Epiphany 2c

Preached: January 17, 2010

Faith Celebrates What the Sign Points To
John 2:1-11

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The Holy Spirit testifies about Jesus in John 2

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee. Jesus' mother was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding along with his disciples.

When the wine started running out, Jesus' mother says to him, “They have no wine.”

Jesus says to her, “What's between me and you, dear lady? My hour has not yet come.”

His mother says to the servants, “Whatever he tells you, do it.”

Six stone water jars were there, having been placed according to the Jewish cleansing rites, holding two or three measures [about 18 to 27 gallons] a piece. Jesus says to them, “Fill the water jars with water.” And they filled them to the brim. He says to them, “Now draw a drink and take it to the master of the feast.” And they took it.

Because the master of the feast tasted the water that had become wine and did not know where it had come from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast calls the groom. He says to him, “Everyone first sets out the good wine and when they've had their fill, the inferior wine. You, though, have kept the good wine until now.”

Jesus did this first one of his signs in Cana of Galilee and revealed his glory. His disciples believed in him. (John 2:1-11)

This is the Word of our Lord.

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

What do these signs mean? This red octagon means stop. This black X on a yellow circle means railroad crossing. This skull and crossbones means poison. This red cross on white inside a blue square means first aid. Each of these signs point us to something important. They cause a reaction in us as well. If I'm in a hurry, a stop sign or railroad crossing can cause frustration. We stay a way from a skull and crossbones. And what relief a first aid kit can bring when we're injured!

We could use this fifth picture as a sign. These six stone water jars could be a sign reminding us of Jesus' miracle of turning water into wine. But, dear friends, that miracle itself was meant as a sign. John points that out in verse 11. “This, the first of his miraculous signs . . .” (John 2:11 NIV). In fact, the Greek John wrote simply calls it the first of his signs, since that's the emphasize. This turning water into wine was a sign. A sign of what? That's what we want to ponder today. For you see, when we know what this sign points to, it causes a reaction in us just as these other signs cause a reaction. But unlike what these other signs point to,this sign of changing water into wine affects our faith, just as we're told that due to this sign “his disciples put their faith in him” (John 2:11 NIV). Through his word may the Holy Spirit stir our faith to celebrate this sign as we cherish what it points to.

A. Jesus cares about all my concerns

1. How does this account assure us that we can take even small matters to Jesus in prayer?

As the text begins, Jesus is at the start of his public ministry. He's been baptized by John. He's defeated Satan's temptations during forty days in the wilderness. He's begun calling his disciples. About three very busy years of preaching and teaching and healing throughout the land lay before him, but he takes the time to attend this wedding, in the small Galilean town of Cana. That by itself indicates this was not the wedding of the rich and famous. Since Mary was there as well, the couple probably were friends of the family, from the same social status as a tradesman or carpenter -- your average Joe or Joseph.

And the problem that came up, really wasn't all that important, was it? The were going to run out of wine. That would be embarrassing, but in the big scheme of eternal salvation, would it really matter? It would be like running out of food at a potluck. Life goes on. Even on the human side it doesn't compare to healing the sick or driving out demons. But Mary goes to Jesus with it. It concerns her, so she takes it to Jesus, and he takes care of it.

Whatever your concern, dear friend, whatever your care, no matter how small it might seem in the big scheme of things, take it to Jesus. That's one reaction of faith this sign works in us. Jesus cares about all your concerns from the least to the greatest. Faith celebrates Jesus' great care by taking all our concerns to him.

2. How does this account show that Jesus cares not only for Mary's concerns but yours and mine as well?

Now the devil works hard to sow doubt in our minds. He whispers, “Well of course Jesus helped out at Cana because his mother asked him. You certainly can't expect the same kind of care from him.”

But take note what Jesus says to Mary, “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” (John 2:4 NIV). He reminds her that he has a totally different relationship with her now that he is publicly doing the work the Father sent him to do. Mary did have a unique role in God's plan as the virgin who gave birth to the Savior and cared for him as he grew. But now she takes her place along side the rest of us sinners. So Jesus doesn't address her as mother, and he makes it clear that he is under no obligation to her.

Through faith in Jesus, you, dear Christian, have the same status as Mary as you take your concern to him in prayer. Remember what Jesus said later in his ministry, when someone called out “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth” (Luke 11:27 NIV), Jesus said, “Yea, rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it” (Luke 11:28 KJV). Faith celebrates that Jesus cares for the concerns of even you and me as we take them to him in faith, which hears God's Word and keeps it treasured in our hearts.

3. What helps keep us from becoming impatient when we take our concerns to Jesus?

The devil also works to make us impatient. “You've prayed about it, but it's still a problem. See, Jesus doesn't really care about you.”

