Isaiah 42: 1-7
Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
The thing about epiphanies is that they are events when people realize something that was eluding them. A better way of describing this event is like turning on a light. You walk in darkness and you have no clue what is in front of you. Say you are walking down a hallway in the middle of the night barefoot to go to the bathroom and a shooting pain rips all the way your leg as you step on something pointy. You have no clue what you just stepped on and your pain is already distracting you. Finally you get to the hallway’s light switch and behold there is toy on the floor; maybe a Lego or a Hot Wheels car, but tiny with pointy edges. You get an epiphany, a realization. That is what I stepped on. It is like walking in the dark trying to find an object, only for your much smarter better half to turn on the lights for you, thus turning what would have been minutes of searching into mere seconds.
This is why the season of Epiphany is filled to the brim with imageries of light. It begins with us remembering on January 6th the Wise men who follow the Advent Star and ends with us remembering the transfiguration of our Lord.
Now speaking of Wise Men, through the power of the Holy Spirit, it was revealed to them through the studying of Scripture
that the Messiah was to born soon, and that the guide they will follow will be the Advent Star. This was their epiphany. It’s kind of interesting because their epiphany happened not after, but before Christ’s birth. And after their epiphany they gathered their gifts and traveled far so that they could get to this Christ child as soon as possible, how they got their epiphany exactly, we do not know, but we know that such an epiphany could have only been possible through the grace of God. And then shortly after the birth of Jesus, within forty days, in accordance with Matthew and Luke and Leviticus, the Wise Men finally laid eyes on baby Jesus.
Such might have been a second epiphany for them for it is one thing just knowing of something, it’s a whole ‘nother ball game seeing it for yourself. This is why some parents break down in tears of joy upon seeing their child for the first time. This could be during an ultrasound or right after their child’s birth. Such a person knows that they are already a parent, and may have spent many months of preparation for this child, but the full reality doesn’t hit them until they see with their own eyes their son, their daughter. The Wise Men knew of Jesus, but as soon as they saw the baby in Mary’s arms, they immediately fell down and started worshipping Jesus. The full thrust of reality, another epiphany moment, overcame the Wise Men as they saw in front of them their King, their Lord, their Savior.
This is the real reason why Epiphany is celebrated after Christmas, and why we wait to focus on the Wise men until a couple weeks after the birth of Christ, because the true Epiphany the Wise Men had was when they finally saw for the first time, God in the flesh.
Now after Jesus came into the earth, many saw Jesus but knew not who he truly was, short of a Nazarene who was the Son of Joseph the Carpenter. Most who worshiped Jesus before his mission was to begin did so because the Holy Spirit had already revealed to them the full reality of who Jesus truly was. This includes Simeon and Anna who were there on the fortieth day of our Lord, upon his and Mary’s purification ceremony. But outside of the few who were blessed by the Holy Spirit, most people did not know that Jesus was the Son of God, God Himself made flesh. How could they? Why would they? Thus, in order for such to happen, an epiphany of sorts must occur.
When we read our Gospel and the other Gospels that refers to the event of Jesus’ baptism, a question that should be asked is why did God the Father do what he did on that day? He obviously didn’t do it merely for Jesus sake alone, for we know that Jesus
was trying to keep his true ministry secret from the ears of the Pharisees who would have clearly killed Jesus, and thus if this baptism was for merely Jesus then God would had provided his revelation to Jesus in secret. We also know that Jesus doesn’t need an epiphany to realize that he is God’s son, just look at the shenanigan he pulled off when he was 12 and stayed in his Father’s house. So Jesus didn’t need an epiphany. So why did God the Father say, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased”?
The answer is because God did this not for Jesus’ sake but for those who witnessed this event. This was God the father and the Holy Spirit which descended like a dove intervening on behalf
of Jesus in order to provide all who witnessed this event an epiphany, to realize the full depth of who Jesus was. Let it be known that the only way one can believe that Jesus is Christ is through the Holy Spirit. Thus the Holy Spirit was present, and the Father spoke, all for the sake that all who were present would believe that Jesus was Christ.
And with this event, the official ministry that Jesus was placed on this earth for began. The events that ultimately would lead to the climax of his mission, and of humanity at large, was finally put in motion, as the cat was finally out of the bag. This is the Son of God, and there’s no way you can take that back, especially in the way God presented this fact. Like wildfire the news spread and with it rumors and speculation as many who were not present wondered how this was so. Eventually the Pharisees did catch wind of this Messiah, though they knew not whom the news referred to. It took time, but eventually they were able to apprehend Jesus and kill him on the cross.
But the great epiphany, and with it the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, was in of itself a beginning for many others, a revelation that the prophesied Messiah that they have waited long for has arrived. And like the Wise Men and parents who finally see their birthed children, I could imagine a similar reaction. For most who were present were not present for Jesus, for they knew not Jesus, but for John the Baptizer. The baptized came to be washed in preparation for the coming Lord of whom John has preached about emphatically. There is no way one wouldn’t know of John, lest they lived under a rock, and new that his primary message has always been to make yourself ready for Christ is coming. So
those who came to the river came to hear from the prophet John and his message about the King who was closely approaching. They knew of Christ, but they knew not who Christ was. They heard of him, but they have never seen him, nor did they think that they would on that fateful day.
So as people were being baptized one by one, listening to the words of John, all of a sudden John proclaims that Christ is here! John then makes a scene in front of everyone about how it would inappropriate for him to baptize Jesus, but then relents and baptizes Jesus. Some at this point may have believed that Jesus was Christ at that moment, but others may have not. To those who did not believe, I wonder how many were still in denial after the intervention of God the Father and the Holy Spirit. Regardless, those who were there knew of Christ, simply because of John, but now have actually seen him, truly seen him. This was their epiphany moment, as the full depth of all that John the Baptizer has been preaching about reached home. They have finally and knowingly laid eyes on Christ.
Now to all of you, most of you have already had your own epiphany moment. The mere fact that you believe that Jesus is Christ is proof of this. And I mean truly believe, as in having a faith that desires and loves and hopes in the promises of grace through Christ who died on the cross to forgive us of all of our sins. But there are many out there that know of Christ, but know not who Christ truly is. They quite simply lack faith. They have yet to have had an epiphany moment, to realize that they had it all wrong, to realize that the world which lives in darkness has been lying to them the entire time. We can serve as a light for them. For
many live in darkness and knows not the truth. We who do know the truth, which is revealed only through the Holy Spirit, can serve God in the Great Commission by boldly speaking the Word in hopes that the Holy Spirit shines out of us and enters into the hearts of those who lack faith, thus providing them with their own epiphany moment. This can be done in the form of inviting people to church, occasionally saying that Christ did die to forgive us of our sins, and using any opportunity to open up the Bible and speak the plain Word of God.
But know this; you are not the source of the epiphany. God alone is the source of our epiphanies, he who reveals himself to us. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be like John the Baptizer, ceaselessly preaching of Christ, for those who have not had their own epiphany; preaching the Gospel in hopes that the Holy Spirit through us opens the eyes and ears and hearts of those who listen so that they too may finally see Christ with eyes a new.
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, you who are the source of all revelations, who washes our eyes of the sin that blinds us from the Truth, help guide us as we spread your light for all to see. In your heavenly name we pray, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.