Feast of Epiphany – Sermon 78

13th February 2011 Off By Derek Buckthorpe

Prayer to start

May the words of my lips and the thoughts of our hearts be graciously received for the Glory and Honour of our Lord Jesus Christ



Well it’s a new year and a new church season –

Epiphany –
After Easter –its the second oldest season in the Christian church year –

It started in the Eastern churches – as a feast to mark the Baptism of Christ – and later was linked with His first miracle in Cana in Galilee – and the revelation of Himself to the Magi or Wise Men – which was the theme of our Communion service this morning

Epiphany means – “the showing forth” – or the “manifestation of” Christ’s true nature to the world-

it also means – appearing – bringing something to light – making visible what was once unseen or hidden –All these interpretations – appear in our readings this evening –

Epiphany is an important season for the churches mission to the world in light of the Nativity – and with the help of our readings we are going to look at what it means – and what part we are to play in it –

Point 1 Isaiah’s wake up call

Isaiah’s message for Epiphany – is about the coming of a new light – that will overcome the darkness of this world –

“Arise, shine, Jerusalem for your light has come” – over you the glory of the Lord has dawned – Though darkness covers the earth – and dark nights the nations – on you the Lord shines”

Isaiah is giving us a wake up call –
Its time to get up – and get going –to start living as God wants us to live! –

The People of Jerusalem – had seen some hard times – wars – unjust rulers – destruction of their city – things looked bleak -–

But says Isaiah – lets have none of this doom and gloom – we have a faithful God – we have a caring God – we have a powerful God –

He is in control – not the politicians – He will deliver – His promise of salvation –

What we must do is – open our eyes – look at the big picture – God is gathering His people out of the darkness- towards Himself – and His church – needs to play its part-

We must shine – so that the light of our faith – is clearly visible for all to see –

We must be transparent – so that others can see Jesus’ light – in us –

Lights are put in dark places – where there is no light – that’s where Christians have to go –

we must shine like beacons- not fairy lights – guiding people to Him–

In this passage we also see Isaiah’s prophecy – of the day when the wise men or Magi came seeking the light of the world – when the Gentiles too worshiped God –

In verse 3
“nations will join towards your light and kings to your radiance”

and later in verse 6 –

“… all coming from Sheba laden with gold and frankincense, heralds of the Lord’s praise.”

Many people call Epiphany the “Gentile Christmas” – because of what happened when the Magi visited Jesus –

In Russia today – and millions of people celebrate Christmas –not so long ago under the dark days of the Soviet Union – such a thing was only dreamt about –

Jesus the light of God – has broken into the world – in a way that is visible to all people –and He calls those who are spiritually dead to come alive – to be transformed – and to transform others

Which leads us on to another transformation – the changing of water into wine –

Point 2 Jesus transforms

In our NT lesson we have the first of the signs – or miracles – chosen by John – to teach us about the nature and purpose of Jesus –

For John – the proof that Jesus is who He says He is – is shown in the words – and deeds that He performed – As far as John was concerned – No one but God – could say the things Jesus said – and no one but God could do the things Jesus did

Jesus is the fullness of God clothed in humanity – the word made flesh –

Jesus came to change people – His miracles were performed so that people would see Him for who He really is – and come to Him for a new start in life –

Jesus and five of His disciples are invited guests – at a wedding feast in Cana near Galilee – along with Mary – His mother

Weddings at that time – were a lot different to those of today – it was no 20 or 40 minute affair – they usually lasted between two and seven days – with the ceremony – late in the evening after the feast – there was also a noisy and joyous procession through the streets – to the grooms home – followed by a very long party – which often lasted for days –

And there was no honeymoon –
The groom’s parents were responsible for feeding and caring for all the guests – for the entire time – and the bride and groom were expected to play their part of that hospitality – it was considered a sacred duty –

So to run out of food or wine – during the feast – was not just a social nightmare – it was a very serious insult to their guests –

So when the wine ran out – at this wedding – the groom’s family were in deep trouble –

And as we see – Mary brought the problem to Jesus

His reply –however – made it quite clear who is managing Jesus’ time and actions –

“That’s no concern of mine – He said – ‘my Hour has not yet come”

Jesus is reminding Mary and the disciples – that He is guided by a much higher authority – His ultimate mission is the cross – and His resurrection three days later – and nothing must divert Him from that –

Mary’s initial request is to be answered – but not in her timing – or her way –

She tells the servants – “do whatever He tells you”

Jesus chooses the purification pots as the vessels for holding the wine – water from these jars is used for external cleansing of the feet and hands – of the guests – which was sometimes done several times during the feast –

The water pots represent the ritual of the Old Covenant – which had become meaningless – now that He was here –

“Now draw some off” – said Jesus – ‘and take it to the master of the feast”

when the water – now turned to wine was tasted – there was nothing but praise for the bridegroom

“Everyone else serves the best wine first “ he said, …”but you have kept the best wine till now”

Point 3

This miracle speaks of transformation and change from Old to the New – from the Old Testament Law to the New Testament ways of love and Grace

Just as the new wine out classed the water –the old ways have lost their life and light – The new way is through Jesus – offering Himself in God’s time – as God’s right and the only way to forgiveness and joy in life –

Jesus can transform the ordinary into the extraordinary – give it flavour, fragrance and effect –

And with Jesus there will always be more than enough – to meet our needs – He gives extravagantly – the 6 jars were filled to the brim – that would give up to 180 gallons of wine – much more than would ever be consumed at a wedding

There will be times – when the wine runs out in our lives – when we will feel things are out of control – and we feel vulnerable and helpless –

Inviting Jesus in – and doing whatever He asks – will change all that –with Him alongside there will always be enough love and grace to meet our needs – He cares about our everyday problems – and wants to fill our lives to the brim with His power and His love – so we are able to meet them

Like Mary we have to faithfully trust in His timetable –

We also have to realize that Jesus only reveals His secrets to those who respond to His commands – those who were willing to serve

The master of the banquet had no idea where the wine came from – but the servants and the disciples knew –

Jesus’ miracle was performed for two reasons – so that the Glory of God was revealed – and so that the disciples would believe –

John’s message to us – is not that Jesus once turned some pots of water into wine – but that whenever Jesus comes into our lives – there is a transformation – a new quality of life -which is like turning water into wine – and its available to us today – if we are willing to do whatever He tells us –


So – are you prepared to shake off the old – and take on the new – to rise and shine – for God – to be transformed by His presence and His power – to do whatever He asks –

Our new life in Christ should be like a feast – that never ends – so in this new year of 2003 – lets make a resolution that will change our lives for ever –

To come and taste the new wine – and drink it feely always –

Prayer to Finish

for the Glory of God the Father