Summary: The turning of water into wine was a sign. It’s also a nexus of the human and the divine.
Sermon: Sign and Nexus
Text: John 2:1-11
Occasion: Epiphany III
Who: Mark Woolsey
Where: Arbor House
When: Sunday, January 22, 2006
Audio link: http://providencerec.com/Sound%20Files/Srmn060122WoolseyJohn02;01-011EpiphanyIIISignAndNexus.mp3
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
We are inundated with signs today. For example, the distance from my house to this place is around 50 miles. On that trip today I saw green signs and red signs, enticing signs and warning signs, signs to direct and signs to amuse, signs that attract and signs that bore. Some of these signs I heeded and some I ignored. In John’s gospel today we have a new kind of sign, a nexus, that compels and configures us in ways no ordinary sign can. A nexus is a connection or a tie between two things. Let’s see how this sign, performed at a wedding, is actually a nexus for those we read about.
The context for this sign is a wedding. A person’s wedding is one of the three most significant days in his or her life, along with the days of birth and death. Of the three, it is the only one that we can remember. God also attaches tremendous importance to it since He bracketed Scripture with it. Genesis begins with the wedding of Adam and Eve, and Revelation ends with the great wedding feast of Jesus Christ and His bride.
Today’s passage opens with the comment that Jesus, His mother, and His disciples were all invited to a wedding party. It was close to His home town of Capernaum so the bride and groom were probably personal friends of the family. What better way could there be to start a marriage than to invite the Lord of marriage to its very inception? Jesus, by His very presence, honors all wedding parties and tells us this is good and acceptable in His Father’s eyes. We don’t get far into the story until a problem arises - the host runs out of wine. This may seem of small consequence to us today since parties such as this are not that long, and this could be the signal for the whole thing to end. However, in the time of our Lord’s incarnation, a wedding party was much more elaborate and important. Unger’s Bible Dictionary describes the celebration in this manner. In the evening,
After putting on a festive dress, placing a garland on his head, the bridegroom set forth from his house, attended by his groomsmen, preceded by a band of musicians or singers, and accompanied by persons bearing lamps. Having reached the house of the bride, who with her companions anxiously expected his arrival, he conducted the whole party back to his own or his father’s house, with every demonstration of gladness. On their way back they were joined by a party of young girls (virgins), friends of the bride and bridegroom, who were in waiting to catch the procession as it passed. The inhabitants of the place pressed out into the streets to watch the procession. At the house a feast was prepared, to which all the friends and neighbors were invited, and the festivities were protracted for seven or even fourteen days. The guests were provided by the host with wedding clothes, and the feast was enlivened with riddles and other amusements. The bridegroom now entered into direct communication with the bride, and the "friend of the bridegroom ... rejoices greatly" at hearing the voice of the bridegroom conversing with her, which he regarded as a satisfactory testimony of the success of his share in the work. The last act in the ceremony was the conducting of the bride to the bridal chamber, where a canopy, named a huppa, was prepared.
III. Mary’s status
As you can see, the wedding ceremony was much more elaborate then than now. Consequently, the lack of appropriate foodstuffs, such as wine, was of much greater import. Mary, always full of grace, noticed this and conversed with Jesus somewhat thusly:
Mary (with a heavy Jewish-Brooklyn accent): My darling Son, Eli and Miriam are some of our best friends. The wine has run out. Can’t you do something about it? Is that some water in those pots over there? Far be it from me to tell you what to do...
Jesus: Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.
Mary: What can I say, I’m just the mother. (Pointing to the "servants", i.e., congregation) Whatever He says to you, do it.
The first word of Jesus’ reply is quite curious. He calls Mary, "Woman". From this we can adduce that Jesus’ relationship to His mother has changed. He who Luke describes as subject to His mother and father (2:49) is subject no longer. Mary had been lord of the Lord of Heaven and Earth, but her Son has reached His majority. Instead of "Mother" she becomes "Woman". In fact, for the rest of their recorded conversations, He continues to address her in this way, introducing some distance between Him and her. Even when He is dying and tenderly assigns her guardianship to John, He calls her "Woman". Like us, she must humble herself and take her place with the rest of creation under Him. She, too, is sinful and needs a savior.