Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Dorr, Michigan

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Third Sunday after the Epiphany

Third Sunday after the Epiphany (A)
January 27, 2008
Text: Matt. 4:12-25

Jesus’ evangelism program would be considered a failure by modern church growth standards. He doesn’t canvas the neighborhood. He doesn’t take surveys to ascertain His community’s felt needs. He doesn’t ask what kind of preaching people want to hear, or what kind of facility will be most attractive, or what programs people desire. He simply speaks the Word of God. “Follow me,” Jesus says to Simon Peter and his brother Andrew, “and I will make you fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19; ESV). And they get up and follow Him. A Word from Jesus is all it takes. They leave everything. And they do so “Immediately” (v. 20). For the Holy Spirit has called them by the Gospel and enlightened them with His gifts. He works through the Word of Jesus. He calls to faith and discipleship through the Word of Jesus. That’s evangelism: Speaking the Word of Jesus. So also when Jesus comes upon James and John, the sons of Zebedee, mending their nets, He simply calls them. A Word from Jesus is all it takes. “Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him” (v. 22).

“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men,” says Jesus. That is how He calls disciples for Himself. That is how He calls you and me. He speaks His Word. The Holy Spirit works through that Word, as He has promised, to call and enlighten us with saving faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But this leaves us with two questions: What does it mean to follow Jesus? And what does it mean to be a fisher of men?

To follow Jesus means to be His disciple, to be under His discipline. It means to be devoted to His apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, the breaking of bread, and the prayers (Acts 2:42). It means bearing the holy cross. “Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 16:24-25). Jesus goes the way of the cross, so if you are to follow Him, you must expect to go that way as well. The path to Easter always passes through Good Friday. There must be death before there can be resurrection. Following Jesus means suffering, and even dying if necessary, for His sake and for the sake of the Gospel. Grace is free, but it isn’t cheap. Being a disciple of Jesus means persecution. It means disdain from the world, and sometimes even our own friends and family members. It means being faithful to Jesus and His teaching, even when being faithful isn’t easy. It means repentance, confessing our unfaithfulness to God every time we fail, and asking Him for forgiveness. It means a daily dying to self, the baptismal life, the crucifixion of the flesh and the new life in Jesus Christ. If you have ever been under the impression that following Jesus is easy, you have been sadly mistaken. It is hard. Salvation is given to you freely, for Christ’s sake, on account of His sin atoning death, but that salvation always comes with the cross. And this is why not everyone answers Jesus’ call, “Follow me.” They are not willing to leave everything if it becomes necessary, their nets, their boats, their own father, to follow Jesus. It’s just too hard.

The Lord may not have required you to leave everything for His sake. But what if He did? What if He exposed your idolatry and asked you to die to yourself, forsake your earthly comforts, perhaps lose friends, or even family members, or maybe even your life for His sake or the sake of the Gospel? That’s what it means to take up your cross and follow Jesus. Make no mistake about it, it’s hard. And though our Lord may not ask us literally to leave all our possessions as Simon and Andrew and James and John did, He does ask us to forsake them emotionally and spiritually for His sake, so that if there is ever a conflict between Jesus and other things or other people, Jesus should win in the hearts of His disciples every time. He should reign without a rival in your heart. “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:37-38). “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life” (Mark 10:29-30).

But if following Jesus is so hard, how can any of us call ourselves disciples? How can I call myself a disciple of Jesus when I don’t want to forsake all for Him, when I don’t want to undergo persecution, when I don’t have the strength to bear up under the cross? Beloved, with man this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible. If you concentrate on yourself and your own worthiness and works, all you will find is sin and death and idolatry. But you do not call yourself to faith. God calls you! You do not make your decision for Jesus. God makes His decision for you! You can reject God. But God never rejects you! Instead He sacrifices His Son on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins. He calls you to repentance and He calls you to faith. The Son of God, Jesus Christ, who bore for us the load of this world’s sin, your sin and my sin, on the cross of Calvary, and who has also conquered death in His victorious resurrection from the dead, says to you this morning and each time you encounter His Holy Word: “Follow me.” The initiative always comes from Him. The Holy Spirit works through that Word to give you faith. The Holy Spirit calls you by the Gospel, enlightens you with His gifts, sanctifies and keeps you in the one true faith. Following Jesus is hard, but the Holy Spirit carries you. When the cross seems too heavy, take comfort in the fact that you do not bear it alone. While you bear the cross, God bears you.

