Epiphany means a sudden realization or revelation. As Christians, we continue to have epiphanies as we study God’s Word.
When people speak of having an “aha!” moment, they mean they suddenly have a new insight into something. “Now I get it!” they might exult. A revelation has taken place. What was mysterious is now marvelously revealed.
That is what the festival and season of Epiphany bring to us—wondrous revelations. Even what we might think of as a review can become new.
Besides St. Matthew’s account of the visit of the wise men to Jesus (2:1-12), our congregations frequently read Ephesians 3:1-12 on Epiphany. There the apostle Paul wrote of his own—and everyone’s—epiphany:
God’s grace that was given to me for you . . . the mystery made known to me by revelation . . . my insight . . . as it has now been revealed by the Spirit . . . to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery . . . now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known.
Those words suggest to us that there is much to be revealed, both in the Epiphany season and our day-to-day life of faith. Let’s review the “manifold wisdom of God” and find some “aha!” moments.
This child of Bethlehem is also true God
Clearly the great wonder of Christmas is the truth that the everlasting God has been born as one of us. Epiphany emphasizes the flip side of this miracle—this child born of Mary is also God. As Christmas anthems hailing “the incarnate Deity” (God made flesh) fade away, Epiphany hymns jump in celebrating “God in man made manifest.” If he were not true man, he could not bleed and die. If he were not true God, his blood would not be so precious. These two truths come together in St. John’s glorious declaration that “the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Aha!
Jewish and Gentile believers are united
St. Paul focuses on another mystery. He writes, “This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 3:6).
Make no mistake, our gracious Lord had made provisions in Old Testament times for the non-Jewish believers to be part of his family. When the Lord announced his full and free forgiveness, their sins were not counted against them the same way as the Israelite’s sins were not counted against them. But even between believing Jews and believing Gentiles, there were still barriers.
The New Testament family no longer needs such cultural or racial barriers. Earlier in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul explained how this wondrous new unity came to be: “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace” (Ephesians 2:13-15). Aha! All believers in Christ are included in God’s family.
What a privilege to proclaim this peace
We all strive to replicate Paul’s humble attitude about the privilege of sharing the Prince of peace with other sinners. Every child of God—not just those with formal calls to serve in the church—can join him in saying, “Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8).
He explains that God’s “intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known” (3:10). We can easily find all kinds of flaws and inadequacies in ourselves, our congregations, and our church bodies. God knows those problems better than any of us. Yet he still sticks with his plan for us, our congregations, and our church bodies. He made us the communicators of his grace. The Lord could have created some new beings to make known his grace. He could have used his existing angels. But, aha, he uses us.
Even the angels have new insights
Speaking of angels, Paul informs us that God’s wisdom is revealing glorious things, even to the angels themselves. “The manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 3:10). Paul is not the only one who references this holy curiosity of the angels. When the apostle Peter wrote about the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah, he pointed out that not only the prophets themselves but also the angels longed “to look into these things” (1 Peter 1:12). The angels are most likely singing their ahas as the gospel goes forth from the church, winning stubborn hearts all over the globe. Aha! How wonderful is God’s grace!
His “manifold wisdom” continues to unfold
The wonders of the gospel’s spreading and conquering as well as the gospel itself keep bringing us fresh insights. Ancient writers used the word we translate as manifold to describe multicolored cloth. Modern geologists use it to describe crystals with unusually assorted and varied shapes. In the case of the cloth and the crystals, the viewer keeps seeing new things at different times in the changing light of day and at different angles. So it is with the wonder of God’s grace and wisdom. At different times in the day, at different stages in our lives, in different places, we see and appreciate God’s truths in new ways.
So often the wisdom of experience shows us not only that God’s ways are not our ways (see Isaiah 55:8), but also that we cannot thank God enough for that reality. His “manifold wisdom” outshines ours and shows us again and again a color or shade we had not noticed before.
A similar joy comes when we reread a portion of the Bible and notice a turn of phrase or even a certain character or miracle in Scripture that we had somehow missed. “Why didn’t I see that before?” we ask ourselves. You can’t construct a comprehensive body of doctrine exclusively from bumper stickers. But the message “Wise men still seek him” rings true. Aha! We see things with new eyes.
The wise men’s gifts foreshadowed greater ones
This brings us back to the main event of Epiphany—the visit of the Magi to the house in Bethlehem. Though their gold, frankincense, and myrrh were valuable by earthly measures, they were only a feeble, flickering foreshowing of the bright and “boundless riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8) to come. Do you have these riches? Aha! You do. “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).
A joyous and blessed “EpiphAHAny” to all who are in Christ Jesus!
Author: Jonathan Balge
Volume 109, Number 01
Issue: January 2022