The First of His Signs
†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: John 2:1-11
Date: January 17th, 2016; Epiphany 2; Series C
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Epiphany is a season of revealing.
The word epiphany literally means a revealing of something that lay hidden, unseen by the world.
On this second Sunday after the Epiphany, it is appropriate that our Lord should reveal himself in a sign or miracle, which points to something hidden from ordinary sight.
Today we celebrate that Jesus breaks into our lives – revealing himself to be Immanuel, God with us, who has come to restore his creation.
The account of Jesus at the wedding feast in Cana is often used as an example of the high place Jesus gives to the sanctity of marriage or how he often gives us much more than we sinners deserve.
While it is true that Jesus does honour marriage, and he does give us far more than we deserve – John does not tell this story of Jesus at the wedding feast for those reasons.
John later tells us his main purpose: “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 20:31).
That is to say, the wedding in Cana is one of those moments when Jesus gives us signs that reveal him as our Saviour.
The goal of these signs is not for you to say, “Wow, that Jesus is sure powerful,” but rather to confess, “I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.”
John tells us, “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him” (John 2:11).”
The Greek word that we translate as “sign” here means “mystery.”
Every detail is important in a mystery. The time and place are important. We are told that it happened on the third day.
The third day of creation is the day that God caused plants (including grapes) to come up from the earth by his Word.
Every day in vineyards all over the world where wine is made, Christ is doing this sort of work.
But on this third day, in Cana of Galilee, Jesus leaves out the middle man and just does it directly: water to wine without even the grapes.
The place is important too. This happened in Cana, a tiny, insignificant town in Israel.
That’s the way Jesus works. Not from the top down, but from the bottom up. The last are first, the first last.
And so Jesus begins his public ministry with the least, in the unlikely, unexpected place, far away from the centre of political power and religion.
The event is meaningful as well. It happened at a wedding feast.
Marriage is God’s institution, intended to protect the one flesh union of a man and a woman.
But the apostle Paul in his letter to the Ephesians shows that there is much more to marriage than meets the eye.
Marriage is a picture of the relationship between Jesus Christ and his Bride - the Church.
A wedding party is literally a foretaste of the great feast that is to come, the marriage feast of the Lamb in his kingdom, which has no end.
A wedding feast in Jesus’ day was a week-long affair and the whole town was invited.
You were expected to provide the food and wine, and if a wedding feast ran out of wine, it was a social embarrassment. It was sure to make the gossip circles in town.
And, as we heard, this was what happened to these people.
Mary, showing compassion, told Jesus, “They have no wine.” It seems that this statement was really more of a request.
It’s similar to when my wife tells me that the kitchen garbage is full. It’s a statement, but what she really means is "Please take out the garbage."
So, it seems, our Lord's mother asked her Son to help.
In doing this, Mary is an excellent picture of how the church should pray to Christ in faith.
She lays the needs of her host before Jesus boldly and with confidence that he can and will help.
So also we should pray to Christ, firmly trusting in him and believing that he will hear us and help us.
After hearing Jesus’ response, Mary said to the servants, “Do whatever he says.”
Jesus told the servants to fill six stone water jugs used for ritual washing to the brim with water, and then take some to the master of the feast.
The master tasted the water now become wine and immediately called the groom.
He said, “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” (John 2:10).
This sign points to the spiritual truth of the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One who took on our flesh, lived among us, and experienced everything that we experience.
Sometimes when we experience great pain and sorrow, it is easy to ask “where is God in all of this?”
Well, Christ left heavenly bliss, at the right hand of his father, to experience the pain and sorrow we endure in order to free us.
He truly was, and is, here with us now. He has promised to be with us always.
These signs reveal Jesus, who, while fully human and like us in every way (except without sin) is also fully God.
These miracles are visible manifestations that reveal Jesus for who he really is: the Word made flesh, who created all things and who upholds all things in himself.
This is how Jesus has chosen to reveal himself to us - and today he continues to reveal himself to us through his Word and Sacraments.
But there is a problem. The problem is not in the signs.
The problem is that often these are not the signs that we would choose.
Our sinful nature seeks after all kinds of signs - just not the ones that Jesus has given to us.
We seek Jesus in our superstitions, piety, and emotion, trying to “feel” his presence, so that we can manipulate him to do the things we want and desire.
We pray for signs from God – “Lord, if you just give me that one thing I want – then I will know that you exist”.
We do this instead of relying on the signs he has already provided.
Jesus continues to provide signs that point to him.
He has provided us mysteries in the holy Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
There, Jesus is hidden in lowly water and simple bread and wine. In these miracles, he is revealed to us.
In the Sacraments, Jesus, who revealed at Cana that he is Lord of the elements, continues to reveal himself as Lord over all creation.
In the waters of Baptism, Jesus makes us his own.
As he turned the water into wine, with his word and by his command, he also gave water the power to redeem us.
Baptism is a “washing of regeneration” (Titus 3:5). Baptism is a re-creation of that which was dead to sin.
On that day at the wedding celebration in Cana, our Lord revealed who he is to the world.
In “this, the first of his signs,” Jesus points us to the restoration of creation that he would accomplish on the great third day, Easter morning.
Through this first miracle, and all of his miracles, Jesus manifested his glory and revealed to us a foretaste of what was to come: the restoration of creation.
The restoration of life as it was meant to be. The restoration of your life and my life for eternity. Thanks be to God! Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.