District Fellowship News
January, February 2013
One of the earliest church celebrations (after Easter and Pentecost) was the Epiphany, the celebration of the revelation of or manifestation of the Son of God on earth. Typically celebrated on January 6th the feast commemorated the birth of Jesus, the arrival of the Magi, Jesus’ baptism, or the miracle at the wedding of Cana. As time passed and with His birth being celebrated on an earlier date, the Epiphany celebration became more focused on the visit of the Magi in the western church and on Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan in the eastern church. The important issue here is that all of these events marked the revelation of God, the Son to the world in some way.
We certainly can understand how His birth would be an appearance, a manifestation of God’s work here on earth. At the time of His birth the angel said to the shepherds in the fields, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord…” Jesus is announced. His appearance on earth, the beginning of His life is heralded by angels, and then the word of this event is spread by the shepherds who came to see Him. And notice how the angels said “...for all the people.” This wasn’t just an event for the people of Israel, but for all the world. When the child is presented at the temple, Simeon makes the purpose clear, “...my eyes have seen your salvation...a light of revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”
A second piece of this revelation or announcement was the arrival of the Magi. Sometime within the next two years, these wise men came from other lands to worship the one who was born King of the Jews. So where angels recognized God come to earth, Gentile wise men were worshipping Him as a king. Although they saw Him as King of the Jews, we know that He is the King of Kings, that at His Name every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord. Where the announcement of the angels proclaimed Him as the Savior, here was an announcement to the nations of their future ruler.
Another event commemorated during the Epiphany was His baptism in the Jordan. John the Baptist had been proclaiming repentance to the Jews and then baptizing them, but when Jesus came John was reluctant to baptize Him because he saw the One standing before Him who would baptize with the Spirit and fire. In this instance, the announcement doesn't come from angels or wise men but from God himself proclaiming Jesus as His beloved Son. The things that Mary had hid in her heart, that were proclaimed locally by a few shepherds, that were mentioned in the palace of Herod by a few wise men were now publicly acknowledged by a voice from heaven and the Spirit of God descending as a dove. Here on the banks of this river at the beginning of His ministry Jesus is publicly revealed not just as Savior, or king, but as God, the Son.
The final event that was sometimes included in the celebration of Epiphany was Jesus’ first miracle. Here another revelation comes. As men begin to see the miraculous works that He does, they become a sign for them that what He says is true. In Luke chapter 5, Jesus himself said, “What is easier to say “your sins are forgiven”, or “stand up and walk”? So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins." Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, "Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!" (Luke 5:24) The miracles He did opened their eyes to the truth of who he was.
What was it that opened your eyes to the reality of who Jesus is? Did you have an epiphany (a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something) as you were reading the story of Jesus, or the words of Paul? Was it like a light bulb that suddenly came on in your mind that brought you to the realization that Jesus wasn’t just a man who people had told stories about, but that He was God, the Son come to this earth to be the One who saved us from spiritual death? Or did it happen as you heard someone speak or you were a part of a conversation like Nicodemus talking with Jesus in John chapter 3? Your epiphany may have come as you enjoyed nature, God’s creation, and realized that everything had a part, fitting together so well, that an accident couldn’t explain it’s existence.
The truth is that God did not hide Himself here on earth. He provided the opportunity for everyone: Jew and Gentile, free and slave, male and female, educated and not, rich and poor, to discover Him. Jesus was revealed as God, as King, as Savior, as miracle worker for all to see. That is what is so neat about an epiphany. It is our “AHA” moment. Once you have had that, your whole life will change. The immensity of the truth - “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” - God’s love, God’s Son, Our Faith, Our Future - is so powerful we will never be the same. Don’t just commemorate an epiphany, act like you have had one.