2nd Sunday after Epiphany – C LSB #’s 398:1-2, 5, 395, 394
Text – John 2:1
On the 3rd day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, & the mother of Jesus was there.
ON THE THIRD DAY
It seems like an obvious reference. When you mention the 3rd day to any Christian there is one common thought that comes to mind – the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. So it is rather striking that the apostle John would use that phrase leading into the events of the wedding at Cana. On the 3rd day, when the wine ran out it was a major catastrophe & embarrassment.
It would be an ominous sign for the marriage to have such an obvious & public failure already on the day of the wedding. Would their life together go downhill from there? Some scholars like to debate what possibly could have caused such a humiliating shortage of wine. Scholars also have a tendency to get lost in the weeds & miss the main point.
Clearly, the point the Apostle John was making had nothing to do with the cause of the shortage or he would have mentioned it. God’s Holy Spirit was inspiring him to write, after all. What might the opening phrase have to do with a wedding & the lack of wine?
Think specifically of the struggles of your life – the low points, the sorrows, the humiliations. Have you had any ominous signs in your life which gave you doubts about your future? How have you dealt with them? Have you found answers? Have you learned anything from them? Have you regained a sense of hope for your tomorrow?
Guests look forward to the day from the moment they hear of the engagement, because a wedding is a time of great joy & celebration. Since I grew up in a large extended family, there were a lot of wedding celebrations & the reception always included loud polka music, lots of dancing & great amounts of food & beer. Wine wasn’t such a big deal in that culture.
A toast to the bride & groom always occurred at midnight & the party didn’t usually
end until about 2:00 AM. Those receptions were a time for people to forget all their troubles & all their sorrows as if they were nonexistent. In Jesus’ day those celebrations could last 2 or three days & they also were a time for people to forget their troubles & sorrows as if they did not exist. Holy Scripture uses the well-known event of a wedding celebration as a picture of heaven.
But the point would go in one ear & out the other if there were no antagonist to create some unforgettable drama. At this celebration everything comes to a screeching halt when the wine runs out. John hits us with that detail at the very beginning of the celebration’s narrative.
He writes, “On the 3rd day.” He states that Jesus & His mother are there. Then comes the punch line, “When the wine ran out…” Catastrophe has struck. Satan has attacked. They can’t just make a trip to the local party store & buy more wine. That sort of luxury did not exist in their day, but you can imagine the finger pointing going on concerning who was at fault!
All of us know, from personal experience, what the finger pointing is like. And because sin has completely broken this creation there are plenty of opportunities to point fingers. It gets ugly, & that’s on top of the failures which initiate the finger pointing. Like the hosts of the wedding at Cana the humiliation of our failures is often plain for everyone to see.
How do you respond? Do you get angry when circumstances turn against you? Do you fall into depression? Do you withdraw from the world & long to hunker down in a cabin in the mountains? Do you go on the offensive in order to get them before they get you?
Jesus knows the brokenness of the world in which we live. He knows the pain & the suffering, the heartache & the betrayal. He also knows that fighting fire with fire only increases the inferno of sin. Jesus knows that withdrawing from the struggles of life often leaves those who love you to struggle & to suffer on their own, without your support.
So on the 3rd day, while Jesus was at a wedding celebration that had gone terribly wrong,
He gave a sign that is foreshadowing a future 3rd day. In English we translate it as the first of Jesus’ signs, but it could also be translated as the chief of His signs. In other words, changing the water into wine is representative of the creative & transforming work of Jesus on every level. This sign is not simply about saving face at a wedding, but about life as God created it to be.
This being the chief sign, it also points ahead to what John wrote towards the end of the Gospel, in chapter 20: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, & that by believing you may have life in His name.” (20:30-31 ESV)
Children of God do already experience that life here on earth, in bits & pieces, but it is a far cry from the life we will experience for eternity. In Revelation 21, the Apostle John wrote, “Then I saw a new heaven & a new earth, for the 1st heaven & the 1st earth had passed away…” That new heaven & earth is what the sign at Cana pictures for us.
