This Sunday is the First Sunday after Epiphany, but some of you may be wondering what “epiphany” means?
In common language today, it means “an insight, realisation, or revelation.”
eg. I had an epiphany, and now it’s meaning is clearer to me.
Even in biblical terms, it has a similar meaning, as it was the time when the Messiah, Jesus, was revealed to the non-Jewish world, through the visit of some gentiles, often called the Three Kings, or Magi.
Through this visit, they came to understand what God was doing in the world and that God’s gift was to the whole world, not just the Jews.
What gifts can you think of that would add to the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, brought by the MagI?
Maybe we can’t now bring physical gifts to Jesus, but we can surely honour him with our gifts of service.
Gifts we give to those less fortunate than ourselves would surely please our Lord.
In our reading from Acts this week, we hear Peter explain the importance of the birth of Jesus to the gentiles.
Jesus did not come just to save just the Jewish people, but to erase the sins all of humanity who would put their belief in him.
The second instance regarding the “Epiphany of Jesus”, was where he was baptised in the River Jordan by John the Baptist.
As he rose from the water, a voice form heaven was heard:
“This is my son, the beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
At the time, the onlookers may have been wondering why Jesus, if he really was the Son of God, would need to be baptised by his cousin John, before beginning his ministry in Galilee.
They would probably have thought: surely the son of the most-high God would not need to repent of his sins in a ceremony of Baptism.
Jesus explained it in Matthew 3, when he said to John: “it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.”
By that he meant that he was validating John’s ministry of baptism, as a way for the people to come to a belief in God, and by being baptised, the people could follow him.
He was stating his humanness, as well as his divinity, in front of the people at the river.
It was also a way of showing that his ministry was for all people, not just those of the Jewish nation.
He was now “one of them”, baptised by John, and that would make it easier for the people to put their faith in him.
At that time, the right of baptism was mainly used by the Jewish Rabbis to purify a gentile, when they wished to convert to Judaism.
Jesus was now opening the ritual to both Jew and non-Jew.
But the act of baptism, in itself, doesn’t make you holy.
Baptism doesn’t save you or secure you.
Baptism doesn’t provide some on‑going power that you can wield over those who aren’t baptised.
What baptism does is demonstrate your obedience to God, giving you the joy and blessing of serving the Lord and brings you into the church family, where all family members will look out for your spiritual growth.
It can also lead to an understanding of the love that God has for all his children.
We were blessed by these acts of Jesus many years ago - and now he tells us to go out and be a blessing to others.
Another example of the epiphany that came from the ministry of Jesus occurred on the night before he was killed, some 3 years after his baptism.
Jesus and his disciples had journeyed to Jerusalem, taking what we now know was to be his final journey.
Like many Jewish families at that time, they observed the Passover Meal on the evening before the Sabbath.
To the Jews, it was a reminder of the time that the Angel of Death “passed over” their houses, before killing all the firstborn of the families their Egyptian masters.
This was a final act brought on by God, through Moses, to get the Pharoah to release the Jews and let them free from their slavery, allowing them to return to their “Promised Land”.
In the ensuing years after their occupation of Israel & Judah, it became the responsibility of every Jewish man to celebrate the Passover Meal in the holy city of Jerusalem, at least once in his life.
Therefore, in an upper room in Jerusalem, Jesus and his disciples celebrated the traditional Passover Meal.
On that particular night Jesus changed the meaning of the elements of the meal into those that we use today in the sacrament of Holy Communion.
The bread that they used and the wine that they drank were renamed at the “body” and “blood” of Christ, that were given to the people, so that they would remember his body that was hung on a cross, and his blood that was shed to forgive their sins.
Again, the revelation, or epiphany, was that this sacrament was for all people, not just those who “belonged to the club”, not just for the Jews and not just for the baptised ones.
May your eyes be opened and you understand the majesty of God.
“God calls us to live right and to live well.
God has taken responsibility for us and kept us safe.
God has set us within neighbourhoods and communities to gather and unite people.
God has asked us to be a beacon of light to the nations.
So go, get on with the work of opening blind eyes and emptying prisons –
new life is bursting on the scene, and you’re an active part of the hope.
May the honour of partnering with God humble you,
may Jesus' servant-heart ache within you,
and may the indwelling Spirit empower you for loving service. Amen”