Sermon for January 17

John 2:1-11 (The 2nd Sunday after the Epiphany—Series C)

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

January 17, 2010

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Our text this morning is the Gospel Lesson from John 2:

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 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 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.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

It’s just the first one, the first of HIS signs.  But it was enough.  It was enough for the Holy Spirit to use to create faith in the hearts of the first disciples.  It was enough for the Spirit of God to enable Andrew, Simon Peter, Philip, and Nathanael to say there is more than just a man standing here.  He is God-made-flesh and dwelling among us.

Some might maintain that this is simply an impossibility.  These four men had not been with Jesus that long.  They didn’t know a whole lot about Him.  John the Baptist told them to follow Jesus because He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  They were witnesses of Jesus’ Baptism and His anointing by the Holy Spirit.  They then saw the first of Jesus’ signs, His miracles, changing water into wine at the wedding celebration in Cana of Galilee.  Really, how much faith or belief in Him could they possibly have had?  But John said that they believed in Him.  In John’s Gospel, that’s his way of saying that they had saving faith.  Near the conclusion of his Gospel John records, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31)

We should be careful never to quantify saving faith or belief in Jesus.  Remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 17:20?  Jesus said to them, “For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”  It’s not the amount of faith that is important.  It’s the fact that faith is present.  So let’s take John’s Spirit-inspired words at face value.  Jesus did His miracle.  His disciples believed in Him.

This teaches us something about our Lord’s miracles or “signs” as John calls them.  When Jesus performs a miracle it is a moment when Jesus is revealing His identity as God.  The sign, the miracle, points to Jesus as true God as well as true Man.  Only God could take regular water in stone jars and change it into wine.  This was no magical illusion.  It was a divine action by the Son of God.  It was one of those moments when the veil was pulled back and Jesus showed His identity as the incarnate Lord of all creation.

This same Lord continues to pull back the curtain as He reveals Himself to us in His Word as He does again today through John’s sacred words—that Jesus is true God, begotten of the Father from all eternity, and also true Man, born of the Virgin Mary.  This Jesus is our Lord.  And our Lord also gives us glimpses of His divinity in other ways, in other miracles, not the least of which is the miracle of conception and birth.  Who else besides our God can create life?  Who else except God could create life in such an intricate way, with such detail and precision?  Psalm 139:13 describes the miraculous creation of life as the psalmist writes, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.”  The Lord told the prophet Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” (Jer. 1:5)  Even birth itself is a divine work of God, as David declares in Psalm 22, “Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.”

Christian faith can only respond to such a miracle and say, “The Lord is God!”  If there is any doubt in the heart about the Lord, the miracles of Jesus recorded in the Bible and the miracles that He still accomplishes today by the power of the same Word of creation and life reverses those doubts, strengthens our faith so that we can make the confession, “I believe in God the Father, in God the Son, and in God the Holy Spirit.  He is Lord of creation; He is Lord of my life.”

But as helpful and as beneficial as the Lord’s miracles are, they are neither the foundation nor the basis for our faith in Christ.  My forgiveness and salvation is not secure in the fact that I know and believe that God alone creates, gives, and sustains life through the miracle of birth, as wondrous and as powerful of a testimony that it is to the Lord.  No my faith and yours is founded on and is secure in something much greater that I was also reminded of on Tuesday afternoon as my daughter was born.

After Kierstin was born it was time for her daddy to cut the umbilical cord.  That cord was her source of life in the womb.  It carried to her forming body the oxygen and nutrients she needed to grow to her healthy 9lbs. 4 oz.  The midwife Jennie handed me the scissors to cut the cord.  When the cord was cut it released its flow of blood and water.  What a powerful image that was to me!  It immediately called to remembrance John 19, “But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.”  It is blood and water that sustain human life both inside and outside the womb.  But it is the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross for the life of the world that gives us salvation through the forgiveness of sins.  It is the blood of the Lamb of God that is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.  This is the basis, the foundation, of our Christian faith in Jesus.  He is the God-Man who went to the cross to save us by shedding His blood for you and me.

That shed blood of Christ is applied directly to you and me through the means of water and God’s Word in Holy Baptism.  It was no accident that John recorded the piercing of Jesus’ side and the flow of His precious blood and water.  In the waters of Holy Baptism we are covered in the saving flood of Jesus’ blood.  We are cleansed from our scarlet sins by the scarlet blood of the Lamb of God.  It is this true blood that we also receive as Baptized Christians with and under the wine in Holy Communion.  And that, for me, was the connection.

Why did Jesus choose at Cana in Galilee to change water to wine and so reveal His glory as the God He is?  This first sign pointed ahead to our Lord’s Passion Week.  He would institute the new covenant in His blood with His people by taking the Cup of wine, giving thanks, and giving it to us to drink, “This is my blood shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”  Jesus would be nailed to the cross in the miracle of His death that won our eternal life.  Our Lord’s side would be pierced releasing the flow of blood and water.  Water had been changed to wine at Cana looking ahead to this moment—to the wine which is His blood shed on the cross for us in the Holy Supper; to the outpouring of His own blood on the tree and then finally looking ahead to Holy Baptism, when the saving blood of Jesus covers us in that miracle through water and His Word.

Jesus’ first miracle at Cana points us to the greatest miracle of His cross where He won our forgiveness and salvation.  Jesus first miracle at Cana points us also to the font for the washing of Baptism in water and His blood, and to the altar for the eating of His precious body and the drinking of His holy blood poured out for us for the forgiveness of our sins.  It is these gifts of God in Christ that give us saving faith, that sustain and support our saving faith so that we can confess and believe that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

I invite you to turn to Hymn 597 so that together we may sing these words: