John 2:1-11 (Second Sunday after the Epiphany—Series C)
“Manifesting His Glory”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
January 20, 2019
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is the Gospel recorded in John 2:
1On the third day a wedding happened at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2Now Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. 3And after the wine had run out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4Jesus said to her, “O woman, what does that have to do with me and you? My hour has not yet come.” 5His mother said to the servants, “Whatever he says to you, do it.” 6Now there were six stone water jars for the Jewish purification set there, each holding 20-30 gallons. 7Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them to the top. 8And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the head steward.” And they brought it. 9And when the head steward tasted the water that had become wine and did not know where it had come from, but the servants who drew the water knew, the head steward called the bridegroom 10and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first and, when they have drunk freely, the lesser. But you have kept back the good wine until now.” 11This Jesus did as the beginning of his sings in Cana of Galilee, and manifested his glory, and his disciples believed in him.
A wayward wife. A wedding. Abundant wine. God’s promises to His people fulfilled in the Messiah.
Israel was an unfaithful wife to the Lord. She had broken the covenant promises. Israel cheated on the Lord with other gods like Baal. The Lord said through the prophet Hosea, “[She] has played the whore; . . . For she said, ‘I will go after my lovers, who give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.’ . . . And she did not know that it was I [the Lord] who gave her the grain, the wine, and the oil, and who lavished on her silver and gold, which they used for Baal” (Hos. 2:5, 8).
Who wants to invest in a person like this who cheats and lies? What man in his right mind would want to reconnect with this woman? God was willing. That’s the message of Isaiah 62, our Old Testament lesson this morning. The Lord pursued Israel, His wayward wife. For her sake, He persisted in going after her to bring her back to Himself. He appointed watchmen, prophets and pastors, to intercede for her, to woo her back. The Lord looked upon the beauty of His errant bride and called her new names like “My Delight Is in Her” and “The Holy People” and “Sought Out.” God even promised a lavish feast and invited His wayward bride into paradise restored. Isaiah 25:6, “On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.” Joel 3:18, “And in that day the mountains shall drip sweet wine.” Amos 9:13, “The mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it.” This theme of a celebration, rejoicing with an abundance of wine, is a prophetic image of the Lord’s promised blessings to His people even though they failed to remain faithful to Him.
Enter Jesus on the scene. John records that He is attending a wedding at Cana in Galilee along with His mother and His disciples. Focus your attention on six stone jars that would hold a total of 120-150 gallons of water. What does John tell us they are used for? The Jewish purification. That’s a lot of water to maintain ritual purity. The people were concerned about their ritual purification and cleanness according to God’s Law. In other words, ritual cleansing and purity is taken very seriously.
Yet Israel, the wayward bride of the Lord, was one who is unclean and needed to be cleansed and purified. Isaiah 64, “Behold, you were angry, and we sinned; in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved? We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. . . . There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities. . . . Be not so terribly angry, O LORD, and remember not iniquity forever. Behold, please look, we are all your people.” (Isa. 64:1-9 ESV).
Before God who is holy, without sin and hating sin, all people—not just Israel—are unclean, tainted, and polluted with sin from the very moment of conception. Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” The filthiness of our sin is a personal offense to God. As long as we remain unclean, impure, and contaminated by our sinfulness as we live contrary to God’s Word, we will never have access to Him. And try as we might, we simply cannot purify ourselves. So David prays in Psalm 51 according to the promises of God in His Word, “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! . . . Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (Ps. 51:2, 7 ESV).
As He Himself had promised through His Word spoken by the prophets, God looked upon His people. He saw their sin and their unfaithfulness, their idolatry, their uncleanness, and their broken promises to Him. Nevertheless, God does what He promised He would do in order to purify and cleanse all people. God comes as the Messiah in the person of the Son of God Made Flesh to rescue His people from sin, death, and hell. God comes in the Incarnate Son to cleanse and to purify, to redeem and to save His bride. So here is Jesus in John 2, God made flesh and dwelling among us. He comes in the context of a wedding celebration and provides excellent wine, expressive of the abundant blessing of God received by faith with joy and celebration. Jesus provides this abundant wine in six stone jars once used for purification. What’s this all about?
The Old Testament looks forward to the day of blessing, the day of abundant wine, when the Messiah comes. (Remember, the mountains are said to be dripping with excellent wine!) When the Messiah comes, who is Yahweh Himself, He would reunite with His people, His bride, and would cleanse them from their sins. The beginning of Jesus’ signs in Cana of Galilee points us to Jesus’ true identity. Jesus is God come to His people in human flesh. He comes to purify and cleanse people from their sins and so, as a sign of this, He makes abundant wine at a wedding and manifests His glory.
Jesus is none other than the visible manifestation of the “glory of Lord” from the pages of the Old Testament. We read in Exodus 24, “The glory of the LORD dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. Now the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel” (Exod. 24:16-17 ESV). David writes in Psalm 24, “Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle! . . . Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory!” (Ps. 24:7-10 ESV). The Lord, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is the King of glory. And the Son, the Word, “became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14 ESV).
The Season of Epiphany is about Jesus making Himself known as God in the flesh. Jesus is true God and true Man, our Lord, who has come as He promised, bringing purification and cleansing for all people. In the context of a wedding where the Lord Jesus changes water into gallons of wine, we are shown the glory of the Lord in face of Christ. As the hymnwriter penned, “Let the earth now praise the Lord, Who has truly kept His word And at last to us did send, Christ, the sinner’s help and friend” (LSB 352:1).
Even though Israel sinned and rebelled against their covenant God and Lord, even though we have rebelled and sinned against our Creator and Lord, God the Son, the Messiah, came into our flesh to cleanse and to purify us and so make all people His bride. “The Church’s one foundation Is Jesus Christ, her Lord; She is His new creation By water and the Word. From heav’n He came and sought her To be His holy bride; with His own blood He bought her, And for her life He died” (LSB 644:1). As promised, Jesus the Messiah has come to His people to rescue and to save us all from sin, death, and from the power of the devil, “not with silver or gold, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.”
You and I as sinners who by nature are unclean, needed purification from our sins. Water in stone jars wasn’t going to cut it. Ritual cleanness only lasts until the next time, and the next time, and the next time. So Jesus, the God-Man, took all sins upon Himself and bore them on the cross. He paid the price of death and hell, shedding His blood to make us pure and holy and right with God forever. Jesus provided once for all what we need for purification—His blood. In the one washing of Holy Baptism, Christ delivers this purification to us in the forgiveness of our sins. We read in Ephesians 5 that “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25-27 ESV).
We don’t need stone jars with water for purification because we have the blood of Jesus that cleanses us from our sins. As at Cana, we now have “stone jars,” no longer full water, but the abundant wine of God’s blessing. This is for the celebration of the marriage feast of the Lamb in His kingdom, which has no end. It is Jesus, the Lamb of God and heavenly Bridegroom, who gives to us the forgiveness of sins not only in Baptism, but also in the eating of His true Body with the bread and the drinking of His true Blood with the wine of His Supper. Here at the Lord’s Table, we receive a great foretaste of the heavenly celebration of Christ’s marriage to us, His Church. Revelation 19, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure’—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.” (Rev. 19:6-9 ESV).
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, you are cleansed and made clean by Jesus’ blood. “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11 ESV). Christ has given you the wedding garments of salvation and has clothed you as His beautiful Bride as you wear the baptismal garments of His blood and righteousness. Sunday after Sunday, you see Jesus’ glory in the Word and at the Altar. You see by faith the Messiah who has come to cleanse, to rescue, and to save you. No longer are you and I like a wayward wife to the Lord. We are reconciled again. We are Christ’s holy Bride. And we look forward the great heavenly wedding celebration with our Lord and Savior that will have no end. Amen.