Second Sunday after the Epiphany

Readings: Amos 9:11-15 | Romans 12:6-16 | John 2:1-11

Text: John 2:1-11 

There are two Old Testament readings assigned for this Sunday. One is from Exodus 33:12-23. In that, we read: 

18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “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 will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” 21 And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.” 

Moses wanted to see God in His glory. The trouble is, sinful man cannot see Him and live. Moses was permitted to see his back. 

Centuries have been spent by man seeking the face and the glory of God: 

  • Mystics seek God in emotional experiences. 
  • Jewish mystics have sought it through a devotion to the Torah: “Kabbalah takes man beyond the normative understanding of reason. It goes beyond the exoteric part of Torah and transcends normative existence. It uncovers many of the infinite layers of the secrets of life, of Creation, of the soul, of the heavenly spheres. It penetrates beyond the garments and the body of the Torah. It is the very core and soul of Torah, the ultimate revelation of Divinity – exposing the inner meaning, effects and purpose of Torah and mitzvahs.”1 
  • Spiritualists old and new seek to find God through their own devices—repetition, music, occasionally intoxication—all so they can achieve what even Moses was not permitted to see. 
  • For His part, God gave the Levitical code to keep sinful man at a safe distance. Through the blood of sacrifice, water of purification, the smoke of incense, the veil before the Ark—God covered His glory so that they would not perish. 

Enter Jesus onto the scene. The Evangelist John comments that the “Word became flesh and tabernacled among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only-begotten Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) It’s a new era for the glory of God and sinful man. The sin hasn’t gotten any better (that’s the delusion that humanity is advancing over generations). But while we were still as wicked as ever, Christ came and tabernacled in our midst. We certainly did not become more worthy of beholding the glory or face of God. The difference was the incarnation, and the gracious purpose of God to reconcile sinners to Himself. 

At the Wedding at Cana, we hear: 

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.” 

At first glance, it seems unrelated and trivial. So what? Jesus was invited to a friend’s wedding and saved them from a huge embarrassment. But in view of who Jesus is and what He has come to see, there is so much more to behold! 

  • The Lord is revealing Himself in His tabernacle among us in a new way. Where will people see God? Not just in the Temple. How will He show His glory? In this creative work which takes the old and fulfills it; which brings an abundance which man could never conjure up. To whom will He show His glory? Not simply to one man, but to His disciples who believe in Him! 
  • Under the Law, the glory of God had to be kept away from sinful man. When the Word became flesh, He made His intention clear that He wanted to take up a permanent dwelling among this fallen race. 
  • In the Old Testament Lesson we heard from Amos 9:11-15, the Lord says that this new era will be marked by “the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it”—an abundance of cause to rejoice and celebrate. It is a joy and peace that alcohol by itself couldn’t possibly give in its intoxicating properties. As God gave us wine to “gladden the heart of man” (Ps. 104:15), it’s only in seeing the Son of God’s mighty deeds that we know true elation. 

So, this sign shows that God’s restoration has come. Jesus is the end of the waiting of the Law. He is the end of the divide between God and sinful man for all who believe. 

This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him. 
  • Here is the message of Jesus at the wedding in Cana: He is there to show what Moses and Amos anticipated. The glory of the Lord would be seen by people from all nations, even the “remnant of mankind.” (Amos 9 quoted in Acts 15:17). 
  • His glory is manifest in human form (Phil. 2:8). Moses could not see, but here, the Lord is present in the midst of sinners. He is approached by His mother with a request. He is an ordinary guest, and yet the Lord in His glory. 
  • The glory of God is not something for man to seek out on our own deceitful terms. Rather it is what God makes known in His own timing. 

Likewise, with the coming of Jesus in the flesh, and His glory manifest, the answer is no longer: “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live” (Ex. 33:20). Now the face of God is visible in the Son of God [2 Cor. 3:18]. 

Jesus has come to hear our prayers, just as He did of His own mother, to bring us the joy of His salvation, and to make the face of God seen in our midst. This brings us full-circle back to something God gave during the ministry of the Levites. And it is with this unveiled face, and revealed glory, that the Divine Service ends with the Aaronic Benediction:  

24The Lord bless you and keep you;  
25the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;  
26the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. (Num. 6:24-26)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. 

