Epiphany of Mercy

by Rev. Matthew Zickler

With the start of the New Year, we celebrate the season of Epiphany. Epiphany comes from the Greek word epiphaneia, which is an appearing or appearance and, according to Danker’s Greek-English lexicon, can relate to “a visible and sudden manifestation of a hidden divinity.” An epiphany occurs “in the form of a personal appearance, or by some deed of power or oracular communication by which its presence is made known.” Jesus’ epiphany as God is celebrated in two particular readings in the lectionary for this year: the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus and His Baptism by John in the Jordan River.

Read Matt. 2:112 and Mark 1:411. How are these epiphanies? How do these passages show Jesus Himself as a manifestation of God in the flesh?

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The fact that God became man is incomprehensible to us when we really consider it. It is not so hard to believe that God as Creator would come to be in His creation, but it is hard to understand why He came. What should we not forget about His coming when we think of these epiphanies? (See 2 Cor. 5:21; John 1:29 and Rom. 5:611).

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Christ died for our sin when we were still enemies of God. What does this knowledge tell us about the fact that Jesus revealed Himself as God in these appearances, especially those appearances we celebrate during this time of year? (Read 1 John 4:721.)

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While this miracle shows the connection between the forgiveness of sins and the healing of our bodies, all of our Lord’s miracles of healing also show His desire not only for our spiritual welfare but also for our bodily well-being. In the Large Catechism, Luther explains how the Fifth Commandment reflects this desire, saying that its guilt applies “to anyone who can do his neighbor good, prevent or resist evil, defend and save his neighbor so that no bodily harm or hurt happen to himyet does not do this” is guilty of breaking the commandment. Yet the Catechism urges love and mercy: “We ought to practice and teach this; then we would have our hands full by doing good works.”

In consideration of the connection between our service to our neighbor and God’s desire for the well-being of His people, how does Epiphany inform our lives as Christians?

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Where do we still see our Lord’s epiphanies today? Where does He appear to us (Matt. 26:26; Rom. 6:35; Luke 10:111)?

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May the grace of our Lord be with us this Epiphany to love and to serve our neighbor just as our God in the flesh has loved and served us in His life, death and resurrection.

> Green paraments and vestments are often used during Epiphany.

About the author: The Rev. Matthew Zickler is pastor of Saint Paul Lutheran Church, Oak Lawn, Ill.

January 2012

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