1-15-23 Epiphany 2

Bible Text: John 2:1-11 | Preacher: Pastor Christian Preus | Series: Epiphany 2023 | Jesus performs his first great miracle at a wedding. He does it on purpose, obviously, to tell us that He is our Creator and that He’s come to claim us as His Bride. Our translation says it’s the first of his signs, which is true enough, but the Greek says it’s the beginning of his signs. And this word didn’t fall from the Holy Spirit unawares. It’s the first word in the Bible – bereshith, in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. It’s the first word of John’s Gospel, en arche – in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God – all things were created through him, and without Him was nothing made that was made. This word “beginning” directs your focus on God’s creation, and here is Jesus marking the beginning of his saving creation at a wedding. When you think of creation you probably don’t think of marriage, your marriage, your parents’ marriage, marriage in society, you think instead of mountains and lakes and animals and vast landscapes, the sun, the moon, the stars. But Genesis tells you something different – marriage is the crown of creation, the reason for which everything else is made, God creates man and woman, gives Eve to Adam, tells them to be fruitful and multiply, to raise a family, and then says that everything is theirs, that they rule over it together, it’s all made for them, and only then does the sixth day of creation end with God saying – this is very good.

Look again at the psalm we sang this morning:

Say to God, “How awesome | are Your works!*
All the earth shall sing prais- | es to You.”
Come and see the | works of God;*
He is awesome in His doing toward the | sons of men.

The greatest creation, the greatest work of creation God performed and still performs, what we should wonder at and sing praises to God for making, is the creation and the marriage of one man and one woman and the family that results. When Jesus performs the beginning of His signs at a marriage He is confirming exactly this and He is emphatically vowing to save all creation, with marriage and family at its head, by His own marriage to us, His own laying down His life for His Bride, His own joining us to Himself to be one flesh, one body, so that all He has belongs to us, and we become the family of God in Him, children of our Father.

Marriage and family are just as necessary for life on earth as water, food, and gravity. That doesn’t mean that everyone has to get married – God doesn’t give a spouse to everyone and when a man and a woman do get married sometimes He doesn’t give them children, and He has His reasons for this. But without marriage and family there is no human flourishing. Just as God made it so that gravity would keep the earth in its place and you from floating up into space, just as God made your body to depend on food and drink to live, so he created all that exists to depend on the marriage between one man and one woman and the families that result.

Husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, see what an amazing honor and great responsibility you have here. Teachers, see what an awesome office you have in helping parents to raise their children. Christians and members of Mount Hope, see what a beautiful calling God gives you to support the marriages and families among us. The world, human society, depends on us doing this. God set it up that way. Creation doesn’t work without it. And so human society, the world, needs us Christians more than ever, because we seem to be the only ones left who know what is so very obvious, the only ones left who have not followed the madman’s rants that we can float on the air and live without water and survive without marriage and family.

If you try to defy gravity and walk off the ledge of a tall building, you’re going to lose. If a society or a government tries to defy marriage, it will lose. The fall from the ledge to the ground may take a few seconds, but it will come as surely as water will wet us and as surely as fire will burn. The current experiment against marriage in our time, the promotion of fornication and that at horrifyingly young ages, the majority of children born out of wedlock, men refusing to take responsibility for their own children, the treating of marriage as a cheap contract that can be broken for any reason or no reason at all, the abomination of the homosexual union approved by and sanctioned by our government, this is a blip in history, a doomed experiment, the equivalent of the madman’s insistence that he can walk on air. He will try and he will go splat on the pavement. Every time. The society that defies marriage will crumble to utter dysfunctionality, total chaos, until finally a nation that respects marriage takes its place. This has happened too many times to count throughout human history. They will tell you to be on the right side of history – God tells you that the right side of history is always promoting marriage as the life-long union of one man to one woman.

If you respect gravity, it will repay you. It will keep you upright. And water will quench your thirst and food will nourish your body. God set it up that way. He is a wonderful Creator. And the same goes with marriage and family. The rewards of respecting marriage and family are so beautiful that it seems the most ridiculous trick of the devil that we could ever have lost sight of it even for a second. You respect marriage and it will give family, church, government, all society, tremendous and divine rewards.

The catechism students will soon confess during our Bible Study hour that one of the purposes of marriage is the birth and raising of children. No one else can do it. The idea that the government can raise our children – the dream of communism – has ended in misery for the people and destruction of entire nations. The idea that you can simply delegate raising children to the schools, to teachers, is impossible, as any teacher will tell you. They can do a lot for our children and thank God for them, but no teacher can take the place of a mommy and a daddy. It is the most heart wrenching thing for teachers who want to help their students, want to give them a good life, but they can only do so much and meanwhile the kid goes back to his parents and what those parents do and how they raise them will be the determiner. God created moms and dads to raise children and there is no other way it happens.

Hardworking kids result from hardworking parents, respectful kids from respectful parents, and human society, the economy, peace, depends exactly on this. It’s how God made it.

