Very Good Wine
A Homily for Epiphany 3
January 21, 2018
All Saints Anglican Church, Prescott, AZ
Text: John 2:1-11
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be always acceptable in thy sight, O Lord my strength and my redeemer. Amen.
This morning we are confronted with the first of John’s seven scandals. Scholars have referred to these events in John’s Gospel as: scandals, signs, or miracles. These seven acts show us the character and nature of who Jesus Christ is.
As we read this we are immediately reminded of Jesus’ human nature, for he was not simply God, or a spirit that appeared to be a man. He was God incarnate, having both a human and divine nature. Without both of these natures he would not be the savior that we need.
Why then is it important that Christ was fully man?
If he had not been fully man he would not be able to sympathize with us. He would not be able to carry us to the throne of grace, and be a mediator between us and God the father. We read in Hebrews 4:15: For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Throughout the Gospel narratives we read about his temptation, his pain, and his sorrow. When we are in pain, heartache, or sorrow we know that we have a great mediator that will not only listen when we struggle but can sympathize.
Christ’s human nature is critical, the fact that he walked this earth, cried as we cry, bled as we bleed, and has a mother just as we have a mother is of the utmost importance for he is sympathetic to everything that we may travel through. Additionally, he lived the perfect life without sin that we fail to live. He died the death that we ought to die, so that we may be made spiritually alive. This is the Jesus Christ that is our savior, our Lord, and the one whom we worship.
Now, the beginning of this chapter tells us that all of this occurs on the third day. It is not the third day of the wedding feast, but rather the third day after John the Baptist baptizes him in the river Jordan. It is likely that he was only just arriving at the wedding feast and that the feast had been going on for some time. These feasts could last up to two weeks.
As we read on we learn that the party has run out of wine – there is much speculation as to why they ran out of wine: did they plan poorly? Did more people show up than were expected? Had the feast gone on longer than they meant for it to? Or were the hosts simply poor people and couldn’t afford any more wine? The reality is the text was quite unclear, and we don’t have a satisfying answer to this.
We know that they were from a poorer part of Israel, we suspect that as Jesus, his friends, and family were there that they were probably at the very least family friends, if not somewhat intimate friends with Christ.
Regardless, running out of wine while people were still celebrating their marriage was a shameful thing. Because of the announcement of the angels, and her life spent raising her son Jesus, Mary knows that there is something special about him, though, it seems that she along with the rest of his disciples would remain relatively clueless that he came not to be a temporal king over the Israelites with spiritual power, but to be the savior of the world. As we often do, she gets lost in the temporal, and we sense this in Christ’s frustration. When he says “Woman, what have I to do with thee? My hour is not yet come.”
As we read this, it is easy to think “how disrespectful Jesus is being!” There are two things at work here. First, we read elsewhere when Christ uses the term “woman,” it is not as those in our culture might use it, to denigrate or insult a woman, or to talk down to her. Rather he uses the same word elsewhere as a term of affection or with kindness in his heart. Not as though to say “woman, be quiet,” or “woman, get into the kitchen.”
On the other side, we are reminded that Christ is the eternal Lord, our savior, and sovereign. He knows that in time his glory will be revealed, but now is not the time for that. We are also reminded that often we want something immediately, but often it requires patience. It requires petitioning the Lord of Lord and trusting that he will provide what is spiritually good for us.
Yet, Mary knows that Jesus will work for God, and so she tells the servants to do as he asks.
The water-pots used are likely common containers that were used in purification ceremonies and cleaning up before the meal. We are reminded that although we are common, although we are often broken, that Christ still uses us to His glory. So, we submit ourselves to His will, submit our hearts and minds to him and as the servants followed Mary’s instructions that we too follow the command: “whatever he saith unto you, do it.”
And now the pots would have contained 20 to 30 gallons a piece, so the Lord made 120 to 180 gallons of wine and as we read on we learn that this was not low quality or watered down wine – but rather high quality wine, the best that had been served so far. While there may have been many people at the party, we see that he provided exorbitantly as he often does in his miracles. We are reminded that His grace is more than we could ever ask for. His grace is more than sufficient for us, and covers all our sins and beckons to us, come all ye that are heavy laidened and I will give you rest.
But let us talk about the actual miracle. There are two common misconceptions about it. First: We believe that Christ changed all of the water into wine, not just some of it. Some have supposed that only the wine that was drawn out of the jars was changed, but no, all the water was truly changed into wine and enjoyed by all who partook of it.
In the same way, some have suggested that he turned it into “non-alcohol wine,” also known grape juice. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that people were so thirsty that they were just happy to get some water and expecting a miracle they thought they were getting wine. Their neither stands up to the character of Christ nor the nature of the story. For, not many knew where this new wine had come from. While the disciples and his mom knew, many, including the master of the feast were unaware. They could not have expected this miracle. The wine was truly wine.
Now, the wine wasn’t an act of transubstantiation, because wine still contains water, rather it was transformed. Water is a critical aspect of the making of wine, for without it the grapes would never grow, would never have juice to be pressed out it. No, Christ, speeds up the process, brings it along, skipping some steps along the way. We see this when we look at miracles, Christ doesn’t work against natural process, but instead speeds them up or omits steps. This is why, even if we have the best doctors in the world we pray that the Lord will be in our healing, and why we give thanks for the steady hands and minds of our doctors when we find ourselves well again.
Now the master of the feast exclaims to the hosts a statement of frustration: “Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.”
The common practice at weddings would have been to have the best wine in the beginning and as people drank more or departed they would put out cheaper or even watered down wine. We are told that this wine is better than the wine that they served at the start. This is certainly no illusion nor grape juice, but real, high quality wine.
Finally, in this lesson Christ’s glory is shown forth, but in relative secrecy. We see his goodness, we see his mercy to the poor family, we see his provision for those whom follow him, for those whom he loves. The disciples who were with him saw this too, and their hearts and minds were encouraged, and they were all the readier to follow after him.
As we read this lesson we can’t help but to think of the final marriage feast, the marriage feast of the lamb. The feast where the church will finally be bound to her groom. This great day is our final and ultimate hope, the hope to one day be bound to Him who reigns on high. While this was an earthly miracle and a great kindness to those who partook, we are reminded again, and again to not stock our treasures up on earth, but let our hope rest in heaven.
When we participate in the Holy Communion Liturgy we are being reminded and drawn closer to heaven and being invited in to have a foretaste of this final marriage feast. It is our constant reminder and spiritual strengthening. There is much that happens at the table, but one thing we are reminded of is that when we partake of the bread which is broken for us, and drink of the cup that is poured out for us we are bound to the Lord as His. That we are invited to this final marriage feast. Let the image spelled out in Revelation be on our mind as we draw near:
Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,
“Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
And the angel said[a] to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” 10 Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. (Revelation 19:6-10)
As we come to the table today let our minds be captured by the grace of God, let us be always mindful that it is good to submit to His will, and to be ever growing in His grace. Let us be constantly reminded of his glory, and goodness as has been shown forth in his miracles we read of in the Gospels. And Let us store up our hope and promise that one day we will join all the saints in heaven in singing: Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen.