2nd Sunday After The Epiphany
S. Epiphany 2.22 “Casual Recklessness” John 2:1-11
“And his disciples believed in him.”
This is the most intriguing line of all in this text, for me. It makes us ask the question: “What is
the relationship between miraculous signs and faith?” It’s a good question—especially in the
modern age. I hear a lot of opinions on this question and it seems, to me, that the vast majority of
people think that: first, God gives us some miraculous signs and then, we believe. As if faith is
something we have to be persuaded and argued into by natural and supernatural proof.
This widespread general belief is the basis of the apologetics industry that has been big
business in Christendom since the early 20th century. “Apologetics” borrows from the Latin
sense of “apology” which doesn’t mean saying “I’m sorry” but’s rather a defense of one’s
position. Though, in the modern world, these two very different senses of “apology” seem to
But, what if… this is all backwards and futile? What if faith does not rest at all on natural or
supernatural proofs for God’s existence and attitude towards us? What if it is actually the case
that first, we believe and then, we see the signs everywhere? Then, faith would stand on a very
different foundation! And modern Christendom would literally be turned upside down. Instead of
spending vast amounts of time and resources on “missions”—on trying to persuade the cultured
despisers of Christianity of their error and our correctness—we’d have a very different outlook
on how it is that faith gets hold of people, including ourselves, wouldn’t we? We’d have a very
different view of the Church’s nature and purpose such that much of what passes for Christianity
in our world would seem confused, at best, and downright mistaken, at worst.
That last line of our Gospel, “And his disciples believed in him” seems to me the fulcrum that
turns the world upside down. In a good way!
Let’s review how we got to that great line. The “third day” seems to be the third day after Jesus
had gathered his first 6 disciples: Andrew and John on day one; and they in turn their brothers
Peter and James; and the day after that (day two) Philip, who also lured in Nathanael who was
very easily impressed by the miraculous powers Jesus had—something about which Jesus is
gently sardonic and dismissive—warning Nathanael there are better grounds for faith than this! I
would suggest our Gospel today (the third day) is continuing the demonstration of these better
grounds for faith.
On the “third day”, there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee. The mother of Jesus was there.
Jesus was also invited to the wedding with his disciples. And that had to be an interesting
etiquette issue. In the ancient world, weddings were family-only affairs—extended family, right
down to 3rd cousins once removed. It just wasn’t customary to invite mere friends or co-
workers. Because marriage wasn’t a show of love and wealth but a property deal, essentially,
between family clans and tribes…
I can imagine the discussion. But, what about Jesus’ disciples? What about them, dear? He
goes everywhere with them, a (dirty) dozen or so. We should invite them. But that’s just not
done, sweetie. Well; if you want Jesus to show, I think you’d better invite his disciples. Surely
he’ll have the good manners to make them stay behind?
But the disciples do attend. They love a party. And fine wine! This, perhaps, is what
contributed to the somewhat frosty tone we detect between Jesus and his mother (whom he only
addresses as “woman” not as “mother”, while she seems not to address him at all, not even “hey
you” just “hey, they have no wine.” (My pronouns are none. Do not refer to me 🙂
Maybe the disciples put away a large share of the wine and that’s why it ran out so fast? Jesus
and his disciples are accused by the Pharisees of being “winebibbers” a nice term for heavy
drinkers. So, the fact that they’re here is strike one for Mary. The fact they are out of wine’s
strike two—and a biggish strike against them, at that!
They have no wine. Woman, what does that have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.
And no reply from Mary; just a frosty “do whatever he tells you” to the servants which is a line
filled with ambiguity. While there is nothing in the words to make Mary think he’s going to help,
but rather to the contrary, that he’s dismissing her concerns, there must be something in his eye,
or tone (tone, I have learned in marriage, is so important in communication) that makes her think
he’ll act. Piety says she expects a miracle. I’m not so sure. I think, maybe she just thinks he’s
going to have the servants eject the disciples for being lushes with bad manners?
Anyway, you know the rest. Jesus commands the servants to fill the stone jars for the Jewish
purification rites with water (120 to 180 gallons, roughly) and take it to the sommelier to taste.
They must think this is a prank that will really set Mom off! But the sommelier goes, “Wow!
This is amazing! Chateau Montrechet ’85? What is wrong with you, serving this last when
everyone’s sloshed? This is the best wine I’ve ever tasted!
John just comments, laconically: “this, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and
manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.” I would, too! I mean, how can you not
follow wholeheartedly a God, who, for his first sign in the flesh, doesn’t go with curing cancer,
COVID, world hunger, or wealth inequality, but turns water into wine so the party can go roaring
on for days? I will follow a Messiah like this anywhere and everywhere! It’s not just the
miraculous power but the casual recklessness signified, saying: “Hey, we are going to have fun
with this Messiah thing!”
Now; everyone at the wedding—the servants, Mary, and surely others, heard and saw what
happened. But only the disciples believed in him! The servants would attest to the miracle but
none of them believed. What’s up with this?
Well, maybe they thought it was a trick? Maybe they believed the miracle but were offended at
the casual recklessness of it? I think Augustine gets it when he says: we do not first understand
and then believe. No, we believe in order to understand!
I would go one step further: we believe in order to see what is right in front of our face.
Without faith, we will never see, never grasp, never believe that this carpenter’s son turned Rabbi
from Galilee is the Eternal and Almighty God, Yahweh, come in our flesh. No amount of
miraculous signs will make you believe this truth.
So, on what, then, does faith rest? On the Word! “Faith comes by hearing, hearing the Word of
God” as St. Paul says in Romans 10. What does this mean? Well; the Logos, the Word of God, is
the 2nd person of the Trinity, the only begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ. Hearing him is what
produces faith. “My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they and follow me” as the Lord
himself says in John 10.
The sheep know their Shepherd’s voice. He calls. We follow. The moment Jesus opens his
mouth, everyone who hears knows their Master’s Voice. Believing what we hear is what opens
our eyes to see the miraculous signs Jesus is and does. And seeing that, you’re just drawn in
despite yourself. It’s not a rational or empirical decision. It’s like being drawn after that pretty
girl from English class. You can’t help it. You’re in love.
Without faith, you’ll never see the signs, never believe. So, Jesus comes again, here, now, by
HIs Word and Sacrament and manifests his glory. And his disciples believe in him. Amen.