1/15/23 – Epiphany 2 – “The Beginning” – John 2:1-11

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

I. Created in the Image of God
1. One of Michelangelo’s greatest and most recognizable paintings is entitled “The Creation of Man.” In this painting, Michelangelo depicts the dramatic moment when God gives life to Adam. Adam’s body reclines lifeless on the ground as God condescends from His angelic throne, extends His right hand, and is about to touch man’s flesh with His life-giving finger. However, while the viewer’s attention is drawn to the action of God’s right hand, there is another aspect of this painting that often escapes first notice. Hidden there in the crook of God’s left arm is the woman already alive, already waiting for her husband.

2. Michelangelo confronts us with a wonderful ambiguity. Is this the moment when Adam is formed from the dust or when he is awakened from his sleep? Is this the moment of his creation or of his resurrection? Michelangelo gives beautiful form to an interesting insight. Man’s creation in the image of God does not begin with a birthday, but with a wedding day. “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). The image of God has a plural character. The image of God is manifested when the two become one. When God forms Adam, He already has Eve in mind. When He brings forth Eve, she is given as the embodiment of God’s own love for Adam. The creation of man is not the creation of individuals—autonomous, sovereign, and independent. Rather, the creation of man consists in a marital fellowship that, by means of God’s outstretched arms (as Michelangelo portrays it), He binds the two into one.

II. Marriage is the Beginning
3. The creation of man begins, not with a birthday, but with a wedding day. Man’s life in the image of God commences with a divinely arranged marriage. Thus, it is meet and right for St. John the Evangelist to begin his account of our Lord’s salvation with a marriage feast. “This, the beginning of His signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested His glory . . .” (John 2:11). For John, a wedding belongs to the beginning of things, and surely this truth is foreign to our ears. In our culture, weddings have become big business. Marriage is sold as the end, the goal, the fulfillment, the ideal. It is the dramatic conclusion of The Bachelor, it is the goal of romance, the ideal vision of true love, the perfect form of human relationship. Nothing surpasses marriage because, in our culture, marriage is defined by human desire, human choice, and human passion. We date in the same way that we test drive a car. We examine the strengths and weaknesses of our partners so that in marriage we are getting exactly what we want. And most marriages lead to divorce because we do indeed get exactly what we want. Marriage is believed to be the experience of human love at its most perfect, its most pure, its most ideal.

4. However, for St. John, marriage is not the end, but the beginning. This truth comes from those who practice arranged marriages. Most young singles balk at the practice of arranged marriages because they seem primitive, barbaric, and utterly unenlightened. However, when one becomes a parent, the practice seems much more legitimate, even worthy of revival. Arranged marriages turn our autonomous world upside-down. Arranged marriages testify that it is not human choice, human desire, or human passion that makes the marital bond. It is the desire and passion of God Himself which makes the bond strong. It is God who laments that Adam is alone; it is God who puts Adam to sleep, who builds the woman from His side, who brings her to the man; and it is God’s own passion that binds them into one. For Adam and Eve, marriage is not the end, but the beginning. Marriage is the source of their love, not its end, its goal, or even its ideal. Marriage grounds their love in the passion of God Himself. In marriage, it is God’s passion that becomes the living fountain from which they are to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28).

III. Jesus is the Bridegroom
5. Thus, the very same One whose passion and love authored the first marriage in Eden now comes to Cana in Galilee with a singular intention: to do “the beginning of His signs” and to “manifest his glory” (John 2:11). Yet, what is the glory that He comes to manifest? At the heart of our text is the petition of Jesus’ mother: “They have no wine.” These words reveal a certain desperation. She speaks in absolute, even extreme terms. She does not say, “The wine is running out,” or “they have no more wine.” No, rather, “They have no wine” (John 2:3). Yet, the woman’s desperation is matched by her son’s cold distancing of himself. Jesus’ reply surprises us with what is often seen as a resentful, almost hostile tone. “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4). Jesus’ reply reveals just how seriously He has received her desperate plea. For our Lord, the woman is not merely calling for more wine; she is calling for Him to take up the duty of the bridegroom. And the duty of the bridegroom is to surrender His life. “Greater love hath no man that this, that he lay down his life for his beloved” (John 15:13). O true, blessed, and free submission! Adam submits to the piercing of his side for the sake of his beloved. Jacob endures years of servitude for his bride. Hosea bears public shame. And Jesus must be lifted up on the cross. To fulfill the woman’s plea and provide true marital wine, Jesus knows that His blood must be shed.

6. Thus, the glory He manifests in this beginning of signs is not a gaudy, materialistic show of power, but the glory of His passion. Today is Jesus’ wedding day, the beginning of signs. Today, He manifests Himself as the Bridegroom who pours out His own blood for the feast. He is the Lover of mankind who lays down His life for His beloved. The Synoptic Gospels begin with Jesus’ birth and move toward His death; but John begins with His wedding day. Indeed, John begins with a marriage and ends with a birth. For the very woman, who pleads for a bridegroom at Cana of Galilee, is the same woman who receives a son at Golgotha. “Woman, behold, your son!” (John 19:26). On the cross, the fullness of His hour finally comes; the beginning of signs gives way to the perfection of the truth. Christ’s own blood is the good wine kept for the end; for true life is in His blood; and it is through His blood poured from His side, that the Church, His Bride, begins to be fruitful, to multiply, to fill the earth and subdue it.

IV. In the Presence of the Bridegroom
7. Dear friends, we are all children of this marital union. We gather as those born from above through the passion of Christ. We gather as those rejoicing in the presence of the Bridegroom who offers His own pierced flesh and shed blood for the feast. Here we are called to take part in the only true marriage. Indeed, it is the marriage that has been arranged by our heavenly Father before the foundation of the world. This wedding banquet is not the end, only the beginning. Here all things are made new. Here we rejoice with Eve as she rests in the crook of God’s left arm and looks upon her pierced bridegroom, who has wakened from his sleep. Here we share the joy of Rachel whose long betrothal is finally at an end. Here we share Rebekah’s delight as her veil is now removed so that she can gaze upon her Lord face to face. At this altar, the angelic words are surely true: “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9). And we are blessed, indeed!

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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