Jesus Speaks An Unnatural Truth (Epiphany 6)


Jesus Speaks An Unnatural Truth

Sometimes the truth is unnatural. And there are truths in our lives like that, aren’t there? Take, for example skiing. If you’re looking down a steep slope, common sense and gravity would teach you that you need to stand up straight, or else you’ll fall down the mountain. But when you’re skiing, the opposite is true. When you’re skiing down that mountainside your balance and focus is down the hill. And if your balance and focus is not down the mountain, then you’ll fall. It’s the truth. But at first, is seems unnatural to us. And the same is true in our every day life. Jesus speaks to us the truth. But often it is an unnatural truth. We have an amazing example of this in Luke 6: 17 He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, 18 who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by impure spirits were cured, 19 and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all. 20 Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.” (Luke 6:17–21 NIV11-GKE)

Look at what we see here in these words. This is what life looks like after the fall into sin. People are poor. People pine away for food. People are sad. People are diseased. And all of those are effects of the fall into sin. And if we ask the question, “how does Jesus speak to us,” notice the first answer: Jesus comforts the afflicted. But how he does this is amazing. For he speaks to us truths that seem unnatural to us. When it comes to pain, hunger, sadness, and disease, one of the conclusions that we can so very easily reach is that, if Jesus loves us, he will give us joy instead of pain. But here, in these words, notice how he speaks. Jesus promises to give us joy amidst pain, not joy instead of pain. Our life right here and right now is not ‘your best life now.’ Instead, it’s your best life in heaven. What hope these words give to us. When we are sad or sick, diseased or despairing, we know that Jesus is in control and the same Savior who saved us from our sins will also preserve our lives.

Jesus comforts the afflicted with an un-natural truth. He gives us the promise of joy amidst pain instead of joy instead of pain. But he also gives us another promise. As soon as Jesus creates faith in our hearts, we yearn to speak the truth of what God’s word says. But what happens when we do this is that we speak the truth in love, and then the world around us shuts us down and condemns us. They make fun of us, insult us, and get angry at us. And we make the common sense conclusion that what we are doing is wrong. Instead of sharing our joy, we shut it in and keep it secret. But then Jesus comforts us with this amazing unnatural truth. We might conclude that it’s better to say nothing than to say something and be persecuted. But what does Jesus say? We read: ““Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.” (Luke 6:23 NIV11-GKE)

What an unnatural way to speak. Rejoice? Leap for joy? Look at the pictures that Jesus uses. Look at that phrase, “leap for joy.” I’ve married a sizable number of couples over the years. And I remember years ago a wedding I had. And the bride had invited her sister to be a bridesmaid. And the sister whom she had not seen in a long time showed up. And the proper bride with proper decorum lost all of that. She leaped for joy and ran out and gave her sister a huge hug. That’s the word that Jesus uses her. But notice how unnatural the context. When we speak the truth in love and are persecuted, they we leap in joy. Why is it that we are able to do this? For that’s the same way they treated the Godly prophets in the past. Ahah! There’s the joy. When we face persecutions because of our faith we recognize and realize that there’s nothing new under the sun. We stand in a long line of people who were persecuted because of the truth.

So my friends, when you say that you believe in the Triune God and are persecuted, then rejoice. When you say that you believe that all of God’s word is true and are persecuted, then laugh. When you say that God created us as male and female and are despised, then be content. When you say that baptism saves and are made fun of, then jump for joy. For they treated the prophets the same way.

Jesus speaks an unnatural truth. He comforts us with the unnatural promises of joy amidst pain and joy amidst persecution. But, as these words continue, Jesus speaks in an entirely different way. We read: 24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. 25 Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. 26 Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.” (Luke 6:24–26 NIV11-GKE)

Jesus speaks an unnatural truth. First, he comforts the afflicted. But second, he afflicts the comfortable. A good friend of mine has a dog. And when the snow came down in the winter night, what did the dog want to do? More than anything, the dog wanted to go out and play in the back yard in the snow. So my friend let the dog out. And after about 5 minutes there was the dog, staring in the patio door window. So he let the dog in. And then, as soon as the dog is inside, what does the dog want to do? The dog wants to go back outside into the darkness. Isn’t the same true with us. Jesus frees us from pain and persecution, and what do we do? We forget about him. Jesus frees from our sin. And what do we conclude? We conclude that he freed us for our sins. And Jesus shares with un an unnatural truth. He afflicts the comfortable. If you think that your full belly and full bank account gives you the right to forget Jesus and reading, learning, studying and growing in God’s word, then you can have your joy here on earth, but not hereafter in heaven.

So, my dear friends in Christ, what do we do with all this? First, we confess our sins. We confess the times we wanted to find joy instead of pain, instead of how Jesus says our life here is going to be: joy amidst pain. We confess the times we wanted to be let into the light and then, just as soon as we were brought into the light, we ran out into the darkness. And our Savior Jesus is faithful and forgiving. He forgives us and watches over us. He shares with us this unnatural truth: He gives us joy amidst pain. And he gives us joy amidst persecution. Amen.

Whom Shall I Send? (Epiphany 5)


Whom Shall I Send?

Power is impressive. One of the privileges of working in the garden is that, after dad was done tilling the soil, we got to go out and play in the dirt. We got to take out our Tonka trucks. One day, instead of toy dump trucks, we saw real ones. They were paving the road in front of our house. So what do you do when that happens and there’s nothing else to do? You go out and watch. I just sat there for many minutes watching the big machines at work. But then, there was the back-hoe. I remember seeing it dig a trench. And that huge arm swung out and around. And even though it was a safe distance away, for the first time, I could imagine what that machine could do if it swung out to me. Power is impressive. But when you begin to see that that power can be used against you, it becomes terrifying. In our gospel this morning Peter came in contact with true power as Jesus performed a miracle and it was terrifying. This morning in our first lesson we see much the same pattern. In Isaiah 6, we read: “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple.” (Isaiah 6:1 NIV11-GKE)

All of God’s word deserves our attention. But there are some that deserve our imagination. Here in these words Isaiah sees the Lord. The real and true God that we worship—the same God that we all have wanted to see with our own eyes—that is the God that revealed himself to Isaiah in this amazing imagery. Isaiah saw heaven itself and God seated there in heaven. But then what happens? “Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.” (Isaiah 6:2 NIV11-GKE)

Isaiah sees angels. And these unique kind of angels, called Seraphim, were flying around the throne with two of their wings. But what were doing with the others? With two pairs of wings they covered their faces. And with two others they covered their feet. There’s a visual sermon there. Even though these angels are powerful and without any sin, nevertheless, when it comes to the Triune God, there are facets of their God they are not allowed to see and there are places they are not allowed to go. And as Isaiah sees this he begins to put the pieces together. If holy sinless angels cannot see some facets of God and if there are places they cannot go, then what about me? And as this thought is swirling around in his mind, he sees and hears what happens next: 3 And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” 4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.” (Isaiah 6:3–4 NIV11-GKE)

The angels continued to sing this triple song of praise to the Triune God. And as they sang, the temple began to come apart. It’s important if a wall shakes and shatters. But when a load-bearing wall begins to fall apart, it begins to be scary. Bit by bit, moment by moment, Isaiah begins to stack all these details up and they add up to a very scary and fearful conclusion. There are facets of God that even angels cannot see. There are places that even angels cannot go. If they are holy and cannot go there, then what about a guy like me who is not holy? And God’s power is truly powerful. He could destroy anything he wants to. And that drove Isaiah’s mind and heart into a very specific direction. We read: ““Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”” (Isaiah 6:5 NIV11-GKE)

Isaiah shouts out that he is a man of unclean lips.1(Isaiah 6:5 BHS-T)}} Here there’s so much that needs more time and attention in explaining. When Isaiah says, “unclean,” he does not mean “a little dirty.” Today we’d use words like viral, infectious, contagious. Notice how he speaks. He says that his people have infected him with their sins and he has infected them with his own sins. And my dear friends in Christ, what do you do with infectious diseases? First, you have to quarantine them. Second, you need to eradicate them. That’s why Isaiah says, “I am ruined.”2 (Isaiah 6:5 BHS-T)}} That is Isaiah saying, “I am as good as dead; I am as destroyed.” Because the God that his holy three-times-over cannot be in contact with infectious sin.

Now, my dear friends in Christ, before we look back at Isaiah and make fun of him concluding that he was over-reacting and being melodramatic, realize that he saw every detail clearly. And where he was is where we need to be this morning. Years ago I met a young woman who was terrified of being married. She was terrified because she knew that along with marriage usually comes children. And there was the terror of having a child and not knowing what to do with the child. But there was more to it than that. She was terrified that her son or daughter would catch her sins. She knew herself well. And she knew that if she had a child she would teach that child her own sins. Whether actively or passively, directly or indirectly, she would teach her child how to sin. She saw how infectious and contagious sin actually was. She saw clearly what Isaiah saw here. And what she saw and what Isaiah saw, we too need to see this morning. We need to shout out with Isaiah, “Woe to me! I have infectious words that flow from contaminated lips.” But what happens next? 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”” (Isaiah 6:6–7 NIV11-GKE)

What do you do with contagion and contamination? First, you quarantine it. Second, you burn it away. And usually that means burning the person along with the contagion. That imagery of burning is precisely and exactly what the Lord uses for Isaiah’s benefit. One of these powerful angels goes to the fire and takes one of these burning coals. And the same infectious, contagious lips that deserve to be destroyed are now burned and cleansed. In a miraculous way, instead of destroying both the person and the contagion, just the contagion of sin is taken away.

And my dear friends, what happened to Isaiah has happened to you. You deserved to be thrown into hell forever where both your body and your sin would burn forever. For what has come out of your lips has infected others. And you have allowed what others have said to infest your heart. But instead Jesus suffered the punishment and torments of hell in your place. But that salvation didn’t just stay there on Good Friday on the cross. No, instead, God came to you with his word, delivering that forgiveness to you, so that just the sin is removed and atoned for. And after that you are left standing. These words end in a very beautiful way: “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”” (Isaiah 6:8 NIV11-GKE)

The Triune God burns away Isaiah’s sin. And then what happens? The persons within the Trinity speak to each other. There is this great and glad task they have. They want someone to go out and share this forgiveness with others. To begin with Isaiah would have shouted, “do not ever send me!” Now he says, “send me, send me!” He does this for one simple reason: those who are forgiven are glad to share that forgiveness with others.

Let’s travel back in a sermon a little. What would you say to the young woman who was terrified to have children because she was terrified of handing those sins down to her children? You would tell her what the Lord told Isaiah: Your sins are forgiven. Your contagious words are burned away and you are left still standing, forgiven. You would tell her that there is no person better qualified to raise children than her. But that worthiness does not come from her. It comes from pointing her children again and again to the cross where salvation was won and to the word where that forgiveness is delivered to us. You’d tell her that every day her child will see you, a mom, who is full of contagious and infectious sins, who takes those sins to Jesus. There can be no better parent than that.

So we too, can and should start out by saying, “Don’t dare send me.’” Because our sins are infectious and contagious. But, let us end this morning by speaking just as Isaiah did: “Send me, send me!”

1 ”טְמֵֽא־שְׂפָתַ֙יִם֙“

2 ”נִדְמֵ֗יתִי“

The Lord Sends Us To Speak (Epiphany 4)

Holy Spirit

The Lord Sends Us To Speak

It’s your turn to speak. When I was a child we had “show and tell” in school. Just like you would expect, we would take something that was very important to us and precious to school. Then, one by one, each of us would show what we liked. Then we would tell our classmates what we liked. And the teacher would says those words, “It’s your turn to speak.’” And when the teacher said those words, there was nothing holding us back. But then what happened? We got a little older and, sadly, we realized that not everyone likes the same toys we like. And they aren’t afraid to let us know. For us as Christians, our Lord has invited us to show and tell this great gift, this great treasure of God’s word with those in our lives. But we soon learn the powerful lesson that that invitation is easier said than done. There is nothing new under the sun. In God’s word this morning we see that it was the same in Jeremiah’s time. In Jeremiah 1, we read: 4 The word of the Lord came to me, saying, 5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”” (Jeremiah 1:4–5 NIV11-GKE)

In these words the Lord approaches Jeremiah and gives him an amazing invitation. He invites him to speak God’s word. But even more than that, he invites him to speak God’s word as a full-time work and calling as a prophet. But, instead of the pure joy we might expect, we find a different reaction in Jeremiah: ““Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”” (Jeremiah 1:6 NIV11-GKE)

Jeremiah responds to this joyous invitation with an objection. He says that he is too young.1(Jeremiah 1:6 BHS-T)}} It’s easy to look at Jeremiah and say, “what’s wrong with you? Don’t you see the great calling the Lord is offering you?” But my friends in Christ, there’s a little more that you need to learn. Jeremiah would be sent to share God’s word with God’s people. The problem was that some of God’s people hated God’s word and the messengers who shared God’s word. Later on in this book Jeremiah is thrown into a muddy cistern with slimy walls so that they get rid of him and put him to death.2(Jeremiah 38:6 BHS-T)}} The sort of opposition we face today is not the same. But yet we still throw up objections for not speaking God’s word, don’t we? Who will listen to me? I am too young. Who will listen to me? I am too old. Who will listen to me? I don’t know enough of God’s word. Or, if you’re in my shoes: Who will listen to me? I know too much. How many times have I had to answer the question, “why do bad things happen to good people? Will my answer come across as something more than memorized, treating the person as a person? And, if given more time, we could come up with even more objections, couldn’t we? But what does the Lord do with these excuses? We read: “But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.” (Jeremiah 1:7 NIV11-GKE)

Notice how there were no excuses for Jeremiah. Jeremiah was a teenager when he was sent to be a prophet. Yet the Lord still sent him. And today the Lord has sent us too, as a congregation, and also individually, as Christians to speak God’s word. Your situation is a little different than Jeremiah’s. He was sent officially as a prophet of God. Your situation is more personal and private. You and Jeremiah each have different calls. But both you and Jeremiah have the same invitation to speak and share God’s word. So the Lord speaks law to Jeremiah, letting him know that his excuses don’t hold any weight. And he does the same with us. But then where does the Lord go? We read: “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 1:8 NIV11-GKE)

The Lord sends Jeremiah out to speak with real promises. And what are these real promises? He gives Jeremiah a real promise of real protection. Now, step back and think about this a moment. Our promises of protection are always conditional and temporary. For there are elements of this world that are out of our control. But this is not the case with our Lord. He can protect us from harm. And whatever harm he does allow to come to us, he allows to come into our lives for our good. So the Lord gives him a real promise of real protection. But the Lord has even more promises to give: “Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth.” (Jeremiah 1:9 NIV11-GKE)

After a real promise of real protection, the Lord gives Jeremiah a real promise of his real presence. The Lord reaches out and physically and actually touches Jeremiah’s mouth. It would have been enough to say, “you have my word.” But the Lord goes the extra step. He reaches out and actually touches Jeremiah’s mouth. Why does he do this? He does this because Jeremiah is flesh and blood with real doubts and real temptations to despair. And aren’t we the same? Aren’t we flesh and blood with real doubts and real temptations to despair? So the Lord reaches out to us with his own body and blood, along with that bread and wine, and touches us too. He forgives our sins. He covers up and atones for our excuses and objections. He covers up all our objections to speaking God’s word with all the perfect examples of Jesus going out and reaching out so that he could tirelessly speak the gospel. So the Lord sends us out to speak. He sends us out to speak with real promises: Real protection and Real presence. But he sends us out with one more gift. We read: “See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”” (Jeremiah 1:10 NIV11-GKE)

How sad it is that we face the temptation to be not just afraid of people, but also of God’s word itself. The Lord sends us out to speak with power. There is power in God’s word. Our role is not to apologize for it or protect it. Our role is to speak it. C. H. Spurgeon, the famous revivalist preacher once said that you don’t need to treat the gospel like it’s a pet in a cage, as if you need to protect it. No, instead, the gospel is like a lion. It can defend itself just fine. You just let it out of the cage.3 And yet, what do we do? We apologize for the gospel and guard it. When our friend at work our child riding with us in the car asks us a theological question, what do we say. We say, “I think…” We say, “I feel that…” Instead, let us say what the bible says. Let us say, “God’s word says.’” The lion needs no defender. The Holy Spirit needs no nanny. Such power the Holy Spirit gives his word. God’s word alone can create life. God’s word alone can create faith. God’s word alone can deliver forgiveness. God’s word alone can strengthen our faith and give us freedom from our fears of other people and fear of God’s word itself.

So my friends in Christ, the Lord sends you out to speak. Do just that. But speak with the entire context and encouragement found here in these words. Speak God’s word with God’s promises of real protection and real presence. Speak God’s word with all the power contained in it. And after that, leave all the results in God’s lap. Amen.

1 ”כִּי־נַ֖עַר אָנֹֽכִי“

2 ”יְשַׁלְּח֥וּ אֶֽת־יִרְמְיָ֖הוּ בַּחֲבָלִ֑ים וּבַבּ֤וֹר“

3 Spurgeon said this at the British and Foreign Bible Society meeting, 5 May 1875.

That’s not what I ordered (Epiphany 3)


That’s not what I ordered

This is not what I ordered. Years ago, I went to a restaurant. And there was table next to mine. And at that table one by one, the waiter took each person’s order. Minutes passed by and the food came. And the waiter put in front of one of the women at that table a big steak. And as soon as she saw it, those were the words she spoke: “You need to take this back. That’s not what I ordered.” There is this frustrating offense each of us goes through when we order and ask for one thing, but get another. That’s what we have in front of us this morning. In Luke’s gospel, we read these words: 16 He came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. As usual, he entered the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read. 17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him, and unrolling the scroll, he found the place where it was written: 18 The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. 20 He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. And the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today as you listen, this Scripture has been fulfilled.”” (Luke 4:16–21 CSB17)

Here, in these words, Jesus shares with the people of own town and his own people good news. About 800 years before this the prophet Isaiah was writing to the Jewish people. The Jewish people had rebelled against the Lord so powerfully and persistently that he allowed the Babylonians to come down, conquer them, and then lead them away as captive slaves. But the Lord had good news for them. First, their captivity under the Babylonians would one day come to an end. But, second, there was even better news. The captivity they had to death would be conquered. The spiritual darkness inside of them would be forgiven. And they would be brought into the light. Their slavery to sin would not exist anymore because they would be set free. That is what Jesus said to them. And it was a good message. But what he said right after that was even more good news. Jesus doesn’t just tell them that the Lord would free them. Jesus also tells them when. Right then, in their hearing, these words are fulfilled. There can be no greater or more joyous message than what Jesus shared with them. But what happened next was definitely not what Jesus ordered. We read: “They were all testifying against him and were amazed by the gracious words that came from his mouth; yet they said, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”” (Luke 4:22 CSB17)

Jesus shares this amazing message of forgiveness with them. And we would expect “amens” and invitations to preach some more to flow from their lips. Instead, they begin to testify against Jesus.1. Instead, they were shocked at his words of grace.2 These precious words of undeserved love towards them that Jesus was sharing with them—that’s what they were offended at. They were offended at Jesus’ words of gracious love towards them because in their own hearts they had concluded that they had no need for God’s grace or mercy. Jesus didn’t order this. Jesus did not ask for or plan for them to reject such amazing good news. But, in what follows, we can be sure that they did not order what Jesus spoke next: 23 Then he said to them, “No doubt you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Doctor, heal yourself. What we’ve heard that took place in Capernaum, do here in your hometown also.’” 24 He also said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25 But I say to you, there were certainly many widows in Israel in Elijah’s days, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months while a great famine came over all the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them except a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27 And in the prophet Elisha’s time, there were many in Israel who had leprosy, and yet not one of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”” (Luke 4:23–27 CSB17)

What Jesus says here in these words are some of the harshest words that Jesus ever spoke. But, my dear friends in Christ, he spoke them in love. And, as we begin to look at them, what amazes us is how Jesus lets us know what we would not have learned if we read these parts of the Old Testament by themselves. There were many widows in Elijah’s day in Israel. But the Lord did not send Elijah to perform a miracle for any of those widows. Instead, he sent Elijah to the Gentile widow. And there were many people with leprosy in Israel in Elisha’s day. But the Lord did not send Elisha there. Instead, he sent him to the enemy of the Israelites, to Naaman the Syrian. Why did the Lord do this? Why did he send Elijah and Elisha outside of Israel to perform miracles. The answer is this: in order to appreciate the good news, you first need to see that it is good news. And in our final words for this section, we ask the question: How did the fellow members of Jesus’ church receive his message? 28 When they heard this, everyone in the synagogue was enraged. 29 They got up, drove him out of town, and brought him to the edge of the hill that their town was built on, intending to hurl him over the cliff. 30 But he passed right through the crowd and went on his way.” (Luke 4:28–30 CSB17)

They excommunicated Jesus. Then they tried to execute Jesus. Now, for us here this morning, what do we do with all of this? Here in these words your Savior invites you Embrace what Jesus orders for you so that this good message has meaning. Jesus came to his own congregation in his day preaching such amazing good news, asking, ordering, expecting that they would embrace this message with joy. Instead, he got the opposite. We too face the same temptation. When we hear these words of forgiveness there should be joy in our hearts, but instead we face this real temptation to say, “I didn’t order this.’” We have this real temptation towards apathy. Apathy is where you should feel something—either good or bad. But instead, you feel nothing. Or, instead of apathy, you feel antipathy. Antipathy is intense and immense hatred. What does this look like? It looks like this: A pastor prepares a solid sermon, exposing sin and expressing God’s love for them in Christ. And the person says, “yeah, that just didn’t speak to me.’” It’s looks like this: Making the melody of the hymn more important than the content of the hymn. It’s when Jesus becomes our mentor instead of our Messiah, our cheerleader instead of our life-bringer.

And so, out of love for us, just has he had love for those in his own congregation, he exposes our apathy and antipathy. And we say, “I didn’t order this.’” But what follows is even more amazing. After he has prepared our hearts, he takes us back to the good news. He sends his Holy Spirit into our hearts. And our new person inside of us says, “I didn’t order that gospel message.’” Just as the gentile widow and Naaman the Syrian could not have every said, “I ordered and asked for salvation,” we too can say the same. The widow told Elijah that he could eat with her one last meal before they all died. And then they had many months of mini-miracles with food that did not run out. Naaman was looking for a cure to the disease in his body—that’s what he ordered. But instead, he received a miracle for both his body and his soul. He found the true God, the Lord. And the Lord does the same for us. None of us asked Jesus to be our Savior. None of us were able to save ourselves. None of us ordered this. But what we did not order, Jesus gave us. Jesus gave us a new heart to appreciate this good news. Then he shows us that he is our Savior.

And so, my friends in Christ. None of us can say, “I ordered this.” But let us all praise God for it. Let us praise and thank him for this good news that he gives to us. And let us praise him that he prepares us for this good news. Amen.

1 “Ⲕⲁⲓⲡⲁⲛⲧⲉⲥⲉⲙⲁⲣⲧⲩⲣⲟⲩⲛⲁⲩⲧⲱ” (Luke 4:22 GNT-ALEX)

2 “ⲉⲑⲁⲩⲙⲁⲍⲟⲛⲉⲡⲓⲧⲟⲓⲥⲗⲟⲅⲟⲓⲥⲧⲏⲥⲭⲁⲣⲓⲧⲟⲥ” (Luke 4:22 GNT-ALEX)

Jesus Reveals His Glory (Epiphany 2)


Jesus Reveals His Glory

Ihate the wait. When I was a kid, right about this time of the year the Superbowl would be finished. And they would interview the players on the winning team, “So, now that you won the Superbowl, where are you going to go?” And what would they say? “I’m going to Disneyland.'” Even as a child I knew that was not the answer I would have given. I didn’t want to go to Disneyland because I hated the wait. So you got to go to Space Mountain. But my older brother and sister told me the story of how long the wait was on a hot and sticky day just to get to the front of the line. And still to this day, I have no desire to be out on Black Friday. I hate the wait. But, as we look at these words this morning, I see that I’m not alone. In John 2, we read: 1 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”” (John 2:1–3 NIV11-GKE)

It was the third day. But it was the third day from what? A few short days before this Jesus was baptized. And there in the river Jordan the Holy Spirit rested on him and gave him power—true power. And all those who were there knew what this meant. There were hundreds of prophecies and promises spoken of in the Old Testament. And one day God would anoint someone to fulfill those prophecies and promises with such great power. And there, in the Jordan river those prophecies pointed to and were fulfilled in Jesus. And so Jesus was anointed as our Prophet, Priest, and King. They saw it. And then what happened? Nothing. Hour after hour, day after day, nothing happened. That’s the context we need to understand as we begin to walk through these words. I hated waiting in lines. But Mary and Jesus’ disciples—they hated waiting for the signs and wonders to begin like having to watch too many previews before the movie starts.

So, in these words, there’s a wedding. Jesus and his disciples are invited. But Mary shows up. And when the wine runs out Mary lets her son know that they are out of wine. It’s hard to know what to do with her comment. Is it a good comment? Is she letting Jesus know of a problem and leaving the result in his hands? After all, one of the dilemmas we can face is to pray to our Lord to fix a real problem in our lives. And then, just as soon as we’ve told Jesus to fix the problem, we then step into his domain, telling Jesus when and how, if we were God, we would fix the problem. So this could be a good example. She tells him the problem, leaving the solution in his hands. On the other hand, it could be a bad example. It could be like when the husband and wife are sitting together on the couch and she says to him, “The garbage is full.” Every husband knows that those words make it appear as if that’s a simple statement of fact. But, in reality, it’s a command. The statement “the garbage is full” really means, “take the trash out.”

We don’t know which direction to take with her comment. But what we do know is that she too was waiting to see her Son’s glory. But he responds to her in a very unique way. We read: ““Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”” (John 2:4 NIV11-GKE)

The wording here is a little stronger than one would conclude by reading our english version here.1 Jesus is asking her what she and he had in common. Most of the time when we run into this phrase in the bible it’s harsh and confrontational. Here it is simply Jesus setting the record straight. He is her son—and a humble son at that. But he is also the son of God. And now is when, as a grown up, he begins his public ministry. This is the moment when their relationship changes. But how does Mary respond to this? 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. 8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”” (John 2:5–8 NIV11-GKE)

Mary receives correction from her Son and her Savior. And what does she do? She lets the servants know that if the right time does come, they should be ready. So the right time does arrive. They fill up the big water basins with about 200 gallons of water. They take the water to the master of the banquet. And then the master of the banquet responds: 8 They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”” (John 2:8–10 NIV11-GKE)

When there’s an open bar, nobody brings out the bottom shelf liquor first. First, you bring out the name brand, top shelf alcohol. Then, when the people begin to leave and the people have already had too much to drink and aren’t as picky—then you bring out the bottom shelf liquor. The master of the banquet commends the groom for saving the best till last. But mary knows, and the servants know, and the disciples know, and we too know what the truth it. This was a miracle. The glory they had been waiting for they finally saw. In the closing words we read: “What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory;” (John 2:11 NIV11-GKE)

Here in Cana, at this wedding, Jesus reveals his glory. But that brings us to the huge question we need to ask this morning: why. Why does Jesus perform this miracle? How does this reveal his glory? Here John tells us that this is the first of Jesus’ miracles.2 But why is it the first? This miracle gave his disciples a framework and a context for them to understand all the signs, wonders, and miracles to follow. Jesus did this first to let them know that he would be performing his miracles to show not his wrath and judgment, but instead, his mercy. Our prayer of the day, at the beginning of the service speaks about that. We prayed these words: O God, you reveal your mighty power chiefly in showing mercy and kindness. If Jesus did not perform this miracle, what was the worst that could happen? The worst that might happen is that they would suffer shame and embarrassment. There’s no disease here to heal. There’s no demon to drive out. There’s no one here to raise from the dead. Jesus performs these miracles not so that we would say, “wow, look at his power.” No, instead, he performs these miracles so that would say, “wow, look at his mercy.” But that’s the sort of Savior we have. He not only rescued this married couple from their sin by suffering all the shame and embarrassment that the world deserved by dying on the cross. But he did so much more. He rescued them from shame and embarrassment too.

And my dear friends, hasn’t he done the same with you? How many sins have you done when you were five that those around you when you were ten? How many sins have you committed when you were ten that people still remember when you were twenty. True, there might be some. But your Savior not only forgives those sins by suffering your shame in your place. But for so many of them, he makes them go away. And what’s amazing to think of is not how many sins you remember from your past, but instead, how many, many more have you forgotten—and everyone else too.

That’s why Jesus reveals his glory. Jesus reveals his glory chiefly in acts of mercy. But from that flows a wonderful result. We read: “and his disciples believed in him.” (John 2:11 NIV11-GKE) When his disciples saw that this was the sort of Shepherd and Savior they had, they gladly and zealously said in their hearts, “I will follow a Savior like that.” And we too say the same. We too follow Jesus just as they did. For he shows his mercy not just by forgiving our sins. But he also shows his mercy by so often erasing even the memory of that sin. What an amazing Savior to follow.

And so, Jesus reveals his glory. He reveals his glory in acts of mercy. He reveals his glory so that we would believe in him. Amen.

1 “ⲕⲁⲓⲗⲉⲅⲉⲓⲁⲩⲧⲏⲟⲓ̅ⲥ̅ⲧⲓⲉⲙⲟⲓⲕⲁⲓⲥⲟⲓⲅⲩⲛⲁⲓ” (John 2:4 GNT-ALEX)

2 “ⲁⲣⲭⲏⲛ” (John 2:11 GNT-ALEX)