How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
(1 John 3:1)
It might be dangerous to start out with a broad-brush generalization, but I’ll risk it. I don’t think young men romanticize their wedding day as much as young ladies. For a young girl, dreaming about Mr. Right and the splendor of their wedding day – from the ceremony to the shoes; from the dress to the dance; there is no detail too small or moment too fleeting to be cherished and dreamed of while waiting for Mr. Right to show up, take you by the hand, and make it all happen. I know, not every girl thinks that way, but some do. I also know that not every boy thinks the way I did about my wedding when I was young. When I was growing up, and thought about my wedding day, the important part to me was going to be the ceremony – uniting my life with some yet to be determined young lady I tricked into saying, “Yes” – surrounded by friends and family, reminded of God’s love for us in Christ. It would be great. When it came to the reception, I bounced back and forth with ideas. First, I thought a potluck in the church basement was the way to go, and it would’ve been great. When I learned more about Biblical weddings, I thought it would be fun to have a weeklong celebration like some of the people in the Bible did. Most recently, I wanted my wedding reception to feature an all you can eat fish fry. Such were the dreams of the young and uninformed me. When it came to planning our actual wedding reception with a real life woman and a real life date on the calendar, on more than one occasion I suggested Burger King – mostly for ease of planning and because I like Burger King. But, believe it or not, we decided against that. There is something special about being surrounded by your family and friends to celebrate the beginning of a bride and groom’s new life together in Christ. No matter how much thinking you did or didn’t do about your wedding day, I bet there’s one thing you wouldn’t want to happen. Running out of stuff. But that’s exactly what happened to the bride and groom in our gospel lesson. But today, along with Jesus’ disciples, remember that Jesus comes bringing gifts.
You heard the account of the wedding at Cana. What’s the need here? Think about it. The young couple needed wine. So did it strike you as odd when Jesus asked for over 100 gallons of water?! Has Jesus ever done that to you? When the Son of God who can change water into wine takes your wine and changes it into water? When life is “going well” it’s easy to feel two ways – fulfilled and forgetful. We’ve stored up enough ______, we’re surrounded by plenty of ______, we’ve got all the ______ we could want. But we forget the One who gave it all. The frustration comes when we think we need “wine” and Jesus only seems to give us “water.” I know what’s needed here, and I can clearly see what you’re providing. Jesus, they need wine, and you load them up with water?! Isn’t it easy to think that way? When you know so clearly what each situation in your life needs to be its best, and Jesus just doesn’t seem to get it? When you’re positive what would heal your strained relationships, and you see Jesus turning the hose spigot rather than popping the cork in the bottle. If only my spouse was more like THIS…If only my child would become more like THAT…but Jesus never seems to deliver on the THIS or the THAT?
When those days come – when it seems like you need wine and Jesus is filling up the jars with water – remember what Jesus’ mother Mary remembered. Jesus knows what he’s doing. Mary saw a need, surmised a solution, and spoke to Jesus. “They have no more wine.” But her objectives didn’t match Jesus’ plans. Mary likely wanted to spare a young couple the embarrassment. Jesus wanted to pull back the curtain and show his disciples who he is – the Son of God who’s come into the world. “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.” Jesus’ reaction seems abrupt, but he’s the only one who really knows what’s going on here and exactly what the situation needs. That was good enough for his mother Mary. So Mary told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” When it seems like Jesus is giving you the exact opposite of what you think you need; remember, what Mary knew. Jesus sees the end from the beginning. And, what’s even more, he uses that perfect knowledge for your benefit. Jesus cares for you. Our plans and objectives don’t always match with Jesus’ objectives for us. We’re focused on the immediate and right now. Jesus’ eyes are on our eternity, and everything we need to get there. He knows exactly what you need, when you need it, and how he’s going to give it to you.
What’s the problem at the wedding at Cana? No wine. What does Jesus use to solve the problem? Not what we’d expect. But isn’t that Jesus’ way? Whether it’s creating out of nothing, healing the sick, raising the dead, or changing water into wine, Jesus needs just one thing from you – nothing. Think of how this works today. Jesus allows the sun to rise and crops to grow. He keeps this blue-green marble called earth spinning at its perfect 23.5 degree axis and not hurtling uncontrolled through space. Jesus gives you air to breathe and work to do – to say nothing of the constant protection he surrounds you with, both physical and spiritual, and he does all of it through means that we easily look past and take for granted. What about the spiritual? What needs do you have there and how does Jesus meet those? What spiritual needs do you have? Cleansing from your sin and life in place of your death. Your needs are great, so how does Jesus meet those needs? Not how we’d expect – in ways that seem completely counterintuitive. With a promise; a word from his mouth. He speaks, and reality happens. I forgive you. With 3 splashes of water and 18 words he brings you into his family. A wafer and some wine, but along with it his promise: “My body, my blood – for you.” He meets your needs with a word of promise from the mouth of Almighty God. Did you hear those funny sounding names in our Old Testament lesson? God himself has given you a new name – Beulah, a fine name for anybody’s grandma, but it carries with it the promise of God. It means “married;” you are God’s own. He’s claimed you. But he doesn’t stop there – he gives you another name: Hephzibah, because his delight is in you. See how much Jesus loves you! He didn’t stop at your baptism. He keeps giving with his word of forgiveness, spoken in his name. He piles on even more with his body and blood, given and shed for you. Jesus’ love for you doesn’t come down in a sprinkle; he pours it on in a deluge. And the quantity of his love is the highest quality.
