Second Sunday after Epiphany - John 2:1-22


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made God known. ** In the gospel of John there is no story of Jesus’ birth. No angels, no Bethlehem, no shepherds, no wise men. Instead of a story about the birth of a king, John begins by telling us the meaning of the events he is about to describe. John tells us about the Word of God, who became flesh and came to live with people, to show us the God we cannot see. The first person to appear in John’s gospel is John the Baptist, he immediately points to the person of Jesus. “Look!” he says, “This is the Lamb of God!” Because of his testimony, Jesus begins to gather his disciples. Jesus invites them: “Come and see.” “Come and see!” they tell one another, “We have found the Messiah.” Nathaniel is the last of the disciples who comes to follow Jesus. He is amazed that Jesus recognizes him, and Jesus tells him, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these. Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” All of this is in the first chapter of John. By the end of the first chapter, Jesus has been called the Word of God the only Son of God the Lamb of God the Messiah the Son of Man. So we might expect chapter two to open with something big – maybe some of those angels Jesus promised Nathaniel.  Instead, we find a story about Jesus going to a wedding. I have to admit, this seems like a strange place to begin the stories about Jesus. When I think of Jesus, I think of healing. I think of teaching crowds of people and arguing with Pharisees. I think of raising people from the dead. But in this story, Jesus does none of those things. This is a story about Jesus going about his ordinary life – attending the wedding of friends. And in the midst of this ordinary life, there is a problem. The host has run out of wine. An embarrassment, surely. But not a cause for panic. The mother of Jesus comes to him and says, “They are out of wine.” And Jesus responds, “That’s not really our business, is it?” But his mother doesn’t let it go. Instead, she turns to the servants who are near and says, “Do whatever he tells you.” It’s hard to imagine what Mary expects. Surely she isn’t used to seeing him performing small domestic miracles. She knows who she is; she sees the disciples gathered – maybe she just wants to see him reveal himself. Or maybe she really is just worried about a friend who has run out of wine. Whatever it was, Jesus responds to his mother’s wish. He turns to the servants and, motioning to some jars standing nearby, He tells them, “fill those jars to the brim.” John tells us that there were six jars, and each held twenty or thirty gallons of water. Now, the size of these jars escaped me when I was first reading this story. I was imagining something like a punch bowl, maybe, or a big coffee urn. But these jars hold 20 or 30 gallons – that’s more like the size of the garbage can I put out in front of the house once a week. All together, these jars hold 180 gallons of water. John tells us something else significant about these jars. They are meant to hold water for the Jewish rite of purification. Before eating, Jewish men and women were expected to wash their hands. Before worship, they were expected to wash their faces. It was not about hygiene, per se, but about being clean and pure in the presence of God. And it is the water in these jars that Jesus turns to wine. He doesn’t touch the water, or wave his hand over the water, or even speak words over the water. He just tells the servant, “Draw some out, and take it to the steward.” And when the servant goes to draw it out, imagine his astonishment when the water he just put into the jar is gone, and in its place – wine! The steward is not amazed – he doesn’t have any idea what just happened. Most of the guests don’t either. But the servants know. And the disciples also witness the miracle. Indeed, it may have been intended for their benefit, because John ends the story by telling us, “Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galillee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.” This event is a sign – a sign to the disciples that this man they are following is indeed something special – the Messiah they have waited for. A sign to those of us who hear the story that Jesus is indeed the Son of God, come to live among us. Perhaps it is significant that the water Jesus changes is water for Jewish purification. The covenant God made with the Israelites has not worked the way God intended. The people have been unfaithful, over and over, despite the warnings of the prophets. God has promised a new covenant – and here it is. Jesus is the new covenant – the new wine. The laws of the covenant are changing, because God has sent God’s Word, God’s only Son, to live among God’s people. And with the coming of God’s Son comes grace. 180 gallons of grace! Jesus creates enough wine to get through the rowdiest wedding party and still have gallons left over. Soon Jesus will give another sign, when he feeds 5,000 people from a five loaves of bread and two fish. Again, Jesus creates enough for all, and there is plenty left over. In this new covenant relationship, God’s grace is not in limited supply. God’s grace is not doled out in teaspoons, but in gallons. The Word of God became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, full of grace and truth. From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace upon grace. 180 gallons of grace! ** My study bible gives this introduction to John’s gospel: Unless a person communicates to you, in speech or gestures or even facial expressions, you can’t get to know him or her. What goes on behind the mask of skin will always remain a mystery. God, too, was a mystery until he broke his silence. He spoke once, and all creation sprang into life – quasars, oceans, whales, giraffes, orchids, and beetles. He spoke again, says John, and this time the Word took the form of a man, Jesus Christ. John’s book tells the story of that Word who became flesh.” God broke the silence, and sent Jesus. Jesus wanted to reveal the reality of God to us, and what did he do? He poured out glory upon glory, grace upon grace – 180 gallons of grace! And finally, he poured out wine and said, “This is my life, the new covenant with God. This is grace – the forgiveness of sins. This is my blood, given freely for you and for all people. Drink this wine and remember me.” From Jesus we have all received, grace upon grace upon grace. Thanks be to God. Amen. Lutheran Church of the Servant, Santa Fe

“Holy Napkin” Icon painted by Fr. Theodore of St. Isaac of Syria Skete monastery in Boscabo, WI

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