The Baptism of Our Lord

Readings: Isaiah 42:1-7 | 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 | Matthew 3:13-17

Text: Matthew 3:13-17

Who is Jesus? That’s one of the questions that comes up when we consider the Baptism of Our Lord.  Where can we look for an answer? To men? As the dialogue in Mark 8 with the disciples showed, even during His earthly life, there was misunderstanding and disagreement about who He is and what He’s up to. That’s why we, who are called by His Name some two millennia later, need to continually be reminded who Jesus is.

The Name, Jesus, was given to Him at His circumcision (Luke 2:21). It was given with the shedding of His blood. The Name, “The Lord saves” does not come without the shedding of the blood of God’s Son.

God’s Son was placed under the Law, as we heard last week:

4But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” (Galatians 4:4–7)

Under the Law, He became subject to everything we are—every bit of suffering both just and unjust—even though He was without sin and He was under no compulsion to do so. This is foundational to who Jesus is.

Likewise at His Baptism. Reason tells us He had no reason to be there. “I need to be baptized by You and do You come to me?” What is the sinless God-Man doing submitting to a baptism where they are confessing their sins? Just as at His circumcision, He received the mark of the covenant permanently on His body, at His Baptism, He is permanently marked—anointed by the Holy Spirit. He is set apart for God’s purpose.

The Baptism is where Jesus received the title, Christ: the Anointed One. It’s the anointing of the Holy Spirit, for the very work He had come to do: The Lord saves His people from their sins (Matt. 1:23).

He came as Prophet, through whom the Word of God came and is, and who still speaks to us in His Word today (which is why we stand for the Holy Gospel). “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.” (Deuteronomy 18:18)

He came to be the Priest, who stands in that water of sinners because He is the one chosen to make the sin offering for the whole world. As St. Paul says, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.” (1 Timothy 2:5-6) And for our sakes, “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16)

Finally, He is anointed to be the King. He rules over a Kingdom which is not of this world (John 18:36). But His Kingdom does bring deliverance to her citizens. For us, Scripture describes what this King does for us: “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14)

And if all of that isn’t clear enough in the title of Christ, God the Father adds His clear voice to the scene at the Jordan: “Behold! A voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’” In this declaration, it shows that Jesus is not simply a functionary—an underling sent to do the dirty work. This reminds us of the hymn, “He sent no angel to our race, of higher or of lower place, but wore the robe of human frame, and to this world Himself He came.” (LSB 544, “O Love, How Deep” v. 2) God is personally invested in reaching each one of us, seeking our eternal salvation!

His Circumcision and Baptism were not just for Him. They are a sermon to us: The Lord Saves. Jesus is the Christ and the Son of God. “At the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” (Luke 2:21) There God is…in the womb just as we once were, just as all people are. But there is God sanctifying the womb, making it a holy dwelling for His life-giving work. At His circumcision, there the Son of God is again, as a newborn, recently covered in vernix and blood and mucus. But here, He sheds His first blood and bears the mark of God’s promise: “So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant…and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 17:13; 12:3).

Likewise, His Baptism wasn’t just a show for one day. It was a teaching for us who were to come. It cannot be that we are saved simply by knowing about certain truths about God. James says that even the demons know truths about God, but this causes them to shudder [James 2:19]. It preaches a reality to us, by which we might also be called sons of God. Hear it once more:

16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’”

Certainly Adam would have been considered a son of God, but he and His bride forsook their position. They and their offspring became enemies of God, brutal rebels out to prove their place by their own way. This whole course was a dead end…a deadly end, in fact. Until Jesus was revealed—in the womb of Mary, in the arms of His mother and father, in the waters of the Jordan. He made His place with sinners, with whom He shared flesh and blood. There in flesh and blood, in the water with sinners, God the Father, Creator of Heaven and Earth, declared from heaven: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” In the water, and in the Spirit, He declared this through His Son who shares our flesh.

He also has come to you at your Baptism.  There, you were permanently marked as His own, witnessing God’s covenant with His Church.  There you too were marked with His most holy Name.  God the Father marked you with His Name!  Bathed in the cleansing water and blood from His pierced side, you were given your personal name and placed into Jesus! And there, in the font, He brought you forgiveness, rescue, and the promise of eternal salvation!

And receiving this Name means a complete change for each of us—even if it took place many years ago in time, or we don’t remember it. At your Baptism, in the waters of Lebanon (or in my case, Piedmont, California), the heavens opened for you and the Holy Spirit was given to you, and the God the Father said about you—in Christ—”you are my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.” All of this is wrapped up in being called “Christian,” and this is why we call on God as our true Father, and we are indeed His true children.

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.