A Sign of What’s to Come

Text: John 2:1-11

During the Epiphany Season, we’re celebrating that Jesus Christ, true man born of the Virgin Mary, is also true God, begotten of the Father from all eternity. This was made known to the wise men from the east by the appearance of a star and by the Holy Scriptures. It was made to known to John the Baptist and those who would receive his witness, by the Father Himself who spoke from heaven and by the descent of the Holy Spirit. Today, it is made known once again at a wedding in Cana. St. John wrote at the end of our text, “This, the first of His signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested His glory.”

Today, I’d like to draw our attention to that phrase, “the first of His signs.” The word that the Holy Spirit spoke through St. John for, “first,” is the Greek word ἀρχή. This is the same word that, in other parts of Scripture, is also translated, “beginning.” As in, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth;” and, “In the beginning was the Word.” The miracle in our text today was both the first and beginning of Jesus’ miracles. As the beginning of His miracles, it represented the new reality which Jesus was bringing – which all the miracles pointed to. Jesus was already at work in our text, showing us with this miracle the joy which will be ours in His eternal kingdom. 

I.

Our Gospel text today follows shortly after Jesus’ Baptism by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. Whereas St. Matthew moves directly from our Lord’s Baptism to His temptation in the wilderness, St. John also includes some events between the two. He includes the witness of John the Baptist that Jesus is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world – words we sing before the distribution of the Lord’s Supper. Also, St. John includes the account of his own calling along with Andrew, Simon, Philip, and Nathanael. After these, St. John wrote, “On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with His disciples.”

Over the course of this wedding celebration, a problem presented itself. In the words of our Lord’s mother: “They have no wine.” This is a problem because a wedding is a time for celebration. Then, as now, family and friends gather together to eat and drink for joy over this new union of husband and wife. But, with no wine, a portion of that joy is diminished. It happened that there were six stone water jars there. St. John writes that they were for, “the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.” Jesus directed the servants to fill them with water, and they did. Then, Jesus said, “Draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” When they did that, the water had become wine. The master of the feast remarked to the groom that he had, indeed, kept the good wine back until then.

II.

I said a few moments back that I wanted to draw our attention to these words, “This the first of His signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested His glory.” This is true. Not counting the Virgin Birth, this is the first miracle that Jesus performed. But, the same word that means “first,” can also mean beginning. In the scope of Scripture a beginning is also a preview or foretaste of what you can expect to follow. St. Paul talks this way using a very similar word when he talks about Christ’s resurrection. He says, “In fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” St. Paul means that Christ’s resurrection was the first of many to follow, a preview, even, of our own resurrection. Paul used the same word to the Thessalonians. He said, “God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.” The Thessalonians were some of the first Gentiles to be called to faith in Christ, foreshadowing the generations of Christians who would come after them.

The changing of water into wine was a foreshadowing of the joy that Christ already had come to bring. It is a preview of the joy and celebration we will share in the kingdom of heaven. We will feast together with Christ and all Christians because all sin and evil will have been done away with. We know that Christ, by His perfect life and death for our sins, has destroyed all the powers of sin and hell. Though we remain in the flesh now – with its pains and sorrows – we joyfully await the return of Christ, where He will make all things new – and all sorrows will be no more. This is what St. John is getting at by describing the miracle this way. There is a Greek word that expresses the idea of a numerical first, and John uses that at other times in the Gospel. But, the changing of water into wine was the beginning of Jesus’ miracles, and as the beginning it pointed to the joy to come in the resurrection and our Lord’s return.

III.

Hearing this text today along with St. Paul’s writing to the Ephesians, it is good for us to also spend a moment talking about the estate of marriage. As the miracle at Cana foreshadowed the joy that Christ had come to bring, so marriage also points to something else. We learn from St. Paul that, in addition to being for the mutual joy and support of husband and wife and the raising of Christian children, the marital union is a living picture of the relationship between Christ and the Church. In that relationship, Christ set aside everything – He disregarded all thoughts of only His own good – so that He might sanctify and cleanse His bride, the Church, by the shedding of His blood and in the washing of Holy Baptism. In turn, Christ’s bride – the Church – submits to His authority in love.

Our Lord intends that all earthly marriages mirror His own marriage to the Church. As He gave everything for His bride, even His own self, so also we husbands are called to love and sacrifice for the good of our wives. We are not to be domineering, but loving. As Christ’s bride, the Church, submits to her husband so also earthly wives are called to submit to their earthly husbands. This is not because wives are inferior, but it is a choice made out of love and directed from faith in Christ. Insofar as we remain in this flesh we will always be both saint and sinner. There are times where both husbands and wives fail to live faithfully in their vocations, sinning against each other, against their Lord, and, sometimes, against the children He has given them. Let us recognize from St. Paul’s instructions the applications of the Sixth Commandment in our lives – how we have failed – and be thankful that our Lord has come.

Were our Lord not to have come, we would still be left in the guilt of our sins and awaiting only eternal punishment. But, in fact our Lord has come in the flesh. He has come, has fulfilled the Law, has borne our sin in His flesh on the tree, and has risen from the dead for us. His changing of water into wine was the beginning of His miracles, pointing ahead to the joy we will have when we, the bride of Christ, feast with our heavenly bridegroom in His eternal kingdom.

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