In the new heaven & earth we will not have to forget all our sorrows & troubles because there will be none. Life there will be like a perpetual wedding celebration. On a more concrete, here & now, level we’ll also look at a 3rd day reference in the OT, because as long as we are still alive on this earth, there will be more suffering, sorrow & betrayal to endure.
On the 3rd day Abraham arrived at Mt. Moriah to sacrifice Isaac. That’s recorded by Moses in Genesis 22: “On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes & saw the place from afar. Then Abraham said to his young men, ‘Stay here with the donkey; I & the boy will go over there & worship & come again to you.’” (22:4-5 ESV)
Before Abraham could enjoy the utter glory of having his son delivered from death by the substitute ram caught in the thicket, before that time of unadulterated joy, Abraham experienced an enormous temptation to fear. It was just as the master of the feast observed at the wedding at Cana, “Everyone serves the good wine first, & when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.”
Instead of receiving the good wine first, & then the poor, Abraham first had to endure the poor wine as he obeyed God’s command to take his son to Mt. Moriah & sacrifice him there. Upon Abraham’s obedience, then, & only then, he, along with Isaac, received the joy of being set free. This is exactly along the lines of what Jesus said at John 16:33 ESV:
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Compared to heaven, all of this life is the poor wine. Tribulation will never cease, but one day the good wine will come, & Jesus will bring it with Him as He returns to take us into our heavenly home.
Some people have the impression that once you follow Jesus you will live happily ever after. Jesus was at the wedding at Cana & they still ran out of wine. Jesus is with you in the day to day affairs of your life & you still have struggles, sorrows & humiliations. That does not mean that God hates you, or is punishing you for your sins. It’s the reality of a broken world.
However, even this broken world is not without meaning & purpose. Sin does not have the final trump card. God’s love does! However, because of our sinfulness, if all we received in this life were good things, we quickly come to expect & even demand them. Dictatorship is not simply a problem that wayward politicians are tempted with. We all know that temptation.
The struggles, sorrows & humiliations of life are allowed, or even sent, by our Creator to teach us humility. Yet, He never teaches without also offering His love. God allowed the wine to run out at the wedding, but He also sent His Son to provide the best wine for the last. Now that His Son has ascended to heaven, God is working through you & me to reveal His love.
First the poor wine, then the finest. First the cross, then the glory. First repentance, then
forgiveness. The heavenly Father is keeping the new creation until the day of our resurrection, but until then He promises that He is working through us & in us. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead, on the 3rd day, is proof that God can overcome all things in order to keep His promises.
That is what God offers you & me that we might regain our hope for each new day, no matter what the problems are that we face. It doesn’t mean that life here will go on happily ever after, but it does mean that life in heaven will.
A wedding is the central prophetic symbol for the peace & prosperity that God’s salvation will bring. Most especially, weddings became an OT symbol of the union between God & Israel which would result from Yahweh’s steadfast love for His people.
The world uses many “signs” to predict the future & to give its citizens hope that if they just follow a particular ‘sign’ then all things will go well. The sinful world, & the sinful nature within us, is always looking for a sign that will bring security & happiness. Jesus gave us one, of many, at the wedding at Cana.
It was given that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, & that by believing you may have life in His name. And that life which Jesus gives to us includes a repentant & kind heart. It includes hope for an eternal future of peace & joy. With Jesus’ gift of life, we receive patience & self-control.
Do we use all those gifts well, & all the time? Of course not. That’s why Jesus came. He knew that we needed Him to rescue us, & not just at weddings. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Come, heavenly Bridegroom, Light divine, & deep within our hearts now shine; there light a flame undying! In Your one body let us be as living branches of a tree, Your life our lives supplying. Now, though daily Earth’s deep sadness may perplex us & distress us, yet with heavenly joy You bless us. What joy to know, when life is past, the Lord we love is first & last, the end & the beginning! He will one day, oh, glorious grace, transport us to that happy place beyond all tears & sinning! Amen! Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! Crown of gladness! We are yearning for the day of Your returning. Amen. LSB 395:2 & 6.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet