The Epiphany of Christ – Romans 15:8-21

The Epiphany of Christ – Romans 15:8-21 January 5, 2014

Star of BethlehemRomans 15:8-21

The vast majority of you who are reading this are Gentiles and if so, God has a special message of hope for you this morning.  For this is the Day of Epiphany when the whole Church celebrates the revelation of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.  More than just an asterisk in world or sacred history, the coming of Christ to the Gentiles is nothing less than the destruction of the Old Covenant and the birth of the much more glorious and perfect New Covenant.  It is the revelation of the mystery of God that has been hidden from ages past but is now revealed to the entire cosmos.

To understand why St. Paul, the apostle elected to go to the Gentiles, is so excited about the revelation of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, we have to imagine that we are still living in the 1st century.  In that time, in the fullness of time, God had revealed Himself in a special way to His chosen people: the Jews.  For 2000 years, God spoke to and acted through the Jews especially, ever since the day He called Abram to the Promised Land.  It was to the Jews that the Promised Land had been given, and it was the Jews to whom had been entrusted the oracles of God.  It was the Jews who were a kingdom of priests for the world, and through them, through the Messiah, the whole world would be blessed.

In all of this, the place of the vast majority of the world was obscured in theological and soteriological shadows.  But what about the Gentiles?

It would be as if we as Christians had had 2000 years of history living as the Church and being heirs of the promises of God – and then God told us that that way was now gone to make way for the more perfect way.  Of course it’s impossible for God to create Newer Covenant, and there is no revelation beyond that of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  But I raise the issue to help us realize how accustomed the world had become to the special place of the Jews and the plight of the Gentiles.

But praise God that in the fullness of time He chose to reveal Himself to the Gentiles, and not only the Gentiles but the Jews, through the person of His Son, who is the Messiah of the world, and the exact image of God Almighty.

What is to be our response to such a great revelation to those of us who sat in darkness and death?  There are two.

First, we are to praise God for His salvation in our lives.

“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people!” (Deuteronomy 32:43).

“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles!  Laud Him, all you peoples!” (Psalm 117:1)

Regardless of how your life looks to you this morning, no matter how groggy you are, remember that God has revealed Himself to you through His Son, Jesus Christ, your Lord.

The second response is to act like St. Paul, that is, to make it your aim to preach the gospel.  You may not have been called and ordained by God to preach in a pulpit, and you may not have been called to be a missionary.  But you have been called to proclaim (“preach”) the Good News of Jesus Christ, in season and out of season.

You, a Gentile, who once walked in darkness and were once apart from God and without hope or salvation, should understand the necessity of going and proclaiming the Good News from the rooftops.  How else can Isaiah prophecy and Paul repeat, “To whom He was not announced, they shall see; And those who have not heard shall understand”?

You are, like St. Paul, a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, to those who have not heard of Jesus Christ.  You are a minister of the gospel of God, and not only the “Gentiles” among us who have not heard the Good News but also to the “Jews,” those among us who have heard the Word but need to be taught how to live by it.

What kind of a person has been shown the way of Truth and Life and Blessing, when he did not seek it or know where to find it, and then refuses to go and show others?  If only we truly understood how marvelous and miraculous the Epiphany of Jesus Christ to us Gentiles was, then we’d be more motivated to share Him with others.  In fact, if we truly understood the grace of God in our lives, we would be like the apostles, who, when ordered not to speak about Jesus Christ anymore, answered, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge.  For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”

But you have been commanded, not by men but by God Himself, to speak in the name of Jesus Christ.

Therefore, proclaim Christ to others, as He was first proclaimed to you.  In this way may we all show our love for God and neighbor, as God first loved us.

Prayer:  O God of hope, fill me with all joy and peace in believing, that I may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit, to the comfort and hope of my soul, for the edification and salvation of my neighbors, and to the eternal praise of Your name; through Jesus Christ, to whom with You and the Holy Spirit be all praise, both now and forevermore.  Amen. 

Point for Meditation: 

1.  Imagine that you are a Gentile in the 1st century.  What might it have felt like to have the God of Abraham and His salvation revealed to you?  Transfer that feeling to the epiphany of Jesus Christ in your own life.

2.  In what ways has Jesus Christ revealed Himself to you?

3.  Who are the people in your life that have revealed Jesus Christ more perfectly to you?  How can you follow in their example? 

Resolution:  I resolve to find one way to proclaim Jesus Christ to someone in my life.  It may be someone I am to introduce to Jesus Christ, or someone to whom I have been sent to teach Christ more perfectly, or someone to whom I have been called to disciple.

© 2014 Fr. Charles Erlandson

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