Epiphany: Celebrating the Power of the Trinity and the Manifestation of Christ

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

 ‘Epiphany: Celebrating the Power of the Trinity and

the Manifestation of Christ’

© January 7, 2018 by Steve Mickelson

Revised Sermon, Originally Shared at BLCF on December 29, 2013

BLCF Bulletin January 7, 2018

Opening Hymn #118: Shepherds Came, Their Praises Bringing; Choruses                                                        

Prayer and Tithing: Hymn #572:  Praise God from Whom All Blessings; Prayer Requests                                                                                 

Responsive Reading #667 (Humility and Exaltation – Philippians 2; Matthew 23); Prayer                                                                               

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Epiphany: A True Manifestation of Jesus’

Let us pray…

Our lesson today will focus on Epiphany, not to be confused with the secular use of epiphany, such as the ‘Eureka!’ moment experienced by the ancient Greek scholar Archimedes, when he stepped into a bath and noticed that the water level rose and he suddenly understood that the volume of water displaced must be equal to the volume of the part of his body he had submerged, known today as the Archimedes’ principle.

The Epiphany which is the object of  today’s lesson is spelt with a capitol “E”, a Christians use to describe when the supernatural powers of Jesus, the Son of God, became manifested or expressed to all. We have a little more background from the Web site sharefaith.com:

Epiphany Observances

Observed on January 6th, the Epiphany celebration remembers the three miracles that manifest the divinity of Christ. The name “Epiphany” comes from the Greek word Epiphania, and means “to show, make known, or reveal.” The celebration originated in the Eastern Church in AD 361, beginning as a commemoration of the birth of Christ. Later, additional meanings were added – the visit of the three Magi, Christ’s baptism in the Jordan River, and his first miracle at the wedding in Cana. These three events are central to the definition of Epiphany, and its meaning is drawn from these occurrences.

For many Christians, the definition of Epiphany is a reminder of God the Father’s unlimited love and mercy, which He has extended to all of mankind through the revelation of His Son, and of the hope of salvation that is now manifest for all who come to him in faith.                                                              http://www.sharefaith.com/guide/Christian-Holidays/definition-of-epiphany.html

Last week we watched the film, the nativity story, which included a depiction of the visit of the Three Magi or  the Three Wise Men.  Epiphany is associated in the Christian Church and includes one or all three of the accounts recorded in the Bible:

  1. The Magi’s visit to the newborn Jesus at Bethlehem. (Matthew 2:1-12)
  2. The Miracle performed by Jesus to convert water into wine at a wedding in Cana. (John 2:1-12)
  3. The Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River by John. (Matthew 3:13-17)

The first of today’s Scripture verses gives the only account of the visit of the Magi or Wise Men who came from the east, beyond the borders of the Roman Empire, as unlike Joseph and Mary, they came to Bethlehem to worship and bear gifts to the newborn king as foretold by prophecy and guided by a star, and not in response the Census mandated by the Edict of Caesar.

The fact that the Magi were unaware that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, indicates that the three were Gentiles, being ignorant of the prophecy known to the scribes and chief priests, only that a star will mark the location of the birth of Christ Child as we see in Matthew 2:1-12 (ESV):

The Visit of the Wise Men

2 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men[a] from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose[b] and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.                                       

 Footnotes: a. Matthew 2:1 Greek magi; also verses 7, 16 b. Matthew 2:2 Or in the east; also verse 9

The birth of Jesus, the Messiah, the son of God, in the town of Bethlehem is an event that marks the fulfillment of God’s promise, an event foretold by the prophets, through visits by angelic messengers, and marked by a heavenly star. Our Scripture passage from Matthew 2:1-12 describes a prophecy that describes a visit by Wise Men or Kings, assumed to be three in number, based upon the three gifts of treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. Their visit was based upon a prophecy they which the priests and scribes described to King Herod as follows:

“In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

This prophecy is found in Isaiah 60:1-3 (ESV):

The Future Glory of Israel

60 Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
and his glory will be seen upon you.
And nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your rising.

The next manifestation of the Lord, takes place at a wedding at Cana in Galilee, considered to be either the first or second miracle performed by Jesus. If you consider the birth of the son of God to the Mary, a virgin, a miracle, then this wedding would be the second performed by the Lord which we find in John 2:1-12 (ESV):

The Wedding at Cana

2 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.[a] Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

12 After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers[b] and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days.

Footnotes: a. John 2:6 Greek two or three measures (metrētas); a metrētēs was about 10 gallons or 35 liters b. John 2:12 Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to brothers or to brothers and sisters

The changing of water to wine by our Lord is considered by many Biblical scholars to be symbolic how faith in Jesus Christ transforms the believer into a new creature.

Our third Scripture passage describes how the Spirit of God came upon our Lord, after he was baptized in the River, Jordan, which is found in Matthew 3:13-17 (ESV):

The Baptism of Jesus

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him,[a] and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son,[b] with whom I am well pleased.”

Footnotes: a. Matthew 3:16 Some manuscripts omit to him b. Matthew 3:17 Or my Son, my (or the) Beloved

From the three miracles of Epiphany, we see that God, as the Godhead/Holy Trinity, demonstrates His power and presence in many ways.

Our Epiphany study marks three events and aspects of the walk on earth by Jesus:

  1. His birth as prophesied by God and recorded in Scripture, which is supported by the visitation by the Magi.
  2. The power of the Lord was made manifest when Jesus transformed water to wine.
  3. The alighting of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus after His baptism, supported by words spoken to John by God.

All three Epiphany Scripture verses demonstrate how our Lord manifests or expresses his Devine power and presence: by his birth, his miracles and by way of the Holy Spirit. All three accounts take place between the birth and crucifixion of Jesus, while he walked on the earth as a man who the angels called the son of God, but who chose to refer to himself, more modestly, as the son of man.

The birth of Christ in such humble circumstances, as in a stable, with a manger as a crib, first announced by angels to shepherds, reveals that Jesus came as child to serve all men and women, not to rule from a palace, as he Magi had mistakenly expected. This child, Jesus, grew to become the Savior and Lord, not by power and conquest of battle and destruction, but by an act of love and surrender on the cross at Calvary.

Before he died, Jesus lived and experienced the world as a man, died a human death, but was resurrected from the tomb, and then ascended into heaven in order to bring Devine forgiveness and sanctification by taking upon himself our judgment for our sins. And Jesus continued to assure that we would have Emmanuel or the presence of God with us by way of the Holy Spirit.

I would like to point out that the Three Miracles of Epiphany focus on actions involving part of the Godhead or Holy Trinity:

  1. The Wise Men arrive in response to God, the Father’s prophecy fulfilled.
  2. The Wedding of Cana is an account where Jesus the Son, at the bequest of his mother, Mary, changes water into wine.
  3. The Baptism of Jesus, the Holy Spirit appears and alights upon Jesus.

Each of these miracles, the people witness an aspect of God’s will and power, be it the fulfilment of a prophecy of the arrival of the Messiah, the Christ, Jesus; Jesus changing water into the best wine for a wedding celebration; and the appearance of the Holy Spirit descending to Jesus, whose identity is confirmed by the words of the Father, Speaking from heaven.

Let us pray…

Communion Observance: #663 (1 Corinthians 11)

Closing Hymn #158: I Serve a Risen Savior

Benediction – (2 Corinthians 13:14):

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

 

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