Looking Backward, Going Forward
Second Sunday after the Epiphany
January 14, 2018
Here’s a riddle for you: what does a joyous wedding celebration have to do with a gruesome crucifixion? The answer is found in Jesus’ response to His mother.
Jesus has been invited to a wedding and during the celebration an embarrassing situation has occurred. The wine has run out and the groom would be shamed in that culture if the guests became aware of it. Jesus’ mother approaches Him with issue and He states that it is not for Him to deal with. His response to her is somewhat strange, to say the least: Woman, what does this have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.
Calling your mother woman is normally not a good idea. But Jesus is not just anyone. He loves His mother but also knows who He is. And this is the reason for the second strange thing He says: My hour has not yet come. He tells His mother the embarrassing situation has nothing to do with Him because He has come for another hour.
The apostle John, being inspired by the Holy Spirit, never refers to Jesus’ mother as Mary, only as His mother. At the same time, Jesus never calls her Mother, but only as Woman. It might sound odd and even disrespectful. But Jesus of all people would never dishonor His mother and loved her more than anyone could. Jesus saw her for who she truly was, the woman who was the promised Virgin whose Seed would deliver the world from sin. She was His mother, giving birth to Him, loving Him, raising Him. But He knew more than anyone that His Father in heaven had chosen her for a singular, blessed purpose: to bring Him into the world so that He might save her and every person from sin.
This was the hour for which He had come. The hour in which Jesus would suffer on the cross for the sin of the world. It was at that hour that He once again called her Woman. This time to ensure that she would be taken care of when He was gone. As He hung on the cross Jesus looked upon His mother, thinking not of Himself but of her. Woman, behold, your son. And looking at the apostle John, Behold, your mother. She had given birth to Him and raised Him but she could not hold onto Him forever. She was a mother unlike any other. She raised a child like all mothers. But her Son belonged to the world. He gave Himself over for the world.
The mother of our Lord knew what He had come for although she couldn’t fully comprehend it. Our Lord knew fully. His hour was yet to come. He was always looking ahead to that moment. And this, the first of His signs, manifested His glory and His disciples believed in Him. When His hour had finally come His mother was heartbroken. But she would be among the few who believed in Him after He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. She came to see the truth of her words she spoke while He was in her womb, My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. It was her very Son who was her Savior and the Savior of everyone.
As her Son had spent His life looking ahead to His hour, she would now look back on that hour. Certainly remembering the love He had shown her in His dying hour. But mostly believing in Him as her Lord and her Savior.
The mother of our Lord, then, teaches us faith. Looking backward we now go forward. When Jesus manifested His glory His disciples believed in Him. How much more when He manifested His greatest glory in the hour of His death. We always look back to that hour. It is our hope and salvation. It is what makes it possible for us to go forward. Because He died we live. Because He gave His life we are forgiven, we are saved, we will be in heaven forever with the mother of our Lord, the apostles, our loved ones in Christ who have gone before us, with our heavenly Father, and with our Lord Jesus Christ. Each day we live we go forward living by faith knowing where our Father is taking us because our Lord went intently to His hour.
We look forward to that hour, the hour our Lord calls us home, even as now we live by faith. Living by faith goes against the grain. The world thinks that we are stuck in the past because we continue to look back to the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. What kind of a religion helps you go forward when you are stuck in the past? The world thinks that going forward means always looking forward. But we go forward by looking to the past.
Living by faith is a constant struggle also because our own sinful nature does not see the need to trust in something that happened two thousand years ago on a cross. Our sinful flesh lives in the present. We would like to think that we are self-sufficient. We make mistakes but are we really corrupt in heart, mind, and soul? Our fallen, sinful nature cannot conceive that there is no good in us. We don’t take to heart eternal damnation because we don’t seriously believe that we deserve eternal damnation. Looking to Christ is looking to the only hope for being delivered from eternal damnation and forgiveness of all our sins.
In living by faith we suppress the voice of our sinful nature and don’t succumb to the way of the world. We listen to our Lord instead of the devil. As strong as Satan is, when we live by faith Satan cannot overcome us. When you are burdened by your sins, look to the cross. There Jesus took away all of your sins, He took your burden on Himself. You are released. If you are content with yourself, that you don’t need to be concerned about your sins, look to the cross. There you will see that there is nothing you have done or could do to earn eternal life. Christ accomplished it all and He did so by dying and rising from the grave.
Each day live in your Baptism. That is how you live by faith. Living in your Baptism is dying every day to your sinful nature and rising to a new nature, in which you are free from your sin and from condemnation and free to love and serve those in your life. Always looking backward to the cross and your own Baptism keeps you grounded. It takes your focus off yourself and onto Christ where it belongs. It sets your sights onto His glory and you believe in Him instead of relying on yourself.
When you are looking backward to what Christ has accomplished for you on the cross and given to you in your Baptism you are able to go forward. Only looking forward there is no hope. Looking backward to Christ there is hope for going forward. This was the faith of the mother of our Lord and all those who have gone before us in the faith. By your Lord having focused on His hour and forgiving you your sins, it is yours also. Amen.