God Reveals Himself to Everyone
For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles – assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. (Ephesians 3:1-6 ESV)
Many people like reading ‘Whodunits’, murder or thriller mysteries in which the reader pits his/her skill against the author and tries to work out who has committed the dastardly deed. While I’ve never read Agatha Christie I believe she is a master of this style of writing. People who read these books look intently for the subtle clues and will not be misled by the false leads. There is a great deal of satisfaction in working these books out before you’ve actually finished reading them. People feel good about themselves when they do this and because they enjoy the challenge they keep reading them.
For some people today God is like an Agatha Christie and the Bible is like some sort of thriller / whodunit / mystery novel. Even some churches and their teachers pitch the idea strongly that God has placed a whole lot of clues in the Bible which makes it a very hard book to understand and hence you need the code or the clues explained. Working out God and his Bible are important because there seems to be the prize of eternal life if we do.
Well, we as Lutherans believe that there is a God. We believe that God wants us to be with him. And we believe that through faith in Jesus we have a life in a close relationship with God here on earth and with him forever.
But we have not come to this realization by being good detectives and working out all the hard clues God has put out for the clever to find! Indeed Epiphany is a time when we remember that we know and love God not because we are smart Sherlock Holmeses but because God has come to us and revealed himself to us in a way we can understand.
Paul reminded the Ephesians of the same thought and also that God had revealed himself not just to the Jews but also to the Gentiles as well.
God has come to people. He has come in a form and in a way so that he is accessible to us. What has been hidden in the past is now clear. What was in the dark has now been put into the light. What has been silent or vague whisperings is now clearly heard. The focus of this revelation is found in
the person of Jesus, the babe born in a manger, the carpenter from Nazareth, the preacher and healer from Galilee, and the one who was crucified in Jerusalem.
This Jesus is the fulfilment of God’s plan to save a world that had been irreparably polluted with sin and death.
The world’s last picture of Jesus however is not the prettiest – tortured and dying on a cross. But there is more to Jesus than this final scene on the world stage. A message has gone out! Jesus did not remain dead. The tomb is empty. Jesus is alive to live and reign for ever as Lord of all. The prophets foretold the coming of the Messiah and his suffering for us. The apostles told the world that Jesus who was crucified is alive and is the Lord. The Holy Spirit through the prophets and the apostles and today through the Bible and preachers and teachers is busy bringing the wonderful message to people and enlightening their hearts and minds so that they may receive the wonderful message about Jesus. Jesus died for you. Jesus is alive again. God loves and cares for you. It is not a conundrum to solve or a code to crack but a message to take to heart!
In Jesus we can see God in human form. Today we hear that this little Jesus is a King who deserves and receives worship. He is worshipped by wise men from the East – Gentiles, not Jews – who have responded to the starry signal, for even the sky itself could not contain its joy at the birth of God’s chosen One. Psalm 19 begins: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands”. Only God is to be worshipped and the little Jesus receives such – truly he is the Divine King come among his people.
During the season of Epiphany we see God in man made manifest. We see God fully identifying himself with people when Jesus is baptized. Jesus has stepped into our shoes and is living like us. Later in the season we see that the one who is like us is also so different from us as he is transfigured and shines like the sun.
In Jesus, the King has come to earth. Where Jesus is there he rules and reigns and there is his kingdom. Jesus’ rule and commands are all summarized in the one word love – that is God’s love for us and love seen in service to others – as we see water turned into wine, demons expelled, and healings occurring. Jesus’ words speak of loving and his deeds show that for Jesus what is important is service – serving, helping those in need. The world understands service – even practises it – but always at some point has the hand out for the payment which can come in so many forms. But with Jesus his reign – his rule – his power – is all about giving not receiving, serving not being served. It is a very different kingdom when the King washes your feet!
Epiphany proclaims to us that God is not a mysterious puzzle to be solved, nor does God set up life like a maze which can only be traversed by good deeds. Epiphany proclaims God’s royal incarnation – He is amongst us – and the snapshots of his life – lying in a manger – worshipped by wise men – baptised in the Jordan – miracles – healings – teachings – and finally betrayal, suffering, death, and then an empty tomb all lead to only one conclusion – a message as Paul told the Gentiles – Jesus is our God and King.
We get a glimpse of it today as strangers kneel and worship a little boy. Jesus and worship of him just go together.
May he reign in your heart and life today and always.
- Ephesians 3:1 - 6