As Jesus begins His public ministry, He begins it by teaching us to rely on Him for all things, and above all, to remember that the things of this life are secondary to the greatest thing He has come to give, which is our salvation.
All of this is brought about by a wedding, likely for one of Jesus’ relatives. As St. Mary helps make sure the wedding is running smoothly, she sees that a serious faux pas has come about—they are out of wine! This would be just as embarrassing as running out of food before all the guests have been served. Unsure of how to make it through this, St. Mary goes to her Son with an observation, “They have no wine.” You can almost hear a sigh at the end as she tells Jesus of the sad state of affairs. The unspoken part of her sentence is a defeated, “And there’s no hope of fixing this problem.” She doesn’t go to Jesus to guilt Him into making a trip to the store or even to do a trick and make the wine miraculously appear. She simply goes to complain that everything is ruined.
For this hopeless prayer, she is rebuked: “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” In other words, this is not why I have come. Jesus does not reveal Himself for who He truly is by doing miracles. Jesus’ hour is the time of His revelation to the world as the Savior whom God the Father has sent. A miracle like changing water into wine is an imperfect way of coming to see that Jesus is God in the flesh. At best, it shows that He can control nature. It shows nothing of His true purpose for coming. As will be seen when He feeds the five thousand, doing signs and wonders doesn’t necessarily result in faith, but in a desire to have physical needs met, and the people come to see Jesus as nothing more than a vending machine. The hour for His full revelation will be the cross, where His glory will be revealed as He is shown as He truly is, the God who forgives sins. Until that time, she is to believe, to trust that all things are under God’s control, even when it seems that they are not. Nonetheless, at least she recognized that Jesus was the only one who could help. In the midst of her doubt and despair, she had faith. This is the life of faith on this side of glory. The old man needs the Law to knock him down so that the Gospel can raise up the new man. A rebuke is not damnation. Jesus rebukes St. Mary so that she might repent. It works, and her faith is made stronger because of it.
Notice that Jesus does not promise a thing here. But she still believes. She believes that Jesus is God and that all things are possible for him. Her response to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it,” is a confession of faith. She knows that whatever happens, whether they have wine or not, does not matter, because it is the will of God and what is right for that situation and those people involved. She knows that Jesus is God and is reminded that He has come, not to give wine or bread or any other physical thing, but to save her. That is all that matters. And so He relents and makes glad the hearts of men. Be brings order from chaos, joy from sadness, hope from dejection, wine from water, and, most importantly, believers from unbelievers. He is the Creator present in His creation to recreate it, to restore it, to redeem it. And seeing this, His disciples believe in Him.
So, what of us? How often have we prayed dejected, hopeless prayers? How often have we complained against God that we aren’t thinner, healthier, richer, better looking? How often do we gladly go down that path of covetous depression and the sickly jealousy that leaves us dissatisfied with what we have? Instead of thanking God that He has given us His Son who has given us the one thing we truly need, we focus on everything we think we need, or everything that we don’t have that someone else does.
Repent, and know that God is good. His hour has come, and it has come for you. His hour was the time when the sun went dark, the earth shook, and the dead rose. The hour when thorns were driven into His head, nails into His hands and feet, and a spear into His side. His hour is the hour He submitted to the death which Adam’s sin won for all men so that we might live. He overcame that hour, rose from that death, and lives. And from that new life He gives joy.
But that doesn’t mean He has no concern for the things you need in this life, or even the things you want in this life. He will answer your prayers, even those that you fail to pray. He knows what you need, He knows your heart’s desire. But more importantly, He knows what is best and when it is best to give that aid. He teaches you, by way of the crosses you bear, by way of suffering, to have joy in sadness, triumph in defeat, and life in death. When every earthly prop gives way He is revealed as your only Hope and Stay. In your own crosses, your own suffering, your own miserable circumstances and obstacles, He teaches you to come to His Cross. There you find perfect joy and peace beyond all measure. He teaches you that He is your only Joy, your only Hope, the only thing you truly need. There, in Him, at His Cross, you will be content.
He helps you grow in your contentment by continuing to be present in His creation. He is with you always, and delivers His glorious Hour to you in the Cup which we bless. Here the fruit of the vine delivers His Blood He shed, which gives the benefit of His Hour on the cross, cleansing your dirty, sinful heart, removing your sadness and pain, and making you glad once again. Today Jesus comes you in another wedding of sorts, as He is made one with you and you one with Him. You are united to Him in a bond that no one, not even the devil himself, can sever. He gives you all of His good gifts and takes away all your sin, your guilt, your shame, and your discontentment with this life. He causes you to grow in His grace, to grow in contentment with all that He gives you, until He takes you to the place where He will give you every gift in abundance, His wedding feast where there is no end to the wine, no end to being one with Him forever.
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Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.