Epiphany 2: Wedding at Cana


You never get a second chance to make a first impression.  It’s the first minute that’s critical.  That’s why we put on false fronts.  That’s why we try to say the right words, so we won’t have to undo what we think cannot later be undone.  We bring out the good wine first, because we’ll never have a second chance for that first impression.  If we have to bring out the rot-gut later, so be it. 

This way of life often disappoints.  Someone shines in the job interview.  Yet, after he’s hired, he shows up late.  He bad-mouths his employer and slinks away, doing as little work as possible.  The newly married couple finds the good wine they served each other in courtship runs dry as the sour wine of biting words now fills their cup. 

So quickly the good wine runs dry, and some lesser substitute must be found.  That’s why the people you fight with the most–and to whom you are most cruel–are usually in your own family.  With them, you’ve run out of good wine and first impressions.  Now, you have to be yourself and draw from the real you.  Such are the ways of all.  Who can escape it?

Main Body

Fortunately, God’s ways are higher than your ways.  His thoughts are not your thoughts.  So turn from your false fronts of first impressions.  Turn from your own fallen ways and look to Jesus.  For only Jesus has saved the good wine until now.  He is gracious and always has another, better gift to give.  

Jesus’ mother, Mary, also knew to whom she should look.  She had faith in His goodness.  This was true even when Jesus spoke bluntly to her and said, “Woman, what does that have to do with me?”  Even when everything was going wrong, she looked to her Lord for everything good.  

Mary is the picture of Christian faith.  “Do whatever He tells you,” is her advice.  It may seem like insanity, but do whatever He tells you.  For it only seems like insanity, because your thoughts are lower than His thoughts.

And what an odd sentence Jesus speaks when the wine has run dry.  “Fill the jars with water.”  Those six jars at the wedding party were for washing, for baptizing one’s hands, before eating, according to God’s Old Covenant.  So there is Jesus, using containers of water mandated by the Old Covenant to do something new. 

If God was like you, the Old Covenant would have been the best He had to offer.  God would’ve poured out the good wine first.  But God’s ways are not your ways.  His thoughts are far above yours.  The Old Covenant was merely a shadow of what was to come in Jesus Christ. 

Oh, do not be deceived: the Old Covenant was good, but it was not good in and of itself.  The Old Covenant was good because it pointed to its fulfillment in the new.   And that’s what Jesus does–He takes the old and fills it to bursting with the new.

So fill those Old Testament water jars and fill them to the brim.  Jesus has come to fulfill the Law and the Prophets.  For the Old Covenant exists to be the sign pointing to Jesus.  Yes, fill those jars that you’ve been using to cleanse and yet are never fully cleansed.  Fill those jars with water that may quench your thirst but can never gladden hearts.  Fill those jars and then draw out and find that all has been changed in Jesus.

For when Jesus fulfills the old, everything is made new.  Now, you don’t find water but the finest wine.  No longer will you find the Passover lamb on the roasting spit.  Instead, you will have a feast of salvation in the blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  For we have One who gives His flesh for true food that you may have eternal life.  

When Jesus fills up the old, it’s no longer a sacrifice of atonement made with sinful human hands that must be repeated year after year.  Jesus makes the only true sacrifice there ever was or ever will be.  For Jesus, sent by the Father’s love, sacrifices Himself in the place of sinners, in your place, once and for all.  

When Jesus fills the old with the new, the old cannot contain it.  So the earth shakes, and the sun darkens.  Yet, even more wonderfully, the Temple curtain is torn in two.  That old Temple of stone was a shadow of the true Temple of the body of our Lord Jesus Christ.  This true Temple of Jesus’ body, although torn down, was raised on the third day.

Yet, in today’s Gospel reading, at this wedding in Cana, Jesus’ hour had not yet come.  So Jesus, instead, gives a sign of what He will do: the old will be filled with the new.  God’s best is yet to come.  

Although it was not yet Jesus’ hour, the plight of the bride and groom who ran out of wine was not beneath Him.  Jesus did not walk about brooding over the cross that lay ahead of Him, oblivious to the suffering He saw.  The two are connected.  The everyday hardships of life and the deep, dark sinfulness that threatens your eternity are cut from the same cloth.  Jesus came to see to it that your every tear will be wiped away, that your heart will be gladdened, that every defect from the Fall will be taken away from you and cleansed out of you.

Although Jesus’ hour had not yet come, He proclaims His glory and prophesies His coming hour with this miracle.  This miracle is another shadow, another preview, another foretaste, another work of salvation cut from the same cloth as Good Friday and Easter Sunday.  

And so on His way to the cross, our Lord does not hesitate to go to a wedding feast and celebrate.  He does not turn down the invitation because He was too busy getting ready to save the world.  He is never too busy to gladden our hearts with His grace.  

Jesus, the Son of Man, came eating and drinking.  He came that you may have life and have it to the fullest.  And so He delights in your everyday work and life.  He wants to hear your prayers about your everyday concerns.  These are the little gifts that come with the big gift of salvation.  For even the little gifts proclaim His glory, just like the little gift of wine at Cana proclaimed His greater gift of blood at Golgotha.

So while you are making your way in this world, know that you will have trouble.  Yet, even amid your troubles, look to Jesus for all good things, just as Mary did.  For Jesus has not promised you easy, earthly successes.  No, He promised that you would have crosses to bear.  Yet, He also promises triumph through hardship and mercy amid life’s misery.  

For how can the One who gave Himself for you on the cross not also want what is for your eternal good?  That’s why Mary’s faith is such a fine example for you.  She doesn’t say, “Jesus, send one of your disciples to buy some more wine.”  She does not come to Jesus with her own plans.  Mary has enough faith to know that she may not know what is best for herself or her circumstances.  So she simply prays a statement of need: “They have no wine.”  And then–even when it seemed the Lord had admonished her for calling on Him when it was not His hour, she simply says, “Do whatever He tells you.”  

Even though it was not His hour, Mary trusted that Jesus would still be merciful.  She didn’t know how.  She didn’t know what to expect.  Jesus had done no miracles before this, for John says this was His first.  But she knows her Lord, her Savior, and her Son.  So she knows that whatever He says will be worth doing–it will be filled with mercy!

So do whatever He says.  And this is what He says to you today: “Take and eat, for this is my body.  Take and drink, for this is my blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”  For the Lord always has more gifts to give.  

Once, He had six water jars filled with water and turned it into real wine.  Now for you, He fills a chalice of wine and turns it into real blood, His blood, the blood of the New Covenant.  This is the greatest wedding feast–the Supper of our Lord’s body and blood.  Your cup now overflows with the new wine of heaven, with the blood that bought your salvation.


Who will not hunger and thirst for such a gift?  Who will not yearn for this gift as often as it is given?  For what the water of the Old Covenant couldn’t do, what the wine at Cana pointed forward to, has now been done to you with this miraculous blood, this liquid of life, in our Lord’s Supper. 

You are now clean.  You are whole.  You are forgiven and beloved by God, for His eternal life is put into you.  Amen.