Second Sunday after the Epiphany
I have a friend in San Diego who loves wine.
San Diego is very much a desert climate, but there is also a lot of granite. It is a challenge to cultivate the soil due to all the rock and granite.
Well, my friend built his dream home on top of a steep hill in San Diego county, and decided to put a wine cellar in his home. The granite he had to chisel into provides a wonderful insulation for the desert heat of the summer months. But he got his wine cellar, about the size of my office, where he store in this granite insulated cellar some of the most delicious wines I have ever tasted, and money can buy.
But, those wines cannot hold a candle to the wine Jesus made that day in Cana.
So, why is this the first miracle of Jesus, turning water into wine? Jesus’ miraculous provision of wine is a fulfillment of a prophesy (Amos 9:13–15). It is a sign that the kingdom of God is on its way, that this is the Son of God, that the Messiah is in the house. And that’s why the disciples believe! Because God has shown up, right there, in the middle of a wedding in the little village of Cana.
The sign here is also the foretaste of all Jesus’ miracles, because they all move people ahead to the new heavens and the new earth. When Jesus heals someone, it’s a fast forward to the restoration of all things that will come when he returns. When Jesus comes back, all blind people will see and all lame people will dance and all people who can’t eat gluten will have pizza and beer.
And so John relates what happened that day for one purpose and one purpose alone: “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” (Jn 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 Salvation. These signs are here to help us and because He loves us, He continues to give signs that point to Him, while we wait for that final day—the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.
What a Delight it was for the wedding party at Cana in Galilee and for us today, because God truly delivers more than what we could possibly ask or imagine.
Jesus Gave a Sign at Cana
Jesus Gave a Sign at Cana
The wedding was a joyous occasion.
In Jesus’ time, a man and woman were betrothed to each other, usually for a year, with rights and obligations almost the same as marriage; yet they never lived together until after the ceremony.
The groom with his relatives and friends brought the bride and her party to his house and, after just a few words of blessing, a time of celebration and feasting began that could last up to two weeks. The couple lived together during this time.
According to God’s ancient covenant with Israel, wine was a sign of God’s love and blessing (Dt 7:13).
Through his prophets (Is 25:6–8), God promised a future when he would “swallow up death forever” and provide “a banquet of aged wine” for his redeemed people.
But for the unfaithful who did not live within the covenant, God’s curse would result in a lack of wine (Dt 28:39).
Wine was the drink cherished above all others.
For this reason, when the supply at the wedding in Cana ran out, it was seen as a serious problem.
Mary approached Jesus. Since his mother had reared him and cherished in her heart what was prophesied about him, Mary knew of his extraordinary nature.
Jesus’ response was a Hebrew expression implying that the purpose of his public ministry was to serve his heavenly Father, not his earthly mother.
Yet she, still trusting in him, instructed the servants to do whatever he told them.
Jesus instructed the servants to fill six jars empty jars—used for purification rites—with over 120 gallons of water.
From this water, Jesus made the best of the best of wine, that would delight the most trained palate. You see, God always does more than we could ever ask or imagine.
From this, Jesus’ first few disciples see his glory and believed in him.
It was a sign that Jesus is indeed the Lamb of God (Jn 1:36), the Messiah/Christ promised by Moses and the prophets (Jn 1:41, 45), the Son of God and King of Israel (Jn 1:49), whose suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension would open the kingdom of heaven to all believers (Jn 1:51).
The sign at Cana was the first of many his disciples would see, all pointing to Jesus as the source of eternal life (Jn 20:30; cf. Epiphany 1).
But John does not speak of signs as we think of them. We think of signs as symbols, or something that symbolically stands in the place of something else.
For St. John, this is not the case. In John the word sign really means something that points to, or is somehow linked with, something else. Quite literally, the Greek word that we translate as “sign” here means “mystery.”
In the same way, “mystery” in Latin is translated as “sacrament.” A sacrament is a mystery—a sign—that point to something or reveals something hidden from ordinary sight.
Signs in Holy Scripture reveal something that we wouldn’t otherwise know or recognize unless someone or something uncovered them to you.
Martin Luther tells us God gives signs as something visible for our faith to hold on to.
So it is that the Lord’s Sacraments, manifested in simple water, simple bread, and wine, are signs, mysteries—Sacraments.
They point to Jesus because they are inextricably linked to Jesus.
They are signs of Christ Jesus’ real bodily presence among us as Creator and Redeemer. In these signs we experience the death Jesus died to give us life.
Now, don’t misunderstand: I’m not saying that every time Jesus performs a miracle we have a new sacrament.
Rather, Jesus’ miracles are sacramental in nature. They are sacramental signs that point to him and reveal him as the Son of God.
These signs point to spiritual truth of the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One who took on our flesh, lived among us, and experienced everything that we experience.
