“The Sign of the Water into Wine at the Wedding” (John 2:1-11)

Second Sunday after the Epiphany
January 16, 2022

“The Sign of the Water into Wine at the Wedding” (John 2:1-11)

“This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory.” It was a sign. The thing about a sign is, you need to be able to read it and know what it means. A sign points to something beyond itself. So, what does this sign point to? What does it tell us? Let’s find out now, about “The Sign of the Water into Wine at the Wedding.”

The sign that we’re looking at today is Jesus changing water into wine at the wedding at Cana. It tells us about who Jesus is. It points to his character, his identity as the Son of God, and his office as the Messiah. It tells us about his mission, what he came to do for us men and for our salvation. It tells us about the kingdom Jesus inaugurates and how he’s going to bring it about. So this, the first of his signs, is “significant” in the truest sense of the term. It tells us about who Jesus is and what he came to do and what this means for us.

Most of us are familiar with the basics of the story itself. There’s a wedding going on at Cana. Jesus’ mother is invited, as are Jesus and his disciples. The wedding feast is going on, but they run out of wine. Empty shelves. I guess there was a problem in the supply chain there too! Jesus’ mother intervenes. She asks her son for help. He agrees. What he’s about to do will demonstrate why he, the Son of God, has come from heaven to earth. It will be a sign pointing to his purpose and mission. So Jesus tells the servants to fill some large jars with water and then draw some out and take it to the man in charge of the feast. They do what Jesus says, and, lo and behold, the water is turned to wine. And not just any old wine, but the very best quality wine.

That’s the story in bare outline. Clear enough. Jesus has the authority and ability to do some pretty impressive stuff. He has power that only God could have, or someone sent from God. It’s like he’s the Lord of creation. Which he is! This sign does tell us that much. But is there more? Does it point to anything else about who Jesus is and what he came to do? I think it does. The nature of the miracle, the setting, the circumstances of how it takes place–these tell us some wonderful things about Jesus.

First, the miracle takes place at a wedding. That is significant. Weddings back then, as now, can be big, elaborate affairs. People pull out all the stops for a wedding feast. No expense is spared. I can bear witness to that: My daughter Anna just got married! For a wedding feast, you want only the best. Top quality. Everything’s got to be just right.

That’s the way it is with Jesus. Only the best. “You have kept the good wine until now,” it says. Jesus brings the best stuff. It’s the real deal. It does not come cheap. Oh, it does come free, for us. But it does not come cheap. The blessings Jesus bestows come at great expense. His own. Christ has redeemed me “not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death.” The cost was precious, full of great price. God’s own Son shed his blood for us on the cross. Nothing could be of greater value than that. Jesus providing the best wine at the wedding points us to that fact.

A wedding is as joyous an event as we have in this world. It signals the start of a new life together for the couple. It promises new life to come in the hope of children, a new family that is forming. A new future, great joy–these are the hopes that come with a wedding.

That’s the way it is with Jesus. This sign tells us that too. Jesus brings great joy, the highest joy we can imagine. He gives us new life. Hope for the future. Everlasting life. Even death will not part us. Jesus puts us into a new relationship with God. He puts us into a new relationship with one another, by bringing us into his family, the church.

It’s no accident that Jesus does this sign at a wedding feast. The Bible uses the image of a wedding banquet many times to describe what God has in store for his people. Jesus often compares the kingdom of heaven to a wedding banquet. The Book of Revelation talks about the marriage supper of the Lamb in his kingdom, which will have no end. And Jesus gives us a foretaste of that feast to come right here in his blessed Sacrament.

The sign of the water turned to wine takes place at a wedding feast. What this sign points to, then, is that Jesus pulls out all the stops, he spares no expense, to bestow his gifts on us. This sign points us to the great joy that Jesus brings and the new life and the new family that he creates. A wedding feast is the best event in this life to convey pure joy. So Jesus chooses just such an occasion to tell us something about what he has come to do.

That’s where the wine comes in. Wine is a drink common to all cultures, and it has the universal meaning of joy. Wine gladdens the heart, the Bible says. Again, that’s the way it is with Jesus. He brings real joy to our souls. The very best joy, even as Jesus provides the very best wine. “You have kept the good wine until now.”

But there’s even more going on here with the sign of the wine. For by it, Jesus is fulfilling Old Testament prophecies about the arrival of the messianic age. For example, Joel 3:18: “And in that day the mountains shall drip sweet wine.” Amos 9:13: “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when . . . the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it.” Isaiah 25:6-8: “On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever.”

These Old Testament prophets were saying that the days were coming when there would be an inbreaking of the messianic age into our world, a time of great blessing, and with it victory over death. And what would the sign of its arrival? A great abundance of wine.

Well, guess what? Here it is! The sign of the wine is announcing that. The messianic age has arrived; the Messiah is here. Remember, this is at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry; it was his first sign. The Messiah signals his arrival by providing a superabundance of wine. Six big water jars, filled to the brim, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. That comes to 120-180 gallons! A superabundance of wine, just as the messianic prophecies predicted. Jesus is saying by doing this sign, “Today those Scriptures are fulfilled in your presence.”

But that leads us to one more thing about this sign. It’s about those six stone water jars. Six stone water jars “for the Jewish rites of purification,” it says. Now, why does John tell us that detail? He didn’t have to. Why does he?

Well, think about it. It fits with a theme of Jesus replacing and surpassing the things of the Jewish religion. He replaces and surpasses the Old Testament tabernacle. Jesus is the Word made flesh who “tabernacles” among us. He replaces the Old Testament sacrifices. “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Jesus replaces the temple: “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up,” he says, talking about his own crucified and risen body.

So also here, with these six stone jars for the Jewish rites of purification. Jesus himself replaces and surpasses those means of purification. For the blood of Jesus, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin. Note that Jesus says, “My hour has not yet come.” But it will come, that hour when he sheds his blood for our cleansing. His hour will come, the hour of his suffering and death. Do you need cleansing? Do you need purification? You have it in the blood of Christ! By faith in Christ, wash your robes and make them white in the blood of the Lamb! There is your cleansing, there is your purification, my friends!

“This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.” Can you read the sign? This sign manifests, it shows forth, three glorious things about who Jesus is and what he comes to do. First, it happens at a wedding feast, an occasion of great joy, befitting the joyous nature of his kingdom. Second, Jesus supplies a superabundance of wine, fulfilling the Old Testament prophecies and bringing in the messianic age of blessing. Third, Jesus replaces and surpasses the old rites of purification with the new wine that he provides, his holy precious blood for our cleansing and purification.

Oh, and there’s one more thing that this sign says: The banner over this banqueting house says, “FOR YOU!”

Published in: on January 15, 2022 at 9:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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