Pastor James Hopkins preached this sermon on the second Sunday after Epiphany 1/17/2021. The service was broadcast live on Facebook at 11am, and is now available on the FLC youtube channel. To follow along from home, the bulletin is available as a PDF: Epiphany2 Bulletin
The text for the sermon was the day’s gospel lesson. To read the Bible texts for the second Sunday after Epiphany, click here.
What went wrong at the wedding in Cana was more than poor planning. Wine is a good gift from God, but it was abused. That’s why it ran out so quickly.
The people received a good thing from God, but they misused it and turned it from a blessing into a curse. Medically, you could say that the abuse of this gift has made it poisonous. Luther would have agreed with that immediately, since the word “gift” in German literally means “poison.” Maybe they’re on to something.
The bottom line is that the people are drunk. They’re not happy – not really. They passed that point hours ago. Now, they are intoxicated, poisoned.
Their senses are dulled. They don’t understand. They can’t tell the difference between good wine and two-buck chuck. And Jesus watched the whole thing happen.
He’s a guest at the party, too; and so, He’s not being pushy. Jesus does not really work by way of force anyways. There will be no tables flipped over, no string of cords to chase the drunks away; not even a full-throated rebuke.
Instead, today, Jesus gives another gift. And He doesn’t just pull it out of nowhere. He could have. That’s what He did in the very beginning. But it isn’t the way He goes about things today. Notice that Jesus uses the water in the stone jars.
They were using this water to cleanse themselves before eating. This was not commanded by God, but was one of those self-chosen acts by which people tried to make themselves pure.
Much of the water had splashed on the ground, but what remained in the jars was absolutely filthy. This is what Jesus chose to work with.
It’s like the polluted water of the Jordan, in which Jesus was pleased to be baptized: poisoned with our sin, the water infected Jesus. And in return, Jesus purified the water and turned it into a cleansing flood and a lavish washing away of sin.
In this, the first of His signs, Jesus transformed their filth into the purest and best wine. All by itself, this would be a most generous wedding present, but Jesus was not done. Gifts are not meant only to be given, but also received.
Jesus instructed the servants to give some to the steward of the feast, the host. And in that moment, everything was different: empty had become full; water had become wine; fake happy became real happy; closed eyes were opened; poison turned back into gift, and intoxication became sobriety.
This wine did not make the steward more drunk; it made him clear-headed. This wine restored his senses.
As it was, they had drunk the good wine first. And nobody noticed when they started drinking the swill. But this was a shock to the senses. In a moment, the steward of the feast began to see things clearly.
The wine had run out because of their sin. But their cups were filled on account of God’s grace and mercy. So it is with us.
Our sins are many and great. It isn’t perfunctory lip-service to confess that we deserve God’s temporal and eternal punishment. The drunks in Cana deserved their hangovers and alcohol poisoning. We also deserve what we have suffered and more. It is by God’s grace alone that we have not received all we deserve.
Cana’s wedding feast went on, and not a single person was worse for it; to the contrary. But the water turned into wine at Cana was not an end in itself. It was a sign. That’s the word John uses. That’s what makes this a wonderful reading for the Epiphany season. Jesus isn’t just throwing a party; Jesus is showing us who He is.
The stone jars were filled to the brim with sin and corruption, this cup of wrath Jesus has gulped down to the dregs. Full now is the cup of blessing, overflowing with His own Blood.
That’s what this is pointing to. John writes that by this, the first of His signs, Jesus manifested His glory and His disciples believed in Him. Later in John’s Gospel, Jesus prays:
“Father, glorify Your Name.”
Then a voice came from heaven:
“I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” John 12:28
And so, we see that Jesus’ glory is revealed, manifested in His suffering and death. This wine points to the coming of God’s Kingdom in Jesus’ atoning death. This wine anticipates the Blood shed on cavalry, the Blood that fills our chalice, and lays hidden under plain wine, revealed to those whose eyes would see what their ears have heard.
Even more is given to you than to the wedding guests at Cana. The master of the feast still did not know where the wine came from. But the servants knew. The servants at the wedding knew that Jesus was impressive and powerful; they even knew that He is merciful. You know this also, but you know even more.
You know the character and identity of the One who gives it. For you are not only His servants, but His disciples. You are those who believed in Him.
You are those who have looked upon His glory. What was foreshadowed at Cana, you have seen fulfilled on Cavalry. The good wine that lent happiness to a celebration has been fortified. The Blood of Christ for you now gives the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. The joy of the wedding feast is yours. The best has been saved for last, and it is for you.