These miracles are signs, visible sacramental manifestations that reveal Jesus for who he really is, namely, the Word made flesh, who created all things and who upholds all things in himself.
They reveal the glory of the one and only Son of God, Jesus Christ, who is our Delight Uncovered, as God delivers more than we ask, not less.
Jesus Gives Signs to Help Us
Jesus Gives Signs to Help Us
This is how Jesus has chosen to reveal himself to you and to come to you, in signs in which his Word resides.
But there is a problem, and the problem is not in the signs.
The problem is that these are not the signs that we would choose. The Bible says we lives in perilous times, and are in an evil and adulterous generation, which seeks after all kinds of signs, but not the signs that Jesus has chosen to give.
For example, we are tempted to seek Jesus in our feelings—or good vibes—which lift us to heaven so that we can “feel” his presence.
Or, the devil tempts us to despise Jesus’ presence in water, Word, bread, and wine.
So we baptized each other, but not the reasons Jesus gave—or we delay it altogether.
Hearing the Word or to receive bread and wine is fine, but I’m doing okay right now.
Yet, we pray for signs from God instead of relying on the signs he has already given.
We are afraid that Jesus will not do what he has promised unless we see or experience some sort of miraculous sign.
Because of that fear, because we can’t find comfort in what Jesus has already given. As a result, we often seek Jesus in the Law—“If I can turn this situation around, then I’ll know this is God’s will for my life.”
Like the empty barrels at at the wedding feast, the Law is empty. Keeping the Law, or doing things the right way cannot save; they only accuse and destroy.
The water jars for purification are empty, and as a result we only find pain, despair, sickness, and death.
But Jesus came to fulfill the Law. Just as there were six jars to be filled, so Jesus on the sixth day of the week fulfilled all the Law and the Prophets.
Just as man was created on the sixth day, so our Lord and Creator re-creates his creation on the sixth day with his holy body and blood.
On the sixth day, Jesus died on his cross and was placed in his grave. It is finished. His hour had come.
Jesus has fulfilled the Law to the brim, now your cup runs over.
Jesus Continues to Give Signs
Jesus Continues to Give Signs
As He did in the past, Jesus continues to provide signs that point to Him.
He has provided to you mysteries in the 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 you.
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 you his own.
It is not that the waters of Baptism are better than plain water, nor is it the quality of water that matters.
What makes Baptism baptism is Jesus has added his Word and command to it.
As he turned the water into wine, with his Word and by his command, he also gave water the power to redeem you.
For it is written, “Baptism . . . now saves you” (1 Pet 3:21).
Baptism is a “washing of regeneration” (Titus 3:5).
Baptism is a re-creation of that which was dead in sin. Baptism re-creates you in newness of life in Christ Jesus.
Likewise, the Lord’s Supper is a sign of your redemption in Jesus Christ.
It written that the blood of Jesus cleanses you from sin, as St. John records in his first letter: 1 John 1:7 “But if we walk in the light, just as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.”
The miracle of Jesus’ true body and true blood under the elements of bread and wine uncovers the delightful mystery of your salvation in a blessed and holy sacramental union with Jesus.
It is as though Jesus takes you as his bride and the two become one flesh.
On that day at the wedding celebration in Cana, our Lord uncovered who he is, to us and to the world.
In “this, the first of his signs” (v 11), Jesus points us to the restoration of creation that he would accomplish on the great third day, Easter morning, truly delivering more than we could ask, not less.
Through his first miracle—and all his miracles—Jesus manifested his glory and revealed to us a foretaste of what was to come: the restoration of our life in our God as it is meant to be.
Jesus has given to you a sign. At Cana, at Calvary, in the font, and on the altar, Jesus gives to you a sign of his glory.
And his glory uncovered is also a delightful sign: a sign of his love for you.
At Cana, in the font, and on the altar, our Lord has given us signs of the renewed creation won for us on the cross at Calvary.
These signs are renewed here every Lord’s Day.
Every other Sunday and every Wednesday evening, in this nave is a sign, a mystery, a Sacrament revealing the glory of Jesus Christ.
Here, Jesus Uncovers the Delightful fact that his life and death are yours.
Every Sunday Jesus Uncovers the Delightful reality that his body was given for you and his blood was shed for you for the remission of your sins.
Jesus Uncovers for you his glory, the glory of his death for your righteousness.
This Divine Service is Jesus wedding party given for you. He is the groom, the wine steward, and the wine. You are the bride and the honored guest.
So now let us do as Mary has advised, “Do whatever he tells you” (v 5). Jesus says, “Take eat, take drink, for in this humble bread and wine I have hidden myself to give you life.” Do this and hear Jesus say, “I forgive you all your sins.”
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.