, the one who is made manifest, who is revealed to us... and bit by bit, from different angles, we hear of who he is and what he is about, this Jesus.
“This is my son, whom I love” The voice from heaven declares at his baptism. He is the one mightier than John the Baptist. And John calls him the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
As a boy, we see him as the obedient son to his parents, but also the one who must be in his Father's house. He amazes the scribes and pharisees with his wisdom, which only keeps growing.
He is the one of whom Isaiah wrote, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me.” He is the one who has authority over the evil spirits, and over the forces of nature. He has authority to preach – an authority unlike the scribes and pharisees, and even the authority to forgive sins.
It seems there is always something more we can say about Jesus, and it is always something he is or does for us.
Today, with Jesus' first miracle at Cana in Galilee, he turns water into wine. And with this important event, John shows us a few more important answers to the question of “who is this Jesus?”
It is no accident that it happens at a wedding. For while the bride and groom celebrated the beginning of their life together, Jesus Christ, the true bridegroom, was inaugurating his public ministry – beginning his public life as our beloved provider. From heaven he came and sought her, his bride, the church. He would rescue this maiden in distress from the very jaws of the beast, and shed his blood for her, for us, for you. All of us together, the church, are the bride of Christ, even the body of Christ, our head. And he is our loving bridegroom, our perfect husband. He is the breadwinner, the daily bread provider, and the heavenly bread himself, the one who sustains our very life. He is our head, and we submit to his authority, but his leadership is a servanthood that puts us first, even to the point of death. So great is his love for his bride, he lays down his life for her, for us all.
And let's not too quickly pass over the words of Mary, here. “Do whatever he tells you”. Easy enough? And so they do, and a miracle happens. But what about us?
Do we do whatever he says? Surely not, according to the law. He says love one another, but we love mostly ourselves. He says take up your cross, but we'd much prefer a comfy pillow. He says to turn the other cheek, but we'd rather punch and claw. He says to be perfect – but we are far from it. Far from doing whatever he says, the Old Adam in us wants to do just the opposite – ever since the first Adam and Eve did the one thing they were told not to do.
Do whatever he says. Isn't it a miracle, then, that we ever do what he says? According to the Gospel, by the working of the Holy Spirit, this happens. For I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in my Lord Jesus Christ or come to him, but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel. It is by the Spirit that we believe, and are saved, and live. It is only by the Spirit that we can in any way do whatever he says.
And so what does he say to us?
Well besides the instructions of the law, which have to do with loving and serving our neighbor, first he tells us to believe. He calls us to come and hear his word. To receive it in faith. To repent and be baptized. To die and rise to the newness of life in the washing of rebirth and regeneration. And he commands us to receive his gifts from the altar – do this, often – take and eat, take and drink, for the forgiveness of your sins. Whatever he tells us is most importantly to receive his gifts with thanksgiving.
Those at the wedding in Cana marveled at the gifts that he gave that day – a fine wine, indeed the finest – the best saved for last, contrary to expectations. So too, do we marvel at the gifts he gives today. We still don't know how he does it. But we know that he does. He continues to call sinners like you and me to receive good things we in no way deserve.
This first of his signs, Jesus did in Cana, at Galilee. But it would not be his last sign. He would heal the sick, cure the deaf and blind and lame. He would rout the evil spirits. He would multiply fish and loaves, calm the storm, walk on the waves. He would even raise dead Lazarus after three days. And if that's not enough, his chief sign was the sign of Jonah, rising from the dead himself after three days in the belly of death.
Marvels and wonders, indeed, but look closer at this bridegroom.
For he would eat with the sinners and tax collectors. He would wash the feet of his disciples. He would forgive the sins of men born blind, women caught in adultery, even the Roman dogs that surrounded him and pierced his hands and feet.
He even forgives the likes of you, the worst of your sins, the deepest darkest shame you hope no one ever discovers – the sins of your past, the corruption of your heart – the bad, the ugly, the unspeakable. Whatever he says to sinners then, he says to you now. Go in peace, your sins are forgiven.
And he would send his disciples to make disciples of all nations, baptizing and teaching. To turn the hopeless sinners whose worldly revelry leaves the soul empty into wedding guests and members of his bride who have true reason to celebrate. To bring us, all together, at last, to the wedding feast in his kingdom which has no end.
As missionary, your missionary, to a foreign land, it is the good news of the true bridegroom that goes with me. It is the forgiveness and life that he gives so freely that makes all things new. May the Christ who once turned water into wine, continue to transform sinners into saints, unbelievers into believers, and lost souls into members of his bride the church. As his word is preached, and his sacraments are administered, God grant it, for the sake of his Son.