A Humble Miracle: A Sermon for the Second Sunday after Epiphany on St. John 2:1-11

weddingcana

It seems odd to find Jesus at a wedding. You’d think He’d have more important things to do, being Savior of the world and all. And not only that, but this is right at the beginning of His public ministry. Here we are in John chapter 2, and St. John tells us Jesus chose this occasion to manifest His glory in the first of His signs (John 2:11). We could understand it if He wanted to take a break from things and take in a wedding right before Holy Week. But instead, one of the very first things Jesus does in His public ministry is attend a wedding.

This reminds me of the time I went to a pastor’s conference shortly after my ordination. A former professor of mine was giving a presentation on Scripture in Estes Park, a nice vacation spot in CO not too far from my own parish. When I saw him there, he made the remark, “You’ve been on the job what, like 2 months, and you’re already taking vacations?” With all the work Jesus had to do, it seems odd to find Him at a wedding at all, much less right at the beginning of His public ministry.

And here we see our Lord illustrating something He once said through the prophet Isaiah:For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways (Isaiah 55:8). Lately I’ve been putting lots of Lego sets together with my son. Occasionally we find something that had gone wrong in an earlier step, and if the mistake was bad enough, we have to break the whole thing apart and start over.

You couldn’t blame God if He had done the same thing. He made all things, and it was very good. Eden was a heavenly paradise, with God and humanity united in perfect love and harmony. But the honeymoon came quickly to an end when we fell in love with sin, resulting in the exile of man from the presence of God in Eden. God and humanity, once united in perfect love, were now separated.

Even today we see that our hearts belong to things other than God. We find satisfaction in things other than our Lord. If you want to know what your god is, just think of what consumes most of your time, energy, and money. You really couldn’t blame God if He cut His losses, sent us away with a certificate of divorce, and found a more grateful bride. You couldn’t blame Him if He just demolished the whole thing and started over. That’s what we would do.

But God’s ways are not our ways. His creation is so dear to Him that He not only spared it from His wrath, but He actually entered into it Himself, taking on human flesh, and began the work of setting things straight again.

You wouldn’t guess that the Creator would care so much for an unfaithful Bride like the Church that He would suffer and die for Her. But that’s exactly what He did. And He came to Her in the unexpected of ways: born of a virgin mother into the humblest of surroundings. Last week we beheld Him standing in the Jordan, identifying Himself with our sin. And today, we witness Jesus manifesting His glory at a wedding of all places, turning water into wine.

It seems odd that Jesus would choose for His first miracle such an odd thing as turning water into wine. When we think of some of the really extraordinary water miracles Jesus performed, we might think of the storming of the raging seas or walking on water. Water into wine is okay, but you might think Jesus would want to really start His ministry off with a bang.

But our Lord isn’t about impressing the world. Not only does Jesus do a rather humble miracle here, He didn’t make a big show of it, either. Instead of calling everyone together and making a big production, Jesus goes about His work quietly. The master of the feast had no idea where the wine had come from, thinking that the wedding party had saved the best wine for last (John 2:9—10). The guests were none the wiser. The only ones who knew anything about this were the servants who drew the water and Jesus’ disciples.

Again and again, Jesus comes in humility. Born to poor parents, with lowly shepherds hailing His birth. No crib for a bed, and no luxurious bed as He got older, either: Foxes have holes, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head (Matthew 8:20). He enters into Jerusalem on a borrowed animal and dies as a criminal. Even today, He comes to you in the His Word—not directly from heaven, mind you, but through the lowly means of sinful human pastors speaking in His stead and by His command. He chooses water and a really unimpressive looking meal—just about the most common, ordinary things He can find—to bring you His grace.  

Herod was excited to see Jesus because he’d heard about Jesus and thought He’d get to see some sign done by Him (Luke 23:8). If nothing else, Herod thought he’d get a little entertainment and see something really impressive. But Jesus didn’t come to entertain the world and put on a good show, He came to save it from death and hell. And He accomplished all of this not in a great display of might, but in the greatest display of suffering and weakness the world has ever seen.