Yes beloved, in Christ, whose possession you are, into whom you have been baptized, you have the full and free forgiveness of all your sins, including the sin idolatry that so often hinders your flesh from heeding Jesus’ call to follow. Jesus gives you new life. Every time you hear or read the Word of God, every time you recall your Baptism, every time you are absolved of your sins, and every time you receive the Lord’s body and blood, our gracious Triune God is calling you again, enlightening you, sanctifying you, and keeping you in the one true faith. Which is to say, our God is working through the Gospel, creating faith and giving you strength for each day as you bear the various crosses and undergo the various trials he allows to come upon you. This is indeed Gospel, Good News. For in Christ, all that is wrong with you is made right again. You have eternal life, the promise of heaven and the resurrection, and peace with God. Your will is no longer in captivity to sin. You are disciples, those under the discipline of Jesus. You follow Him.

As a result, you are fishers of men. But what does that mean? It means that you now have the great privilege of speaking His Word, being His mouthpiece as He calls others to be His disciples. You get to point others to Jesus and say, “Follow Him.” It is the response of faith. You do this through your daily vocations as royal priests. Sometimes it means having conversations about the Gospel when the opportunity arises with friends or co-workers or family members or even people you meet on the street or in an airplane or on the bus. Sometimes it means living in such a way that men see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven (Matt. 5:16), and perhaps ask you the reason for the hope that you have (1 Peter 3:15). It always means supporting your pastor and the ministry he has at this congregation. It always means being faithful in your own reception of the means of grace, the Word and the Sacrament. It always means setting an example for your family and others by faithful attendance at church and Bible class and in individual and family devotions. And it means inviting others to church, where they can hear the Word for themselves, receive the call of our Lord Jesus Christ to follow Him, and receive the gift of Christian Baptism, instruction in Christian doctrine, and the Sacrament of the Altar.

This would not be considered an evangelism program by church growth gurus. They would probably call it a maintenance ministry. But this is the evangelism program of Jesus. And what better program could there be? Jesus doesn’t promise us we will always see the fruit of our fishing for men. We aren’t promised astounding success. Sometimes we fish all night and catch nothing. But then, without explanation, our Lord tells us to let down the nets on the other side of the boat. We don’t understand it. It doesn’t seem like it will work. It isn’t practical. But we do it anyway in faith. And the catch is so big, the nets begin to break. Jesus doesn’t call us to success. He calls us to be faithful in speaking His Word. He calls us to make disciples by baptizing and teaching (Matt. 28:19-20). The results we leave to Him. We cast the net by speaking the Gospel to a world lost in sin. The catch is up to God. And we rest in the same Gospel hope, the same net that caught us, the forgiveness of sins and new life in Jesus Christ. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Second Sunday after the Epiphany

Second Sunday after the Epiphany (A)
January 20, 2008
Text: John 1:29-42a

“What are you seeking?” (John 1:38; ESV), Jesus asks John’s disciples who are following Him. John had pointed them to Jesus declaring, “Behold, the Lamb of God” (v. 36). “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (v. 29). The disciples follow Jesus because they are seeking the one, perfect, all-availing sacrifice for sin. They are sinners, and they know it. They came to John the Baptist in the wilderness confessing their sins and being baptized in the Jordan River. Now the prophet John has pointed them to the one and only source of forgiveness, the Lamb of God to which all the sacrificial lambs and all the other sacrifices in the Old Testament pointed. John points his own disciples away from himself to Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. Two of John’s disciples, including the soon-to-be apostle Andrew, follow Jesus seeking satisfaction for their greatest need: the forgiveness of sins.

