This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him (John 2:11).
This last verse of our sermon text begins with This, the first of his signs. Signs point to something. In my recent travels, I saw all sorts of signs.
As today is Life Sunday, I saw several signs pointing me to the fact that a child in the womb is in fact a child, a living, breathing human being. One said that “the heartbeat starts fourteen days from the point of conception”. Another said that “fingerprints form nine weeks from conception”. These signs and many more throughout the country point us to the fact that we are fearfully and wonderfully made by God.
Signs point to something. In driving, we have to pay attention to signs. If we see a sign that has three circles, one red, one yellow, one green, we know it is pointing us to the fact that a stoplight is coming up at an intersection. If we see a sign that says ‘Bump’, then we know it is pointing us to the fact that we need to slow down because there is a significant bump in the road. Then there is the sign that is my kids’ favorite. The golden arches sign…pointing us to where the next McDonalds is located.
Signs point to something. Today’s text is a sign, and it most certainly points to something. Again…we are told this is Jesus’ first sign, and this is the only place it is recorded in the Scriptures. So, let’s examine this sign for a bit to see what it is pointing us to.
We are told that on the third day there was a wedding in Cana and Jesus, His disciples, and his mother were there. Perhaps that meant that Mary was a family member of the wedding party. We don’t know for sure. All we know is that they all attended this wedding.
And there is a problem at this wedding. There is no more wine. This would have been an absolute embarrassment to the family of the bride. One commentator I read even suggested that there could even be a lawsuit for such a so-called crime in those days. That seems to be taking it a bit too far. But nonetheless, it would have been an embarrassment to be sure, which any of us who have ever hosted a party understand. You don’t want to be known as the party hosts who didn’t have enough to go around.
So Mary comes and informs Jesus, “They have no wine.” Now we don’t know what Mary expected when she went to Jesus. She could have just been informing him, or she may have expected that He would do something to help.
Jesus’ initial answer gives no indication that He plans to do something about it. “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” Now what sounds disrespectful is anything but. When I asked my catechumens how many of them would address their mom as “Woman,” I thankfully got no takers. But, actually, this was a common and even respectful way of addressing his mother in those days. In no way was it meant to show disrespect. If anything, it shows that Jesus was no longer to only be her son, but more importantly He was her Savior. It was a confirmation of a new relationship for them pressing forward from this time on.
Plus, Mary gives no indication that she is offended. Rather, she goes and tells the servants to do whatever He tells them. This is certainly a wise move, to do what God tells you to do. How often do we fail to follow through on such a command?
These servants, however, followed through by filling six stone jars used for purification with water all the way to the brim. It is then that the miraculous takes place. The master of the feast confirms this in revealing that this water turned to wine isn’t just any wine, but the finest of wine. This was not a common practice. The text tells us that usually the best wine was drunk first. That way, when people had drunk freely, then out came the cheap wine. But this wine was the best, the finest vintage.
Our text says that this sign manifested his glory. This sign, pointed to something. It points to the manifestation, the revealing of the glory of Jesus. Here we are in the season of Epiphany. It is a season that is all about revealing, manifesting something that lay hidden or unseen by the world.
At first glance, this text would seem to be revealing, to be manifesting a wedding with a problem. A wine shortage addressed by a miraculous event. And that is what it is on the surface. But when we look beyond the pages of John chapter two, and we behold much more, we see that in this sign is a foretaste of the feast to come. A foretaste of the glory of the Son of God come in the flesh to save all of humanity.
As I said before, signs point to something. But the problem comes in when we don’t pay attention to the signs. Like a driver on the road, if we don’t pay attention carefully, we will miss a traffic light sign, a stop sign, an exit, or heaven forbid, we may miss another sign pointing us to the next McDonald’s.
So, what is keeping us from seeing the signs that point to the manifestation of God’s glory. What is keeping us from searching the Scriptures and unpacking God’s Word to behold its beauty? For that matter, what is keeping us from studying God’s Word in Bible Classes, Sunday School, and personal devotions?
All too often, like too many drivers on the road these days, we are too busy doing other things. We are too distracted. And what so often distracts us from beholding the glory of God is the pursuit of our own personal glory.
Isn’t this what we see with celebrities, athletes, and politicians? It’s all about who can rise to the top. Because life is no fun if you are not King or Queen of the Hill. And as one t-shirt clearly depicts this mentality: “Second place is the first loser.”
It’s rare that we hear something like the response from Chicago Bears’ kicker, Cody Parkey after he missed the field goal, that was partially blocked, that would have sent them into the next round of the playoffs. When asked about how disappointed he was, he replied: “I’m disappointed. I let the fans, my teammates, and the whole organization down. I’ll continue to keep my head high though, because football is what I do, it’s not who I am.” (Pause)
As I said, such responses are rare, be it in athletics, or our own lives. That’s because all too often, we are consumed with the pursuit of personal glory. We want to make a name for ourselves, and in doing so, we have little interest in beholding the One who bears the name above all names as He comes to us in Word and Sacraments. We have little interest in the One who rightfully deserves all the glory.
So, we work more hours than we should or often even need to, often at the expense of personal health, family time, and a regular worship life trying to earn that promotion, that fat paycheck, and that sweet ride to go with it.
We have our kids join not one team, but two or three, even if they play on Sunday mornings to try and get noticed by coaches, scouts, or anyone who will take a peak.
Even on social media, we post with hopes that the spotlight will be shed upon us with comments and likes galore. And in our constant pursuit of self-glorification, we fail to see, or even ‘search’ for the signs in Scripture pointing us to the manifestation of the glory of God. We are too busy to behold the wonder that is in the making.
That wonder in the making in our text isn’t simply water being turned into wine. Though it is a miracle, there is much more going on here than meets the eye.
Here before us in His Word is the Son of God telling His mother that His hour had not yet come. It’s a theme that is constant throughout the book of John. It’s a build-up. A build-up to when darkness would cover the land from the sixth hour to the ninth hour. A build-up to that hour when Jesus would say from that cross to His mother, “Woman, behold your son.” And to John, “Behold your mother.”
It is a build up to when the glory of God was to be manifested in its fullest. When the hour would finally be here that the Son of God would face the wrath of God against sin. Your sin and mine.
There on that cross, Jesus bled and died our death. There He showed us what glory really looks like. It’s not in promotions, or athletic accolades, or even in ‘likes’ on social media. It’s in doing the will of God, which Jesus did to the fullest as He shed His own precious blood for you and for me.
And in doing so, the result was more than we could ever ask for or imagine. For here today at the table of the Lord, the glory of God is revealed to us under bread and wine. Here today, we receive that foretaste of the feast come. And like that wine at the wedding in Cana was the finest of vintages, so it is with the blood of Christ.
For in His body and blood is the forgiveness of sins. For all the times we lost sight of our priorities and sought the glory for ourselves...He forgives us. And He lovingly redirects our attention back to Him so that we may fix our eyes on the author and perfecter of our faith. His name is Jesus. The very One whom the disciples believed in as He manifested His glory in our text for today.
And so it is with each of us. As we receive Christ’s body and blood, our faith is strengthened to believe in Him.
We believe that He will be faithful to His promises. Like a bridegroom at a wedding. ‘Til death do us part.’ Only with Jesus, He doesn’t stop with death. No, He takes us, His bride, through the cross, and through that empty tomb that He rose from on the third day.
This same resurrection He promises to all those who believe in Him. And there in the new heavens and the new earth we will behold His glory for all eternity. And for that, we give Him all the praise and glory that He is due. To God be the glory. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.