Wednesday, February 3, 2016

When enjoying that glass of wine, do you permit yourself to receive all of its benefits?


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

If we want to know God we must learn to know Him as He reveals Himself to us in Scripture. There are other sources of divine knowledge such as conscience, and the marvels of Creation, but they are limited in their scope. They teach us about the power and justice of God but tell us nothing of His love. For that we need Holy Scripture which gives us the whole story, and today’s gospel lesson is a prime example, proclaiming both the Law and the Gospel to us.

What Law do we learn from this event in our Lord's life?

First the shortage of wine, which teaches us about scarcity, which is part of sin. Before sin entered the world God generously provided our first parents with every thing they needed to sustain their lives. Please don’t imagine that they didn’t work, because they did. They were fully engaged in maintaining the life God had given them, but their labor was not frustrating like work is today. Whatever they put their hand to prospered, nothing was in short supply, therefore they were never under pressure, they never knew fear or want. After the Fall, however, things were very different! Now work was beset with exhaustion and disappointment.   Now the natural world turned hostile and threatened them daily with starvation and slow death, and such has been the state of affairs ever since, so that if we ever stop striving, we soon stop living.

Second is the fact that Jesus resisted Mary’s request. In this life we don’t always get what we want when we want it, even if we pray for it, because God often has a different time table than we do and this distresses us.

Third there were the jars that were used for purification. Though these ritual washings could not forgive sin like holy baptism does, they were a constant reminder that sin stains us, makes us unacceptable to God and in the end condemns us. unless we are cleansed from it. They were very large jars because our sins are many and our guilt towering, so that it is no small job to purify us, and only the blood of Jesus can do it.

No, there is never a shortage of bad news when we try to live our lives without the blessing of God in Christ, but in Scripture, the good news far outweighs the bad. Consider the following: First the fact that this miracle took place on the “third day” which reminds us of the Lord’s resurrection, a resurrection that justifies us before God, and banishes the fear of death and judgment, in spite of the ongoing stream of wrong-doing perpetrated by the Old Adam within.

Secondly, there is the marriage feast itself, which is a metaphor of salvation and model of the relationship that exists between Christ the True Bridegroom, and the Church; which became His bride when the Lord sacrificed His life to cleanse her from all sin, and make her a spotless and radiant bride. We are that Holy Bride.

Thirdly, as Jesus attended this wedding in Cana, we can be certain that He attends the marriages of His people today. He does not shun this holy institution, but instead blesses it by His presence, directs it by His Spirit and continually restores it with His forgiveness, inspiring husband and wife to do the same.

Next is the Virgin’s prayer which is pure as the driven snow! “They have no wine” she says. Notice that there is not even a request. None is needed. Merely a statement of the problem and the serene expectation of a divine solution. At first Jesus resists, but Mary persists, and Jesus can no longer hold back. May we all learn to pray this way whatever our need might be, and then rest unperturbed knowing that our good and gracious Lord will provide it until our cups overflow with His goodness and mercy.

Note also, under the heading of good news, that Jesus uses plain water to effect this extravagant blessing. He teaches us by this that in His hands nothing is common, and that if need be He will alter nature itself in order to benefit the people He loves. He changes the water into the finest possible wine and accomplishes several things in the process. First, He solves an embarrassing problem, for what is a wedding without wine? Secondly He teaches Pietists and Prohibitionists everywhere that wine is a good and blessed gift, given by God “to make merry the heart of man” (
Psalm 104:15) and as such should never be demonized, excluded from the Sacrament or supplanted by grape juice; but instead it should be “received with thanksgiving and consecrated by the Word of God and prayer.” (1 Tim. 4:17) Thirdly, by this miracle He demonstrates what John writes in chapter one of his gospel, that: the Law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.  

Moses’ first miracle was to turn Egypt’s life-giving water supply into blood and death, while the Lord’s was to convert water into wine, Life into Abundant Life, but with God there is always more, grace upon grace, so in a more staggering miracle yet He changes the wine of holy communion into His own blood and gives it to His people to drink, and by it He effects in us the greatest boon that lost and condemned people could ever gain – the remission of all sin and the promise of everlasting salvation. Jesus does all this by His blood shed on the cross, and distributed to us, along with His body, in the Blessed Sacrament. O taste and see that the Lord is good! (Psalm 34)

And finally let us recognize today that Jesus Himself is the good wine saved until last. After the long night of sin, after an endless rotation of failed plans to save ourselves, “in the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law to redeem them that are under the Law, so that we might receive the adoption as Sons.” (
Gal. 4:4)

None of this was lost on the disciples. Being acquainted with the Scriptures, and enlightened by God’s Spirit they caught a glimpse of Jesus’ glory in Cana that day, and put their full trust in Him. May we do the same, now and always, come what may. Amen.

~ Rev. Dean Kavouras

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