A Mystery Revealed: Jesus Came for All People
The Festival of Epiphany
Text: Matthew 2:1-12
The day I married my bride was a mindboggling day. It was wonderful and great, don’t misunderstand me. But at the same time it was a truly unique day in my life, a day that would drastically change every day that followed it. For 20 some years I had the status of “unmarried” and in one afternoon so much of my life changed… for the better obviously, but getting married brought some drastic changes. I was a husband, I had a new roommate, and it was a girl, I had a whole new set of responsibilities, my life would never be the same as it was before I said “I do.”
It all went by so fast, so many things happened that it’s impossible to remember all the details. Much of my memory is fuzzy when it comes to that day, but certain things I will never forget… seeing my bride for the first time, wondering if she would be able to slide the ring onto my knobby, clammy finger, the beautiful sun setting behind a field of corn casting a red-orange glow across the sky at our reception… these I will never forget. It was such a surreal feeling. Over the next days and weeks the thought would randomly pop into my head, “oh yeah, I’m married now.” It was crazy, something you have to go through to understand.
I imagine most of you have experienced one of these surreal moments; a time when you looked back at what had just transpired and said to yourself, “Did that really just happen? What’s going on? This is crazy!” The day you got engaged, or married, the day you had your first child, the day everything came together and you got a new job or a promotion; there are days in all of our lives when the only way to really describe them is… surreal…
I imagine the day that the Magi knocked on Mary and Joseph’s door was a pretty surreal day…
There they were going about their lives figuring out what life was like in Bethlehem. They had just gotten there and had a child. Now Joseph was probably picking up carpenter jobs around town, he had to make money to support his new family. They were figuring out how to be parents for the first time. Life was probably starting to fall into a routine again after the excitement of moving and having a baby in a barn. And then all of a sudden the day recorded in Matthew chapter 2 took place…
Years later when Mary and Joseph told and retold the events of that day some things may have been fuzzy. How many Magi were there? They came from the East, but exactly where? Were they astrologers, or astronomers? How did they know that the star they followed would lead them to the King of the Jews? How did they locate one particular house by following a star anyway?
Some things from that day may have been fuzzy, but there were other things that they would never forget… these strange men on their knees before a child, a carpenter’s son… those dusty, travel wearied hands extending gifts of tremendous value to a child they had never met, a child who didn’t look very special on the outside, gifts of gold, of incense and of myrrh…
Much of that day is a mystery to us. We don’t know much about these wise men, we never hear from them again. What did they talk about with Mary and Joseph? Will we see them in heaven? What was the star like? Why did God show these particular men the way to Jesus door in Bethlehem?
For Mary and Joseph this was not the first surreal and mysterious day they had spent with their little boy. They had each been visited by angels; I can’t imagine they forgot what that was like. Just after Jesus was born a bunch of shepherds showed up and worshiped their newborn baby talking about an angelic choir, that night must have been pretty surreal.
This wouldn’t be the last surreal and mysterious day they would spend with their son Jesus. He would turn water to wine. He would heal the sick, give strength to the paralyzed, open the eyes of the blind. The words of his mouth would stop storms in their tracks, and make one small basket of fish and bread feed thousands. He would walk on water. At his command dead people would come alive.
Mary at least would undergo the surreal torment that would accompany any parent watching their child die as she stood at the foot of the cross. Much of that day must have been fuzzy for her, certain things she would never forget even though she probably wanted to… the sight of her beaten and blooded boy, the look of death on her child’s face.
But how much more surreal Jesus’ resurrection must have been for Mary and Joseph. Days earlier they saw him dead and then they saw him alive, they felt the warmth of his skin, heard his voice ringing in their ears!
