Wine of Gladness

Sermon for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany based on John 2:1-11

Dear invited guests of the great wedding feast: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Water is good. Wine is better. God loves to give the best gifts to His children, so Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding in Cana to provide for the on-going festivities.

The reality is that God turns water into wine all the time. He causes rain to fall so that vines will grow and grapes will ripen. He’s been doing it for thousands of years and He’s still doing it today.

What stands out in His turning of water into wine at the wedding in Cana is how quickly He did it and that it was different from His usual method. He turned the water into wine without soil, without vines, without sunshine, and He did it instantly, without it needing to age in oak barrels, and it still tasting really good. It was a miracle. The first of Jesus’ signs that manifested His glory.

The first sign of Jesus’ glory is related to the last sign of His glory – the glory in which we will spend eternity. With Jesus’ miracle at the wedding in Cana, the wine did not run out, and you can rest assured that the wine will not run out at the great wedding feast of the Lamb in His kingdom which has no end.

There are those who say that it is doubtful that Jesus actually performed this miracle. They say it is a miracle of luxury and indulgence. Why would Jesus provide wine for a feast where the guests had already drunk freely? They find it improbable that Jesus would even show up at such an event.

Others want to obsess over some symbolism in the turning of water into wine. The six water jugs symbolize the Law of Moses that cannot take away sin, while the wine symbolizes Jesus’ blood which does take away sin. Water symbolizes Baptism, the wine symbolizes the Lord’s Supper, and that it all took place on the third day symbolizes Jesus’ resurrection. Okay, maybe there is something to these things, and that’s all well and good.

What is front and centre, however, is that Jesus honoured marriage my attending the wedding in Cana and gracing it with the beautiful miracle of turning water into wine, manifesting His glory. Of course Jesus is going to honour marriage since He is the one who came up with marriage and instituted it for man and woman.

In the beginning, in Paradise, God created them male and female and blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.” (Gen. 1:27-28) Even after the fall into sin, God blesses marriage. He says that it is He who joins husband and wife together with a portion of His Spirit and that He seeks godly offspring (Mal. 2:15). What better place for Jesus to reveal Himself as God, than where His great gift and institution of marriage is taking place? What better way to do it than provide wine for the celebration?

After all the planning and work of preparing for the wedding celebrations, what an embarrassment to run out of wine. It would have been unthinkable for a Jewish wedding to be celebrated without wine. Despite the important part of the wedding already having taken place and husband and wife already being one flesh, the only thing that everyone would remember about the wedding for years to come is that they ran out of wine.

To avert the disaster, Jesus had the servants fill six stone jars with water, together holding 120 or 180 gallons of water. That’s a lot of water. The servants then witnessed the miracle, as the water was now wine. That’s a lot of wine. Not just any wine, but wine so good that it made the master of the feast take notice and speak to the bridegroom about it. It was excellent wine, the very best.

The Psalmist writes that God gives wine to gladden the heart of man (Ps. 104:15). Indeed, as for the couple in Cana, He turns the water of sadness into wine of gladness.

We also have many warnings, however, about drunkenness. Ephesians 5 tells us, “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery.” (5:18) Drunkenness is sin and excessive consumption weakens the will to oppose other sin. Proverbs 21 says, “Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich” (v. 17) Those who live for the pursuit of luxury and pleasure are reckless in their spending and many ruin themselves.

Wine was given to gladden us, not for intoxication (Chrysostom). Ecclesiastes 2 says, “There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God.” (v. 24) This is not suggesting hedonism, but that you labour and work and then enjoy the benefits of that work which come from the hand of God.

There is also wine in which you enjoy the benefits of the work that Jesus has done. This is of course the wine in the Lord’s Supper. Another week has gone by, more sins have been committed. Marriages have been under strain as husbands have been selfish and looked after themselves, neglecting their wives, taking instead of giving, disrespecting instead of honouring. Marriages have been under strain as wives have not submitted to their husbands, but instead criticized them, bossed them, and nagged them.

It is a great and necessary thing to apologize to your spouse and be reconciled and then even to share some wine. It is an even greater and more necessary thing to be reconciled and receive the blood of Christ with the wine in the Sacrament of the Altar – two sinners, together receiving the body and blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of all your sins.

If God has taken your spouse to Paradise already, you are not left out in this regard. In the Divine Service we are assembled before God in heaven, and we sing with angels and archangels, and with all the company of heaven as we sing “Glory to God in the highest” and “Holy, holy, holy,” two songs of the angels (cf. Heb. 12:22-24; Lk. 2:14; Is. 6:3). As you eat the body and drink the blood of Christ, you are in communion with Christ and with all the saints who are in communion with Him, whether here on earth or in heaven with Him.

Because Jesus lived and died for you, He prepares a place in His eternal wedding banquet also for you. Because you are baptized and are thus covered in the robe of Christ’s righteousness, you are dressed in the necessary wedding garment to enter the feast. There you will drink wine better than anything you can imagine. It will not run out and you will enjoy eternity in the glory of God. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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