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Purposefully Manifested Glory

John 2:1-11

Pastor Jason Zirbel

Epiphany 2, series C
Grace Lutheran Church  
Greenwood, AR

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Sun, Jan 16, 2022 

The grace, mercy, and peace of Christ Jesus rest upon each and every one of you this day.

St. John leaves little doubt as to what today’s Gospel lesson is all about.  In fact, he tells us very plainly.  “This [turning water into wine] was the first of Jesus’ signs/miracles, which He did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested His glory.” That’s it.  This is what it’s all about.  How very “epiphany-ish,” right?  This first miracle of Jesus was intended to manifest, make known, reveal His divine glory.  He “epiphanized” His divine glory, with the result that His disciples believed in Him.  And yet… as cut-and-dry as it all seems, might we be missing a thing or two?

Well… consider the simple fact that this first miracle of Jesus takes place at a wedding reception.  Well… duh!  Folks: There’s reason for this particular setting.  This wasn’t an impromptu, off-the-cuff kind of thing.  This was planned… from before the foundation of the world.  You see, God says very plainly throughout the Old Testament that the Bride of Christ (Israel) will unite with her Messianic Groom.  The language/image of marriage fills the pages of the Old Testament.  This is what Israel had been looking forward to: her Bridegroom’s arrival.  God knew what He was doing in performing His very first miracle at a wedding reception.  Jesus wasn’t just going to a family wedding.  He’s very purposefully coming to His people—His beloved—in order to reveal Himself to them as their long-expected Messianic Bridegroom now arrived and in the flesh.

There’s also the fact that the wine had run out at this particular wedding feast.  Again, this was no accident; not from God’s perspective, at least.  Again, the Old Testament is filled with the language/imagery of a super-abundance of wine with the arrival of the Messiah.  Just one example: We hear God, speaking through the prophet Amos (ca. 790BC), very plainly state that “in that day” when the Messianic Bridegroom arrives, there will be such abundance of wine that the mountains will be dripping with it and the hills will be flowing rivers of wine.  And for all the teetotalers, God doesn’t deal in Welch’s grape juice or non-alcoholic wine, nor does He bring a cheap bottle of Boone’s Farm.  God brings His wine; the very best wine, and He brings mountains of it. 

Now, with all this in mind, we can begin to better understand what Jesus is doing here with this particular miracle.  As I said, none of this was a surprise.  This was all planned from before the foundation of the world.  This was all intended to point to Jesus and how He was fulfilling God’s Word; how He was fulfilling all those Messianic prophecies and promises.  “But… what about His own response to His mom when she asked Him to do something?  What about the whole ‘My hour has not yet come’?” Again, this is where we’re going to let Scripture interpret Scripture.  We’re going to let the Scriptures explain what this means.  Looking ahead to John 12 & 13 (right before the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday), Jesus states very plainly, “Now the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” John will go on to tell us that Jesus was speaking of His death on the cross; that moment/hour in time when God fully revealed Himself to all of humanity as the all-redeeming sacrifice for sin; that moment/hour in time when He would manifest God’s righteous wrath against sin and His unconditional love for His fallen and sinful creation. 

This [the crucifix] is the hour Jesus was referring to when He tells His mom that it’s not time yet; His hour hasn’t yet come.  Contrary to popular belief, Jesus didn’t capitulate to His mom’s worried demands, as if Jesus knew it wasn’t time yet to reveal His divinity by working a miracle intended only to spare the newlyweds from the shame of running out of wine at the reception, but mom guilted Him into helping and showing some of His divine power ahead of schedule.  (You would be surprised at how many people actually believe this!) As I said earlier, this first miracle and its attendant circumstances was all part of the plan from the get-go.  Jesus was going to help all along.  But…this wedding and the miracle He was going to perform wasn’t the end-game.  Jesus wasn’t just going to merely show that He could help somebody in a pinch or do some really cool magic tricks.  No!  This miracle—from the very beginning—was designed to point to something far greater; to the fact that the Messianic Bridegroom had come to His bride.  This miraculous wedding gift was designed to point to that specific hour when the Bridegroom would give the greatest gift of all: the gift of Himself as He laid down His life for His bride. 

One final point that needs to be fleshed out: Jesus makes a super-abundance of wine.  “Duh, pastor, we already know that.  That’s the whole point of the lesson.” Yes…but still we miss what’s right in front of our faces.  I know that even the elementary schoolers can do the basic math associated with this lesson; i.e., Jesus used the six stone purification jars, each jar holding approximately twenty to thirty gallons, and each jar filled to the brim, meaning that Jesus turned 120-180 gallons of water into wine.  I don’t care who you are: That’s a SUPER ABUNDANCE of wine!  But…we understand that. 