Most of the time, we assume that quantity and quality are at odds. You can either have a little bit of something excellent, or you can have a whole lot of something that’s just mediocre. Jesus doesn’t play by those rules. To that wedding couple at Cana, Jesus provides over 100 gallons of wine so fine it completely shocks the banquet master – a guy who was certainly familiar with top shelf stuff. As much as I enjoy a nice glass of Franzia, this is something a bit more special than wine that comes in a plastic bag in a cardboard box. The master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine…Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guest have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” Jesus lavishes his good gifts on those who don’t deserve them and could ever fully appreciate them, but still he gives. In fact, he’s so gracious that initially the groom gets the credit for such fantastic wine! Jesus gives and he gives and he gives – always running the risk that the sinner will love the gift more than the Giver, but still Jesus comes bearing gifts. That’s one thing we learn about Jesus from the wedding at Cana…which teaches us something else…
The account of the wedding at Cana really has nothing to do with the wedding at Cana. It’s all about this Jesus – who he is and what he’s come to do. John, the writer of this gospel, was there at the wedding. His own eyes saw what happened, his lips sipped the fine vintage Jesus provided, and his hand wrote what this account of the wedding at Cana was really all about. This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him. Ask 10 people who’ve heard this story what was the miracle of the wedding at Cana, and you’ll probably get 10 similar responses, “Jesus changed water into wine.” But don’t overlook something that was no less miraculous. The disciples believed in Jesus. This miracle we call “faith” is a gift that can only be given by the Holy Spirit of God, and is in no way less dazzling than Jesus changing water into wine. John calls this miracle a “sign.” Signs point to something else, something greater. Jesus turned water into wine – to what does this sign point? That this Jesus is the Son of God, the promised Savior of the world. Ever since Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan, anointed with the Spirit, and approved by the Father; defeating Satan’s temptations in the wilderness; calling his first disciples; being pointed to by John as he said, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”; all the while, the curtain was being pulled back to reveal who this Jesus is. This is Messiah, the anointed one of God who has come into this world to provide for your eternity, and also who richly and daily provides all you need. Jesus comes bearing gifts.
That’s what’s interesting about this account of the wedding at Cana that really has nothing to do with the wedding at Cana itself. There’s such a striking juxtaposition of things divine with things mundane; the unmissable intersection of glorious power and stark humility. It’s a wedding – but we’re not told who the bride and groom are – usually a pretty important detail on a wedding day! The wedding took place at Cana in Galilee – a town so small and out of the way, that John needs to tell us the name of the city and the “state.” We know nothing about the wedding party. We know only a few named guests – Mary, Jesus, and his disciples. There are some servants and a banquet master. All in all pretty plain, but in that humble scene is revealed the very glory of God. Into the ordinary bursts the extraordinary, and his name is Jesus. This is going to be a repeated theme throughout this Epiphany season – does glory like that belong in a place like this – what’s Jesus doing here? A baptism shoulder to shoulder with sinners; a no-name wedding in a town of no consequence; a synagogue sermon that almost gets him killed; calling a band of followers who knew more about fishing than faith; into all of these humble, seemingly unfitting scenes bursts the very glory of God. His name is Jesus. What’s he doing here? He’s here bearing gifts for you.
Do you see the point? Your life is not too ordinary for Jesus. You are not just another drop in the vast ocean of humanity. You’re special to Jesus. There is no detail of your life that is too small or too mundane to escape your Savior’s love and providence. Do you see the grace that runs through this whole account? What was Jesus obligated to do? Nothing, really. Who’s going to blame a guest for the bride and groom’s lack of planning? None of this was Jesus’ problem, but he responded as if he’s the only one who could fix it – because he was. You’re special to Jesus. Do you know how I know? Your sin was your problem, not Jesus’. But he made your problem his problem. The fact that you die is on you and you alone – but then Jesus shows up, defeating your death and in its place, giving you his life. That’s why he’s in the middle of nowhere changing water into wine for a wedding couple who’s not even named. That’s why he comes from heaven to earth to take our place – living every minute of his life in holy obedience until that day when his time would come, and he would provide a liquid more precious than vintage wine for a wedding feast. He’d shed his divine blood to cover over the sins of the world, and make us ready for his heavenly wedding banquet.
Weddings are a lot of fun. Week-long weddings sound like a blast – but these earthly celebrations come to an end, and everyone goes home. Before you leave the wedding at Cana today, don’t forget to take home your party favor. Jesus cares about you. Jesus knows what he’s doing. Jesus is here. He comes to you in Word and Sacrament bearing gifts for you – his forgiveness for your sin, his life in the place of your death, and his salvation rescuing you from slavery and guaranteeing you eternity. That’s his promise. That’s his gift – and it’s got your name on it.
And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.