A Holy Gift

Rev. Deacon Allen J. Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
January 20, 2013- Epiphany II

Isaiah 62:1-5, Psalm 36:5-10, 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; John 2:1-11

From the Book of the prophet Isaiah:
The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name which the mouth of the Lord will give.

From St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians:
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

And from the Gospel of St. John:
Jesus was invited to the marriage, with his disciples. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water…Now draw some out, and take it to the steward of the feast.” So they took it. When the steward of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from…This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

Our Gospel reading today starts out by saying, “On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee.” “The third day” means three days after the call of Nathanael; three days after Jesus called Nathanael to be His disciple. Since that was the fourth day of the week recorded in the book of John, the wedding took place on “the seventh day” of this “new creation week.” Throughout his Gospel, John makes it clear that Jesus was on a divine schedule, obeying the will of the Father.

Jewish tradition required that virgins be married on a Wednesday, while widows were married on a Thursday. Being the “seventh day” of John’s special week, Jesus would be expected to rest, just of God rested on the seventh day. However sin had interrupted God’s Sabbath rest, and it was necessary for both the Father and the Son to work (John 5:17; 9:4).
At this wedding, we see Jesus in three different roles: the Guest, the Son, and the Host.

Our Lord was not a recluse, as was John the Baptist (Matt. 11:16-19). He accepted invitations to social events, even though His enemies used this practice to accuse Him. Our Lord entered into the normal experiences of life and sanctified them by His presence. It was very wise for this couple to have invited Jesus to their wedding!

He was accompanied by His mother and His six disciples. We don’t know why the wine ran out. Perhaps Jesus’ friends were not wealthy people. Were Jesus and His disciples invited to the wedding because of Mary or because of Nathanael? Our Lord was not yet well known; He had performed no miracles as yet. It was not likely that he was invited because the people knew who He was or who He really was. It was probably through His mother Mary that He and His disciples received the invitation.

Since Jewish wedding feasts lasted a week, it was necessary for the groom to have adequate provisions. For one thing, it would be embarrassing to run out of either food or wine; and a family guilty of such gaucherie could actually be fined! So, to run out of wine could be costly both financially and socially.

Why did Mary approach Jesus about the problem? Did she actually expect Him to do something special to meet the need? Certainly she knew who He was, even though she did not declare this wonderful truth to others. She must have been very close to either the bride or bridegroom to have such a personal concern for the success of the festivities, or even to know that the supply of wine was depleted. Perhaps Mary was assisting the family in the preparation and serving of the meal.

Mary did not tell Jesus what to do; she simply reported the problem. Jesus questioned His mother by asking her, “Why are you getting me involved in this matter? My hour has not yet come.” He was making it clear to His mother that He was no longer under her supervision, but that from now on He would be doing what the Father wanted Him to do.

At this point, John introduced one of the key elements of his book, the idea of “the hour.” Jesus lived on a “heavenly timetable,” marked out for Him by the Father. So, when Jesus said to His mother “My hour had not come,” it simply meant that His ministry had not officially started. He was just beginning to call His disciples; to form His team.

Mary’s words to the servants reveal that she was willing to let her Son do whatever He pleased, and that she trusted Him to do what was right. It would be wise for all of us to obey what she said! It was worth noting that it was Jesus, not Mary, who took command and solved the problem; and that Mary pointed, not to herself, but to Jesus.

Our Lord’s first miracle was not a spectacular event that everybody witnessed. Mary, the disciples, and the servants knew what had happened; but nobody else at the feast had any idea that a miracle had taken place. His first miracle was a quiet event at a wedding in contrast to His last miracle that was very public; His resurrection from the dead.

Each of the six stone water jars could contain about twenty gallons each. The quality of this new wine was so superior that the man in charge of the banquet highly praised it and, of course, the groom’s family basked in the glory of the compliments.

This first miracle also did something for the disciples. It revealed His glory and gave them a stronger foundation for their faith. Though miracles alone are insufficient evidence for declaring Jesus to be the Son of God, the cumulative effect of miracle after miracle should certainly convince them of His deity. The disciples had to begin somewhere, and over the months, their faith deepened as they got to know Jesus better.

But there is certainly more to this miracle than simply meeting a human need and saving a family from social embarrassment. The Gospel of John, unlike the other three Gospels, seeks to share the inner meaning – the spiritual significance – of our Lord’s works, so that each miracle is a “sermon in action.”

It was not enough for people to believe in Jesus works; they had to believe in Him and in the Father who sent Him. This explains why Jesus often added a sermon to the miracle and in that sermon interpreted the sign.

If our Lord had preached a sermon after He turned the water into wine, what might He have said? For one thing, He likely would have told the people that the world’s joy always runs out and cannot be regained, but the joy He gives is ever new and ever satisfying. The world offers its best at the first, and then, once you are “hooked,” things start to get worse. But Jesus continues to offer that which is best until we one day enjoy the finest blessings in the eternal kingdom.

Our Lord would certainly have a special message here for His people, Israel. In the Old Testament, from the prophet Isaiah, Israel is pictured as an unfaithful wife; “forsaken” by the Lord, but not “divorced.” Her trials will be forgotten when she receives the new name, “Hephzibah,” which means “my delight is in her.” God delights in His people and enjoys giving them His best. The old name “desolate” will be replaced by “Beulah,” which means “married.” In the case of Israel, she is already married to Jehovah, but she will get a new name when she is reconciled to Him.

The wine ran out, and all that Israel had left were six empty water jars! They held water for external washings, but they could provide nothing for internal cleansing and joy. In this miracle, our Lord brought fullness where there was disappointment, and something internal for that which was only external (water for ceremonial washings).

John’s Gospel doesn’t mention what gift or gifts Jesus, Mary or His disciples may have brought. I’m sure it wasn’t a blender, toaster or crock pot, but I am sure it was something useful.

What we do know, is that Jesus Christ brings us all gifts of the Spirit. The various gifts are named in 1 Corinthians, Romans and Ephesians. When you combine the lists, you end up with nineteen different gifts and offices. Some of the gifts are as follows:
Prophets were spokesmen for God whose messages came immediately from God by the Spirit. Their ministry was to edify, encourage, and comfort. Their messages were tested by the listeners to determine whether they were truly from God.

Teachers and/or pastors instructed converts in the doctrinal truths of the Christian life. They taught from the Word and from the teachings of the Apostles. Unlike the prophets, they did not get their messages immediately by the Spirit, though the Spirit helped them in their teaching.

The evangelist majored on sharing the Good News of salvation with the lost. All ministers should do the work of an evangelist and seek to win souls, but some men have been given evangelism as a special calling.

In the early church, miracles were a part of the credentials of God’s servants. In fact, miracles, healings, and tongues all belong to what theologians call “the sign gifts” and belonged in a special way to the infancy of the church.

Helps and governments have to do with the serving of others and the guiding of the church. Without spiritual leadership, the church flounders.

Giving and showing mercy relate to sharing material aid with those in need, as well as supporting God’s servants in ministry. The gift of faith has to do with believing God for what He wants to accomplish in the church’s ministry that He will lead and provide. The discerning of spirits was important in the early church since Satan tried to counterfeit the work of God and the Word of God. Today, the Spirit especially uses the written Word to give us discernment. Since there are no prophets in the church today, we need not worry about false prophets; but we do have to beware of false teachers.

Some people have categorized the various gifts as the speaking gifts, the sign gifts, and the serving gifts. However, we should not be so fascinated by the individual gifts that we forget the main reason why Paul listed them: to remind us that they unite us in our ministry to the one body. The Holy Spirit bestows these gifts “as He will,” not as we will. No Christian should complain about his or her gifts, nor should any believer boast about his or her gifts. We are many members in one body, ministering to each other.

We are all invited to the wedding feast. Our Saviour brought the best wine, His blood, as a Holy gift of His redeeming grace. May we bring the Holy gifts that have been bestowed on us, in order to bring sinners to Him and glory to Almighty God.

Let us pray:
Almighty God whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshiped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth. Change in us Lord from the simple water into the superior wine, that through the gifts of the Spirit which you have bestowed on each one of us, you may be given the glory through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and forever.

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