The Second Sunday after the Epiphany/Sanctity of Human Life Sunday
Emmaus Lutheran Church
St. John 2:1-11
January 16, 2022
He Revealed His Glory
In the Name of Jesus.
C. S. Lewis, the Christian author from the early part of the last century, wrote:
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” (The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses)
This is a good quote for the second Sunday after the Epiphany because our Lord in the Gospel reading makes wine. It is a little scandalous because the wedding guests have already drunk well. The master of the feast tells the groom that he is being wasteful and stupid because he has waited to serve the best wine until everyone has already drunk enough that they are not going to be able to tell the difference between good wine and the cheap stuff.
So the wedding guests drank up all the bridegroom’s wine. One might guess that the guests were doing what people sometimes do when they go to a wedding and there is an open bar. They drank far more than they were expected to because it was free. It’s the same principle as going to an all-you-can eat buffet.
Then the wine runs out, which is an embarrassment to the groom. And at this point Jesus makes 6 stone jars full of good wine. At twenty or thirty gallons each, this amounts to 120 to 180 gallons. If my math is right that would mean Jesus made 500 to 750 bottles of wine. This for people who had already had more than they should have.
Why would He do that? Isn’t He just encouraging people to abuse alcohol?
It might seem that way. But according to this way of thinking God is also encouraging human beings to sin by continuing to let the sun shine on them and sending rain and giving them food and drink and other earthly pleasures. If He wants us to stop, He should punish us right away.
Jesus is not opposed to people drinking wine, because He created wine. He is not opposed to sex, because He created marriage so that the man and woman would be one flesh. He is not opposed to people desiring to build and accomplish things, because He gave us our ability to work and think.
But like C. S. Lewis says, our desires are too weak. We are content with making mud pies in a slum when we could go on a vacation at the beach. We content ourselves with getting drunk, fornicating, or climbing the ladder and boasting about it when He wants to give us more than just some wine at a wedding, but infinite joy.
Jesus said, Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? (Matt. 6:25) And all but the most hardened atheists can see that life is not just filling your stomach and keeping warm.
But in one way or another we try to have life this way. When food and clothing are taken care of we try to have life in more complicated forms of self-seeking. We seek it in pleasure—alcohol, drugs, sex—but also in doing apparently good things that we can boast about. I built a Fortune 500 company. I climbed a mountain. My children all graduated summa cum laude from top tier schools.
Where does all this lead? Certainly, to pleasure. There is pleasure when you put food in your stomach and pleasure when alcohol rises to your head, and by itself this is good. God created food and drink. Wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread to strengthen man’s heart (Ps. 104). God created work for human beings too. So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should enjoy his work, for that is his lot, says Ecclesiastes (3:22).
But food, drink, work, and wife and children are not life-giving. They were not meant to be. When we make them our lives, they bring death.
Sanctity of Human Life Sunday is usually observed the Sunday closest to January 22, the date when the Supreme Court decided that there was a constitutional right to an abortion up until the time when a baby could live on its own outside the womb. We are observing it today at Emmaus. Why does there need to be a Sunday saying that human life is sacred? Because we live in a time when our culture behaves as though human life is no different than animal life.
When the ability to have pleasure from life disappears, our culture says it is good to end it. When another human being’s life gets in the way of our pleasure, it can be killed under conditions specified by the state. This is so common in our culture that we hardly notice it. Infants’ lives in the womb are ended because the mother and father falsely believed that sex was simply about pleasure, not about something greater, about the giving of life. When life emerged from their misuse of sex, they were terrified into believing that this was a mistake, and that the new life that arose would destroy their lives.
When it comes to the end of life, people not only take their own lives because their seems to be no “quality” left in it, no pleasures left to live for. Family members are told that not acting quickly to remove loved ones from life support and end their lives is a selfish act.
Not only is life itself not treated as sacred, but also the institution God created in order to bring life into the world and nurture life. God created marriage so that husband and wife would share one life, become one flesh, so that they would sustain one another’s lives, and when He willed, bring life into the world. But in our society marriage exists primarily for pleasure. When marriages cease to be pleasurable, when they seem to bring more suffering than happiness, they end. What God has joined together, we tear apart.
When we live for pleasure, as our sinful flesh wants to do, and as our culture assures itself that God wants us to do, we actually have no life at all. We participate in death. Sometimes we actually kill. More often we inflict suffering by neglect and abandonment of those we are called to love.
But beyond this we actually live in death. The pleasures we live for fade, and we are empty, cut off from the Giver of those pleasures, the Giver of life.
And this isn’t even something we can correct about ourselves. Our whole lives our flesh clamors for what will please it. We are not able in ourselves to forsake this false god that brings death.
