In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The glory of Jesus Christ was manifest in Cana at the turning of water into wine. It was a dangerous miracle. The giving so much and such good quality of wine to those who are already well-drunk is explosive. But Jesus was always lavish in His re-creations. He always gives more than is needed. He is no John the Baptist, preaching gloom and moderation. For His is not the time of fasting, but of feasting. He has come to make glad the hearts of men and to take for Himself a Bride Immaculate and Holy.
Nonetheless, we cannot help but think how dangerous the whole situation was. There at Cana are the greatest pleasures and the greatest dangers known to man: the marriage bed and wine. And while they seem almost always to go together, they do not typically mix very well.
If I were the writer of Greek Myth I’d have Prometheus steal wine and sex from heaven, instead of fire. Nothing else can create such euphoria for us, can give us such a heavenly experience. But so also nothing else is so subject to abuse or perversion or so quickly turned into a weapon. Fire is a trifling amusement compared to the burning in the loins, bellies, and minds of men. God has given us sex not merely for pleasure and the bonding of one man and one woman in holy matrimony. He also given it t us for the creation of children. Yet we have so perverted it that conception is treated almost as a curse, and we have so degraded and abused this gift that much of what men do could not even result in conception. So also wine. There are serious health benefits in wine mainly sterilization and numbing, as well as the pleasure that it gives. Yet who hasn’t thought from time to time that the world really would be better off without it, since it has caused so much harm and ruined so many once-good men and its powers of enslavement are well known.
I have sometimes wondered if I wouldn’t have better served my own sons if I had rendered them eunuchs at birth. Then they could have pursued the finer things in life uninhibited. They would have been free to love a wife for all the right reasons and would have found it easy to be faithful to her. But why stop there? Why not also scorch their infant tongues and paralyze their taste-buds for life. Think then of how easy it would be for them to again avoid my own weaknesses, to eat with discipline and for health, not for taste. If the ability to enjoy these pleasures was removed from them, would they not waste far less time on vain pursuits? Being free of these temptations and thus capable of living a life more free of sin, could they not do more good for the world? Perhaps. But I doubt they’d thank me for it. They would know they had been cheated, that I had stolen from them something of the goodness of life, including the ability to have sons of their own. Being free of these desires might also drive them to even worse crimes. For if a man has no ordinary weaknesses he might well turn out to have the sort of drive and focus that creates the likes of Julius Caesar and Adolf Hitler.
God’s gifts are always lavish and extravagant, always better than we deserve, and always subject to abuse. None more so than grace itself, than the forgiveness of sins, that God so recklessly gives to us unfaithful liars and thieves. But for all of that, for all the danger, we’d be dead without it.
Man’s thirst is not quenched by water alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. That Word from the Mouth of God has taken up our flesh. He makes our hearts glad. He is the new wine and on holy Pentecost His Spirit so filled His children that on-lookers thought they were drunk mid-morning.
He gives wine to His Bride, both for her pleasure and for her sanctification. He Himself abstained while on this earth before His hour came. Here is the wisdom He breathed into the mother of King Lemuel, as recorded in by Solomon, “It is not for kings to drink wine, Nor for princes intoxicating drink; Lest they drink and forget the law, And pervert the justice of all the afflicted.” Instead, the king is told to “Give strong drink to him who is perishing, And wine to those who are bitter of heart. Let him drink and forget his poverty, And remember his misery no more” (Proverbs 31.)
Our Lord drinks with us now in His Father’s Kingdom according to His last Testament for His hour has now come. He abstained once, so that He would not be dulled on the cross. For He did not want to forget the Law or pervert Justice and come down. He would not shirk His duty, but suffered in our place, endured our shame, and bore our affliction. There was no mitigation, no relief or anesthesia for Him. But even in the midst of His sorrow, He gave His Bride strong drink, that she would have joy. On the night in which He was betrayed, to prepare them for what was to come, He gave them wine from His own heart. He still gives that same wine, His very Lifeblood, to this day, some even get drunk on it, so neglect it, so refuse it. But He keeps on giving it. For He who is eternal knows that we are perishing, that our bodies are in decline, that our marriages and society are frail and under constant attack, that we ourselves are weak with desire and besieged by temptation. Our hearts are bitter with failure, with compromise and fear. So He pours out the cleansing wine of His heart. He gives Himself as wine that we should forget our poverty and misery, enjoy even now the foretaste of the Kingdom to come, and that our hearts would be glad in Him. He fills us to the brim, even ready to love us again, to make us His. And by His grace we hear His Word, believe in Him, and are glad.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Pastor David Petersen