The grace, mercy, and peace of Christ Jesus rest upon each and every one of you this day.
When you think of miracles, what typically comes to mind? I’m going to go out on a limb and say that most likely you think of something jaw-dropping and supernatural and utterly amazing. You wouldn’t be wrong in thinking this. After all, whenever we hear of miracles occurring in Scripture, something jaw-dropping and supernatural and utterly amazing is happening. Dead people are rising to life. Blind people are regaining sight. Deaf people can hear again. Lame people are picking up their mats and bounding away full of joy. Lepers are being cleansed. Ordinary well water is being turned into wine, and not just any old wine, but the very best wine. That’s the miracle we encounter today in our Gospel lesson—Jesus’ first miracle—where He turned water into wine at the wedding of Cana.
Now comes the big question, though: WHY? Why does God do miracles? The answer is so simple that it may surprise you. You see, the word “miracle” in the original Greek (seimeion) is better translated as “sign.” Just take a look at verse 11 in your Gospel lesson for today. There the translation is “more correct.” “This, the first of His signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested His glory.” That right there is the whole reason God does miracles—to “epiphanize,” to manifest His glory; to make Himself, His presence, and His grace, mercy, peace…His love known to those in His midst.
Sounds simple enough, right? Unfortunately, though, this is where we often get ourselves into trouble. Like Moses in our Old Testament lesson for today, we get walking down the narrow path of faith, and we find that we’re not seeing anything miraculous or mind-blowing taking place in our lives. In fact, the walk and journey of faith can oftentimes seem very boring and predictable to us; very mundane and unexciting. Sometimes it can even be downright miserable. Our big plans don’t work out. Bad things happen to us, while good things happen to “far less deserving” people…even rank unbelievers and enemies of God. “God, it’s not fair! God, we’re dying here! God, we’re so-o-o-o-o bored! There has to be more to this whole life of faith thing than just this! God, give me a sign. Work some sort of miracle for me so I know; so I can be sure that all this isn’t just one big waste of time. Work some sort of miracle for me so that I can be sure that I’m on the right track and You’re happy with me. Give me some sort of miraculous sign so that everyone else will know that I’m right and they’re wrong. God, work a miracle and make them change and come around to my way of thinking and doing things.” Folks: If none of that sounds familiar to you, then either you’re not listening or you’re a liar.
And did you notice in all that that we are the ones who wind up trying to be in charge and call the shots? We’re the ones who wind up treating God liking He’s a hired hand, or worse yet—we’re the customer, and the customer is always right. If God wants our continued business, He needs to come through right now, and come through in a big and miraculous way! Of course, I’m well-aware that this makes us sound like real self-centered and selfish jerks. I know that this isn’t always the case when it comes to asking God for a miracle. In fact, I’d bet dollars-to-dimes that everyone here has asked God for a miracle with the very best and humble intentions. “God, I really need this miracle right now. Please let my loved one pull through. Please let this happen, just this one time. Please give me this miracle, and I promise that I will be a better Christian. I’ll read my Bible more. I’ll go to Bible study regularly. I’ll put more money in the plate. I’ll volunteer more. Whatever it takes, Lord. Just help me out this one time. I really need this miracle.”
And it’s not all that unusual at this point that someone else, like a pastor or a nurse or loved one—young or old—happens on-scene or simply speaks up and wants to share some Gospel and some prayer. “Not right now, I’m looking for my miracle.” Both I and your deaconess can speak from experience that we’ve been shut-down—politely—but shut-down nonetheless because the person looking for the miraculous didn’t want to be bothered with the mundane. “Not right now. I’m good. I don’t need Scripture and prayer right now. I know all that stuff. I need a miracle.” Like Moses, they want to see the full glory of God on full display.
But…that brings up a good point: How does God address Moses’ selfishly ignorant request? "I will make all My goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you My name 'The LORD.' And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious and merciful, but…you cannot see My face, for man shall not see Me and live." And then what does God do? He shows Moses His backside. That’s it! Moses gets to look at the south end of northbound God! That’s the miracle God gives him!
Folks: Nothing has changed. We’re talking about the almighty and unchanging God here. Nothing has changed. We still, in our sinfulness, cannot look at or behold the full, unveiled glory of God and live to talk about it. Peter, James, and John once got a glimpse of the transfigured Christ in glory, and we’re told that they basically fainted and became like dead men. Jesus had to go over and tap them awake when it was all over. But…in spite of our sinfulness, God still shows us His mercy, His goodness, His love, and His grace. Because of His great and unconditional love for us, He continues to “back in,” so to speak, and show us Himself in ways and means that won’t destroy us, but instead draw us near so that we may have and receive life, and have an receive in abundance, I might add.
Look to this altar. Look to this font. Look to and listen to what’s being proclaimed from the lectern and the pulpit; from the east, where the glory of the Lord comes from, as we hear in Ezekiel 43. Here is your almighty and gracious God and Lord, essentially “backing in” to our presence so that He may dwell with us and remain with us and feed us, nourish us, guide us, and protect us. (Yes, I am fully aware that this makes me a big-old rear end. I’m okay with that.) Look here to this crucifix. Think about what’s happening here. Here on this blood-soaked instrument of death; here on this icon of criminality and barbarity—the very worst and lowest humanity has to offer—here is almighty God in the flesh, loving you, caring for you, and delivering you from all sin, death, and damnation.
And that brings up one final point that needs to be made regarding miracles. We hear in today’s Gospel lesson that Mary, the mother of Jesus, goes to Him looking for Him to do something—anything—in order to stave off the intense shame and dishonor and ridicule that would inevitably arise when it was discovered that the wedding party (more than likely close family members of Mary) had run out of wine so soon. Understand: Mary wasn’t going to Jesus because she wanted God-in-the-flesh to work a divine miracle. She was going to her son in a panic. “Do something!”
This is when Jesus speaks very calmly to her, not as her son, per se, but as the Word of God in the flesh. “Woman, what does this have to do with Me?” I know I’ve preached on this in the past, but it definitely bears repeating. That’s NOT what Jesus said. That’s a very poor translation of a very difficult Greek phrase. In the original Greek, Jesus said to His mother, “What to you and to me?” Well…that doesn’t really flow off the tongue well, does it? “What to you and to me?” That just doesn’t work grammatically. It doesn’t flow. It sounds like cave man speak. But…there is GREAT theology in this question of Christ. What Jesus is asking His mother is, “This is a God-problem. How does the solution pertain to you and me? What do you have to do with the remedy to this God-problem? What can you contribute? This is not a problem that can be solved by man. This is a problem that can only be solved by God. You and I—together—have nothing to do with this. This is for Me to handle…not you.” And Mary hears this…and believes. That in itself is a miracle. She doesn’t balk at or bristle up as if her son just disrespected her. Rather, it’s at that moment that what she hears from her God and Lord enters her ears and opens her eyes of faith. All that she had stored up and pondered in her heart when that angel had made the miraculous birth announcement so long ago was now flooding back into her soul and her memory. “Do whatever He tells you.”
My friends: Again, I direct your attention to this crucifix. “What to you and to Me?” The wage of sin is death; not just physical death, but eternal death. The wage of just one single sin earns you an eternity of damnation. That’s a God-sized problem that requires a God-sized solution! If ever there is need for a miracle, this is it, for ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of the Lord. We’re all sinners, by nature, which means, by nature, we’re all damned. By virtue of our lineage and descent from Adam, we’re all conceived and born sinners. We’re all conceived and born as enemies of God, who deserve nothing but present and eternal punishment.
And yet…the great and undeserved miracle of God’s grace and love breaks through, in spite of our sin…yea, BECAUSE of our sin. Here on this cross, veiled in the flesh of the lowliest of men, here is God’s just and righteous wrath against all sin, and here—at the same time—is God’s immeasurable and incomprehensible love for you. Here, and only here, is where the miracle of God Himself in the flesh paid the wage in full for each and every sin of the world for all time. Here, and only here, is where the miracle of God Himself in the flesh cried out in victory, “It is finished!” Here, and only here, is where God Himself provided the God-sized remedy to our deadly condition. Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
Now…can I make you believe any of this? Can I make you look to these ordinary elements of Word, water, bread, and wine and recognize Christ in your midst, feeding and nourishing you? No…that takes a miracle. That’s the miracle of faith, which God Himself continues to work on you, in you, and through you each and every time His Word is rightly taught and His sacraments rightly administered. Don’t overlook or shun these miraculous means! This is how God works!
The world is a tough and miserable and dark place, and it’s only getting worse. It’s hard to not look around nowadays and cry out to God for some sort of miracle. “Make it all stop!” My friends: Here is God’s miracle for you. It’s right here. He’s right here. Here is the full glory of God for you. Yes…this glory is veiled, but the full glory of God, which dwells bodily in Jesus Christ, is right here. You’re not getting cheated or slighted in any way, shape, or form. The full glory of God comes to you and dwells with you and in you right now, all for the purpose of manifesting and making known His great love and mercy and grace that He has for you in Christ and because of Christ. It’s that simple. It’s that powerful. It’s that beautiful. Here is the true miracle of Life. Here is Immanuel—God with us—for you, for your forgiveness, and for your peace and assurance.
To Him alone be all glory, all praise, and all honor... AMEN.
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