St. John 2:1-11
Jan 18, 2015; modified from January 19, 2014 A+D
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The wedding was out of wine. Maybe that was because they were a bunch of ungrateful gluttons. The steward tells us that they are well-drunk, literally, already intoxicated. So maybe the family had provided plenty of wine for pious and reasonable people, and had no reason to be embarrassed, but it wasn’t enough for that riotous crowd.
The Lord’s response, “My hour has not yet come” to Mary’s statement “They have no wine” seems to indicate she wasn’t asking for wine. Having pondered the mysteries of the Incarnation and the Messiah for 30 years in her heart, seeing His disciples now gathered to Him, she may have wanted Him to reveal Himself to the guests. She may have be hinting that wine is a type of the Holy Spirit. Those people didn’t have enough of the Holy Spirit. She wanted Jesus to perform a Pentecost-like miracle.
It could also be that wanted Jesus to rebuke them, to begin His ministry in a way similar to John the Baptist. She wanted a stern call to repentance. She didn’t want Him to provide wine but to defend the family and embarrass the drunks.
Whatever it is that Mary wanted, she got rebuked: “Woman, what does this Me?” Our Lord is not into games and dancing around the issue, but more importantly, anything that He does in regard to this lack of wine He does for mercy’s sake, not for justice. He does not owe the wedding guests wine and He does not come to vindicate Mary’s friends. His main mission is not to rebuke sinners but to reconcile them to His Father.
What has this to do with You, Lord? Nothing if asked according to the Law, but everything if asked according to grace. The Son did not come to condemn the world, but to save it.
Whatever imperfections Mary had, whatever it was she wanted or thought she wanted, she responded to His Word with perfect faith: “Do whatever He tells you.” He might not have told them anything. She didn’t know. His hour has not yet come. But she trusted that He would do something good.
This is as great a testament to Mary’s faith as it was when she said: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” We might recognize that “Do whatever He tells you” is an exercise of obedience, but more significantly, it is trust. It expects good from the Lord. That is the epitome of faith.
As it was for Mary, it is for us. We pray. We ask for God to cure our cancer, to stop our lusts, to make our children virtuous. We pray and we pray and we pray. Whether we know it or not, we are always praying for the end. We are praying for the Lord’s final return and the end of all this sorrow and this vale of tears. That is what it means when we pray: “Deliver us from evil.” But it usually feels like the answer to all our complaints is: “What has this to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.”
Like St. Mary, our prayers are imperfect and often confused. We are at least a bit afraid, in our fallen flesh, to be fully honest with God in what we want. We try indirect speech. We hem and haw and hint. But He is moved by compassion. He knows what is best. In Christ the answer is always “Yes.” We have no right to ask Him for justice, to complain about our lot, but He is moved by mercy.
He is not John the Baptist come to rebuke drunks. He is Jesus, the Messiah, the Lord who saves. He is come to pour out the Holy Spirit generously upon those who in no way deserve Him. He loves those who hated Him. He is merciful to those who were angry and bitter and frustrated. He is working on behalf of the poor, the victims of injustice, and the young. He dies for those who kill Him.
And He loves Holy Marriage, the union that He has instituted between one man and one woman, whom He makes one flesh, for the good of the world and He deems that worthy of the best of wine and celebration– not only because it is good, in and of itself, as His own gift to humanity, but also because it provides us with a vivid picture of His union with us.
This time of year, especially, we contemplate the horrors wrought by the wicked decision in Roe versus Wade. We stand and we say, “They have no justice. Women are crippled and lied to. Children are murdered. The people don’t seem to care. The government prefers that 47% of African-American babies be murdered in their mothers’ wombs instead of being born. The current president of the United States would consider grandchildren an oppression upon himself and a disease upon his daughters. They have no real compassion. They have no justice. Not they, but we, we have no wine.”
What will the Lord do? I don’t know. But His compassion is greater than it seems. His Spirit intercedes for us so that even when we stand before Him and grunt and complain or hide what we want, or even when we don’t know what we want, when we’ve been lied to and misled, when when we’ve acted out of cowardice rather than confessing our sins and living with the consequences and tried to hide our sins – even then He hears the Spirit on our behalf. He gives us what is good. He gives wine to drunks. He loves abortionists, along with the babies they killed, and their mothers who knew not what they were doing. He wants to forgive, to be merciful, to shower us with wine we do not deserve, cannot appreciate, and will almost certainly abuse.
“Do whatever He tells you,” is still the best advice in the history of the world. We submit to His Word. “Abhor what is evil. Hold fast to what is good. Love one another. Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep, bless and do not curse. Do not be haughty.” We wait upon Him. We insist that He is good and will not fail us. Vengeance is not ours. Vengeance is His, but so is mercy and forgiveness. He has compassion on abortionists and mothers, fathers and elected officials, for the timid and the greedy who keep silent for fear of the opinions of others. He is not John the Baptist come to rebuke drunks. He is Jesus, come to save, and gives good wine to drunks.
The Lord begins His Ministry in this way: with an act of extravagant waste. This is the character of His Ministry, the purpose of His suffering, death, and resurrection. Here is our hope. We have no right that He would heal our land, but we pray that He does. We have no right to be His people, to be forgiven, but He has declared us to be so. He hears our prayers and He loves us with unmerited and unrequited love.
As great a miracle as water turned to wine is, the greater miracle is described in the last line: “And His disciples believed in Him.” That only happens by the Spirit. Let it be the same for us. Let us, please God, let us, sinners, also believe in Him who died and rose and will come again.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.