Second Sunday of Epiphany
Delivered By
Pr. Lovett
Delivered On
January 15, 2012
Central Passage
John 2:1-11
+ John 2:1-11 +
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
You are familiar with the gospel reading this morning. It has been the gospel text for the 2nd Sunday after Epiphany for over 1,000 years.  Jesus performs the first of His miracles, changing water into wine and so manifests His glory.
But if you’re like most people, you wonder a bit at this.  Why is it that changing water into wine is the miracle by which the Son of God manifests His glory?  Why not raise the dead or cast out demons first; or feed a multitude with a few loaves of bread and a few small fish first?  It seems that every other one of Jesus’ miracles is more significant than this first miracle at Cana.
So we’re sort of left with two options concerning this wedding miracle: either Jesus is starting small, and the manifestation of His glory – while begun here – will grow with each subsequent miracle; or else Jesus was kind of pushed into this miracle by His mother who noted that the wedding feast had run out of wine and looked to Jesus – her Spirit conceived Son called the Son of the Most High – to do something about it. Something that really amounts to little more than running down to the local liquor store to get a few more jugs of wine. Well neither of these options is really palatable, so most people sort of join these two options together: Jesus wasn’t planning on doing this miracle. He was just a guest like everyone else.  But when trouble arose – though His hour had not yet come – He acquiesced to His mother’s request, and changed water into wine.  And once you do that, you’re pretty much outed as someone pretty spectacular and important, thus manifesting His glory.  The whole thing seems a bit accidental.
So we get a reluctant Jesus performing His first miracle at a somewhat benign place – a wedding – for even more benign reasons – His mother pushed Him into it.  Not exactly a Savior of the nations storming the strongholds of Satan, preparing to do battle with the evil one and his demons, finally suffering hunger, thirst, and exposure on the cross where we defeated the powers of evil with His death and brought life and immortality to men.  As always, there is more here than first we see.  For when we first look we see the son of Mary, but we must have ears to hear so that we hear the Son of God.
For the ancients, wine was no mere social drink.  Wine meant something.  It meant blessing and prosperity. For the Jews wine meant God’s favor and blessing. It meant there was peace between God and man.   Since the days of St. Paul, the Jewish rabbis and scholars noted that the first place wine is mentioned in Scripture is when Noah left the ark.  Upon leaving the ark, Noah became a man of the vine, a winemaker.  He was a man blessed by God.  God had saved humanity from death through the ark.  Life was right and good; wine abounded.  So there is a popular saying among the rabbis that without wine there is no joy.  They’re not talking about or looking for drunken joy.  They speak of joy in contentment and peace.  Without wine there is not joy. The Old Testament is full of talk of how wine is evidence of peace and contentment and rest.  So more than a social drink to loosen everyone up, wine was a symbol of great prosperity; a vital sign that the future is now and everything is good.
At the wedding in Cana, the wine ran out. It is as Isaiah the prophet prophesied, “There is an outcry in the streets for lack of wine; all joy has grown dark; the gladness of the earth is banished” (Is. 24:11). 
God’s favor was gone.  With the wine gone, the blessing of God was gone.  The mother of Jesus wasn’t embarrassed for the bride and groom. She wasn’t looking out for the guests, making sure they were well cared for.  She wasn’t hoping Jesus would do His thing.  It wasn’t a motherly suggestion that He pull a rabbit out of His hat.  She’d never seen Him perform a miracle before.  Mary wasn’t being coy; like when a mother calls up her grown son on the phone and says with a sigh, “There’s no one around to mow my lawn,” coaxing her son into doing what she wants without asking him.  The significance of no wine was not lost on Mary.  The couple had no blessing.  The community in which they were wed had no blessing.  Like when she lost her twelve year old boy in Jerusalem, Mary was without joy.