What about the fact that Jesus worked this miracle with the same jars of water that were used to “baptize” in order to make ritually clean—ritual purification commanded by the Law?  Jesus could’ve used anything that holds water.  He didn’t.  He made a point of using the stone purification jars.  What about the fact that Jesus commanded these jars to be filled to overflowing; that is, no room left in the jar?  More than that, Jesus used the very means these people needed for purification.  If those jars are all filled to the brim with wine, what are they going to use to get pure?  There’s nothing left.  There’s no room.  Folks: That’s the whole idea! 

By way of this miracle, your Messianic Bridegroom was manifesting; that is, making crystal-clear the fact that all the demands of the Law were being fulfilled in Him.  The Bridegroom, who in His last hour, would make full atonement for all the sins of all mankind for all time, left nothing for us to do or to even worry about doing.  “It is finished!” He said it and He meant it.  Your Lord and Bridegroom was making crystal-clear that He had come to His people. Let the abundance of wine flow!  NOW was the time to rejoice! 

The same goes for us today.  Your heavenly Bridegroom still comes to you today, and He brings the over-flowing abundance of His victorious love and grace.  Look no further than the font.  Look no further than the altar/communion rail.  Here is your Bridegroom, still epiphanizing Himself and His love for you, right here in plain sight.  Here is your Bridegroom, and He brings the joyous fruits of His cruciform victory in super-abundant and never-ending fashion. 

Let’s talk about that cruciform victory that you’ve been baptized into.  Look to this cross.  What does this mean?  All the demands of the Law; all the demands and requirements for your righteous purity before God have been totally and completely fulfilled in Him.  Not a drop; not a single dot or iota is left for you to fulfill, as if Jesus did His part and now you need to do your part.  Nope!  All is filled up and finished in Him!  God’s righteous wrath was poured out in overflowing abundance on Him, all so that you wouldn’t have to taste a single drop of it; not now and not ever.  All of God’s undeserved and unconditional grace, mercy, and love is poured out on you in overflowing abundance because of Him; for His sake.  His mercy, His grace, His love, first flowing forth from His riven side at Calvary, flow even now into our midst and for all eternity.  You don’t have to wait to get home to heaven to rejoice.  NOW is the time to rejoice!  Here is our reason to rejoice, now and always.  Our Bridegroom has come, and He continues to come to us, bringing to us His over-flowing abundance of grace, mercy, and peace.  Our Bridegroom is here, and—just as He has promised—He will be with us to the very end of the age. 

I pray that all this means something to you.  I don’t know what specific things you’re struggling with.  I do know that everyone is struggling nowadays, and everyone struggles with something (or things) in particular.  We all have our crosses to bear.  We all have our worries and anxieties.  We all stress and grieve and worry and struggle as we make our way through this veil of tears and shadowy darkness.  But… we have our Bridegroom.  We have our Immanuel.  He is with us now, with the over-flowing abundance of His means of grace, and by means of these gifts He will be with us always, just like He has always said.  Here is Christ! 

And the best is still yet to come.  At the end of this shadowy valley we call “life,” there awaits our heavenly wedding banquet.  No more tears.  No more worries.  No more sorrows.  Only joy; super-abundant, over-flowing joy and peace that surpasses all understanding.  That’s how God describes heaven—a never-ending wedding banquet, where the very best wine flows in never-ending abundance; where even the lees and dregs of the wine are the choicest and best.  You can’t even begin to wrap your brain around how awesome this will be!  That’s what awaits you and all those who live and die in the faith; faith that holds fast to the Bridegroom’s victory.  When understood in this beautiful, Christ-centered light, it tends to put everything else in proper perspective, doesn’t it?  What’s the very worst thing that can happen to you?  You’ll wake up in heaven, seated at the feast table with your Groom?  Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow! 

Until that blessed and joyous day, look no further than right here.  Look to and hold fast to your Bridegroom, who is in your very midst.  Come to the table He has already prepared for you.  Come and partake in His super-abundant and never-ending feast of grace, mercy, and peace, which He pours out today in our very midst.  Come and rejoice, for your Bridegroom’s glory and love are right here, manifested/revealed for all the world to see. 

May this manifest glory of your Bridegroom overflow you with joy and peace, now and all your remaining days and into all eternity.

In His name and to His glory…AMEN.

Feel free to use any or all of this sermon for the edification of God's people. It is NOT necessary to ask my permission for any of it! In fact, you don't have to mention me at all. (I think it's highly problematic when pastors seek credit/glory for sermons inspired by the Holy Spirit!) Give praise to God for the fact that He continues to provide for His people.

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