But the responsibility of parents goes far and above raising their children to be successful in this world. When God created marriage in the beginning, when He told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply, they were living in Paradise where they walked and talked with God Himself. It was their job to bring up children for this Paradise, for life with God. And that hasn’t changed. We’ve changed. We’re sinners now, cast from Paradise. But this purpose of marriage still hasn’t changed. If God blesses us with children, it isn’t simply to raise them for success on this earth, but for life with God, for life as Christians. Marriage isn’t simply how God populates earth, it’s how He populates heaven. All creation is made for this, everything you see, for this purpose, so that fathers and mothers raise up their children to know God.

God doesn’t care what metrics the world uses to measure success – salary, prestige, education. His interest is in having His sons and daughters with Him forever. Parents, please take this to heart. I am in the midst of raising children right now. I know the joys and I know the sorrows. I know the concerns. I know the challenges to balance everything. I want happiness for my children and I would gladly go through any pain to give it to them. But know what the end goal actually is. It’s not that they have a better income than you, that they live the American dream, that they have successful careers – these are all wonderful goals, I’m not knocking them, but they are subordinate, subordinate to the children belonging to God and knowing it. The happiness you want for your children is the joy of knowing Jesus Christ and Him crucified, the love of God that surpasses understanding, the testimony of a good conscience, the confidence that neither life nor death nor anything in all creation will be able to tear them away from the love of God in Christ Jesus, the zeal to live as Christians and take their stand on God’s Word and keep His commandments, the certain hope of everlasting life with their Creator. That is the goal.

So act like it’s the goal. Don’t just come to church, love coming to church, because it’s awesome and you get to hear God’s word and receive Christ’s body and blood. Let the children see you excited for what matters, let them see it in your face, in you smile, in your eyes. Pray with your children, read them the stories of the Bible, not grudgingly, but because you honestly have this goal in the forefront, that your children not only live happily on earth but forever with you in heaven. And you will see too that real happiness even now is not simply in the pleasures that come and go, not in the security that can be lost, but right now in the pleasure of knowing God’s love and the treasure of heaven that cannot be lost so long as we are joined in marriage to our Savior who says, “My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me and I give them eternal life and they will never perish, nor will anyone snatch them from my hands.”

Marriage is forever. Not our marriages – I went to a wedding recently where the pastor repeatedly said that they would be married forever, which of course the words of the marriage rite contradict: “till death us do part.” Death ends our marriages on earth. But the death of Jesus secured an eternal marriage that will never end. It is the marriage on which all earthly marriages are based. It is the marriage that joins us to God and God to us. Why does Jesus perform His beginning of signs at a wedding? Because He’s come to claim us as His Bride. This is the basis and the fulfillment of creation. God joins it. The Son takes on our human flesh and marries us to Himself. He takes what is ours and gives us what is His. The wife takes her husband’s name, if her husband is a king, she becomes a queen, if her husband is rich, she becomes rich, everything he has becomes hers. So Jesus gives us His name, His honor, His riches, His eternity, He is Lord and King and we reign with Him, He is pure, so we are pure, He is the Son, the heir of everlasting life with His Father, so we are heirs with Him, the daughter of Zion. And what is the wife’s becomes the husband’s. We gave a horrible dowry to our Lord. We didn’t give Him riches or purity or beauty. We gave Him ugliness and sin and guilt and misery and pain. But He took it happily. He took it all and made it His own and suffered for it, so that all that corrupted us, all that could haunt our consciences, all the meaninglessness and despair of our sinful existence, is swallowed up by His love, washed away in the flood of His blood, death itself dead because our God died death for us and rose to give us His life. This is the eternal marriage of Christ to His Church.

He comes to the wedding in Cana on the third day – that’s how our Gospel starts. The third day from when? you’re supposed to ask. From the time when John pointed to Him and said – Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Because three days after Jesus does this, takes away the sin of the world, suffers for sin on the cross, lays down His life for His Church, three days later he rises and calls His church to Himself as His dear Bride and gives her His life and covers all her sin and removes from her all that troubles her. The wedding in Cana is the foreshadowing of all this. The marriage couple in distress, their sorrow and shame, and Jesus arrives the third day to rescue them and bring happiness and joy.

This is simply what Jesus comes to do. And He comes to do it in your life. He, the almighty Creator to whom angels bow, He didn’t think himself too good to come to the lowly wedding of poor Galileans who couldn’t even keep wine supplied. He doesn’t think Himself too good for you. It is precisely His goodness that drives Him to you. He cares about your marriages, He cares about your families, He cares about your prayers. He knows where you have tried and where you have failed. And He comes with total forgiveness, complete love, as the Bridegroom who has already taken all that is yours on Himself and is ready to assure you again that all He has is yours. His body and His blood are yours. You are one flesh with Him. And this marriage that He makes with you is what will make our marriages and our families flourish on this earth and the whole Christian family of Christ’s Church flourish here in time and forever in eternity.

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