So, dear Christian, what are you seeking? What have you come to this church building to see? For what kind of Savior are you pining? Are you perhaps seeking a designer Jesus, a custom built Messiah? Are you seeking a nice Jesus who fits in a nice box of your own creation? Are you seeking a Jesus who makes you feel good about yourself? Are you seeking a Jesus who satisfies your felt needs? Are you seeking a Jesus who makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside? Are you seeking a Jesus who not only accepts you just as you are, but affirms you for who you are? And why did you come here this morning? Are you here because this is where your friends congregate? Are you here because going to church is what respectable people do, where they come to see and be seen? Are you here to be entertained? Repent. If you came for any of these reasons, if you seek any of these Jesuses, you have come to the wrong place and you are seeking an idol. Jesus is none of these things, and the Church, which is His body, is none of these things. But dear Christian, if you are seeking a Savior from sin, along with His gifts, including the forgiveness of sins, life, salvation, peace with God, and the grace and blessings of Almighty God, you’ve come to the right place, seeking the right Savior. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. There is no other Savior here. This building exists for no other purpose than to proclaim this Jesus and distribute His gifts. John points you to Him this morning. Likewise Andrew and the other disciples. And if any preacher, be he prophet, apostle, Christian pastor, televangelist, or even an angel from heaven, proclaims a different Gospel or a different Jesus, let him be accursed (Gal. 1:6-9).

Andrew and his companion were seeking the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. John had faithfully pointed them to that blessed sacrificial Lamb. “What are you seeking?” Jesus asks them. “‘Rabbi’ (which means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come and you will see’” (vv. 38-39). The disciples followed Him to His dwelling and stayed with Him all that day, undoubtedly transfixed by His every word as He taught them. As they heard His Word, they knew this could only be the long awaited Messiah. The Holy Spirit brought them to faith. And they then pointed others to the Lamb. Andrew found his brother, Simon Peter, and declared, “‘We have found the Messiah’ (which means Christ)” (John 1:41). He then brought him to Jesus (v. 42). And so the Kingdom of God has spread throughout the world. Those who come to know Jesus by faith proclaim Him to others, and bring these others to a place where they, too, can meet Jesus, and see Him for themselves. They bring them to the Holy Church.

A great deal of time and money is being spent on evangelism these days. Some programs and movements authored by church bureaucrats are better than others, and at least they recognize the importance of the Church’s task of confessing Christ to a world lost in sin and death. And hopefully they recognize that there is only one paradigm left by our Lord for doing such evangelism, that recorded in Matthew, the 28th Chapter, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (vv. 19-20; emphasis added). But the reality is that real evangelism doesn’t require a program or a movement, as helpful as these things may or may not be. Real evangelism requires the disciples of Jesus, you and me and our brothers and sisters throughout the world, to point those we know and those with whom we come into contact to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, our Lord Jesus Christ. And then bring them to the place where they can meet Him for themselves… the Church! Invite people to church. It’s really that simple. This is where they will meet Jesus. Do as Andrew did for his brother Peter. Bring them to Jesus, here in the midst of Jesus’ body, the Church, where Jesus will speak to them through His Word, and, God-willing, bring them to the saving waters of Holy Baptism, instruction in Christian doctrine, and the blessed Supper of our Lord’s own body and blood.

But of course, when the Church confesses Christ to the community and to the world, she must be clear about who this Christ is. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. There is no other Christ. There is no other Savior. “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). That means we must be faithful to His Word in our proclamation of Him. We must not resort to gimmicks. We must not allow the world to set our agenda or determine our practice. We must not cater to felt needs. Jesus does not come to us on our terms or on the terms of those we bring to Him. He comes to us on His own terms. So you see how misguided and sinful it is to pander to the base desires of those who only want their itching ears scratched, or to pander to our own base desires when we don’t like what the Word of God says. It is so tempting sometimes to compromise God-pleasing doctrine and practice for the sake of bolstering church attendance and the bottom line of the Sunday offering. We could fill these pews to overflow if we were willing to compromise the Word of God. But if we do so, we do so to our own eternal peril, and the eternal peril of those brought into the building by our lies, but never brought into the one, holy, Christian, and apostolic Church.

We must always be clear about which Jesus, which Savior we confess and proclaim here. We confess and proclaim the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and no one else. There is no other Savior. There is no other proclamation from this pulpit. Itching ears must never be scratched here. The Church is a hospital for sinners. It is where the medicine of immortality is distributed through the means of grace. It is a place for sinners to be slaughtered by the Law and resurrected by the Gospel. It is the place for mortification of the flesh and new life in Christ. This is the place for an encounter with Jesus, personally, in the flesh, by means of Word and Sacrament, in order to receive real forgiveness for real sins. What are you seeking? What kind of Savior do you desire? Because you will only find one Savior here. You will only find one Jesus here. He is a friend, but He is not a buddy. He is a counselor, but He is not a psychologist or psychiatrist. He is meek, but He doesn’t wink at sin. He is the Jesus who calls upon you to repent of your sins and believe the Good News of forgiveness and life in Him.

And that is why we do evangelism. We do evangelism to faithfully point sinners to the only Savior, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. That is also why we give money to support missions here and abroad, so that missionaries in other places can faithfully point sinners to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. We don’t do evangelism and missions for any other reason. We don’t do evangelism and missions for the sake of the offering plate, even though we sometimes sinfully talk and think as if we do. We don’t do evangelism and missions to promote ourselves. Rather, like John the Baptist, we point those who hear us away from ourselves to Jesus. We are interested only in the command of the Lord of the Church: making disciples of all nations for Him by baptizing and teaching, bringing sinners to Jesus so that their sins can be forgiven, that they might know Him for themselves and believe in Him, and believing, have eternal life.

But again, what about you? What are you seeking? Why are you here this morning? You may not know it, but you are here this morning because the Holy Spirit, in His grace, brought you here for an encounter with His Holy Word, the Word concerning Jesus. Regardless of the earthly circumstances that may appear as though they brought you here this morning, it is really the Holy Spirit who brought you here, to kill you by His Law and raise you to life by the Gospel of Christ. He brought you here to expose your sin and eradicate it with the blood of Christ. He brought you here so that you could meet Christ for yourself, as you meet Him every time you hear His Word and receive His Supper. Regardless of the Jesus you think you want, the Holy Spirit brought you here for the real thing: the very Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world; the perfect, once-for-all sacrifice, that takes away your sin. And the Holy Spirit also works within you by His Word, so that you desire and trust no other Jesus. May He ever keep you in His Word and faith. All thanks and praise be to God. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Epiphany of Our Lord

The Epiphany of Our Lord (A)
January 6, 2008
Text: Matt. 2:1-12

In the beginning, the earth was formless and void, and there was no light. Out of the darkness, out of nothing, God spoke His Word and called forth the light. Before there was a sun, before there was a moon and stars, there was light, created and sustained by the Word who was in the beginning with God and who was God (John 1:1-3).

If there is to be light, God must call it forth. The same God who called forth light by His eternal Word in creation has sent that eternal Word into the flesh to be the Light of the world. It is this Light, the Light of our Lord Jesus Christ, to which the light of the star testifies. The wise men follow the light of the star in search of the Light of the world. The wise men were “learned men and scientists of their day, who devoted themselves to the study of nature, medicine, mathematics, physics, astronomy, and the like.”[1] They were men of letters, philosophers, seekers and lovers of the collective wisdom of the world. They very well may have been Persian magi in the tradition of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. If that is the case, the teaching of the great prophet Daniel and his compatriots concerning the Messiah would have been passed down through the generations of Persian magi to the very wise men in our text. In any case, these wise men knew the Hebrew Scriptures. They knew the oracle of Balaam, recorded by Moses in the Book of Numbers: “a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel” (24:17; ESV). Thus they made their pilgrimage to Jerusalem by the light of that star. “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him” (Matt. 2:2).

If there is to be light, God must call it forth. The Holy Spirit caused the light of the Scriptures to shine on the hearts of the wise men, that they might arise and seek the Light of the Father, the Light of the world, the King of the Jews and Savior of the nations, Jesus Christ. The same God who first called forth light by His Word in creation… the same God who sent the Light of the world in the flesh to be born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem… the same God who testified to that Light by establishing the light of the star in the heavens… that God had enlightened these Gentile wise men with the light of faith. That’s the only way it happens. If there is to be light, God must call it forth.

