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Epiphany 2, January 16 - John 2:1–11Other Lessons: Isaiah 62:1–5 Psalm 128 1 Corinthians 12:1–11
The story that we heard in our Gospel reading has always puzzled me somewhat. It's not the miracle itself of changing water into wine that perplexed me, but the fact that Jesus would start his ministry with this seemingly insignificant and mundane miracle. He says it himself in verse 4, which to our ears, may sound rude to his mother, but for Jesus to be calling his mother "woman" is a very normal thing, though perhaps a bit too formal. But here, in this verse, he is actually saying something more than what is translated. In this verse Jesus is literally saying "what to me and to you, woman?", or in plain English, Jesus is simply saying, "what has this got to do with me and with you?" But he still does change the water into wine anyway. And then John concludes the episode with verse 11 saying that this is the first of his “signs”. The Greek can also be translated as the "chief of his signs”, not just first in terms of chronology, but first in importance because it manifested (or epiphanied) his glory. This is what puzzles me: how does changing water into wine manifest his glory (and perhaps even this question: how is this event the "chief" of his signs?)
Is the glory shown in the miracle itself? That Jesus answers Mary's request and provided more abundantly than she or anybody in that banquet could have imagined? And that by doing this he honors marriage and saves the host from embarrassment, are all these the glory of Christ? Certainly it is all of the above BUT is there anything more to this story? Indeed, he could do so many other greater miracles to show his glory, and yet here he is, the first/chief of his miracle is to save the groom from his shame for not providing enough wine for his own weeding banquet.
Notice that John doesn’t merely call this a miracle, but he calls it a sign (throughout this Gospel as well). Certainly it is a miracle because Jesus did use his divine powers to do something supernatural, but it is more because it is a sign, something that points to a greater reality. It might sound a bit farfetched, but this story actually points to the sacraments. It must be noted that neither baptism nor the Lord's Supper are mentioned in the Gospel of John, at least not in detail like the other Gospels. There is a brief mention of Jesus being baptized, but nothing about Jesus commanding his disciples to baptize like at the end of Matthew and Mark, and yet baptism is referred to throughout the book. Also there is no mention at all about the institution of the Holy Meal even though John has the most detailed description of what happened in the upper room on Maundy Thursday. And yet here, in this particular sign in John 2, we see a glimpse of these sacraments. This story is pointing forward to both baptism and the Lord's Supper, which are both signs in a way as well. All these signs have only one focal point and that is the crucifixion of Jesus. They all point in that direction, either forward into the future or backward into the past, but always focusing on the cross.
But that was my problem. I do not see signs, even they are right in front of my eyes. I see, but I do not perceive. I do not perceive because I was not looking for these signs, because I did not perceive or understand the importance of these signs that God gives. Instead, I was either looking for the wrong signs, or I was just not looking at all, and that's the problem. But the fact that God gives us these signs shows us that we need them, however mundane they may seem. We need them because we are physical beings, not purely spiritual, as some think they are, and God knows that because he is our creator. And so he gives us physical/earthly signs to show and bring us spiritual truths.

But so often we don’t even care about these things. We are so distracted by everything else around us, work, family, and the various cares of this life. And then when we do feel the need to look for something higher, we look in the wrong things. Some people look to church traditions, things taught by men but not found in the word of God, things that may even be contradictory to it, but because it comes from some sort of authority (either from a man or an institution), people readily listen. But today more people search for the spiritual in the non-physical, non-material things. There is this ideal (false one!) that spiritual cannot be material, and vice versa. Therefore many people today will look for signs in abstract things like music, things that will stir the emotions and the inner feelings. Just like the Jews of Jesus' days, we seek signs but none will be given, because we are not willing to see the ones ALREAY given to us.

Look then at the ones already given. Learn to recognize these signs in these texts. What is this story pointing at? What are some of the key items or phrases? And then from these, where are they pointing to?

First we have a wedding but when the wine runs out, Jesus seems to be reluctant to help because this is not "his" wedding, and then he further explains because his "hour" has not yet come. What hour? Was he planning to have a wedding of his own? Well, yes, most certainly! Who is the bride? When and where did that happen? THE HOUR that Jesus often talks about is the hour of his death on the cross, and THAT is his glorification. Not that there is any glory in death itself, there isn't, it is defeat, it is failure, it is death. But Jesus' death is different, because in it he gains his bride. Paul would describe this in marriage terms in Romans 7:

"2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress. 4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God."

Again, using the marriage language, Christ's death on the cross was in order to kill our slaving husband, the Law that demands righteousness. But in our sinful flesh, we cannot help ourselves, much less free ourselves from this tyranny. The world laughs at us for our dilemma, and Satan accuses us in front of God the almighty judge. But Jesus comes to free us by dying with the old and rising with us to new life. This is the language of baptism. Baptism is a union of 2 persons, Christ and his bride, his church, all of us.

Furthermore, in this story of the wedding at Cana, John shows us that the Lord's Supper is included with baptism. For it is only in John's Gospel that describe for us some of the interesting details of the crucifixion. It is in this Gospel that we hear of the water AND the blood flowing from the side of our lord. Indeed, the church, bride of Christ is made through the sacraments of both baptism and the Lord's Supper. For just as God puts Adam into a deep sleep and from his side he forms his bride, so also God puts the second Adam to death, so that from his side flows water and blood to form his bride, the church.

And so here in our story today too we have water and wine. The master of the wedding feast and most of the guests did not know where it came from, but we know. Just as water and blood came from Jesus, so also here the water and wine came from Jesus. This is the glory of Christ: the cross and anything that shows or manifests the death of Christ.

This story is all about signs. And so if you want signs, spiritual things, then look no further than what you have here, in these simple and earthly things: water, bread, and wine. But don't look, as Luther says, according to their coarse external shells, but hear the words too. It is the word that makes these things holy and spiritual and beneficial to us. In these sacraments, learn to be the bride of Christ, learn to be the Church, being made holy and blameless before God. From these heavenly gifts, be renewed again and again so that you may also manifest the glory of Christ, that is, in faith, hope, and love. This is most especially manifest between husbands and wives. Your relationship with one another is a reflection of Christ and his love for you. Of course this is not just for married couples because we are all commanded to love one another, even our enemies. And so draw your strength, not from the demands of the law, which is a motivation of fear, but be empowered by the love of Christ, with whom your old selves have died and a new person emerges. And draw your strength from the wine and the bread, which are given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. These are the greatest signs because these offer you Christ, not a mere symbolic thing without any actual substance.

Therefore learn to see the signs that God has given you. Here in this story, remember that it's about THE hour when Christ receives his bride, which he does through the cross, from which we get the sacraments. This is the glory of God, that we share in his glory through his cross.