14 January 2018

Homily for Epiphany 2 - 2018

"New Wine"
John 2:1-11

Listen here.

Put yourself in the shoes of the master of the feast. You’re putting on the wedding banquet of the year for everyone in Cana of Galilee. The groom, the bride, and all the guests have been counting on you to provide the best food, the best drink, the best celebration—a celebration to give lasting memories for years. Then you notice a major faux pas. It would make you—along with the bride and groom—the laughingstock of the century. Running out of wine? At the wedding of the year? Who could ever live that down?

Then, in the midst of the stress and the shame, your employees bring you a cup. More wine? New wine? Where did this come from? Then you take a sip. NEW WINE! Better wine than what you first served. Better than anything you’ve ever tasted! Where did THAT come from?!

What IS this new wine? Did Adam and Eve have such good wine in the Garden of Eden? If they did, the wine at Cana might just be on par with it, if not better yet. We do know this is NOT the kind of wine that made Noah drunk (Gen. 9:21). It’s not the kind of wine that led Lot’s daughters to make him drunk so they could have children by him (Gen. 19:32). None of that debauchery with Jesus’ new wine.

We might get a hint of this new wine in the sacrifices of the tabernacle and the temple. Take a lamb, add some fine flour, and a bit of beaten oil for the main course, and then some wine for the drink offering (Ex. 29:40). God included wine on the menu for many of the sacrifices in His place of worship. In fact, He even prescribed only the best flour, the best oil, and the best wine—the first fruits (Deut. 18:12).

Then, when God’s people returned from exile and got reacquainted with God’s good Word and teaching, God used Ezra and Nehemiah to remind them of His joy for them. He wanted to turn their 70 years of repentance into lasting and ongoing joy. “Don’t weep and mourn anymore,” God said, “but rather eat the fat, drink the sweet wine, and share with those who aren’t ready.” After all, that day was “holy to our Lord.” And here’s the heart of the message: “Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Neh. 8:10).

The psalmist speaks of wine that gladdens the heart of man (Ps. 104:15), but this new wine that Jesus brings goes beyond that First Article gift. This is the wine that made David sing, “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” (Ps. 34:8). The wine of God rescuing him; the wine of safety, security, and joy in the joy of the Lord Himself. Truly a gift of the Second and Third Articles.

This new wine of Jesus is the wine spoken of by the prophet Amos—the mountains dripping sweet wine, the hills flowing with it (Amos 9:13). This wine comes from the Divine Vintner who raises up the fallen tent of David, who repairs and rebuilds His people, who makes them His Church that will stand for all eternity. It’s the wine that Isaiah also proclaimed—the Lord making a feast on His mountain, a feast of rich, fatty food and well-aged, well-refined wine (Is. 25:6-8). You see, on that same mountain God Himself would feast on something completely different: He would swallow up death forever.

The new wine that appeared suddenly and miraculously at Cana of Galilee is the wine of new life and resurrection for you and for me.

Ah, but it’s not yet Jesus’ “hour” when He confronts those empty jars and that embarrassing void of wedding wine. Yet Jesus still gives a prelude, a preview, a teaser trailer of what He actually came to do. Those empty wine cups? Those empty water jars? He would fill them. And in filling them, He would fill the people who drank from them. He would fill them not only with savory fruit of the vine, but also and especially with His saving life.

Jesus is no mere bartender rushing in to rescue a wedding party on the brink of collapse. He has a bigger and better purpose. He comes to rescue the whole human race—people like you and me; people including you and me—from their emptiness of God’s goodness. When His “hour” does come—on the cross—He will drink the bitter cup of God’s wrath and judgment. He will be the laughingstock of all around Him, even spurned by His closest friends. He will suffer the shame and humiliation of a cross. He will swallow up death forever. But in drinking that bitter cup, He will ensure that we can taste and see that the Lord is good. He will make death itself void and bare. He will give us the sweet joy of the Lord. That’s the sweet wine delivered at Cana. It’s also the sweet wine delivered here at this altar today.

Your Lord Jesus comes to fill your emptiness. We live in a world that has so much stuff, such overloaded schedules, such a plethora of things and people and activities for filling our lives. And still we are empty on the inside. Some try to fill the emptiness with the old wine, or old booze, of this fallen world. Some try to fill the emptiness with the fruits of the sexual revolution—free sex with whomever you wish, without all the so-called constraints of one man-one woman marriage for life. Some try to fill the emptiness with the meaning of “likes” or “follows” or viral videos on social media. For those who fill themselves with the booze, the numbness eventually wears off and the emptiness remains. For those who fill themselves with the sexual conquests du jour, they still sense the emptiness of commitment and real love. For those who get their meaning from clicks and likes, well, we know how quickly things change in Internet land.

What’s your emptiness? What is it that makes you think and feel that if you could have that one thing, you would finally be complete and whole? Whatever worldly, created thing you think could fill that emptiness, just know that it can’t; it won’t.

Jesus gives the new wine at Cana’s wedding to show you that He fills your emptiness with Himself. Just as He filled the stone water jars with the best wine, and just as He restored the joy of the bride, the groom, and the master of the feast, so also He restores you and your joy by filling you with Himself—with His forgiveness, with His life, with His salvation. You are cleansed by the purifying water of His Baptism. You are filled with the new wine of His Supper.

So your God has joy in you, and He restores that joy in you by revealing His Son—the Bridegroom of the feast. We don’t need to get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery. Instead, let’s be filled with the Spirit. Let’s address one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Let’s sing and make melody to the Lord with our hearts (Eph. 5:18-19).

We don’t need to fill ourselves with the ways of the world when it comes to sex and marriage. Instead, let’s remember and extol the profound mystery of Christ and His Church—the profound mystery of the one-flesh union of love, life, and commitment. That profound mystery reveals itself in joyful little glimpses when wives submit to their husbands as to the Lord and when husbands love their wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for her.

What IS this new wine? It’s Jesus revealing Himself to you and for you. It’s Jesus bringing you into the joy of His Father and the Holy Spirit. It’s Jesus filling your emptiness with Himself—His life, His resurrection, and His joyous purpose in life. “Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready” (Rev. 19:7). Amen.

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