Jesus blesses and sanctifies marriage. He does this in two ways. First He creates it, and then He redeems it.
Jesus created marriage when He created Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve were married. God gave Eve to Adam as a helper, and He told them, “Be fruitful and multiply.” Now, at this time, Adam and Eve were perfectly righteous, and they delighted in the commandments of God. Eve delighted in helping Adam, and Adam delighted in loving Eve. Adam delighted in teaching Eve God’s commandments. Adam loved Eve more sincerely and more perfectly than any husband has ever loved his wife. When he said to her, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh,” those were the most caring and selflessly loving words a husband has ever said to his wife. They were one flesh. They had a perfect relationship with each other because they had a perfect relationship with God.
But Adam and Eve failed in their marriage. Adam was supposed to teach Eve. He was supposed to be the pastor of his household. But when the devil came disguised as a snake deceiving Eve into eating the fruit God commanded them not to, Moses writes that Eve gave the fruit to her husband who was with her. So he was with her, and he let her do the preaching. Adam was supposed to tell the devil to get lost. Instead, he allowed his wife to speak for him. He let her get deceived, and he followed along. It was primarily Adam’s fault.
Notice that in 1st Timothy 2, when Paul forbids women from teaching in the church, he does not say this is because the woman sinned first. No, she was deceived first. That is how she became a sinner, but Adam is the one who is primarily to blame. Paul says in Romans 5 that it was Adam’s sin that lead to condemnation for all people. So Eve was suppose to learn from her husband while he rebuked the devil, but Adam had her speak for him instead. Adam failed as a husband, and so Eve also failed as a wife. All mankind fell into sin really because of a failed marriage. So Jesus begins His ministry to redeem mankind by blessing marriage.
When Jesus came to the wedding at Cana, He blessed the wedding with wine. This is what wine is for. It isn’t for getting drunk. Getting drunk is a sin, and Jesus would not provide wine for people to get drunk. No, Jesus provided wine as a blessing. Drinking wine gives a merry heart, and this is a good thing. So Jesus blesses a wedding by providing good wine. And so Jesus sanctifies marriage.
Marriage is a very precious institution. To attack marriage by turning it into something else is to attack God’s creation. To redefine marriage as between two men or two women is to attack God’s creation. To have sexual relations someone outside of marriage is to attack God’s creation. We don’t define marriage on the basis of our own love and affection that we feel. Marriage is defined on the basis of God’s creation.
God created marriage when He created Adam and Eve. He created a good and healthy marriage that bears abundant fruit. And even after it has been corrupted by sin marriage by its very nature produces fruit because God created it that way. One of the purposes of marriage is for having children. But God intends marriage to be fruitful in love as well. It is in marriage that God teaches people how to love each other. He does this by placing someone in your life for you to love. It is primarily in the home that God intends to teach us how to love our neighbors. It’s not in school or daycare or sports teams. It’s at home.
When I was younger I remember watching these commercials on NBC called, “The more you know.” Some of them were good. They encouraged kids not to get pressured into doing drugs or fornicating. But I recall one commercial that was aimed at parents. It presented some celebrity who obviously knows more than you or me about parenting because after all she’s famous. She was talking about hate. She encouraged parents not to pass hate on to their children. One of the last things she said before that shooting-star graphic went above her head was that children aren’t born with hate; they learn it.
But that isn’t true. The truth is, children are born and conceived in sin, just as David says in Psalm 51, “In sin did my mother conceive me.” And what else is sin but hate? Ever since Adam failed as a husband and Eve thereby failed as a wife, the seed of the man has passed on hate. You can’t just stop passing it on. So in your household you live with people – brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, husband or wife – who are born and conceived in hate. So it is not at home that you learn to hate. Sure, Children can learn to direct their hate toward a certain ethnic group or toward a certain person, but you don’t need to teach hate. You already know it by nature. It is at home where families learn to love each other, where they learn to forgive each other, and where they learn to go to church to receive the forgiveness of their sins from God.
This morning, Paul and Jill have given Jane her first and most important lesson in her Christian education. They taught her who her God is by bringing her to the waters of baptism. It is right here this morning that God put His name on Jane, and He saved her from her sin. So now Jane knows her God; she knows Him as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And when she hears His Name, she can be confident that she is His baptized and forgiven child. When she grows up hearing God’s Word, going to church, learning Bible stories, singing hymns that teach about Jesus and what He has done for her, this is how she will be refreshed in the washing of her baptism.
Baptism saves us from our sin, but it isn’t magic. It only saves because Jesus has attached to it His promise. Baptism is nothing without God’s Word and promise. This is why we fathers need to listen to St. Paul when he writes: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).” We parents, both fathers and mothers, are always in need of God’s mercy. We are poor, miserable, sinners, and so are our children. That’s why we need to bring them to be baptized, and that is why we need to teach them about Jesus. That’s why we need to keep coming to church and bringing our children. And that’s the beauty of God’s Word. When you abide in God’s Word, it keeps calling you back to the grace and favor you received from God in your baptism. We know that we sin against our spouses and children. We can’t deny that our sin is always before us. So Jesus’ Word keeps calling us back to Him because Jesus forgives sin.
And this is the very way in which Jesus sanctifies marriage and indeed His entire creation. He forgives sins. This is what He was pointing out by His miracle. Jesus did not turn water into wine simply to show off. He was giving a priestly blessing that would be followed by a priestly sacrifice.
As most of you probably know, I have ten brothers and one sister. And not only that, we all have biblical names. Now there is one biblical name that my dad always wanted to give to one of us, but my mom would never agree to it. That name is Melchizedek. Melchizedek was the priest of the most high God. His name means king of righteousness. He is mentioned by Moses in Genesis 14 after Abram had rescued his kinsman Lot who had been captured. Melchizedek gave Abram a blessing with bread and wine. He did this as the priest of the most high God. Now, the writer to the Hebrews tells us that Jesus’ priesthood was after the order of Melchizedek. So as the great High Priest of the most high God, Jesus blesses the wedding with wine. This is the same High Priest who would offer to God the sacrifice for all sins not with the blood of bulls and goats, but with His own blood. This is what the water that was made wine points toward.
Jesus blesses husbands and wives by cleansing them of their sins. In fact, He joins himself to His entire church as her perfect Bridegroom. He cares for His own as His own body.
St. John doesn’t give us any details about the relationship between the bride and groom of this wedding, but I can guarantee that the couple who were married at Cana would struggle with sin. Instead of the bride always living in submission to her husband and the groom always loving, supporting, and defending his wife with a perfectly selfless love, the woman’s desire would be to rule over her husband, yet he would rule over her. They would both fail in loving one another joyfully. And this is why Jesus blessed the wedding at Cana.
He came as the creator of marriage to cleanse it from sin and blame. He created it, and He redeemed it. We confess in the Catechism that we believe in Jesus Christ, true God and Man, “who has redeemed me a lost and condemned creature.” The Creator comes to save His creation. So Jesus begins His ministry by sanctifying marriage. By turning water into wine, Jesus asserts His lordship over His creation, and by blessing that marriage feast, Jesus asserts His intention to redeem His creation. He would redeem His creation not with gold or silver, but with His holy precious blood and innocent suffering and death.
And so Jesus blessed and sanctified marriage. He created it, and He redeemed it. He bought it back from sin, conflict, and hostility toward God. And this is good news even to those who are not nor ever will be married. If Jesus redeems marriage, is that not the same as to say that He redeems His whole creation as well? When Jesus sanctifies marriage, He sanctifies the relationships of families. From them come all other relationships. So He also sanctifies the relationships of fellow citizens, of fellow workers, and of fellow neighbors. And He sanctifies all these stations in life in the same way. He forgives sin. When you realize that you haven’t always been a faithful employee, or that you haven’t been a fare employer, hear it again: Jesus forgives sin. When you see that your relationships with your spouse or children or brothers or sisters are not filled with peace, it is when you realize the cause of all of it when you can see how Jesus sanctifies your life. The sting of all these problems is sin. And Jesus forgives sin. He forgives the sins of all husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, workers and employers, and the list goes on.
St. John records that in this first miracle of Jesus, He manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him. In the season of Epiphany, we pay special attention to Jesus manifesting His glory, and we believe it. We believe the promise that God’s glory is revealed in His Son who is given for us. Thank God that He has revealed Himself! We don’t need to figure Him out. The same creator of heaven and earth is revealed and made manifest to us in Jesus.
We don’t go looking for Him in our own ideas. He has already revealed Himself in the flesh. And we don’t go looking for His favor in our own efforts. He has revealed it on the cross as He bore our sins. And we don’t go looking for the cross. He delivers to us the forgiveness that He won for us by preaching to us His Gospel. And now He sanctifies you with even better wine than what He gave at Cana. He gives you the wine that is His blood and the bread that is His body, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins, to grant you His peace, and to strengthen you in faith toward God and love toward your neighbor. He provides for you this true foretaste of the eternal wedding feast. This is a wedding feast with no fights, no broken hearts, no death, no sadness – no sin.
So when you hear the gospel of the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ, you behold through faith your God who created you, redeemed you, and sanctifies you.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: