In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
They have no wine.
So what? My Hour has not come. That is not my job. I am not here to make glad for the moment the hearts of men. I´m here to die and rise again; to take away the need for numbing spirits and for escape. I am here to set men free from the drudgery of life but not through gluttony, greed, and drunkenness! What have you to do with Me if you think that I am but a parlor trick, a source of amusement on a winter´s night, a reed shaken by the wind to distract you from the real stuff of life? I am not yours to command, nor do I come to lower your inhibitions and introduce new ways to sin.
Do whatever He says.
Now that is good advice. That is the voice of faith. Do whatever Jesus says, even though it might seem foolish, even though His Words sound harsh, even though they fill our hearts with fear. Do whatever Jesus says.
And what does He say? Fill up the jars. Fill up the Law, standing there so cold and hard, the constant washing and never cleansing jars that men cannot satisfy or ignore. Fill them up to the brim, so that there is no more room, no more space, nothing left in them. And then draw out and take what you find from that full Law to the steward.
He is surprised. He doesn´t know what the servants know, that He drinks water made into wine. All He knows is that this is a surprise. This is not the way of men! For every man sets out the good wine and when the guests have well drunk then the inferior. This is better wine than was first served. Now their taste buds are numb. They will not enjoy it for what it is. They no longer care about the flavor, the aroma, the color, or the mouth feel. They are only searching for a buzz. What a waste! What a fool of a bridegroom – with less sense than a child.
But that steward does not know which Bridegroom provided or from whence it came. His assumption is wrong. He thinks it foolish for so the ways of God always seem to men. He baffles and defies their wisdom. He does not behave the way they do. What kind of a God would not seek revenge, would not demand recompense, would sacrifice His Son for those who betrayed and hated Him? What kind of a God would love petty, selfish men? What kind of a rancher would die for his cows instead of slaughtering them? What kind of a shepherd leaves the ninety-nine and goes after one? Was it waste? To give such good wine when men were past the point of caring? Was it a waste to lay down His life when men would reject Him out of hand and deny Him for the fleeing pleasures of the flesh? Was it a waste to die for Hitler, Osama, and all the miscreants and criminals of history and time? Was it a waste to go silent to the slaughter, to sheep turned into carnivores who ate His flesh and mocked His weakness and His humility, to make virgins out of whores sound asleep with oil burnt and gone after other gods? Was it a waste to recruit, love, and die for Judas?
Every other man would behave differently than this. For every man, save this Man, would look after himself. Every man, save this Man, worries about his reputation and his honor, about his position and his fortune and his legacy. Every other man is concerned about himself. This Man is more man than we.
When they circumcised us they should not have stopped so short. They should have kept on cutting, freed us from the lusts that abide in our flesh. Nor should they have stopped there. They should have cut off our hands, poked out our eyes, broken our ear drums, too. But still it would not be enough. For sin has infected us to the root and core of who we are. They´d have to scrape our skulls clean and pump our veins full of cement, they´d have to stop our lungs, our livers, and our kidneys too. Every member of our feeble bodies is full of sin and given to its own abuse. What pitiful men are we! of unclean lips, impure thoughts, debauchery and deviancy! How we brag and strut and lie through our teeth, vainly imagining that we can fool God as we fool men.
He has given us such good things: the better wine! But our taste buds have been too numb to love our wives, to cherish our children, to serve our neighbors, to hear His Word. We´ve been drunk with passion for all the wrong things and gone chasing after demons as though it was our inalienable right! Repent.
And thank God that He is not like us. His thoughts are not our thoughts. His ways are not our ways. Instead, He goes the way of the Cross – foolishness and stumbling block: He sacrifices Himself in our place. He answers our violence with the other cheek, our lust with His body, our lies with His truth, our greed with His kingdom, our hatred and rebellion with His love. He does not fight and overcome in the ways of men. He does not retaliate with fire for fire, but He quenches us with perfect, steadfast love. He overcomes us with forgiveness. He squats in the dust and washes our feet. He serves us with His grace. He hands over creation for our enjoyment. He gives and bestows marvelous gifts, even wine. He wants our hearts circumcised. But that is all. He is not in favor of mutilation. Rather, He has come in the Flesh to redeem the flesh, to remove sin and prepare our bodies for the perfection to come at the resurrection on the last day.
It is not a waste. His hour came. He did not flinch. He did not doubt. It was not in vain. The Father´s will has been done in and to Him. And by it He has won you – and to this Man unlike every other man – that made it all worthwhile. He was glad to do it. For in this way He won you for Himself, bought you with His life, claimed you for heaven. You made it worth the while. So what if thousands upon thousands reject Him and suffer in Hell. He has you. That is not a waste. The Law is full. There are no jars of purification, no washing left. There are no foods denied, no rules to keep. The Law itself has been bleached by His Blood and lost its teeth. It no longer condemns. It does not demand. It only points and teaches us His will for our lives. For the Law is complete in Him and therefore asks nothing of you. You are free and clean and holy for He has died in your place and rose again for your justification. You have been washed and purified in Christ.
All things are yours. Do whatever He says. He will not let you down. He has wine for you, better than you know. And it ever flows. It never ends. It never costs. It never hurts or betrays or lies! He has made you His Bride, a perfect union in His grace. No man can divide you from Him.
So fill the Chalice to the brim with wine. Then draw it out and give it to His Bride. She knows what the steward can scarcely believe: it is wine turned into Blood. It joins Her to Him. It forgives Her sins, encourages, strengthens, refreshes, and renews. It is liquid grace, food for faith, sustenance for those weary with sin and ready for the trumpet´s grave-shaking blasts to sound.
We have wine – and more.
In +Jesus´ Name. Amen.
Rev’d David H. Petersen
Redeemer Lutheran Church
Fort Wayne, Indiana