January 16, 2022

Rev. Mark F. Bartels



Old Testament Lesson; Isaiah 62:1-5

Epistle Lesson; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11

Psalm of the Day; Psalm 133-134                              

Sermon Text; John 2:1-11


We have entered The Epiphany Season.  The word 'epiphany' means 'to show forth', or 'to make manifest'.  So now we begin to look at, for example, the miracles of Jesus, where He shows forth who He really is.

Let us read about the first miracle He preformed, from John, chapter two, verses one through eleven.  This is in Jesus' name.


Three days later, there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee.  Jesus' mother was there.  Jesus and His disciples were also invited to the wedding.  When the wine was gone, Jesus' mother said to Him,  “They have no wine.” 

Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does that have to do with you and me?  My time has not come yet.”

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.”

Six stone water jars, which the Jews used for ceremonial cleansing, were standing there, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.  Jesus told them, “Fill the jars with water.”

So they filled them to the brim.  Then He said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

And they did.  When the master of the banquet tasted the water that had now become wine, he did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew).  The master of the banquet called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when the guests have had plenty to drink, then the cheaper wine.  You saved the good wine until now!”

This, the beginning of His miraculous signs, Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee.  He revealed His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.


These are your words Heavenly Father.  Lead us in the way of truth.  Your Word is truth.



There was a pastor who was teaching a group of high school seniors a religion class.  In the religion class they were talking about Matthew, chapter seven, verse twelve.  Matthew, chapter seven, verse twelve is known as The Golden Rule.  It is something Jesus said.   Here is what He said,

“Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.”

So, this pastor was trying to get these high school seniors to apply that to their own lives.  What does that mean, “Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you”?  So, he asked them this question.  “I want you to think about what's the greatest way that you could help somebody else?”

They started to throw out answers.  One of them said, “You could befriend somebody, if they don't have any friends.”

Another said, “Well, you could defend somebody, if they are getting picked on.  You could be there, and stand up to defend them.”
Another one said, “I think maybe the greatest thing you could do is help somebody in need.  If you see somebody in trouble, you could do whatever you can to help them.”

Then, one went so far as to say this.  “You could die for somebody.  That is maybe the greatest way you can help somebody.”

One of the high school seniors said, “You know everything that got listed, even unbelievers can do that.  They can befriend, they can help, they can even die for somebody.”

So, the pastor asked, “What can you Christians do?  How can you help somebody in ways that other people can't?”

One of the boys thought a little bit, and said, “Well, you could tell them about God's Word.” 

The young guy who said that was actually kind of known as a 'Bible Thumper' at this school.  So, the other kids said, “Oh man, I don't know if I would want him to be telling about God's Word, because he might mess it up a little bit.”

They were talking about that, because sometimes we try to help somebody, and maybe we don't do it in the best way.

There was a girl in the class who was always shy, so the pastor called on her.  He said, “You have been quiet, and thinking.  What do you think is the best way to carry out The Golden Rule, “Do unto others, as you have them do unto you”?  What do you think the best way you could help somebody?”

She said, “I think you could pray for them.”

The pastor looked at her, and said, “Explain why you think that is the best way to help somebody.”

She said, “Well, we can try to help people, but we don't always know what to do.  Sometimes we mess it up, when we try, because we are not perfect people.  We are sinners.  But, when you pray for somebody, you are taking God's hand, and you are putting it in that person's hand, and you are asking God to be their helper.  God knows exactly what to do, and He is able to do it.”
So, they talked about that a little bit.  Is that the best way a Christian can carry out that, “Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you”?  That is really good food for thought. 

We call that, when we 'pray for other people', we call that 'intercession', or 'interceding for someone'.  The word 'intercede' is a Latin word.  'Inter' means 'between', and 'cede' means 'go'.  So, it is going between, the act of going between two people, or two parties.  When we pray for somebody, it is the act of taking somebody who is in need, and going to God, taking God's hands, and the other person's hands, putting them together, and asking God to help that person in need.  It is going between God, and somebody else in prayer.

There are church fathers who have gone so far to say that is the main work of Christians, to intercede for other people.  Martin Luther once went so far as to say, “I believe the reason unbelievers have food and clothes and all of those things is because the church, believers, every day are interceding for them, praying for them.”  It is like the church is this great army praying for other people, and asking God to help. 