Much about this boy was surreal; much about this Jesus was a mystery. Much of Jesus’ story, much of the bible is as surreal to us as it was to Mary and Joseph…
In the Bible we have a mystery revealed… Jesus came for all people. One of the surreal teachings that the Bible uncovers for us is that Jesus had to come because of my sin. He had to come because of your transgressions. The memories of our lives are fuzzy in many spots but the Bible will never let us forget some events of our days… there was that time when we worshiped a god other than the one in heaven. When you made your priorities and wishes more important than God’s. When I threw a tantrum and pouted when God didn’t make things go my way.
There was that time when we showed nothing close to the fervor of the Magi who traveled hundreds of miles to see Jesus and worship him. You were too lazy and selfish to make your way ten miles to church for worship and bible class, or spend 10 minutes reading your Bible to your family at the dinner table
The Bible will not let me forget all those days I cursed the government for having to pay taxes or follow other rules that interfere with my life, when I cheated my bosses out of money by being lazy at work.
The Bible will not let you forget when in your anger you committed murder, because all it takes is hatred to break the fifth commandment as far as the Bible is concerned.
We are reminded of our sinful doubt and horrible selfishness time and again in the pages of the Bible. Doubt leads to worry and who of us has not worried about something in our lives? Didn’t God say he would take care of us, what are we worried about? Selfishness leads to stinginess. Didn’t God give you everything you have now? Isn’t he able to give you more if he wants, isn’t he able to take away what you have now if he wants? Why is it so hard for us to joyfully give money or time to the work of God’s kingdom?
The Bible has made very clear to us that perfection is the only thing good enough to earn heaven. The Bible has made clear to us that God knows our every thought, word and deed. The Bible has made clear to us that left to our own devices we have earned a one way ticket to eternal fire.
The Bible has also made very clear to us that God loved us enough to save us from hell… Jesus won our right to heaven. Let that sink in… heaven is yours because of Jesus! Talk about surreal! Talk about a time when it is appropriate to say, “Wait, what just happened?” We were bound in chains taking the slow walk toward hell and God broke us free and pointed us on the road to heaven.
In the Bible we have a mystery revealed… Jesus came for all people. Jesus came for Jews, he came for Gentiles, he came for American’s, he came for you, he came for me. Just as the wise men would not have known the way to Jesus if God had not revealed it to them, we would not have known that Jesus came for us if the Bible had not told us so. It is a surreal and mysterious thing. Kind of like my wedding it is a life changing thing. Jesus won us the right to be called children of God. Before faith was planted in our hearts we lived the life of dead sinners with no hope for a future. In the middle of our sin, God came to us in his word and sacraments. He revealed to us his good news. He revealed Jesus to us.
He gave us the Bible so that we could experience with Mary and Joseph the power of that little boy in Bethlehem. The Wise Men, by God’s grace, knew that Jesus was worthy of praise and worship. We see the power of God at work when he causes wealthy, powerful, wise men to fall on their knees in humility before a little boy who does not look that special in the eyes of the world.
As the mystery of God’s plan for our salvation unfolds before our eyes in the pages of scripture we experience all the same surreal moments that Mary and Joseph experienced. We see our Savior heal the sick, knowing that he will heal us as well. We see our Savior rise from death, knowing that his death and resurrection mean we no longer have to fear the grave because it is only temporary.
From the moment God’s mysteries were made known to us, from the moment we came to faith in Jesus our lives were changed.
Faith is a surreal and mysterious thing. It caused the Wise Men to travel hundreds of miles and give extravagant gifts to Jesus. It causes us to say no to the temptations we face every day. It opens our eyes to the plan that God has for us in life. His plan to bless us on this earth. His plan to use us to bless others. His plan to use our gifts and time to spread the gospel. His plan to take us to heaven for all eternity.
I love my wife very much, but my wedding will always take a back seat to one other day in my life. On May 31st 1987 I was baptized into the Kingdom of God. My memories from that day are fuzzy, but some things I will never forget… On that day I had a mystery revealed to me: Jesus came for me. On Epiphany we celebrate this fact; Jesus is the Savior of the world.