Monday, January 21, 2013

Sermon on John 2:1-11, for the 2nd Sunday after Epiphany, "Cana's Wedding Guest"

Sermon Outline:
·         Season of Epiphany: season of light, from the illumination of the place of the Christ child’s birth to His blinding transfiguration on the mountaintop. Epiphanios—shining out, manifest, revealed. All point to Jesus as the Son of God in human flesh, God in man made manifest. Today’s Gospel serves the same purpose—dramatically manifest or shine out Jesus’ glory.
·         Tomorrow: president “inaugurated”—oaths and new term of office. Jesus had an “inauguration” of a very different sort: baptism—the Father announced: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased”; public ministry began. Likewise, wedding at Cana is the “inaugural miracle”. Fitting that it was also at the inauguration of a new marriage, as Jesus would frequently use marriage, and particularly the wedding banquet as a picture of the heavenly banquet of believers united to Him by faith. Jesus had now “come of age”—embarking on His public ministry; first sign to show His glory as the promised Savior and Son of God. Leaving behind His life as a young adult, about which we know very little, except that He seems to have followed in Joseph’s footsteps as a carpenter.
·         But from now on, His life and ministry would be solely dedicated to and directed by the Father’s will. Not bound by family favors or human expectations, as Mary awkwardly learned. Earthly ties did not steer His course. Yet, though Jesus was fully committed to His Father’s will and purposes, He is still profoundly open to our human needs and requests, even here, where it doesn’t seem so at first.
·         Wrestling in prayer—is my request important to God? Is it only a “spiritual request” that He will answer? Or physical needs (mine or others) too? Health, financial, work, relationships and struggles. Concerns press on us when we don’t see a way out. Find ourselves pleading like Mary, pressed by the urgency of our situation, convinced that now is the time God must act to help or save, and this is the way we want it done! Perhaps hardest to realize is that whatever our request; however God answers, that we believe that it is better for God’s will to be done, than our own. That we turn it over to God’s control, and leave the result up to Him.
·         Running out of wine—social embarrassment, groom’s responsibility; Mary hopes to spare the new couple this shame. Very earthly crisis/request. Jesus’ response isn’t rude, but not warm either. It’s not a ‘no’, but neither is it a promise to do something. Mary doesn’t lose hope, become discouraged, get angry or give up, but responds with great faith—uncertain of the outcome but content to leave it in Jesus’ hands. She tells the servants “Do whatever He tells you to do.” She accepted the fact, as one writer put it, that she now would have to relate to Jesus as disciple to Lord, rather than as mother to son. There was no “inside-track” to approach Jesus, but all—even His own mother, must approach Him by faith. And whether a Gentile centurion, a Canaanite woman, an outcast leper, the friends of a crippled man, or Jesus’ own mother, or you and I—all have the same access to Jesus by faith, and to God through no one else but Him.
·         Delayed response drew out faith. Often did this, then praised the faith shown. His miracle showed even this request that to us might seem trivial—supplying more wine so that the joy of the wedding celebration would not be spoiled—was not unimportant to Him. Jesus was open to and willing to answer this request, and bless a very earthly need. The great abundance of wine (est. 120-180 gallons [for a 7-day party]) was certainly well beyond what Mary could have imagined, and the superb quality brought unexpected praise upon the groom. Likewise we learn to have a persistent faith—and to see that such faith is well-placed in Jesus who truly is able to help. And to turn our request over to God’s control and leave the result to Him. And not to forget, that whether we see or don’t see His help for our earthly need come about in the time we expect it, that by faith we are never denied His greater help of life and salvation. No difficulty for Him to turn water into wine with His powerful and creative word. Miracles granted both earthly help, but more importantly, were aimed at creating faith—the disciples had “an epiphany” as Jesus’ power displayed who He was, as God’s Son—as His glory shone out and revealed a glimpse of who He was.
