Great and Wondrous Signs
Vicar Kyle Backhaus

Near the beginning of the rite of Holy Matrimony, there is an explanation of the purpose of marriage. The explanation contains these words. "Our Lord, blessed and honored marriage with His presence and first miracle at Cana in Galilee." Today’s Gospel is the account of that first miracle or, as John says, the first of His signs – a sign that manifested His glory. 

We can certainly learn that Jesus honors marriage from today’s Gospel. After all, He is the one who instituted and sanctified marriage, but the nature of this sign also shows how generous God is in both in quantity and in quality. Jesus converted somewhere between 120 and 180 gallons of water into a wine that caused the steward of the feast to remark and say, “You have kept the good wine until now.”  God often gives much more than we sinners either desire or deserve.

This sign shows us that Jesus honored the gift of marriage but it can also teach us that Jesus gives to all his creation, both the evil and the good, much more than they deserve.  Never the less, neither of these two teachings is the focus of this account.

SERMON FOR EPIPHANY 2, Jan. 20, 2013
Great and Wondrous Signs
Vicar Kyle Backhaus

Near the beginning of the rite of Holy Matrimony, there is an explanation of the purpose of marriage. The explanation contains these words. "Our Lord, blessed and honored marriage with His presence and first miracle at Cana in Galilee." Today’s Gospel is the account of that first miracle or, as John says, the first of His signs – a sign that manifested His glory. 

We can certainly learn that Jesus honors marriage from today’s Gospel. After all, He is the one who instituted and sanctified marriage, but the nature of this sign also shows how generous God is in both in quantity and in quality. Jesus converted somewhere between 120 and 180 gallons of water into a wine that caused the steward of the feast to remark and say, “You have kept the good wine until now.”  God often gives much more than we sinners either desire or deserve.

This sign shows us that Jesus honored the gift of marriage but it can also teach us that Jesus gives to all his creation, both the evil and the good, much more than they deserve.  Never the less, neither of these two teachings is the focus of this account.

The Holy Spirit inspired John to summarize his entire Gospel with these words: Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.  The account of Jesus changing water into wine is a sign that reveals Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God.  The wedding forms the backdrop of the first of many signs that reveal Jesus as our salvation.

Signs often reveal mysteries to us.  We have no idea how Jesus changed water into wine.  It is a mystery that we believe even though we don’t understand it.  It is a mystery that is part of Jesus’ teaching ministry.  It is a mystery that validates His divinity.

The Latin word for mystery is sacramentum.  It is the word from which we get the word sacrament.  From this word we also get the word sacramental.  The word sacramental describes something that God gives to us.  While the signs that Jesus gives us are not all sacraments, they are all sacramental.  They are gifts from God to us.

Martin Luther tells us God gives signs as something visible for our faith to hold on to. So the Lord’s holy gifts in lowly water, simple bread, and wine, are signs, mysteries, Sacraments.  They point to Jesus because they are linked to Him.  They are signs that tell us that Jesus Christ is among us as Creator and Redeemer.  In these signs we experience the death that Jesus died in order to give us new life.

Jesus has not only chosen to reveal Himself to those first disciples using signs, but He has also has chosen to reveal Himself to us and to come to us, in signs in which His Word resides.  But there is a problem.  The problem is not in the signs.  The problem is that these are not the signs that we would choose.

We have our idea of signs. We want our family member to be healed of cancer or the other terrible life ending diseases that threaten them. We want God to reveal His plan for our life now!  We want God to give us that promotion that we have been working so hard for over the last couple of years. We want God to take away all the struggles that we have been dealing with. We want God to provide what we know to be best for us. Yet Jesus has chosen to reveal Himself in the signs of the proclaimed Word. The Word combined with water, and the word combined with bread and wine.  He has given these signs to us as gifts, but we are not satisfied.  And so we pray for signs from God instead of relying on the signs that He has already provided for us.  We fear that Jesus will not do what He has promised, unless we see or experience some sort of miraculous signs that matches our expectations.

Because of that fear, we do not find comfort in what Jesus has already given to us.  We hear the Gospel and it feels like the law, and at the same time, we search for comfort in our own works as though they were the Gospel. As if our own works could bring us to faith and give to us salvation. The enemy wants us to trust our feelings instead of trusting the signs Jesus has already given to us.  The enemy wants us to believe that we can fulfill the law and contribute to our own salvation.  But the Law is empty.  It cannot save; it can only accuse and destroy.  But we insist on the empty jars of the law, over the full jars of the Gospel.

But it is Jesus who came to fulfill the Law.  Just as there were six jars waiting to be filled, so Jesus on the sixth day of the week fulfilled all the Law and the Prophets.  Just as God created man on the sixth day, so the Creator re-creates his creation on the sixth day with His holy Body and Blood.  On the sixth day, Good Friday, He broke sin’s curse.  When His hour did come, He destroyed death by His own death on the cross as He emptied Himself. 

Still, that is not the end of the story – that is not the last sign.  The One who has died is no longer dead; he lives!  The One who promised the sign of Jonah, kept his promise. The grave is empty.  He is not there.  Jesus lives!  He has filled the Law to the brim, and our cup runs over.  He replaces the Law and the old covenant with a new and better wine.  We are not purified by the Law, but by His Blood.  The risen body of Christ is the beginning of the new things.  In him and through him, creation is renewed and revitalized.  We see signs of this renewal in the Sacraments. Even the faith that receives this renewal is a miracle, a miracle by which the Holy Spirit uses the signs that Jesus has given to us.

Jesus continues to give signs that point to Him. He has given to us Holy Waters and a Holy Meal. One to give and another to strengthen our faith. In these miracles He is revealed to us. And Jesus revealed to us at Cana, that He is Lord of the elements, and He continues to reveal Himself as Lord over all of creation.  Consider the element of water!  When God speaks His Word over it and over you Scripture says, “it now saves you (1 Peter 3) – it covers you with Christ (Galatians 3) it is your washing of regeneration (Titus 3:5).  What a miraculous sign! What an overflowing gift for you – infinitely greater than 150 gallons of the finest wine!

Consider the elements of bread and wine!  When you eat His flesh and drink His blood scripture says “The blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanses us from all sin. What a wonderful gift. Far greater than any banquet meal you or I have ever attended. For in this meal we are united with Christ.  It is as though Jesus takes us as His bride and the two become one flesh.

On that day at the wedding celebration in Cana, our Lord revealed who He is, to servants, to His disciples, to us and to the world.  In “this, the first of his signs,” Jesus points us to the restoration of creation that He would accomplish on the great third day, Easter morning.  Through His first miracle, and through all His miracles, Jesus manifests His glory and reveals to us a foretaste of what is to come: the restoration of our life in God.

Jesus has done many great and wondrous signs. Each sign points to His renewed creation, which was won for us through this sign, the cross. His life and death are ours. His glory has become our righteousness. This Divine Service is His wedding party given for us.  He is the groom, the wine steward, and the wine.  We are the bride and the honored guest.

Jesus has given all these signs to us, so that we may believe that He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and that we might have life by believing in His name.  Amen.

 

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
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