Christianity isn’t about seeking after extraordinary signs of power and might. God’s power is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor 12:9). You’re more likely to see God’s power and glory at the bedside of someone dying in hospice than in these places that put on a big show and call it worship. That’s what Herod wanted, a little entertainment. But there’s nothing entertaining about crucifixion. Cana, with its humble miracle, is a sign of even weaker things to come: namely, suffering and death.

The emotion Jesus most experienced in His early ministry was sorrow. As the prophet has said: He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief (Isa 53:3). Christianity is not about being happy all the time; it’s about knowing Christ in the midst of suffering. It’s not thank you for sparing me from the valley of the shadow of death; it’s though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, You are with me (Psa 23:4). Jesus’ glory is most clearly revealed on the cross. He bids you to take up your cross and die with Him (Matt 16:24), and He raises up the dead to new life (Romans 6:4). Eternal bliss awaits His saints in the New Eden; but in the meantime, He is with you as you bear your crosses.

That Jesus would manifest His glory in suffering and death just doesn’t make sense. Even on the cross He was taunted: If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross (Matt 27:40)! Surely no all-powerful God in His right mind would allow Himself to suffer and even die for a Bride that repaid Him evil for good. Why should the righteous suffer for the unrighteous? But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Blood was bridal price Jesus paid for you, and it’s a price He paid gladly (Acts 20:28).

And in a water miracle even greater than the turning of water into wine at Cana, Jesus turned sinners into saints by means of water and His Word, as we heard in today’s Epistle:

Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,  so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish (Eph 5:25-27).

Again, you might think that Jesus would have something more important to do than to turn water into wine. His mission was nothing less than the salvation of the world. But here, the only thing He saved the wedding party from was a little embarrassment of running out of wine. Sure, Jesus used this to demonstrate His miraculous power, but it only met a somewhat trivial need when compared with some of Jesus’ other miracles like the healing of the sick and the raising of the dead.

But it just goes to show that no need of yours is so trivial that your Heavenly Bridegroom isn’t concerned with it. By your baptism, Jesus has placed His name on you that you might call upon it, to let your requests be made known to God (Phil 4:6).  Jesus’ love and concern for you is so great that no detail of your life is too trivial for Him. His knowledge and care for you is so extensive that He even knows the number of hairs on your head (Matt 10:30). As Psalm 139 says:

O LORD, you have searched me and known me!  You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether (Psa 139:1-4).

If God knows us so intimately, how much more ought we know everything we can about Him! No detail of God’s Word is too trivial or mundane for His people. If Jesus knows how many hairs you have on your head, how can it be too much to come to the Lord’s house on the Lord’s Day, or to spend time each day in His Word and prayer? It may not seem very extraordinary, but neither was the miracle at Cana for most people.

Neither does the Divine Service seem all that extraordinary. We sing, we listen, we eat a probably the smallest meal we’ll have all week, and sometimes sprinkle a little bit of water on sinners. But through all of those things, Jesus is at work doing the miraculous, supplying what was once lacked. In a miracle even greater than turning water into wine, here Jesus turns sinners into saints, creating faith where there once was unbelief. Here Jesus saves you from so much more than the embarrassment of running out of wine; He saves you from unbelief and an evil death, strengthening and preserving you in body and soul to life everlasting.

This saving faith not only grants you a blessed end, it also grants you contentment with what the Lord has provided you. Faith is always content with God’s provision. As the 23rd psalm says: The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want (Psalm 23:1). Faith is always satisfied with what God provides; faith lacks nothing. Discontentment comes from unbelief. As St. Paul in Philippians.

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Phi 4:11-13).

So come to the wedding feast that’s even greater than Cana. For here,your Lord provides for all of your needs in the most humble of ways.     

Soli Deo Gloria

+Rev. Eric Andersen
John 2:1—11
The Second Sunday after Epiphany, 2014: “A Humble Miracle”
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