But take note what Jesus also said to Mary, “May time has not yet come” (John 2:4 NIV). His divine wisdom knows so much better than our short-sighted desire for instant gratification. He hears the concerns of all his people and answers those prayers in the way that is eternally best for you. Faith trusts him to do that, even as Mary trusted in the implied promise in those words: “not yet.” “I won't solve the problem yet, but I will take action when the time comes.” She trusted that Jesus would do the right thing at the right time, so she told the servants to do whatever he said.

Faith celebrates this sign of turning water into wine, this sign that points us to Jesus' care for all our concerns. Faith celebrates by taking our concerns to him, no matter who small or big they are, and then leaving them in his hands, trusting that at the right time he will do the right thing for you.

B. Jesus blesses my earthly lot

1. Why does Jesus often warn us of the troubles that come when we follow him?

But there is more for faith to celebrate here as well.

Jesus often warned his disciples and us that following him forsakes many of the things the world cherishes. For example, he said, “Anyone who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:38, 39 NIV). He makes it clear that following him does not promise earthly wealth or glory. “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Luke 9:58 NIV), he said. In fact, following him brings the world's hatred and persecution. “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first . . . If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (John 15:18, 20 NIV). And you know what they did to Jesus.

We certainly need these warnings. Otherwise our faith would dry up when difficulties and troubles came. And we need difficulties and troubles otherwise we would no longer look to heaven as our home but would imagine that this earth is an oasis paradise for us. Jesus certainly speaks what we need to hear.

But our sinful hearts twist his words to make us think that Jesus wants our life to be miserable, that he gives us crosses so that we lament under the hardship, that he delights in our suffering and takes all the fun out of life.

2. How does this account show us that Jesus truly does want to bless us?

But here in this sign of turning water into wine, faith celebrates that Jesus wants to bless us, not only to bless us with heaven some day in the future, but also to bless our earthly lot in this life. With this miracle he brings happiness to this occasion. The celebration can continue. And note he doesn't provide in half measures. He provided over a hundred gallons of the best wine.

We so easily take our earthly blessings for granted. But consider how richly you are blessed in earthly things compared to the billions who are living in poverty. Too often we fail to see our earthly goods as gracious gifts from our Savior and imagine instead that we're entitled to them. So we complain we need more rather than celebrating how much Jesus has already blessed us. And to be honest, even though we may imagine that more earthly blessings wouldn't hurt our spiritual wellbeing, Jesus knows best. Often we must go through a time where we run low, just as they ran low on wine, before we appreciate how richly Jesus blesses us, even in earthly things. He desires your happiness for time and for eternity.

So often we miss that because we think we know better. We rob ourselves of the happiness Jesus wants to give. Rather, dear friends, humbly trust his word, even when it doesn't seem to make a lot of sense. Just as those servants trusted Jesus' word. They filled those water jars that were usually used for ceremonial washing. It didn't make sense. They draw a serving and took it to the master of the banquet. It didn't make sense. But how amazed they must have been! So also as we trust Jesus word and follow him, we too will be amazed by his blessings, seeing them where before we took them for granted.

And let's not fail to mention another blessing in our earthly lot that faith celebrates. The blessing of marriage between one man and one woman. God gave that blessing all the way back in paradise when he created Eve for Adam. Jesus' presence at this wedding celebration show his high regard for the god-given estate of marriage. Through marriage God brings the blessing of that special companionship and the blessing of children. C. F. W. Walther in a sermon on this text called the marriage of a Christian a most splendid school of faith, love, humility, patience, gentleness and all Christian virtue. (Amerikanisch-Lutherische Evangelien Postille, C. F. W. Walther, Concordia Publishing House, 1870, p. 70). What a blessing marriage is and what blessings God brings to us and others through it!

Faith celebrates this sign done at the wedding of Cana. For this sign shows that Jesus blesses our earthly lot. He has given the blessing of marriage, and whether married or single, he wants to bring you happiness as you follow his word.

C. Jesus reveals his divine glory

1. Why does Jesus' glory lead our faith to celebrate?

And finally as all his miracles do, this one as well reveals his divine glory. “This, the first of his miraculous sings, Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him” (John 2:11 NIV). Jesus is our God, the eternal, almighty Son of the Father. He is God in flesh to be our Savior from sin and death. That's why faith celebrates. Our God has come to save us! None of the other pictures of signs we saw at the start can bring that joy. Our God has come to save us! That's why you can be sure that Jesus cares about all your concerns and is willing and able to do what is best for you. What a marvelous reason for your faith to celebrate! That's why you can be sure that Jesus blesses your earthly lot, even though we carry our cross and go through much tribulation to enter the kingdom of heaven. Faith celebrates for Jesus reveals his glory, his glory that came to save you. Amen.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313