He said, “Whenever the Christian Church prays, 'Give us, give us this day our daily bread', God sends the rain.  He sends the sunshine.  He causes the wheat to grow.  And, He does not just take care of the believers, but everybody they have prayed for.” 

Martin Luther said, “The world continues to stand and function, because of the intersession of Christians.”

I wonder how many people have interceded for you, that you may be totally unaware of.  For most of you, probably before you could even pray yourself, there were people who were interceding for you.  They were taking your needs, and putting them in to the hands of God.  Maybe when your mom heard she was expecting you, immediately she began to intercede for you, and call upon God to help you, before you could even pray.  When you were a little child, I am sure probably Grandma and Grandpa, aunts and uncles were interceding for you.  And to this day, there are people, I am sure, who are interceding for you, and carrying out that Golden Rule of Doing unto Others, by asking God to help you.

Intersession flows from faith.  First of all, as Christians, we know The Bible says Jesus intercedes for us.  When you look at the word intercede, to go between, Jesus is the ultimate go between.  He interceded in ways nobody else can even begin to.  He looked at our needs, and went to God, the Father, and He paid for our sins.  Now, The Bible says He is at God's right hand interceding.  So, it is like He takes God, the Father's hand, and says, “Father, you know I died for Mark's sins.” 

Then, He takes my hand, and He puts them together, and says, “Father, forgive Mark.”

Of course, the Father listens to the Son.

So, our intersession flows from a heart of faith.  We know what Jesus has done for us.  We certainly want to help others by praying for them, by asking God from a heart of compassion.  Jesus said,

“Love others, as I have loved you.”  

So, we want to love others.

It is the role, our role, one of our major roles as God's people to intercede for one another. 

Now, what in the world does that have to do with the text I read about Jesus' first miracle?  Here is what it has to do with.  We often find that when Jesus performed miracles, it was because somebody was interceding for somebody else. 

-For example, remember the man who was let down from the roof?  It was because four friends were asking Jesus to help their paralyzed friend. 

-When Jesus healed a little, demon possessed girl, it was because her mom interceded for her, and went to Jesus, asking Him to help her.

Many of the miracles are like that.

Today's miracle is a perfect example of that.  So, I want to use today's miracle that Jesus performed, His first miracle, to talk about, “What does it mean to intercede for others, and how does that work?”

Here is what happened in today's miracle.  First of all, I want you to look at the context.  It was early, very early, the beginning of Jesus' ministry.  The Bible says He was invited to a wedding, in a place called Cana.  Cana was about nine miles from Nazareth, so not very far away.  (It is like from here in Madison, Wisconsin to Sun Prairie, Wisconsin.)  It says Jesus, and some of His disciples were there.  And, Jesus' mom, Mary was there. 

Think about when you get invited to a wedding.  You either are probably related to that person, or you are friends, very good friends of that person.  What we certainly assume is that Jesus was either related to this young couple who just got married, or He was really good friends with them, as was His family, because His mom was invited, too. 

Now, weddings, in Jesus' day, would last a long time.  They would last like a week.  People would come, and celebrate for a whole week.  It is in that setting that find Mary, Jesus' mom, interceding for this young, married couple. (Jesus' loves marriage.  He instituted marriage, and He certainly wants marriages to go well.  But, marriages have issues that happen.)

At some point in that wedding, this poor young couple had an issue.  Imagine if you invited a whole bunch of people to your wedding, and when people were going through the line to get their food, the food ran out, and there was not enough food for everybody.  You would feel like, “Oh no.  Now what do I do?”  You would want, you would wish somebody could help you.

That is exactly what happened with Mary.  She saw this young couple ran out of wine, and that was part of the wedding feast.  In her heart it was that, “Do onto others, as you would have them do onto you”.  If I ran out of food at my wedding, or wine at my wedding, I would want somebody to help.  And, that is exactly what Mary did.  She went to Jesus, and said, “They have no wine.”
Now, look at the context.  Who did she intercede for?  It was people who were just part of the fabric of her life, whether these were close friends, or family members.  We don't know. 

Who has God placed in your life, that is part of the fabric of your life, the day to day people who are in your life?  We call this, “Your earthly callings”.  These would be the people in your family.  Somebody in your family, a mom, a dad, a brother, sister, grandma, grandpa, or an aunt, or uncle.  Do you ever see them in need? 

