Whatever the Bridegroom Says
Ever see one of those blooper shows with a segment on wedding disasters? The bride faints, the wedding pavilion collapses, somebody has a wardrobe malfunction… why do people find wedding mishaps so funny? Perhaps because a wedding is a big deal. It’s an important social occasion, and we want everything to be “just right”. I’m sure it was the same in Jesus’ day…
The Wedding at Cana. Jesus goes to this celebration (which could last for days) and in the course of the partying, they run out of wine. The bridegroom was responsible for treating his guests well. For a failure of hospitality such as this – it would have meant a major embarrassment and loss of face. Social disaster was looming, and Jesus comes to the rescue.
In this Epiphany season, one of the themes we will see over and over again is the unveiling of who Jesus is. From his baptism, where God declares, “you are my Son” to the mount of Transfiguration, where we also hear “This is my son…” and all in-between. The question looming in the background: “Who is Jesus?” It’s more than a short answer. Here at Cana we get a glimpse of Jesus through his first miracle – or as John calls it, a “sign”. Here Jesus, by turning water into wine, “manifested his glory”. He gave a hint of who he truly is.
The true bridegroom in the story is not the man who got married that day, but Jesus himself. His first sign is given in the context of celebration – and why not? For he, the bridegroom, has come to his bride, that is, to his people. Throughout the Old Testament, God is described as a husband to his people (though they are often unfaithful). Jesus fulfills such metaphors, as he becomes the true bridegroom. Even in the last chapters of Revelation, we see the church in her glory depicted as a bride – the wife of the Lamb, Jesus Christ.
Likewise, there is more to the story here as we see sacramental overtones. What Lutheran could miss the fact that both water and wine are central to the story. That water came from jars for ceremonial washing (another word for that is “baptism”). And the wine – wine that the savior provides is always a blessing to his people – much like the wine that he gives as his very blood for the forgiveness of our sins in Holy Communion.
And there’s also a hint of the end times here. When Christ returns at the end of time, then will be the great consummation. Then will be the “marriage feast of the Lamb in his kingdom, which shall have no end.” But there in Cana, Jesus was announcing the beginning, the ushering in of that kingdom. Even now we live in the “end times” and continually celebrate the wedding – even as we look forward to that final celebration in its heavenly fulfillment.
But like most of John’s Gospel, this passage is almost inexhaustible in the rich fabric of its meaning. There is much more than we can absorb in one sitting, or certainly, in one sermon. So let’s concentrate on just a part of it.
As someone who deals with words “for a living”, I am constantly thinking about and noticing how different words are used. Sometimes, it’s the little words that make all the difference. “You could earn up to $10,000 as month!” (did you catch those two little words, “up to”?). “Qualified buyers pay no interest for 2 years” (“qualified?”). Words, even the little words, matter and mean things. Especially when it comes to God’s Word.
Whenever we read from Scripture, we must pay attention to the words. Sometimes it’s the mundane words which grab our attention – and pack a punch with meaning. Take the words of Mary in the reading, “Do whatever he tells you.” Whatever. Now there’s a word.
Today we use the word “whatever” in so many fun ways. It can be a way to end an argument, “Whatever!”. It can mean you don’t really care about something, “Whatever”. It can even be used in a question, “whatever did I do with my car keys?” It can be an all-encompassing catch-all word.
Mary used the word “whatever” to express her faith. When they ran out of wine, and disaster was looming, Mary knew Jesus could help. She knew enough about her Son to know he was someone special. She knew what the angel had told her. She had been pondering the events of his birth – what the shepherds said about the angel choirs – the unusual visit from the wealthy and generous wise men. Mary had seen Jesus grow in wisdom and stature before God and man. But did Mary expect a miracle here? Or did she simply think Jesus would smooth over the embarrassment with some wise social counsel? Who knows. But what seems clear is that Mary knew Jesus could do something to help. And she trusted him. “Do whatever he tells you” is a confession of faith.
And it’s also good advice for us today. “Do whatever he tells you”
If we do “whatever” he says, what is that?
Well first it means we need to listen to what he says. Read, study, listen, learn. Come to God’s house and hear his word proclaimed and explained. Jesus is still speaking today.
In one sense, if we do whatever he says, we would be without sin. Don’t think for a minute Jesus came to do away with God’s law: “Whatever!” No, he actually raises the bar on what is expected of us. “You’ve heard it said ‘do not murder’ but I tell you anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment” (Matthew 5:21-22)
But instead, we tend to do “whatever” we want. Whatever we think is best, whatever is easiest, whatever makes us feel good, whatever…. “whatever” gets us into trouble. Whatever will we do?
Whatever he says. Because Jesus doesn’t only tell us not to sin. He also knows we need saving from it. So his words are also words of grace and mercy. “whoever is thirsty, let him come…” Jesus says, and not just to drink the best wine at the wedding. Jesus gives, “the free gift of the water of life” (Rev. 22:17).
Doing whatever Jesus says means – believing in him. Trusting him to save us from whatever sins we have done, and whatever guilt and shame we’re carrying around. Doing whatever he says means receiving the free gifts he offers – forgiveness, life and salvation – found in the water, and in with and under the bread and wine. Doing whatever he says really means doing nothing whatsoever, but letting him do whatever needs to be done for our salvation.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed that his cup of suffering would pass, but yet, that God’s will would be done. In other words, “Whatever you will, O Lord”. But it was God’s will that Jesus would suffer, that Jesus would die, and that Jesus would bear the punishment for whatever sins we have committed. Whatever you have done – whatever you have failed to do – whatever you’ve thought or said – whoever you’ve hurt – however you’ve failed – whenever you’ve done it – WHATEVER – Jesus takes it all to the cross. And all that sin is gone.
The bridegroom did whatever he had to – and it was a big whatever – to win the bride. “With his own blood he bought her and for her life he died”. For OUR life, he died, and for our resurrection, he arose. And for our eternal rest he prepares a place for us.
And so the Christian lives with a different “whatever” than the world. I like the way Paul says it, “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9)
May we do the same, as we wait for the bridegroom, Jesus Christ, and in faith, as we seek to do, “whatever he says”. In his Name. Amen.
This message from Pastor Tom Chryst is brought to you by Grace Lutheran Church, Web and Park Street, Mountain View, Arkansas. For prayer or more information, contact Pastor Kenneth Taglauer by email: [email protected]. A Pass it On Project , You can read more at: preachrblog