Second Sunday after Epiphany: Loving Our Spouse in Christ

Wedding at Cana
At the direction of Mary, Jesus performs His first miracle, changing water into wine at a wedding feast in Cana (John 2:1-11). From a book by Martin Luther interpreting the Epistles and Gospels, 1530.

Lessons: Amos 9:11-15, Romans 12:6-16, John 2:1-11
Hymns: LSB 409, 402, 408, 401, 398

Listen to the entire service here (the sermon alone is above).

      Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

      Last week we heard when Jesus was twelve years old. This week, Jesus is now 30 or so. Last week, Jesus went with Joseph and Mary to Jerusalem for the Passover, where Jesus would have seen the many animal sacrifices that pointed ahead to His own sacrificial death on the cross. This week, Jesus begins His ministry after having been baptized by John the Baptist, and Jesus performs His first miracle by turning water into wine at a wedding feast in Cana. Last week, we heard how parents, grandparents, and Godparents are to love their children in Christ by ensuring that they, like Jesus, are about their heavenly Father’s things by being in the Word of God daily at home and weekly in the Divine Service. This week, we will hear God’s teaching on loving others in Christ, namely spouses or someone being courted.

      In today’s Gospel, Jesus and Mary are attending a wedding. This probably means Joseph had already joined the Church Triumphant. The last specific reference to Joseph in the Gospels was when Jesus was twelve. Later, there are some references to Jesus being the carpenter’s Son, but they do not say that Joseph is still living during Jesus’ public ministry. Anyway, Jesus could have used His divine abilities by keeping Joseph alive, but that was not why Jesus was sent, nor was that a good purpose to perform His first miracle. Instead of extending the earthly life of his adopted father, Jesus performs His first miracle by extending the festivities of a wedding. The significance can hardly be overstated that His first miracle occurred at a wedding. It harkens back to the Creation account. After God makes everything, including Adam, He realizes one thing is not good—that the man is alone. So He creates Eve as his helpmeet. The first recorded event after Creation is the creation of marriage. And now our Lord’s first miracle is at the wedding at Cana. St. John reports this is the first of His signs in which Jesus manifests His glory. The Greek word for “first” can be understood as something that could occur first chronologically or first in terms of importance. Perhaps it means both.

      You see, all marriages between a man and woman picture some important realities. The greatest is the picture reflected in Christ who is wed to His Bride, the Church. By joining Himself to her, Jesus takes full responsibility for His Bride. He atones for her, He covers up every spot and wrinkle and presents her to His Father as an unblemished, holy, glorious Church. That Christ has wed Himself to the Church reveals His total fidelity toward the Church—how He will never abandon her, and He is completely committed to her (Eph. 5:22-33).

      What this means for you is that Jesus will not abandon you despite your many sins, for Jesus has already atoned for your sin on the cross. He is completely committed to you, as your Baptism proves and your opportunity to receive the Lord’s Supper demonstrates. Jesus loves you unconditionally. He is not interested in divorcing you. For He has come to be your Help and Defender, your Savior and your Advocate.

      Sinful man does not have these perfect attributes of Jesus, unless He credits them to us by faith. On our own, we do not love unconditionally, and so marriages in this life suffer from many troubles. But these troubles are further multiplied when people do not follow God’s will for marriage.

      God created a strong sexual desire in men and women so that they will seek marriage and have children. In our day, however, marriage is avoided and so are children. Some imagine the planet has a population problem that must be controlled. Yet, by God’s divine plan and providence, the Earth keeps on producing enough food to sustain the rising population. And many countries are starting to face the problem of not enough younger people to sustain the older generations.

      What the Church must do—and Christian parents must do for their children—is to extol the good things of God. We want our children to love what we love. So let’s also teach them to love marriage and children. If we talk regularly to our children about growing up, finding a Christian spouse, getting married, and then moving in together, they will learn the Christian way. If we ignore the subject, they will think what society is doing must be the right way. It’s not only temptation that causes our youth to transgress God’s laws on these matters, but it is also a lack of instruction on God’s Word. Many are misdirected.