This was not some huge need.  It was just wine at a wedding feast.  What better way to help that person than go to God, go to Jesus,  take His hand, and their hand, put them together in prayer, and ask Jesus to help that person, if you see them in need.  So, one of your callings is to intercede for the people who are closest to you - your family, or the people you work with, or the people you go to school with. 

If you were being picked on at school, you would want somebody to help you, wouldn't you? 

“Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.” 

Ask Jesus to help that person.  Intercede for them.  That is what we are called to.

The second layer of people, besides the people in our day to day callings that we especially intercede for would be, spiritually, the people we are connected to.  I heard about a guy who would come in to church, and one of the first things he would do, when he walked in to church was ask himself, “Who can I intercede for today?”  And, before church ever started, he would pray for the organist.  If I were the organist, I would want people praying for me.  Then, he would pray for the pastors.  I will tell you what.  I need people praying for me, interceding for me.  He would pray for his fellow members.  If he saw somebody acting up, some teenager looking away from Mom and Dad, he would intercede.  He would think, “This is a great opportunity for me to intercede for them.”  When people went to communion, he would watch, and if it looked like someone was really maybe struggling, he would intercede for them.  Those are people we intercede for, our fellow church members.  They are the fabric of our life.

The other layer we intercede for is our secular leaders.  The Bible says, “Pray for kings, and all those in authority.”  If I were the president, and I had to figure out this whole Covid thing, I would want help.  I would need help.  One of the best things we can do to help those who are rulers, is to intercede for them, and ask that God help them.

Anyway, that is what happened,  Mary intercedes for this young couple. 

Now, the next thing that happens is really critical.  (Martin Luther just jumped on this.)  Mary comes, and intercedes for this young couple.  She says, “They have no wine.”
Listen to Jesus' answer.  “Woman, what does that have to do with you and me?  My time has not come, yet.”  (He is talking about His death.)
It is as if, it appeared as if He were saying to her, “Look, I came to die for the sins of people.  Why would I worry about somebody running out of wine at a wedding?  What is that to me?”

Martin Luther jumps all over this.  He says, “It appeared as if Jesus were even rebuffing His own mom, and saying to His own mom, 'Why would I want to help?' 

What did Mary do?

We understand that when it appears, when it appears as if Jesus may not be listening to our intersession, or our prayers, when it appears as if He is not helping, it is really an exercise of faith, where the Lord is pulling us in, and causing us to dig deeper, and ask ourselves, “Do I really believe He can help?  And, why would He?”

I heard this illustration (part of it is true).  It is maybe not the best in the world, but it is a thought provoking one.  There was, in India, an orphanage.  One day at the orphanage there was a ragged looking, sickly looking, beat up looking guy who showed up.  He had a little girl with him.  He went to the front desk of the orphanage, and he said, “I am bringing this little girl here, because she needs food, she needs clothes, and she needs a place to live.  I am bringing her here, so you can take care of her.”
The man at the front desk asked, “Well, who are you?”

The guy said, “I am her dad.”

The man at the front desk said, “Oh, I am sorry to hear that, but our rules are that we can only take in to the orphanage children who do not have a mom, or a dad.”

But, Dad responded, “Look, I have been in prison, and am sick as can be.  I have nothing, and there is no way I can take care of my daughter.  I can't give her food, and clothes.  I need you to take care of her.”

Again,  the guy at the front desk, who was filled with compassion, said, “I am so sorry, but there is nothing we can do, because we can only take in children who don't have a mom, or dad.”

The dad looked at the guy at the desk, and said, “So, what you are telling me is if I die, you will take care of my little daughter?”
The man behind the front desk answered, “Yes.”

With that, the man got down on his knees, hugged this little girl, gave her a big kiss, and said, “I love you.”
Then, he took her hand, put it in the hand of the man at the front desk, and said to the man at the front desk, “I will arrange for it.”
And then, he left. 

He ended up taking his life.

Now, I know that is not a perfect illustration, but think about what Jesus did for you, and the person you are interceding for.  It is as if there was this conversation in Heaven, where God looked at you, He looked at the person you are interceding for, and He saw there was nothing we could do to help ourselves.  Our sin put us in the worst situation possible, bound right for Hell.  And, it was as if Jesus looked at His Father, and said, “Do you mean to tell me, if I die, that is the only way you are able to help them?”

