We recently celebrated the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther sparking the Protestant Reformation with the nailing of his 95 theses to the Wittenberg door. There is much to celebrate and consider in this anniversary, yet as I reflect on where my own story of salvation fits in the scope of Church history, I oftentimes falsely source it in the Reformation.
Instead, it would be more accurate to continue drawing the line in history right through the Reformation and place it at the first Epiphany. God drew me unto Himself as a 21st-century, white male who dwells in the Southern United States because of the first Epiphany. Epiphany, which simply means the manifestation of Jesus Christ, marks the moment when the Triune God of the universe revealed Himself and His redemptive plan through the person and work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
From Advent to Epiphany
In the Church Calendar, Advent is celebrated for four weeks, leading up to Christmas. During this season, we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ as the long-awaited Messiah. After the Advent season, God’s people begin to transition their hearts and minds to the manifestation of Christ through the Epiphany season. What is particularly stunning about Epiphany is that Christ is not only revealing Himself as the Son of God, but He is also extending His redemptive plan to those who are originally outside of God’s covenant.
In the Old Testament, Israel is chosen to be the people of God. God has covenanted with this people to bless them and, through them, to bless the nations. In Isaiah’s prophetic words, we see that the glory and beauty of the Lord will be revealed through God’s people to all nations (Isa. 60:1-9). The psalmist also writes of the future Messiah and the deliverance that He will bring to all nations (Ps. 72). And in Matthew’s Gospel, we read of the fulfillment of these prophecies in Jesus Christ.
The unfolding of the mystery of the gospel begins with the first Epiphany. The incarnate Christ is now manifesting Himself as the Son of God and His glory as the Savior not only of Israel but also of the world. We see a picture of Epiphany in the coming of the Magi, a story we often associate with the coming of Christ but that actually has more to do with the manifestation of Christ (Matt. 2:1-12).
The Magi and the Nations
The Magi, or wise men, shared a significant commonality with most who are reading this—they were Gentiles. These men were not a part of the people of God. They were from the East, likely Persia or Babylon. The Magi were people who pursued magic, dream interpretation, astrology and philosophy, among other things. Their ancestors were polytheistic and persecuted the Israelites. It is safe to say these men were formed in environments opposed to a Jewish concept of God.
Laying their eyes upon Him, they fell down, worshiped Jesus and offered up the best of their gifts to Him.
Yet, because these were educated men who knew and studied sacred writings, the Magi likely encountered much of the Old Testament, specifically Numbers 24:17. So when they noticed a star unlike any other in the night sky, they would have known what it meant. This led them on a journey to Bethlehem, to see the Messiah, King Jesus.
Upon their arrival, and after a run-in with King Herod, the Magi were filled with joy as they entered the home of Jesus. Laying their eyes upon Him, they fell down, worshiped Jesus and offered up the best of their gifts to Him. They spent some time in the presence of the manifestation of God before returning back home, carrying with them the truth about Jesus: that He is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that He came to save not just Israel but the nations.
Their Story Is My Story
The story of the Magi is our story. God has used His supernatural means to draw us unto Himself. We are His enemies, opposed to Him and happy in our rebellion. We pursue other means for fulfillment; however, God continues to woo us. On one glorious day, when we were exhausted and wearied in our sin, God led us to gaze upon Jesus just as the Magi did. We see the glory of God manifested through Jesus Christ in the internal work of the Holy Spirit. We see our utter sinfulness and God’s abounding grace offered in the Messiah. We are filled with joy as this grace sinks into our hearts. We fall down on our knees and confess our need of this Messiah. We worship Him and offer up our lives as our greatest offering to Him. Then we continue on in our lives, carrying the truth about the Messiah.
As we consider the glory of God manifested in Jesus Christ, our faith is renewed, and we are filled with joy.
For the gospel to extend from the first Epiphany in a little house in Bethlehem to me is remarkable, and the season of Epiphany reminds me of this reality year in and year out. As we consider the glory of God manifested in Jesus Christ, our faith is renewed, and we are filled with joy. We are compelled to carry the truth about the Messiah to every corner of the globe, as God’s redemptive plan now includes all people groups.
So as I think back to the salvation God has granted me, I can’t help but be filled again with the joy of the Lord. Jesus Christ has manifested Himself to His people in such a way that 2,000 years later, I can know and love Him. Praise God for the Epiphany season, yet another reminder of God’s global work of redemption.