But in the Gospel reading the Lord of Life shows us His glory and restores us to life.
The Hebrew word for “glory” literally means “brightness.” The sun has one kind of glory, says St. Paul, the moon another, the stars another. The brightness of God’s glory is not something human beings can see and live, the Lord tells Moses when he asks to see it.
Yet in the Gospel reading we are told: This, the first of His signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested His glory. And His disciples believed in Him (John 2:11).
But how did Jesus manifest His glory? His disciples didn’t see any light proceeding from His face, and the wedding guests, deep in their cups, didn’t notice anything happening at all.
We might say that Jesus revealed God’s power. He showed that He is God by exercising His power over creation. He spoke and mere water became wine.
But the glory and majesty of God is not just that He is powerful, that He is almighty. His glory and majesty is that He gives. He gives life without any merit or worthiness in those He gives to. He gives freely and graciously because, as John tells us elsewhere, God is love.
God manifested His glory by creating the world and everything in it. That showed His power, but also His love. God was perfectly happy in Himself. He didn’t need to create the light, the sky, the waters, the living creatures, and man. There wasn’t something lacking in Him that He created to fill. He created out of pure love, to give us existence, to give us Himself.
Jesus shows this glory at the wedding of Cana. When the master of the feast tastes the water become wine, he rebukes the bridegroom: You have saved the best wine until now.
We recall that just at the creation God looked at everything He had made and saw that it was very good, so now Jesus turns water into wine that is very good. He shows His glory as the Creator. He is the life-giver, who out of pure grace gave us everything in creation to enjoy.
And we are running around trying to satisfy ourselves with drink and sex and ambition, willing to harm others in word or deed to get what we think we need. And we never find what will make us whole. But here stands the One who gives graciously to all without finding fault.
He gives this wedding party more than they deserve, more than most of them know how to use correctly. Later He will multiply bread and fish and give people to eat as much as they wanted.
Here is the One who gave you life and will give you more than you can ask or imagine, without condemning you, without turning you away for your sins.
But He hasn’t appeared merely to show His glory as Creator. He has come to be glorified for you.
He is the only Son of the Father. He is the exact representation of His being, Scripture says. When we see Jesus, we see the Father whose glory we are not permitted to see with our eyes, lest we perish.
He is already glorious because He was with the Father from the beginning. But later in John’s gospel Jesus says, Now is the Son of Man glorified (John 13:31). He says it at the moment Judas leaves the last supper to betray Him. If He already has glory, how can He be glorified? And why is it at that moment?
He is glorified not for His own sake, but yours and mine. When He is betrayed and crucified, He is glorified. He is handed over to death and shame for your sins, comes forth victorious, and raises our flesh and blood to the Father’s throne.
But why does He call it His glorification when He is given over to death, and nailed to die in shame on the cross?
Because that is when we most clearly see God. We see what Jesus’ Father in heaven is like. He gives His dearest treasure, His own Son, to suffer for those who have forsaken Him.
None of us has this kind of love. No angel has this kind of love either, unless he has received it from God. But this is who our God is. He comes to us in our misery and suffers for our guilt, and makes us a new creation.
Jesus is thinking of this. This is why when His mother brings up the wine, He says, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His hour is His death.
At that hour He not only satisfies us with the good things of this creation, but with the infinite joy of the forgiveness of our sins. He takes us as His own bride and removes everything that could separate us from His love.
This is the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Not just that He is powerful, not just that He is eternal. But that He is love.
When He is glorified, He is glorifying you. He is lifted up on the cross with your shame. When we look on Jesus crucified, our eyes see shame, suffering, weakness, horrible pain. Our eyes fill with tears when we think of this sometimes. But by faith we also see Jesus’ glory and our glory. He is doing away with the shame of our idolatry, with the evil we have done to others while seeking ourselves, with the dishonor we have done God by seeking idols. His love is greater than our sin. He does away with it in His flesh. His love is so great that He does not scorn us in our guilt. This is His glory.
The disciples saw His glory when Jesus did this miracle. But we also see His glory today.
When we leave His table we sing, “My eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared before the face of all people. A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”
Have we really seen the glory of the Lord when we return from the altar?
Yes. We see His glory as Creator. He speaks, and mere bread is His body, given for us, and the cup of wine is His blood shed for us.
The ransom of the whole word is placed on our humble altar, and given into our sinful mouths.
We receive the Son of God in the flesh who created us out of grace and who was glorified on the cross and glorified us, doing away our sins.
He gives us life in these bodies of death, in this world of death. He not only shows us His glory at Holy Communion, but He gives us to participate in it.
The peace of God that passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria