Summary: The Epiphany is all about the divinity of Jesus being revealed to the world; but not everyone like this news. This is a very interesting story with a variety of characters: eg. compare the characters of Jesus with Herod.
This sermon was delivered to St Oswald’s, Maybole, Ayrshire, Scotland on the 8th January 2012; St Oswald’s is a Scottish Episcopal Church in the Dioceses of Glasgow and Dumfries.
“Please join me in a short prayer from Psalms 19:14, and ” Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer. Amen.
To most people, the word Epiphany will mean nothing. In fact most Christians will probably say they have heard the name but are not to sure what it is, until you mention the wise men then they will quickly regurgitate the story of the three wise men, (or the three kings), from the east visiting Jesus the night he was born giving him gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.
Well this is not the message in Mathew’s gospel. Yes the Christian tradition pictures these wise men, (or Magi as in Magicians), as kings; but it is most likely they were astrologers from Babylon, who, because of the influence of Daniel, heard about a promised messiah. It is also assumed that there were three of them, one for each of the three gifts presented to Jesus, yet again, there is nowhere in the Bible to indicate that there were only three.
And, by popular opinion, it is taken that these wise men showed up on the very night of our Saviour’s birth; despite the fact that most historians and theologians agree that the visit took place when Jesus was about two years old.
So you may ask, what are we to believe? Well I do not think these facts are too important because it does not interfere with the real message which is Jesus was presented to the world in his full divinity.
Let me explain, Mathew in his gospel tells us what our reaction should be to this birth; a reaction which asks, who exactly is that baby in the manger; as later on, Jesus himself asked His disciples that very same question in chapter 16 "Who do you say I am?"
Jesus is the King of the Jews
According to the apostle Matthew who was a Jew, writing to fellow Jews; Jesus is the King of the Jews, the promised Messiah, and the Christ; Mathew then gives us two proofs.
First, the star
First, the star; because unlike us, the people of Matthew's age would not have found the Magi's claim bizarre, … that a star rose to herald the birth of the King of the Jews. In Matthew's day it was accepted that births and deaths of great men were marked by heavenly signs; such as written in Numbers 24:17, were it says "A star will come out of Jacob; a sceptre will rise out of Israel" and the Jews of Matthew's were well acquainted with this prophecy, and that star was no accident, to them, it was a sign from God.
Second, the place of his birth.
The second proof Matthew gives us is the place of his birth, which was Bethlehem. When King Herod heard about the Magi, he was told by his chief administrators who quoted Micah 5:2, by saying "In Bethlehem, in the land of Judah”. Matthew's message is so very clear: the baby in the manger is the King of the Jews, the Christ, the Messiah.
Jesus Acknowledged as King by Gentiles
To move on, the Epiphany is all about the divinity of Jesus being revealed to the world, and who better to reveal his divinity than the neutral or alien Gentiles. That is what is happening here. The Gentile Magi are proclaiming Christ as the Messiah and this in God’s plan, removing all political manipulation.
Now as you know, when a new King is born, there is usually excitement; … however the Magi must have been disappointed as they were directed to a lowly house.
Yet, when the Magi announced that Jesus was the Messiah, the people, together with Herod, were actually disturbed.
Herod was disturbed because Jesus was a rival to his throne, and Herod met secretly with the Magi because he was already planning to kill all the infant boys of Jerusalem in order to ensure the death of Jesus.
The ordinary people were disturbed because they knew what happen when Herod felt threatened, as he would murder, kill and pillaged; which he did.
The Priests and Pharisees were disturbed because the Messiah's birth threatened their political status and public positions, and so instead of rejoicing, many were disturbed rather than rejoicing.
You therefore must ask as to why the Magi, despite all this despondency, continue with their search for the Messiah onto Bethlehem.
Well the Magi were not first century autograph hunters who wanted the thrill of being the first ones to greet the new King. No, they had had already announced their intention in Jerusalem that they wanted "to worship him." Verse 11 says "they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him".