I think there are few events in this world more festive and joyful than weddings. A wedding celebrates all of the hope, joy, and goodness that humanity possesses. The union of a man and woman in marriage joins two lives into a relationship of love, support, and companionship that sets the stage for a lifetime of blessing. We Christians also recognize in weddings the image of the marriage feast of the Lamb and His Bride: the blessed communion of Christ and His Church.
So it is that St. John begins his telling of Jesus’ first miracle with the words “And on the third day” foreshadowing the day of resurrection when Jesus also revealed His glory. Such is the beauty of the Epiphany season. It raises our minds and hearts to the revealing of Christ’s glory, preparing us for the return of the Bridegroom. From the glory of the Infant worthy of the adoration of all nations, to the Mount of Transfiguration where the glory of God beamed from the body of Jesus, Epiphany lifts us up from the gloom of this dark world and brings us into God’s marvelous light. Last Sunday we witnessed the Baptism of Jesus; today we drink the miraculous wine of Cana. So the Church, in her liturgical calendar, takes us from water to wine, from baptism to Eucharist, revealing our service of worship. This service is carried out not only here in our liturgy, but throughout out our entire lives.
And so today we come to a wedding in Cana of Galilee. Mary was there, whom John calls “the mother of Jesus.” (Could there be a more blessed and honorable title for a woman?) In those days a wedding could last up to a week; seven days of food and drink, during which time the couple was married and their marriage celebrated. In that oriental society, to run out of food or wine during those seven days was a social disaster. But this is exactly what happened.
Mary realizes the gravity of the situation immediately, and tells her Son, “They have no wine.” And although Jesus seems to respond with disinterest, she is not put off. She trusts that Jesus will do something. That is true Christian faith. Faith takes God’s “no” and carries on as though it were a “yes.” We seek, ask, and knock even when God seems to ignore us, because we know that, in Christ, God will not ignore us. She tells the servants, “Do whatever he says.”
And look what Jesus tells them to do! He tells them to fill six nearby stone water jars to the brim with water. The jars were there for ceremonial washing, which the Jews took this to an over-enthusiastic level, religiously cleansing even their cups and saucers, tables and beds.
Then Jesus ordered the servants to draw out some of the water and take it to the steward of the feast. The servants took the water, now turned into wine, to the steward for him to sample. What he tasted was the finest of wines. “Every man serves the good wine first; and when the guests are drunk, then the lesser wine. But you have saved the good wine until now.” What a fantastic wedding gift! One hundred eighty gallons of the best wine made. It was miraculously made by the Master Winemaker, Jesus, the Creator of the vine and its grapes. What joy accompanies our Lord when He manifests His glory!
And clearly this is why the Holy Spirit moved John to preserve this marvelous story for us in his Gospel. “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him,” John wrote. The very presence of Christ in the midst of His people creates faith that clings to Him and His Word. That faith moves Him to shower His people with blessings that bring joy and even more faith. That’s what the grace of God in Christ is all about: to bring hope, joy, and goodness to a despairing, sorrowful, and fallen world. And we are recipients of the very same grace as those who were in Cana two thousand years ago. Jesus manifests His glory to us in ways just as miraculous and joyous as this the first of His signs.
The Gospel’s are full of such miracles and signs of Christ’s glory, many of which we recognize during the season of Epiphany. But whatever the miracle, they all point us to the power of Christ and His Word. That same Word of Christ brings to us the same grace and joy in the miracles of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. In these sacramental signs of the New Testament era, we are transformed from death to life, from sadness to joy. Just as Jesus raised Lazarus by the power of His Word, so we are raised to new life in His Word connected to Baptism. Just as Jesus fed the multitudes by blessing bread and distributing, so He feeds us through His consecrating Word in the Bread of the Altar, distributed by the hands of His servant.
The connection between the Cana marriage feast and the Church’s communion feast is part of Christ’s epiphany to us. The wedding at Cana, as well as the Lord’s Supper, is a foretaste of that marriage feast to come on the day when Christ will raise His believers from the grave to eternal life. At Cana, Jesus said to his mother, “My hour has not yet come;” He was referring to the hour of his death. That was the hour when He was poured out for our transgressions and wounded for our iniquities, when He shed His sacred blood for the forgiveness of our sins. That was the time when, just before He was betrayed into death, He gave a cup of wine to His disciples that was His “blood of the covenant.” His blood is the wine of His wedding banquet. There is no finer wine than that which Jesus declares by His own word to be His blood. Surely God has saved the best wine for last, for now, for you who are gathered here.
We are the honored guests at this feast, more honored than the guests at the wedding in Cana. There Jesus was a guest. Here you are His guest. This is His wedding feast, celebrating the marriage of Christ and His Church. You are given to drink His blood for wine, poured out for you, for the forgiveness of your sins. With that wine there is much joy, eternal joy. Even in the midst of your enemies—your sin, your death, the devil, the Law—Jesus prepares a table, a banquet, a wedding celebration. He is the host, the servant, the food, and your cup overflowing with His goodness.
Yes, I think there are few events in this world more festive and joyful than weddings; but the celebration of the Sacrament of the Altar is one of them. This communion of God and His Church unites us into a relationship of love, support, and fellowship that sets the stage for an eternity of bliss. Here is the living and real image of the marriage feast of the Lamb and His Bride: the blessed communion of Christ and His Church. Here Jesus manifests His glory; let us believe in Him.