      I recently saw a clip from some discussion between a few women in media. One said she didn’t live with her boyfriend before marriage. The others were shocked, for they figured everyone cohabited. She even admitted that she is ashamed to tell people because the route she took is so unpopular. That’s the world we live in. The one who did what is right is vilified. The ones who do what is right in their own eyes (and wicked in God’s) are seen as the wise ones. Let this not be so among you. Instead, listen to what God teaches. Reject—even condemn—the “wise” ways of the world. Fight for what is right. Do what is right. Don’t give in to these popular trends, blaming yourself or figuring there is something wrong with you for not going with the flow. That’s what Satan is trying to do. Manipulate and lie. Hurt and deceive. Make you feel bad for following God’s Word.

      Jesus attended a wedding because He extols marriage. He approves of the marriage between one man and one woman. After all, He instituted marriage in the Garden of Eden. We, too, must love and extol the gift of holy matrimony. We are to love the spouses God has given us in the same unconditional love in which God loves us.

      In our day, we have idolized the notion of love. This kind of love is merely an emotion, perhaps even an infatuation with something. It isn’t biblical love. It is often rooted in a love the self. People are saying, “Love is love” as they attempt to redefine marriage. It is a phrase dismissive of what the world has known about marriage since God established it. A better way to consider love is not from what the world says, but what God teaches and exemplifies. As a result, we are to love others in Christ. If you are married, love your spouse in Christ. To do so would be to fulfill the place God has given you. As a husband, you love your wife in Christ by providing for her, protecting her, and covering for all her faults. As a wife, you love your husband in Christ by submitting to him and serving him, despite his faults.

      Satan tried to tempt Jesus in the wilderness so that His first miracle would be turning stones into bread. Feeding Himself may seem good, but it would have been self-serving. That is not the nature of God. Jesus turned water into wine to serve others. In the same way, marriage is not about my needs, my life, my wishes, my…my…my. Instead, we live for our spouses and work to fulfill their needs.

      For those who have not yet entered into marriage, it is important for them to also love in Christ. This means guys must not be seeking to get their girlfriends in bed with them. That is usually selfish behavior that results in many hurts and scars. Instead, when a guy loves a girl in Christ, he will not seek to fulfill his own passions, but he will instead seek to enter holy matrimony. That way she is safe, and he is completely committed to her and they have received God’s blessing.

      It is not loving one another in Christ when the bed comes before marriage. It is self-love and the fulfilling of passions. Yes, children often made through these illegitimate unions. These children are created by God. It is God’s way of saying, “OK, you two claim to love each other. Now commit to one another in marriage. Do what is right for each other. And do what is best for the child.” Too many children grow up watching their parents deal with custody rights when they should be growing up with a married mom and dad who are together and have committed to one another. That’s why it is so important to love our spouse in Christ and, when seeking love, to do so in Christ.

      Some do not think they should enter marriage because they haven’t succeeded enough in life. They think marriage is for those who are financially stable. We wrongly teach our children to go through two decades of school before they should even consider marriage. The Bible doesn’t demand college educations or buying homes or travelling the world before couples consider marriage.

      When Jesus turned water into wine, He demonstrated that He will take care of the countless souls who enter into holy matrimony with little or nothing. Jesus turned little (water) into a lot (wine). Jesus didn’t even need to do this, but He sought to prevent the couple from embarrassment for having run out of requisite refreshments and amusements. How much more will He provide for what we need to sustain our bodies and lives! He will bless those who enter marriage.

      One last thing about marriage. We remain sinners after getting married. And we are married to sinners. No one is perfect. Many of the flaws we may see in our spouses cannot be fixed. Therefore, what must prevail in marriage is a forgiving heart. With the forgiveness Jesus earned for us on the cross, we readily forgive those whom God has placed in our lives to love. It is written, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:4-7).

      That is the loving heart Jesus has for you. He loves you and forgives you. He cancels out every last sin, because He has redeemed you on the cross. He forgives you of any failings you’ve had in marriage or your transgressions with the Sixth Commandment. The fine wine at Cana pictures the Blood of Christ, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins.  So receive Christ with joy. Amen.

      The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen