Posted by: Johnold Strey | January 16, 2010

Sermon on John 2:1-11

A WEDDING MISHAP REVEALS THE SAVIOR’S GLORY

  1. He uses his glory on his time table
  2. He uses his glory to benefit our faith

 Text: John 2:1-11

 Introduction

At a smaller congregation like Gloria Dei, we don’t have many weddings in any given year.  In eight and a half years of ministry, I’ve conducted ten weddings.  But in the twelve years prior to the time I became a pastor, I played organ for several dozen weddings.  And all of those experiences have taught me one thing: Something always goes wrong at a wedding!  With all of the plans and details and logistics that go into a wedding ceremony, something invariably goes awry.  I was once the organist at a wedding that started over a half hour late because that’s when the bride and groom finally arrived—and believe me, you don’t want that to happen if you’re the main musician!  I remember a wedding where the unity candle just wouldn’t be lit—kind of an embarrassing mishap as far as symbolism is concerned!  And those are my “tame” wedding mishap stories.  I can think of far more embarrassing wedding stories, and I’m sure some of you have stories of your own that you could tell.

In the Gospel for today, we have a first century wedding mishap story.  Jesus, his mother, and his disciples were guests at a wedding where a major mishap occurred—not during the ceremony, but during the celebration that followed.  Running out of wine at a Jewish wedding was sort of like a Sunday morning at Gloria Dei without coffee hour—it just doesn’t happen!  But this social faux pas provided the perfect opportunity for the Son of God to reveal his glory for the benefit of his disciples.  Who else but God could take a couple’s social blunder and turn it into something positive and praiseworthy?  And that’s exactly what Jesus did at the wedding in Cana.  A wedding mishap revealed the Savior’s glory.  We will see how Jesus uses his glory on his own timetable, and we will see how Jesus uses his glory to benefit our faith.

I.

Just a few days after Jesus had begun calling disciples to follow him, he arrived in a town called Cana in north central Galilee.  If you can envision a map of the Holy Land in your mind, Cana is located about half way between the large Mediterranean Sea to the west and the small Sea of Galilee to the east.  Jesus was present with his mother, Mary, and his newly called disciples.  We don’t know much about the wedding itself or the particular connection that Mary and Jesus had with the newlywed couple.  Even if we did know the details, they would still pale in comparison to the details that John tells us in our reading.

What John does tell us is that there was a mishap at the wedding celebration.  The wine ran out.  That’s not good news in a day and place when wedding celebrations lasted an entire week.  Not only was this a major social faux pas, but one author I read suggested that couples could have actually been fined if they ran out of food or drink at a wedding!  No wonder Mary felt the need to say to her son, “They have no more wine.”  Mary had not seen Jesus perform a miracle—this account would be his first.  But Mary had not forgotten the angel Gabriel’s appearance to her 30 years earlier, or the visiting shepherds who came after an angelic announcement on the night of Jesus’ birth, or the Wise Men who visited a year or two after that.  These events and everything that occurred since then had been pondered in her heart and percolating in her mind for three decades.  She may not have known specifically what Jesus could do, but she knew that he could do something. 

What a surprise, then, to hear Jesus’ reply to the wedding mishap.  “Dear woman, why do you involve me?  My time has not yet come.”  Jesus’ translated words sound a little harsh to us, but there really was nothing harsh or curt about what he said.  Mary knew that Jesus could do something, and her desire to save the couple from embarrassment was certainly noble.  But Jesus was not going to put his power to work just because it was what someone else wanted.  Mary’s timetable and Jesus’ timetable didn’t turn out to be much different, but if Jesus was going to put his glory in display, it would be on his divine timetable.  He uses his glory on his timetable.

That is a hard lesson to learn, whether you are the mother of Jesus or a member of Gloria Dei.  We want God to do what we want, and we want him to do it on our timetable.  And it may very well be that the things we want God to do are good things.  “Lord, I’d sure like it if you would put Mr. or Miss ‘Right’ into my life right now.”  “Lord, I don’t know how much longer I can go without a decent job.  Would you please get me out of this unemployment mess?”  “Lord, how will we ever get out of this financial hole?”  “Lord, how much longer do I have to battle poor health?”  “Lord, I would sure appreciate it if you could put an end to this problem or that conflict!”

