Second Sunday after the Epiphany—20 January 2019

5212053Our text is today’s Gospel (John 2:1–11):   1 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.  2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples.  3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”  4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”  5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 

6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.  7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim.  8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it.  9 When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.”  11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him. (ESV)

She said to Him, They have no wine.  She said to the servants, Do whatever he tells you.  Here, in Mary, you have the perfect example of intercession, of praying for others.  Mary sees her neighbour’s need.  And does she pass by that need without a thought?  No.  Rather, she lifts up that need, takes it into her own heart, and carries it to the feet of her Son, Jesus, where she confidently lays it down.  She has no doubt whatsoever, as her words show, that her Son cares and will do what is best.  She trusts Him and she shows her trust by leaving the matter entirely in His hands.  She waits in eager expectation for the answer to her prayer and she is not disappointed when it comes.  The answer to her prayer proves a blessing for her neighbours in their need.  The answer to her prayer also results in Jesus being glorified and his disciples’ faith being strengthened.

Mary, here, is first an example of love.  If you were the first to happen upon a car accident and there were injuries involved, the loving thing to do would be to get help.  To use your cell phone, if you have one, and call 911.  To get out and render whatever first aid you know how until the ambulance arrived.  And if you do not know anything about first aid at all, then just to be with the injured party and assure them that help is on the way.  That would be the loving thing to do.  If you were the first to see such an accident and then looked away as if you had not; if you kept on driving down the road so as not to get involved, where is the love in that?

Now, God has told you that chief among the many ways you can help others is this:  that you can bring them, with their needs, their sorrows, their sufferings to God Himself in prayer.  You can pray for them and lay them down at the feet of Jesus.   What is it but a lack of love when we know that someone is in need, is hurting, is aching, and we do not lift them up in prayer to Jesus?  What is that but lovelessness on our part?  Mary here sets the example for us.  She takes her neighbour’s need into her own heart and then lays that need at the feet of Jesus.

When you and I see someone caught up in a predicament, especially when it is of their own doing, we often belittle or criticize the poor soul rather than pray for them.  Yes, it is true, people often cause their own problems.  But that should not stop us from praying for them.  The bride and groom at Cana made a serious miscalculation about the wine.  I can just imagine some of the guests saying things like:  “They sure didn’t plan this wedding very well, did they?”  “No, they surely did not.  I always say it’s better to plan on having too much rather than running out.”  But Mary does not belittle or criticize the bridal couple.  Rather, she feels for her neighbours in their extreme embarrassment and instead of gossiping to others about it, she turns to her Son and tells Him the problem.  

And there is no problem of your neighbours (and likewise of your own) that is too little, too insignificant to turn over to God in prayer.  God numbers the very hairs of your head, so do you think that there is anything about you that would be of no concern to Him?  No way!

We have seen how Mary is an example of love for her neighbour.  Next you must notice how Mary prays—what she says and what she does not say.  Too often in praying we like to tell God just what to do.  We see a way to solve our neighbour’s dilemma and in our arrogance we turn to the all-wise God and lay out for Him a plan of action that He can now take.   Mary does nothing of the kind.  When she intercedes for her neighbour, she does nothing more than this:  she takes her neighbour’s problem, and lays it before Jesus.  In your praying it does not do for you to prescribe to God the time, the manner, or the means.  All of that you can leave safely in His hands.  As the hymn says:  With care our Father listens To ev’ry thought expressed, then answers our petitions In ways He knows are best  (#LSB 772.2).

And do not for one second imagine that Mary despaired when Jesus, her Son, responded:  what does this [concern] have to do with me?  My hour has not yet come.  Mary knew perfectly well that this concern had everything to do with Jesus, because there is no one who has ever or who will ever turn to her Son and seek His help in vain.  Mary knows her Son.  She knows that love and pity and mercy fills His heart.  She knows that the reason why Jesus came into the world and was born of a virgin was to help us in our greatest need. 

Now you see it, don’t you?  My hour has not yet come.  What “hour”?  The hour when Jesus would answer your greatest need of all; the hour when He answered your need of redemption, of forgiveness, of atonement.  The hour when He hung on the cross and shed His blood, winning eternal salvation, answering for your sin, obtaining forgiveness for the world, and opening up the kingdom of heaven to all believers.  It is precisely because of that hour, which had not then come, but which most surely was coming, that Mary interceded so confidently with her Son.  

Today, you and I can be as confident as Mary in our prayers and intercessions, for we know that in Jesus, God has already met our greatest need.  As St. Paul writes in Romans:  He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not with Him freely give us all things?  If Jesus gives you the gift of Himself so fully, will He not also freely give you now all things that are in accord with His gracious will?  Most certainly! 

And so, you can trust Jesus when you lay your concerns and the concerns of your loved ones and neighbours before Him.  You can trust Jesus because you are laying your concerns at the feet of Him who loved you so much as to carry your sins, to die for you, and then to rise again in victory for you.  There is no one in the whole human race, who is not loved and blood-bought by Jesus.  Rather, the blood of Jesus shed on the cross proclaims that God so loved this world of sinners.  

The Lord Jesus is the One who answered the deepest need you ever had:  the need for a righteousness that would enable you to stand sinless and holy before the Judgment Seat of God.  The Lord Jesus is the One who robed you in that righteousness in the waters of Holy Baptism,  And now, the Lord Jesus is One to whom you can confidently turn in every time of need, and lay down at His feet your every burden.  And you will not be disappointed when He answers your prayers.  Oh, He most likely will not answer your prayers in the way that you imagined.  But His answers are always better.

I do not think for a moment that Mary quite expected such an answer as the one she got.  For Jesus to take those six water jars and manifest His glory by changing 120 gallons of water into 120 gallons of the best, the finest wine, was certainly an answer to prayer far beyond her own imaginings!  With Jesus, it is as the old collect says:  O Almighty God, always more ready to hear than we to pray, and always ready to give more than we either desire or deserve.  That is just how our God is.  As the psalmist proclaims: the Lord [is] good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon [Him]  (Psalm 86:5).

God’s answer to your prayer may be delayed, it may take some time, but just you watch and see.  When it does come, it will be always more.  More than you desired, and most certainly more than you deserve.  The same Jesus who received Mary’s prayer, is standing today with His arms wide open waiting to receive your prayers.  Do not pass by your neighbour in his  or her hour of need.  Learn from Mary to love and so lift up the concerns of those around you and carry them in your heart to Jesus and lay them before the throne of grace, to receive His help in time of need.  He will not reject your prayer; nor will He remove His steadfast love from you.  He paid the greatest price for your salvation when He willingly gave up His life for you.  And now He is risen from the dead and governs all things in heaven and on earth.  And so you can surely trust that your gracious Lord Jesus will mercifully hear your prayers and grant you His peace throughout all your days.  Amen.