But Jesus is not concerned.  He is not stirred to panic or speculation.  His Father has prepared everything for Him.  The lack of wine; the fittingly empty purification jars.  Empty like the temple cult had become, more concerned with making money than with having mercy.  Empty like the praises of Israel, honoring God with their lips while their hearts were far from Him.  He noticed the servants who lazily stood around while the feast ran out of wine.  He saw the master of the feast, gloating in his position, ignorant of what was going on. But Jesus was not unaware of anything.  He was waiting for it. Like when He would wait to meet His disciples in the boat; waiting for the opportune moment to teach and bless.  Like when He would wait three days in the tomb for His Father to call Him back from the grave.  Jesus was waiting for the right moment.
Like when you are at your wits end and there seems to be no hope and no joy, no contentment.  He waits until you despair.  That is the right moment.  Then He acts and brings blessings and joy into your life.  Then He opens your eyes to see the good you have in Him, that apart from Him there is no blessing from God.  Jesus is not unaware of your trouble, He is waiting for you to run out of whatever you think brings the blessing of God and despair. Then He will show you that He is the blessing of God that never runs out, and with Him is joy and contentment.
So when His mother comes to Him and with baited breath says, “They are out of wine,” He knew that now was the time.  But she is not thinking of Him any more than she was thinking of Him when she had lost Him in Jerusalem.  Then she was only thinking of her embarrassment at loosing her child, which is why she did not celebrate when she found Him, but chastised Him.  Now she is only thinking of the doom and gloom this lack of wine must mean.  So that when she comes to Jesus she is not thinking of Him, but only of her fear.  And like when He was twelve, Jesus rebukes His mother:  “Woman, what has this to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”
It is as if He had said, “What does your worry and fear have to do with me?  I don’t need wine to receive my Father’s blessing. I am God’s blessing on this wedding, on this people, on you; not wine.  I am the sign of God’s favor.  I bring with me all the promises of God and their fulfillment.  Why should I be concerned with no wine?  This in not my hour of humiliation.  This is your hour of desperation.”
And as when He was twelve, His mother heard the rebuke in the voice of her Son.  She tells the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.”  But she isn’t showing off her Son, proud of herself for forcing Him out in the open.  She tells the servant to do His bidding because He is the Lord.  Wine or no wine, He is the Lord. Who’s else bidding will you do?
Fill those empty purification jars with water. This, too, is a rebuke. No one was concerned with being pure and no one could fill them with what was needed.  But He can.  Fill them to the brim with water, for that is what men do.  You need wine, yet you only have useless water.  You need purity, yet you have only empty jars.  But I will take your useless water and empty jars and fill them for you with that which you need.  I will show you that you only become pure by receiving the wine I give, which I will give from my veins.  Just as later I will feed you from a few loaves of bread and a few small fish to show you that I am the bread of heaven and I have no limit and am never exhausted.  I alone quench your thirst and I satisfy your hunger.
Now, servants, go to work.  Draw some out and take it to the man who calls himself master of the feast but who does not even know were the wine comes from.  You used to serve him, but now you serve me.  Just as I will take fishermen and turn them into fishers of men.  I will fill my servants with new wine and send them out to do my bidding; to build my house with word and water and bring glory to my name.  And just like here, when they serve me they will be serving others and I will be glorified.
Now listen to the clueless master of the feast give witness to my wine: it is the best.  I provide the best wine, the most satisfying wine.  In greater quantities than any man needs or can drink.  But I am not done with my blessings or mercy which is endless and fathomless and crosses all boundaries and boarders.  Listen while I let another take my honor.  The groom gets the honor for the wine.  The bride is honored through her husband. The guests are honored too.  I lift everyone up with me.  I elevate those who have nothing and are without joy and contentment to those who have everything and are full of new wine, my joy, and are content with me.  For the banquet that belonged to another I have taken as my own that you may all become my guests that I may serve you.
In this way I manifest my glory.

No wine. Empty jars for purification. A misunderstanding mother. A clueless master of ceremonies.  Inept servants.  All for His glory.  All your woes are for His glory that His glory may be made manifest in you.  He fills you with His new wine, wine of a better and more lasting covenant than marriage.  You become His guests at His banquet.  You are ministered to by His servants.  Though you are of low estate with no wine to bring joy, no way to become pure, no prospect of contentment, the Lord provides.  He provides Himself and thereby manifests His glory among you. And you put your trust in Him.
In Nomine Iesu
+ Amen +