Water into blood and water into wine
Here are some thoughts that didn’t make it into Sunday’s sermon.
The Old Testament lesson for the 2nd Sunday after Epiphany is the account of Moses turning the water of the Nile River into blood. The first of the ten plagues God used to get the Israelites out of Egypt.
Exodus 7:14-24 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Pharaoh's heart is unyielding; he refuses to let the people go. 15 Go to Pharaoh in the morning as he goes out to the water. Wait on the bank of the Nile to meet him, and take in your hand the staff that was changed into a snake. 16 Then say to him, 'The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to say to you: Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the desert. But until now you have not listened. 17 This is what the LORD says: By this you will know that I am the LORD: With the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water of the Nile, and it will be changed into blood. 18 The fish in the Nile will die, and the river will stink; the Egyptians will not be able to drink its water.'" 19 The LORD said to Moses, "Tell Aaron, 'Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt-- over the streams and canals, over the ponds and all the reservoirs'-- and they will turn to blood. Blood will be everywhere in Egypt, even in the wooden buckets and stone jars." 20 Moses and Aaron did just as the LORD had commanded. He raised his staff in the presence of Pharaoh and his officials and struck the water of the Nile, and all the water was changed into blood. 21 The fish in the Nile died, and the river smelled so bad that the Egyptians could not drink its water. Blood was everywhere in Egypt. 22 But the Egyptian magicians did the same things by their secret arts, and Pharaoh's heart became hard; he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said. 23 Instead, he turned and went into his palace, and did not take even this to heart. 24 And all the Egyptians dug along the Nile to get drinking water, because they could not drink the water of the river.
The Gospel lesson is the account of Jesus’ inaugural miracle at the wedding in Cana.
John 2:1-11 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus' mother said to him, "They have no more wine." 4 "Dear woman, why do you involve me?" Jesus replied. "My time has not yet come." 5 His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." 6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water"; so they filled them to the brim. 8 Then he told them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet." They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, "Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now." 11 This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.
At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be much of a connection between these two lessons. However, here we see Jesus revealing (Epiphany) Himself to the world as the One who is greater than Moses.
Just before John 2, Jesus had gathered His brand new disciples around Him. These disciples had grown up listening to stories about Moses freeing the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. They remembered that God revealed His power to all of Egypt when Moses changed the water in the Nile into blood. The disciples saw firsthand Jesus do what Moses did, only better. Moses changed water into the blood of animals. Jesus changed water into the blood of the grape.
The blood miracle of Moses brought death. “The fish in the Nile died, and the river smelled so bad that the Egyptians could not drink its water. Blood was everywhere in Egypt. (Exodus 7:21) But the wine miracle of Jesus, God’s Son, brought life and light to an embarrassing and difficult situation.
Before Pharaoh, God changed water into blood: this was an act of divine judgment on an unbelieving people. The power of God was meant to break open hearts of stone, or harden them further. This, like all the plagues, occurred that Pharaoh might know the LORD. How amazing to read this miracle of God’s judgment changing water to a stinking, undrinkable liquid, and then read the Gospel where the Son of God does just the opposite. In a miracle of Grace, the Son of God takes water and makes it into the finest tasting wine. A miracle – the first miracle of Jesus – so that His mother, His new disciples, the wedding guests, and all of us would see Him as the Savior of the world.
He is the Epiphany Lord who reveals to the world that though He looks like an ordinary man, He really is the Son of God!
On Sunday, Ron Bailey is singing, "Go Down, Moses." He always sings it wonderfully. Here is Louis Armstrong's interpretation. Almost as good as Ron's.