"Glory in the Wine"
Text: John 2:1-11
Our Lord’s miracle at the wedding at Cana gives us reason to celebrate when other celebrations seem to be long gone. Just think of what it must have been like for Mary, the mother of our Lord. She knew what “Christmas” was all about. She knew her Son was more than special. He was the Savior, the Son of God. He was much more than a cute little baby. He was the glory of Israel, the light for the Gentiles. The angel told her what to expect. The shepherds proclaimed the good news to her when her Son was born. Simeon and Anna saw and praised the Infant Savior. The Magi bowed down before her small Child. All this celebrating caused her to pause and ponder these events in her heart.
No doubt Mary’s “after-Christmas-let-down” went well beyond January. About 30 years passed. No more visits from angels, no more grand proclamations. As the Child grew, there was little indication that He was any different from the other kids in Nazareth. He grew up, He played, He went to school, He worshipped with His family. He led a typical Jewish life. All the Christmas excitement was followed by a 30-year Monday morning. You can just imagine how Mary must have felt.
So Mary is anxious for the “true meaning of Christmas” to be revealed. “When is He going to show who He really is?” she must have asked herself. She had sung about her Son as the One who “has filled the hungry with good things.” When was He going to get on with it? The wedding banquet at Cana seemed like the perfect time. The caterers ran out of wine. A social disgrace! Either they had more guests than expected, or the guests drank much more than they planned, or both. What a glad time! The wine was the perfect opportunity for the Christ to reveal Himself!
Mary would have remembered the Old Testament prophecies from her catechism classes. The Old Testament prophecies used wine to talk about the blessings of the Messiah. The Savior would bring the wine of prosperity and celebration. Jeremiah said that nations would flock to Zion and drink the wine of God’s goodness (Jer. 31:12). Amos said that when the day of salvation came the mountains would drip with sweet wine, the hills would overflow with it (Amos 9:13-14). With this in mind, Mary expected Jesus to show Himself to be the Savior. The shortage of wine would be the perfect opportunity.
But there was one glitch with Mary’s plan. It was not yet Jesus’ time. Jesus wouldn’t show Himself—fully, anyway—to be the Savior until Good Friday—the day of the cross. Mary would have to wait another three years, when her Savior Son would be lifted up and glorified on a tree of bloody execution. But in the meantime, Jesus would grant a glimpse, a sneak-peak, of His glory. He would give a foretaste of the feast to come!
You would think the promises of God would have been enough for Mary. She should have simply trusted God to reveal Himself in His way and in His time. But she was sinful, just like us. She wanted proof. She wanted results. She wanted it now. And we are like Mary. We don’t trust God the way we should. We turn Jesus into an idol. We expect Him to work according to our wishes. We are impatient. We want action. We want to see results in the church’s labors. We want excitement. And we want it all right now. Psalm 66 teaches us to sing and pray and thank God for His awesome deeds. He does do them. But, honestly, we haven’t believed it or relied on it.
It’s hard for us to glory in the glad wine of salvation that Jesus brings. Just as they did at the Cana wedding banquet, we’ve run out of our own wine. We’ve used up all our own resources. We’ve left ourselves “high ‘n’ dry.” Instead of joy and celebration in life, we have anger and frustration, sadness and disappointment. Instead of tipping the cup of God’s goodness and saying, “Cheers, God!”, we wring our hands with despair and worry. And it’s our own sinful fault. We mess up as we try to rely on ourselves. We’re always messing up—in our marriages and families, in our work or at school, in all the plain, ordinary activities of life. The wine of gladness runs dry. Careless words slip out or spew out. Thoughtless remarks—from ourselves or from others—vex us. We hurt the ones we love the most. We bring sadness on our own heads.
And if that weren’t enough, we run around like mad trying to make our own wine and find our own joy. We try many quick fixes to conjure up joy in ourselves. We even rely on ourselves—on our own good intentions, on our own upbeat moods—to bring gladness to our sadness and joy to our dreary life. But you cannot find the joy within yourself. You won’t find true, lasting gladness in your circumstances of life. You’re out of wine. The celebration seems to be over.
So, we like Mary, must look outside ourselves. We must look to Christ for the joy and gladness that He brings. “Dear Lord, we are out of wine. We can’t make it on our own. We need your help.” So we turn to Jesus who reveals His glory to us now in His holy Word and blessed Sacraments. Here He soothes our impatience. Here He fills us with the glad wine of His forgiveness.
When Jesus turns water into wine, He is revealing His glory. Truly an epiphany! Our Lord gives a brief flash of His presence to save us and make us glad. You see, Jesus’ time would come later, on Good Friday. Even now we in the Church begin looking forward to Holy Week, to Good Friday, the day and hour of the Lord’s salvation.
In John’s Gospel wine shows up only at two events—first, at the wedding of Cana, and second, at the cross. First, Jesus provides gallons and gallons of joyous wine to gladden people’s hearts. Second, Jesus drinks the bitter wine of God’s wrath—He drains the cup, bitter dregs and all! Now, that’s what truly gladdens the heart! As Isaiah put it, “As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you” (Is. 62:5). Jesus drank up God’s wrath for you. Now God delights in you. So you get to drink up that Good News from now to eternity!
It’s no accident that Jesus turned purification water into wedding wine of gladness. This illustration gets us ready for the cross. The blood that flowed from Jesus’ sacred veins fills our empty cup. Now our cup runs over with gladness. For “the blood of Jesus [God’s] Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 Jn. 1:7). Now Jesus “nourishes and cherishes” His bride the Church (Eph. 5:29).
What’s even better than the miracle at Cana is the miracle that happens at the altar every week. Here we get to glory in the wine of Jesus’ Supper. The Blood that purifies the soul is in the wine that gladdens the heart. Since we are empty of our own wine—empty of joy but full of sadness and heartache and frustration and lovelessness—the place to come is the Lord’s Table. Here He fills you with the wine of His delight. Here He reveals to you the glory of His presence. Here He gladdens your hearts with the same blood shed from the cross, with the same forgiveness won on the cross.
Epiphany is about Jesus revealing Himself as the Savior—God in Man made manifest. In Cana He revealed His glory in the wine of celebration. On the cross He revealed His glory in shedding His own innocent blood. Today, for you and for your life of gladness, He reveals His glory again in wine and again with His cleansing Blood. Here’s reason to celebrate! Here’s reason to glory in the wine! Here’s the Lord who makes us glad! Here the Lord fills to the brim our cup of salvation! Here we have a foretaste of the feast to come! The celebration is far from over. It’s just beginning. It’s ongoing. Your Lord Jesus makes sure of it! Amen.