Updated: Apr 19
April 7, 2023
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
All the arrangements had been made. The guests had all been invited. The families had made the necessary arrangements and the contract had been agreed to. The couple made their vows and now it was time to celebrate. The guest were expecting an amazing banquet—Filled with food with the finest ingredients and plenty of wine to drink. But for whatever reason, the wine gave out. Did they not buy enough wine? Could they not afford enough wine? They are from Cana of Galilee. They are not exactly wealthy. But for whatever reason, this couple is facing a major embarrassment and in a societal system built on shame and honor, they are facing a major shaming event. They will always be remembered as the wedding that ran out wine. They would have to live with that stigma and embarrassment for the rest of their lives. Mary hears about the wine and goes to her son. ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother says to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ Jesus saved the day. He has the servants fill six stone water-jars which are reserved for purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons of water. He tells them to fill them to the top with water, take out some the liquid and bring it to the Cherie steward. Jesus made a lot of wine out of a lot of water. 615-922 bottles of wine to be exact. Now, I have been to many a wedding, but I have never seen that much wine drunk at one wedding. And not only is this miracle remarkable—Jesus taking some so ordinary and transforms it into something completely different, but remember what the chief steward says: ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.’
“The steward assumes it came from the bridegroom of the wedding being celebrated, but for John the real bridegroom present at the wedding is Jesus (see 3:29).” Remember what Jesus says to his mother, “My hour has not yet come.” The steward reveals in his statement that “Now” Jesus’ time has come. Jesus is revealed as the real “bridegroom who served this superior wine [and] has “now” appeared, ushering into the world God’s abundant goodness and grace in a definitive way.” This wine, this abundant, good wine is “symbolic of God’s presence in the world in the eschatological age”:
As the prophet Joel says: On that day the mountains shall drip sweet wine, the hills shall flow with milk, and all the stream beds of Judah shall flow with water.
Mary saw that her son was born for such a time as this. She knew his time had come and the chief steward confirmed it in tasting the wine produced by Jesus. The prophet Joel long foretold of that day when the mountains would drip of the sweet wine and the hills flowing milk. Jesus’ time had come and the new age of God’s presence in our world had begun.
But tonight, that wedding at Cana feels like a lifetime ago. The age of life and abundance seems to have shriveled up. The man who Mary called into service, who the steward proclaimed Now is the time, now hangs on a cross—lifeless. His side pierced by a spear. His body drained of his blood. His head bruised and battered by thrones. His clothes stripped from his body—he hangs there naked and disgraced. His followers, at least all the men, have abandoned him. The women who remain at the foot of the cross are helpless to save him. The once popular speaker who gave the blind man sight, the deaf their hearing, the leopard their healing, the dead their life back—Jesus of Nazareth’s life is over.
Jesus who once gave good wine, the best wine, is given wine from a jar (all the same words) that is now sour. Perhaps, this is the same wine that three years ago, Jesus turned from water into wine, has turned rancid, is now given a sip. The wine that he once used to usher in God’s new age is now given to him to drink and it is bitter. It is vinegar. It is vulgar. The Romans gave it to him in order to extend his life, extend his suffering, extend his pain. He is thirsty because his body is shutting down; his kidneys are failing; the sack around his heart is filling with water making it harder to breath, harder for his heart to work. The Romans are trying to extend the cruel and shame-filled death that Jesus is now enduring on the cross.
Perhaps, after tasting the wined he remembered how he ushered in this new age at Cana, tasting that bitterness in his mouth died from the suffering he had endured for the last few hours—he remembered that wedding banquet. Perhaps he remembered telling his mother that that he was not ready and his mother ignoring her son. Now he hangs on the cross telling his beloved disciple that Jesus’s mother would now be his mother. Perhaps he remembered in that moment the steward’s response to tasting that wine—that now is the time. For it was in that moment, after tasting the bitter, vulgar wine that he says, “it is finished” and died on that cross.
This is a sight that doesn’t get easy the longer you are a Christian. It still stings to hear the gospel, this good news, each year. The cross isn’t exactly a great marketing approach for attracting new Christians. Christ crucified is a pretty lousy thing to say. St. Paul even names that in his letter to the Corinthians. He says the cross is foolishness to everyone else but to us—it is the power of God. For on this cross we see God’s power revealed to us. We see Jesus forgiving those who drive nails into his flesh and who say all kinds of scornful things to him. We see Jesus offering comfort to those who cry over his condemnation. We see Jesus thinking of others like his mother even while his body slowly loses it life. Even in death, Jesus remains the same person he was before he was arrested. Even in death, as Jesus lies unjustly convicted and hanged for crimes he did not commit, the world remains as it always has been.
We see this illustrated very clearly in the Solemn Reproaches that we will read a few moments. For centuries, God has sought to bring bring about redemption and salvation, and the world, us—God’s people, turn our backs on God’s goodness.
God lead the people out slavery into freedom…
God fed the people in the wilderness manna…
God led the people with a pillar of cloud and fire…
God gave the people water from rock in the desert…
Jesus gave us the best wine to drink, and now we give him the worst…
Throughout our history, God has sought the very best for us and we have squandered it away. We ignore the goodness of God and instead, choose to ways that lead to our downfall and death. God gave his very Word made flesh, and we hung it on the cross. The justice system failed and convicted an innocent man. Pilate sees the truth. He speaks to the truth. The truth is living and breath right in front of his tyrannical face and he convicts him anyways—sending Jesus to his death.
For centuries, we have longed asked why did Jesus have to die on the cross? Perhaps the better question to ask is why does God keeping loving us even after we continue to turn our backs on God? How many Christians skip this week, skip tonight, because they are too busy. Faith is only a Sunday Morning activity instead of being a way of being. “Oh it just too much, pastor. Three days in a row is too much”. But just because something is hard doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. Dying on a cross was not an easy thing to do, yet God did it. We make all kinds of excuses for turning our backs on God, on our faith. Yet God never turns his back on us. Perhaps that is the good news tonight in the midst of some really bad news. That despite ourselves and our excuses, and our misdeeds, and our lack of care for on another. Despite being handed a cross instead of a golden scepter, God offers forgiveness to those do him harm, life to those displaced by his death, hope for those mourn, and second chance for each us—you and me.
Though it might not feel like a second chance right now. tonight does not end with us leaving here in hopelessness. Tonight ends with a promise—more is still to come. The story is not yet done. We’re not done yet. But tonight, right now, we sit in our grief, in our shame, in our mourning of what could have been. Tonight we need to sit at the foot of the cross begging for forgiveness and mercy from the one whom we sent to death, trusting in the hope and promise that Jesus has forgiven you and me.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.