Moses asked the biggy: “Please show me Your glory.” He had been listening to God for a long time. But he wanted to see this One who had been speaking, who promised that His presence would go with His people. You understand where Moses is coming from. You’d like to see that glory too. You get a little weary of it all being words, words, words. “Please show me Your glory.”
What an odd reply Moses receives from the Lord. “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name, Yahweh, the Lord. And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious and will show mercy to whom I will show mercy. But” He said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.”
The problem, people loved by God, is not that God isn’t goodness, gracious, and merciful. The problem is that we in our sinful state are not. And His holiness is so beyond our ability to handle that it would wipe us out. That’s not God’s will or plan for us – wiping us out, I mean – and so even a holy man like Moses, the great prophet, even he cannot endure so much as a glimpse at the very face of the One who speaks to him without it destroying him. So he gets hidden in the cleft of the rock and covered by a merciful hand and when the Lord has passed by He took away His hand and Moses saw the backsides of God, not His face. It would wipe you out too. A holiness so full of goodness, grace, and mercy.
But this God of ours really didn’t give a “no” to Moses. Moses got a wee glimpse to hold him through because the day WOULD come when Moses would see face to face the one who was speaking to him. More on that in a bit. But first, off to the Gospel reading.
There you DO meet the One who was speaking to Moses, but He has come among us, wrapping His glory up in human flesh and blood. He looked, as Isaiah put it, an ordinary Joe. He had no form or beauty that we should desire him. He was Mary’s son, grown to manhood. Joseph is out of the story now and most hold that he had died before our Lord even began His ministry. Up to this point in John’s Gospel we’ve heard that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and John insists that he and the other disciples “saw His glory, glory as of the Only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” Yes, the God who spoke to Moses – that’s the One John insists we meet in the flesh of Jesus. The Baptist had baptized Him, and witnessed to all that He was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He already collected a few disciples: Peter and Andrew, James and John, Nathanial. And so the stage is set for today’s Gospel – the very first “sign” – St. John’s peculiar word for our Lord’s miracles – that our Lord Jesus ever performed.
And notice how the portents clump together. Third day. Wedding. Mary there. “My hour.” “Do whatever He tells you.” Water changed by His word, transformed, outstandingly awesome good stuff. Not like my old Franzia in a box. This was the stuff that made even Napa valley snobs sit up and take notice. And so, St. John concludes: “This first of His signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested His glory. And His disciples believed in Him.”
Who but God could speak a word and cause plain, old ordinary water to become something extraordinary – wine of the best? Only the Creator. And so if at Christmas we celebrated that God had become man; here in Epiphany we celebrate that this Man shows Himself to be the true God. He lets His glory show, shine into this world, and the disciples believe in Him. That is, they believe that He is
The Only Son from heaven,
foretold by ancient seers,
by God the Father given,
in human form appears.
No sphere His light confining,
no star so brightly shining,
as He, our Morning Star. [Hymn of the Day]
They see His glory, they believe. And His glory doesn’t wipe them out. They look on the face of God in the flesh – just as did His mother Mary and Joseph, the Shepherds, the Wise Men. God had found a way to show His face to us without wiping us out at all. Instead, He’d come to wipe out OUR enemies.
And all of this story in chapter 2 then finds its fulfillment in chapter 19. Mary only shows up twice in John’s Gospel. Here at the wedding and there at the foot of the cross. And Jesus puts her into St. John’s keeping – for there is a time when a man leaves His father and mother and is joined to His wife and they become one flesh. See the Bridegroom upon the Cross. As Adam slept and from his side, God took what He needed to make a bride for him; so as the New Adam sleeps in death on His Cross, from His side flow the blood and water with which He will fashion for Himself a bride, His Church. The blood of Eucharist. The water of Holy Baptism. His bride created and nourished from His body’s vital juices. And this is THE hour of which He spoke. The hour when the Son of Man is glorified. Where the glory shines brighter than anywhere else. For this is God’s glory – to give away His goodness, to share His grace, to impart His mercy. By His blood shed and death, your Bridegroom has purchased and won YOU to be His own, to live under Him in His kingdom, and to serve Him in HIS VERY OWN everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness. Look upon the face of the man hanging dead on the tree and you see the greatest glimpse of the glory of God.
No wonder, then, that Moses and Elijah at the Mount of Transfiguration, where the face of Jesus was shining brighter than the sun, and they shining in His light, weren’t talking about how cool His body looked; they were talking about the greater glory yet to come: the Exodus that He would accomplish in Jerusalem. His suffering and dying. Moses and Elijah looking at the shining face of Jesus knew that the greatest glory would take place in darkness as the Lamb of God yielded His life for them, for us, for all, becoming our Heavenly Bridegroom.
So you can see why St. Paul speaks of marriage the way he does. People always mishear him – as though he said nothing than husbands are the boss and wives are the doormats. How far from what he pictures! He turns to Jesus, the Bridegroom, and to the Church, the Bride, and he takes marriage into that. So that husbands ARE crowned king of their familes – a servants crown of thorns pressed squarely down upon their heads. So that wives ARE crowned queen of their families – receiving their husbands’ service and giving him their loyalty and their love. Marriage is simply transformed – just like all of life is – when it is taken up into Jesus and seen the right way round. In every marriage where husband and wife submit together to the heavenly Bridegroom, He will take the ordinary, the trials, the suffering and the hardships and transform them into something extraordinary. He will make water into wine. And husband and wives will see His glory – the glory that shone at Cana, that Moses saw on the Mount of Transfiguration, and that shines brightest of all at Mount Calvary.
Today in His Eucharist He comes to show you His glory – for here He will speak His Word and transform ordinary bread and wine into the bride-price that He offered that you might belong to Him forever. Seeing His glory you too will believe in Him and give glory to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now and to the ages of ages!