There is nothing at all wrong when we pray to God and ask him to change a situation.  That’s what Mary did in our reading, and that’s what we do often do in our prayers.  But when God’s timetable turns out not to be ours, do we become “Mary on steroids”?  Instead of asking God’s blessing and submitting to his timetable, we start to think that he ought to act on our timetable.  Jesus may say that “[his] time has not yet come,” but we respond that it’s time for him to change his timetable and get with the program.  We start to flirt with the idea that maybe God is aloof and unconcerned about my troubles and struggles.  Oh, we may never say it out loud, but our sinful flesh surely thinks it!  But who are we—sinful wretches—to suggest to the CEO of the universe that his timetable is lousy?  Who are we to think that our lives would flow more smoothly and the world would be a better place if we were put in charge?  With such attitudes like that before God Almighty, we deserve a lot more than a pink slip or a demotion.  We deserve damnation.  We deserve expulsion from his presence.  We deserve hell.

II.

This account comes from the start of Jesus’ ministry.  But do you remember one of the miracles that came near the end of his ministry, the raising of Lazarus from the dead?  If you know the story, you will remember that Jesus waited until Lazarus was dead for several days before he brought him back to life.  There would be no doubt that that was a miracle!  Jesus does this same with the miracle that begins his ministry.  The last drop of wine has been poured.  The servants know that the supply is out.  Maybe the couple was poor and couldn’t afford it.  Maybe they had more guests than they anticipated.  Maybe some people had noticed and were muttering about it to each other.  But the bottom line was that there was no more wine.  Major problem.

But the Messiah had the solution.  “Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.  Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.  Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”  They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine.  He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew.  Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, ‘Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.’”

Starbucks recently began selling their own brand of instant coffee that is supposed to be so good, you can’t tell the difference between the instant coffee and their freshly brewed coffee.  I’ll let you be the judge of that.  In our reading, Jesus topped Starbucks, because the instant and miraculous wine Jesus provided was so good that it was noticeably better than the wine that had been served previously.  It wasn’t just comparable; it was unquestionably superior, so much so that the head servant at the banquet pulled the groom aside and asked him why he would have served Trader Joe’s wine first and the Napa Valley stock second.

Here’s why the Napa Valley stock was served second.  It wasn’t about wine.  It wasn’t about avoiding social embarrassment or a wedding mishap.  It was about the Son of God giving his new disciples a glimpse of his divine glory so that they understood that they were not just the groupies of a new rabbi but followers of the almighty Son of God.  It was about Jesus putting his glory to work at just the right time in order to benefit the faith of his disciples.  It was about Jesus providing evidence that he was not a mere man, but the almighty Messiah.  “This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee.  He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.”

Jesus’ timing may not always be our timing, but Jesus’ timing is always best for us and our faith.  God waited thousands of years before he sent Jesus into this world, but “when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law” (Galatians 4:4-5).  Jesus did not amaze his skeptics with miracles and try to dazzle them into faith.  But when the time was right, he revealed his glory to his disciples so that his disciples had an objective and factual foundation for their faith.  Jesus did not send heavenly thunderbolts to drive off his enemies when they came to arrest him and condemn him to death.  At the time his Father appointed from eternity, Jesus “humbled himself, and became obedient to death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).  Jesus hid his glory to be our Savior, to trade places with us in God’s courtroom, to take on the verdict of our sin by his death, and to transfer his innocent verdict to us by faith.  And when the time was right and the payment for sin complete, he took back his glory and put it on full display for all to see that he is the risen and victorious Lord over sin and death and hell.

But what is most remarkable is that he did this all for you!  For you, he hid his glory so that he could be your Savior.  For you, he gave glimpses of his glory so that your faith could build on the assurance that his humble man is also your mighty God.  For you, he put aside his glory for those awful, hellish hours on the cross.  For you he laid full claim back on his glory to give proof positive that his grave is empty, and one day so will yours.  For you, he comes in his glorious Word and life-giving sacrament to benefit your faith and build up your trust in his saving work.

Conclusion

Maybe you have seen the YouTube video of the wedding where the bridal party danced down the church aisle in a rather rambunctious manner.  If you haven’t seen it, it’s not hard to find.  But there was a case—an unfortunate case—where a wedding seemed to be all about the couple and hardly at all about the One who brought that couple together.

The couple married 2,000 years ago at Cana in Galilee may have thought about the God who brought them together, but little did they know that their wedding celebration would become all about the Son of God and become a part of New Testament scripture!  God was not only a physical guest at their wedding; he was also the solution to the mishap that could have ruined their celebration.  Jesus came at the right time and provided his miraculous gift at just the right time as a testimony to his work.  And you can rest assured that the One who came into this world at just the right time to be your Savior has the perfect timetable in store for your life—a timetable that began at the font, and a timetable that will extend into all eternity.  Amen.

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Responses

  1. WONDERFUL SERMON! You have shared the good news of God’s love in a very clear, concise manner.
    I look forward to more sermons from you.

    May you be blessed in your ministry.

    Ed Harper


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