Summary: A sermon for the 2nd Sunday after Epiphany
2nd Sunday after Epiphany, January 17, 2010, “Series C”
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, during this season of Epiphany, as we focus on the various ways in which your presence was manifest in the life of Jesus, help us to come to a deeper faith that he is your beloved Son, whom you sent for our redemption. Enable us to embrace Jesus as your incarnate Word, and give us the courage to transform our lives by what he reveals to us of your loving purpose. This we ask in Christ’s holy name. Amen.
Unlike the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, which seek to historically chronicle the life of Jesus, John’s Gospel takes a different approach. The purpose of John’s Gospel is to present Jesus in such a way that the reader come to know and believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Of course, this is the purpose of this season of Epiphany – that we come to recognize that this child born of Mary is indeed the Christ, the one whom God sent for our redemption.
Our text for this morning is a story which John tells us is the first “sign,” or means by which Jesus revealed his glory. There was a wedding in Cana, a town just five miles from Nazareth. We can assume that at least one member of the wedding party was known to Jesus’ family, since it is recorded that Jesus’ mother was among the invited guests. We also know that Jesus and his first few disciples were present to participate in the festivities.
Weddings at that time were really important community events. They were usually lengthy affairs, often lasting several days. They were a time for rejoicing, a time to strengthen family ties, in addition to celebrating their unique relationship with God. As a result, the families of the bride and groom would stockpile plenty of food and wine to insure that their guests would be able to forget their daily concerns, and celebrate the ongoing gift of life through the marriage of their children.
Even today, hospitality is a sacred responsibility in the Middle East. It is considered an embarrassment to run out of food and drink to serve your invited guests. Even worse, it would be a calamity for the host family to run out of wine, the symbol of hospitality, especially at a wedding feast. And the fact that Mary becomes aware that the wine supply is running low, is another indication that there was a close connection between her and the host family.
So Mary comes to Jesus and tells him that “They have no wine.” At first, Jesus seems to ignore her concern, saying, “What concern is that to you and me?” But Mary persisted, telling the servants of the feast, “Do whatever he tells you.” Jesus then directs the servants to fill the six large urns which sat by the door and provided the guests with water to wash the dust of the road off of their hands and feet, with fresh water. According to our text, each urn held twenty or thirty gallons, and the servants filled them to the brim.
Jesus then instructed the servants to dip out a sample of the liquid, and take it to the chief steward of the feast. John tells us that when the steward tasted it, he was amazed, paged for the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.”
Now, we are not talking about a few bottles of well-aged wine held in reserve for special guest. Multiply it out and you get between 120 and 180 gallons of the finest wine. That’s at least 600 bottles. John then concludes this story by telling us that this was the first sign that Jesus did, which showed forth his glory, and his disciples believed in him.
Thus, John invites us to witness the manifestation of Jesus as the Christ through this miracle which he performed at the wedding in Cana. But as is the case in much of John’s Gospel, what on the surface seems to be so simple, upon more careful analysis, proves to be turned upside down. How often I have heard persons say to me that if they could just be the recipient of a miracle, their faith would be strengthened. But the truth is, throughout John’s Gospel, the recipients of Jesus’ miracles are not usually the persons who come to faith in him as the Christ, God’s promised Messiah.
Think about it! The servants of the feast were the persons who were told by Jesus to refill the urns with clean water. They were the persons who most likely breathed a sigh of relief, as the steward of the feast tasted the water, now become wine, and proclaimed it to be of the best quality. The servants knew every detail of the miracle, and yet there is no indication in our text that would indicate that they came to faith in Jesus as the Christ.