Epiphany is the season of light. Epiphany means manifestation or revelation. Light reveals what has been hidden in darkness. That which is hidden is made manifest in the light. Jesus Christ is the Light of the world. Our text reveals Jesus as the Savior and King not only of the Jews, but of the Gentiles as well. He is a Light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of His people Israel. “In him was life, and that life was the light of men” (John 1:4). But not all men bask in that divine Light. Upon hearing of the birth of this new King of the Jews, “Herod… was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him” (Matt. 2:3). The Light of Jesus Christ is a threat. It is a threat because it overthrows the darkness. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). Herod did not want the Light. It might make demands on him. It might make a claim on his kingdom. It might make a claim on his heart. Better that the light be snuffed out than that his kingdom be challenged. Likewise, Jerusalem did not want trouble. Sure, they wanted to be free of the tyranny of the Romans, but a new King means a revolution, and a revolution means blood. What if the revolution fails? What if the Light is deceiving? We’ll wait and see what happens, but we will not follow the wise men in search of that Light.

The chief priests and scribes know where the Child is to be born. “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel” (Matt. 2:5-6). But they, likewise, are unwilling to follow. They might be seen as traitors to Herod. They might have to pay with their lives. The Light requires too much. Besides, it is a threat to the old religion. It is comfortable in this system where one is saved by giving lip service to a Messiah who may come someday and by following the prescribed regulations of the Torah. We are not ready for the fulfillment of these promises.

These are the responses of natural man. These are the responses of darkness. “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14). It is a great miracle when God calls forth the light of faith in a person. It is a great miracle when the Holy Spirit casts the light of the Gospel on a hard heart of stone and melts it into a heart of flesh. But it is also a great mystery that not all want to bask in that Light, the Light of Jesus Christ, because Jesus demands the whole of a person, and that is an offense. When the Light that is Jesus Christ takes possession of you, He takes possession of you as a whole. Jesus is not just one part of your life, not even the most important part of your life. He is your life. You have no life outside of Him. Outside of Him you are nothing but darkness. But you have been called into the Light. You are light in the Lord. Yet you cannot serve two masters. You cannot serve both darkness and light. You cannot serve God and mammon. You cannot serve Christ and your own sinful flesh. Your pet idols, whether they be family or friends, money or sex, food or your job, even though these things be good gifts of God, they are not your gods. Your God is in the flesh. He is Jesus. “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 10:37-39).

Who, then, can be saved? We are all darkness. The demands are too much. Beloved, you will never find light or salvation by looking within yourself. Repent. If there is to be light, God must call it forth. He must call you to repentance for your idolatry. He must call you to faith. He must call you to be heirs of His Kingdom. And the good news is, He has called forth His Light, Jesus Christ, to die for your sinful idolatry, to wipe out your sins on the cross, to pay the penalty for you. And He has called you to faith in this same Jesus Christ by His Holy Spirit working in the Word and Sacraments. He has had mercy upon you. He has immersed you in His grace. He has united you to the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ in Baptism. You are clean and new. All your sins have been forgiven. For Christ has died, and Christ is risen. He is the Light of the world. The Lord is your Light and your Salvation. Whom shall you fear? For I am convinced that “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation” will be able to separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:38-39). I am convinced that He who began this good work in you will bring it to completion in the Day of Jesus Christ. I am convinced that He who called you by the Gospel and enlightened you with His gifts will also sanctify you and keep you in the one true faith until the return of our Lord.

If there is to be light, God must call it forth. The wise men came to the Light of Jesus Christ. They found Him in a house in Bethlehem with His mother Mary. They worshiped Him. They presented Him with gifts: gold, acknowledging Jesus as King of the Jews and the Gentiles; frankincense, an offering used in the temple, confessing Jesus to be the God of the universe; and myrrh, a burial ointment, confessing Jesus’ sin-atoning death for the life of the world. Forsake your idols. Forsake your comfortable lives. Lose your life in this world that you might find it for eternity. Follow the wise men to Jesus, even if it means Herod kills you for it. Follow the wise men and worship God in the flesh. Present your gifts of faith, hope, and love to Him. Believe in Him, for He is your God, your Light, your Savior. God has called forth that Light for you. He has called forth the light of faith in you. He has made you His own. He loves you. He has forgiven all your sins. “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you” (Is. 60:1). In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] Adam Fahling, The Life of Christ (St. Louis: Concordia, 1936) pp. 106-07.

Epiphany and the Visit of the Magi

Pastor’s Window for January, 2008

Epiphany and the Visit of the Magi

The festival of the Epiphany of our Lord, the event from which our congregation gets its name, is celebrated on January 6, which just happens to be a Sunday this year. The reading for Epiphany is Matthew 2:1-12, the visit of the Magi, or wise men. An epiphany is a manifestation or revelation. When the wise men found Jesus in Bethlehem, Jesus was manifested as Savior and Lord not just of the Jews, but also of the Gentiles.

There are a lot of misconceptions about the Magi, some due to traditions, and others due to ignorance. For example, the Magi were most certainly not kings, despite the popular Christmas carol. The Magi were “learned men and scientists of their day, who devoted themselves to the study of nature, medicine, mathematics, physics, astronomy, and the like, which studies, however, were not always untinged with superstition” (Adam Fahling, The Life of Christ [St. Louis: Concordia, 1936] pp. 106-107). Tradition numbers them as three (due to the three gifts they present), and even names them: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. But the truth is, the Bible says nothing about how many there were or what their names may have been. Most nativity scenes include the Magi, but this, too, is based on a misconception. The Magi did not appear in Bethlehem until well after Jesus’ birth, perhaps even up to two years. And they don’t find Jesus in a stable, but rather in a house (Matt. 2:11).

But what is important about the Magi is that they are Gentiles who recognize Jesus as their divine King. They had studied the Holy Scriptures, the prophecies about the coming Messiah, the King of the Jews. They saw the majestic star in the heavens, and concluded on the basis of the Scriptures that this King must have been born. The Holy Spirit led them to this conclusion on the basis of such passages as Numbers 24:17: “a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel” (ESV). On the basis of Micah 5:2, the chief priests and scribes told Herod and the wise men exactly where the Child was to be born (cf. Matt. 2:6): “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.”

The Magi confessed their faith in this little King by the gifts they gave. They gave Him gold, the possession of kings, confessing Jesus to be King of the Jews and their King. They gave Him frankincense, used in the liturgy of the temple, confessing Jesus to be the great High Priest who offers the perfect, once-for-all sacrifice for sin. They gave Him myrrh, an embalming ointment used to cover up the stench of dead bodies, foreshadowing His death on the cross for the life of the world. After the crucifixion, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus anointed Jesus’ body with “a mixture of myrrh and aloes” (John 19:39). The Baby born in Bethlehem, the Toddler worshiped by the Magi, came to die for the Magi and for all of humanity for the forgiveness of sins, and in this way to reign as King. The Magi confessed these truths with their gifts and their worship.

Jesus is the crucified King of the Magi, and He is our crucified King. He died for you and for me as well as for the Magi and Mary and Joseph and every last human being who has ever lived or ever will live. He is the Magi’s Savior, and He is ours. God reveals Himself to us in the person of Jesus. God is manifest in Jesus. It is a great epiphany. God grant that all of us, like the Magi, so read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the Holy Scriptures that we recognize Emmanuel, God with us, in the Christ Child. God grant that all of us trust in Christ alone for our salvation and confess Him to be our King, our great High Priest, and the only sacrifice for our sin. God grant that from that faith flow our own sacrifices of praise, sacrifices of faith, hope, and love. For though our dear Lord Jesus has died, He even now lives. Christ is risen. God is still manifest in the flesh. He is a flesh and blood God who manifests Himself among us with His real body and blood, speaking real words, giving us new birth in the real water of life.

Epiphany is a great name for this congregation of the Baptized, for here in this place, among this people, God is continually manifest to us in our Savior Jesus Christ. A blessed Epiphany Season to you all.

Pastor Krenz