·         But more was going on here than even the small circle of those who saw the miracle realized. Jesus hinted at it in His response to Mary: “My hour has not yet come.” On one level, it may have simply sounded like: “I’m not ready to get involved yet”, upon a deeper look, Jesus is using a phrase that becomes common through the Gospel of John. “My hour has not yet come” doesn’t refer to some unknown 60 minutes in the future, but a specific time of great significance, still to come, set by the Father’s own will. This would be the time or “hour” when Jesus was glorified, so the Father would be glorified. This first sign or miracle of Jesus was a little glorification, and it produced faith in His disciples, but it was going to be surpassed by the greatest glorification in His hour of death and resurrection.
·         When Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross approached, He began to say, “The hour has come.” Everything had been building to this moment and time. All the miracles that had gone before had helped people, they had created faith in Jesus as the One who could help, and they had shown Jesus’ compassion and concern for the whole range of sufferings and difficulties of the human situation. But they still were just secondary. The primary goal and purpose of Jesus’ life was that hour of help and rescue where Jesus hung on a cross, dying for our sins. The rescue where the Rescuer seemed hopelessly helpless. Where the silent pleas of Mary and the hopes of His disciples that their Lord might somehow be spared, seemed to die together with Jesus’ last pained breath. And then, when all hope seemed to have declined to a dead end, there, in Jesus’ hour, divine help came to the rescue.
·         In three days, the dead Jesus was raised to life! When everything had gone beyond all human hope, Jesus, the Rescuer, the Savior, came into His full glory, glorifying the Father in His death and resurrection. Rising to life, rising in power, showing that not even death—not His, not ours—is an obstacle to God’s final deliverance for us. And His rescue is greater than sparing us social shame—as at the wedding—it’s sparing us the shame of our sins before God. Greater than giving us the unexpected esteem of friends and guests—He gives us the priceless and unexpected esteem of our heavenly Father—as through Jesus’ forgiveness we can stand pure and innocent before Him. Like a bride on her wedding day. Perhaps this is why it was so fitting that Jesus’ first miracle took place at a wedding—because St. Paul tells us that  marriage is a picture of Jesus’ great love for us. Hear those words from Ephesians chapter 5:
            25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (5:25-33)
·         Our greatest hope and our greatest help lies in Jesus’ sacrificial love and forgiveness for us—a committed love that will endure beyond all our earthly troubles, and beyond even the grave. His committed love from which not even death can part us, and that we’ll celebrate together when we arrive with Him at that heavenly wedding banquet where the wine never runs out, and the best is always saved for last! Even now we come to a foretaste of that feast to come. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
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1.      Wedding feasts usually lasted for 7 days in ancient Israel (Judges 14:12) and the groom’s family were financially responsible . Apparently the greatest crisis involved in this miracle was the social embarrassment and shame that would be caused to the new couple. How did Jesus bless and honor the estate of marriage with His presence and this first miracle?

2.      While Jesus’ response to His mother was not rude, neither was it particularly warm. Compare to Jesus’ response about family in Matthew 12:46-50 & Luke 11:27-28. How do these passages together show the priority that Jesus placed on faith, even over family ties? To whom was His mission on earth solely responsible? Why would it have been particularly hard for Mary to accept the necessary change of relating to Jesus primarily as between disciple and Lord?

3.      What did Jesus mean by “my hour has not yet come?” Track this major theme through John’s gospel in John 7:30; 8:20; 12:23, 27; 13:1; 16:25, 32; 17:1. Cf. 4:21-23 & 5:24-29. What was Jesus’ “hour”, and when did it come?

4.      What were the physical and spiritual outcomes of Jesus’ consenting to Mary’s request? John 2:10-11. What was the ultimate goal of Jesus’ miracles? What was the penultimate (secondary goal) of many of them?

5.      How does this miracle encourage us to look to the One who is able to help us in all circumstances, to look to the hour of His help and divine rescue, and to be persistent in our prayers and petitions? Cf. Luke 18:1-8

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