Summary: This Epiphany Sermon reflects on how God has to reveal the seemingly obvious meaning of things to us in order for us to come and worship Christ like the Wise Men.
January 8, 2006 Matthew 13:10-17
The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: ”‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.
Some of you may remember a classic old television show called “Leave it to Beaver.” Beaver was a little boy who always seemed to get into some sort of trouble. One time the Beaver disobeyed his parents and picked up a pet bunny. As a result the momma bunny didn’t want anything to do with the bunny because it smelled different due to the Beaver’s scent. Beaver didn’t know what to do, so he went to the wisest man he knew - Gus the fireman. From what I remember, Gus was a skinny elderly gentleman in his 80’s - who sat in a rocking chair and spoke real slow and deliberately. Gus knew enough to put a little bit of vanilla on the momma’s nose so that all the bunnies would smell the same. What made Gus so wise? He was a practical guy who used knew to apply his old life’s experience to every day life. The thing that differentiates smart people from wise people - is that wise people are able to APPLY their smarts to life. I used to know a 4.0 guy who couldn’t do his wash. He could tell you the deepest theological truths but he would constantly get lost as to where he should be in the liturgy. Somewhere there was a disconnect between his knowledge and the application of the knowledge.
Epiphany is an annual celebration of the Wise Men - otherwise known as Magi - coming to visit Jesus. If you had a good knowledge of natural things - whether it be the land, animals, the weather, or the stars, back then you were known as a Magi. It was a respectable term, like being called a professor. These were no idiots that came to see Jesus. They were Wise Men. They were able to apply their knowledge of nature to life.
The Wise Men - while studying the stars - noticed a very peculiar one on their western horizon - something that they had never seen before. Their knowledge of the stars helped them to notice this anomaly - something that your average adult watching his nightly rerun of Everybody Loves Raymond would never notice. Yet even with their knowledge of the stars, how would they equate this star with the birth of the Messiah and be wise enough to go and look for Him? There is only one seemingly vague reference to a star in the Old Testament in Numbers 24:17. It says, “A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel.” Daniel may have been told by inspiration of the Holy Spirit that a star would appear in the East when the Christ child was to be born, and relayed this to the other Magi in the area of Babylon. This interpretation may have been carried on for 500 plus years. Either way, there is no way that they would have been able to tell the significance of this star WITHOUT a special revelation from God - no matter how wise they were. Epiphany is a Greek word that means “to make known.” God gave the Wise Men - some Gentiles from as far away as Babylon or Sheba - an Epiphany - showing them the meaning of the star and drawing them to Bethlehem from far away.
We come here today to celebrate Epiphany as God’s Christmas to us Gentiles - His revelation of the Christ to people far away from the Jews. We celebrate the fact that out of all of the people in the world, God has revealed to US that Jesus is the Christ as well. The people walking in darkness have seen a great light. Jesus is not just a great teacher. He is God almighty - come in the flesh to save us from our sins. We have the wisdom to know not only that Christ died - but that He died for us and our salvation is complete in Him.