The Father said, “Yes.”
Then Jesus said, “I will arrange for that.”
He then left His throne in Heaven.  And, you know what He did.  He suffered, and died to pay for your sins, and that other person's sins.

So, here is the point.  When you intercede for somebody, and it appears as if, it appears as if Jesus is not listening, and He doesn't care, well, do the same thing Mary did.  Mary knew Jesus' character.  She knew that even though it may appear like He doesn't care, “I know He does.  I know Him.”  

You know Jesus.  You know He cares.  You know He loves you desperately, and He loves that other person desperately.

And so, Mary just went right on in her intercession, telling the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.”
So then, Jesus performs His miracle. 

But, again, I want you to see the way in which He performs this miracle.  From everybody's perspective that was watching, it probably looked a little puzzling.  He tells the servants to fill these jugs, twenty to thirty gallon jugs, with water.  They didn't see what was happening, as they filled them with water.  The married couple probably had no idea what was even going on, in the first place.  So, it certainly didn't appear, (even as Jesus was getting to perform this miracle), like anything was happening other than, “What in the world is going on here?”

Then, He told the servants to take some of that 'water', and give it to the master of the banquet. 

Of course, you know what happened.  The master of the banquet tasted it, and it had been turned miraculously in to wine.  He said, “This is like the best wine I have ever tasted!”

It may look like things are not even unfolding, even though we are pleading to God for somebody else.  I don't know who you are interceding for, or should be interceding for, because there are many people in our lives. 

Maybe you have a loved one who has fallen away from the faith.  You have been begging God, “God, put a hedge around them.  Take away their evil friends, and replace them with good friends.” 

We plead to God, and we wonder, “Is this going to happen?”  “What is going to happen?”

Maybe you are married to somebody who is an unbeliever.  I heard about a woman who was married to an unbeliever for forty-one years.  She interceded, she begged God day, after day, after day to somehow bring this man to faith.  Forty-one years she interceded.  She prayed, she prayed, she prayed.  However, she did not see anything happening. 

Then, he went on a business trip in Florida, and was killed in a car accident.  She was devastated.  Here she had been interceding for him, but she did not see anything happening. 

About a month later, she got a phone call from somebody she did not know.  It was a guy.  She did not recognize the person's name.  The guy on the other end of the line asked for her husband.  She said, “Well, my husband has died.  He is not here, anymore.”

There was a long pause on the other end of the line.  The guy who called, who the woman did not know, asked, “What happened to your husband?”

She said, “He was killed in a car accident down in Florida on a business trip.”

The man on the other end of the line said, “Can you tell me what day that happened?”

So, she told him the date.

The man on the other end of the line said, “On that same day, I was down in Florida.  My car broke down.  I got out of my car, and I was hoping somebody would stop, and pick me up.  Your husband stopped, and he picked me up.”
The man said to the woman, “I am a Christian, and anyway, we started talking about Jesus.  Through our conversation, as I shared God's Word, your husband confessed his faith in Jesus.  When he dropped me off, after he got me to where I was going, he looked at me, and said, 'I am going to call my wife tonight, and I am going to tell her I am a believer!'”

Well, he died before he had a chance to call his wife.  But, look at how it appeared, for all intents and purposes, like none of these prayers were being listened to, and God did not know what He was doing.  But, Jesus has the perfect timing, the perfect answer, and the perfect solution.

Can you imagine being St. John?  He is the one who wrote these words.  He grew to be an old man.  We think he got up into his ninety's.  Well, he was there, when this happened.  He was part of this first miracle.  And, I would guess that every time John was invited to somebody's house, or was at somebody's house, and he was offered wine, when he took a sip of their wine, I am guessing he thought to himself, “This is good, but it sure is not like the wine Jesus made.”  I am guessing every time he drank wine, he thought that.

Jesus can take water, and He can turn it into the finest wine.  Jesus can take our feeble attempts to help somebody, and when we intercede, He can turn that 'water into wine'.  He can do amazing, miraculous things.  That is what we trust, and that is what we pray.

And so, The Bible says that when the disciples saw this miracle, they put their trust in Him.  You put your trust in Jesus.  Through The Word, through Baptism, through The Lord's Supper, He assures you that you are saved.  Your sins are forgiven, because of what He has done.  We put our faith in Him, and we trust, we trust that when we take someone's needs, and put them in Jesus' hands in prayer, He is God, and we leave it there. 



May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts, and our minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord.