The Truth Shall Set You Free
Old Testament Reading- Isaiah 60:1-6
New Testament Reading- Matthew 2:1-12
By Henry J. Rafferty CP -January 2, 2022
Thursday, this week, will be January 6th, the day that Christianity has traditionally celebrated the coming of the Magi to the baby Jesus and their presentation of kingly gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. We call this event the ‘Epiphany,’ but why? The word ‘Epiphany,’ is taken from the Greek, ‘epiphaneia,’ which means, ‘to manifest or appear.’ In English, it means, the manifestation or appearance of a divine being, a revealing scene or moment, or an illuminating discovery or realization. When Christians talk about the visit of the three kings to Christ, we mean that it is a recognition of God incarnate as Jesus and the physical manifestation to the Gentiles, truly an ‘Epiphany.’
This is our first glimpse of the Messiah being recognized by non-Jewish people, also known as, gentiles. This was very important, especially for us who are gentiles, because the Savior of the world is not coming for just one group of people, but to all people. How interesting that God has revealed Himself to non-Jews from far away, when so many of the Jewish hierarchy that should have known Him did not recognize Him at all.
God knows our hearts, He knows who is searching for Him and for truth, the truth that only God can provide. He knew then that these magi were seekers, and they were given the privilege of finding the baby Jesus. We do not know much more about these kings, or if they were even kings, or even if there was three, we assume three because of the gifts, but Scripture does not really tell us much detail. What we do know is that they were guided from somewhere in the east by an astronomical event that they had studied, hence the label of ‘Wise Men,’ they brought gifts fit for a king, and that they were searching for a prophesied king that had been recently born.
We also know that they stopped in Jerusalem inquiring about this birth and they inadvertently tipped off King Herod the Great, who feigned a noble interest, but we know, that he was really a villain and he wanted to kill the infant to avoid any type of threat to his throne. We know that the magi found the Christ child, delivered their gifts, and bowed
down and worshiped Him. We also know that they were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, and they returned to their own country by another route. We know these things about them because of Scripture. Tradition tells us about their number, possible names, and possibly where they were from, we do not know these things as factual though and evidently Matthew did not think those things were important to record. What we do know, and it is important, is they searched Him out and they worshiped Him as God.
I don’t know, but I like to ponder it, did they return to their own country and witness to all they knew about this encounter with God in the flesh, a baby that they knew was named Jesus? Did they begin to spread the good news about God to others while Jesus was still an infant, and maybe thirty years later those they told, heard about a man named Jesus that was preaching and teaching about God in and around Jerusalem? I for one wouldn’t doubt it, the Lord works in great and mysterious ways.
Today we are seeking too. We are all seeking how to make our way in this crazy world. Wondering each day about financial problems, some whether their stocks will go up or down, and by what margin, and others, whether they will have enough money to pay all the month’s bills. Worrying about their health, will that cancer come back, or will they contract the Corona virus. Elderly parents or grandparents, newborn babies, and kids in school, all pose some sort of anxiety for people every day. Aren’t we all seeking for some way to relieve ourselves of these issues and many others?
Think of how Mary and Joseph might have felt. Here the two of them are, engaged to be married and out of left field, Joseph finds out that his bride-to-be is pregnant. Joseph knows he didn’t do it, so what does that mean? It means Mary is not as pure as the driven snow that people think she is, at least that is what he thinks at first, and let’s face it, wouldn’t you feel the same way? Fortunately, the angel of the Lord comes to both of them in their dreams and sets them both straight about how Mary is pregnant and for what reason. Wow, dodged that bullet, but wait a minute, what are they supposed to do with the new news? I would be thinking, “Thanks for clarifying that Lord, but what are you doing to me right now?”
I don’t know what Mary and Joseph thought about the whole situation, and scripture doesn’t tell us if the angel kept coming back and giving more information to the two of them, but we know that they were demanded by law to be counted for the census. I could imagine Joseph thinking, “That means I have to go down to Bethlehem from Nazareth, some ninety miles with a pregnant wife.”
This would not have been an easy trip for anyone let alone a pregnant woman. They are not traveling by car, they are traveling either on foot or on an animal, possibly a donkey, up hills and across valleys. The weather, if it truly was in winter, would have been cold during the day, in the 30’s, with night temperatures being colder yet. The winter is also their rainy season, which can be miserable, especially in the cold, and the mud, we don’t even want to talk about how trudging and slipping through mud can be. Remember, these people didn’t have Gore-Tex boots and apparel that is waterproof and Thinsulate lined socks and gloves for warmth.
Many times, we think of people that are accustomed to traveling by foot moving about twenty miles per day, but with a pregnant woman in winter, maybe ten miles per day, that makes this a nine-day journey at least, and all food and water must be packed and prepared on the road. We don’t know if they were traveling with others, if they were it would be somewhat easier, especially considering the wild animals and bandits that they could meet along the way. All this and they haven’t even got to Bethlehem yet. Can you imagine Joseph and Mary’s thoughts, wondering why God is punishing them with this terrible situation?
But these are our thoughts, not the thoughts of the real Mary and Joseph. Maybe their thoughts were much different. We are accustomed to the spoiled bratty behavior of Americans that are never satisfied and always looking for the easy way. Did you ever give someone a gift and have them say, “What did you get me that one for? I didn’t want that one.” Or people at a free dinner, that want to complain about the food or stand there and tell you why you should have made this instead of that, really? I like to think God chose Mary and Joseph because they weren’t that way, that they were honored by being chosen to serve God in this special way and that any hardship they faced would be taken care of by God. Like the saying goes, “God doesn’t shut one door, yet opens another.”
Again, what are we seeking for? What is it you truly want? Riches, fame, power, glory, maybe all of them, many want these things and will stop at nothing to get them. These same people are also the ones who are usually disappointed when they don’t receive these things and become bitter, angry, and hateful because of it, but is that God’s fault or ours? These are the people that look to the government, or their employers, or their church, or their school, or their whatever to give and do all the things they want and need in this world to them for nothing, always looking for the handout. Like a bunch of spoiled children, they stomp and cry and yell if they don’t get their way. Maybe this is you that I am describing? I hope not, but if it is and you know it take these words and let them start to change your heart.
Seek instead for what the Wise Men were seeking. They were not seeking for riches or power or glory, as they probably already had all these things in their native lands. These men were wise, in my mind, because they were seeking something greater than themselves. These kings were seeking for something that they could not get on their own, something they could not learn or buy. Nor were they looking for something to fit what their already preconceived minds were after. These men were seeking the truth, the truth that only God, the Creator of the universe could provide. This truth could provide them with a way to get back to their own Maker. Maybe, just maybe this new King would be the one that had been foretold. This would be the King that would be above all kings and all lords. This would be the King that would save people from their sins and restore all that was good. This would be a King that they would bow down and worship as God.
If you are seeking for riches, fame, glory, and power, I am sorry I can’t help you. But if you are seeking for love, calm, purity, joy, goodness, kindness, peace, and faithfulness then we are seeking the same things. I can’t tell you everything about it as I am still on the journey, but this much I know, you can’t get it from the government nor any nation. You don’t have to be smart, by any of the world’s standards, you don’t need money, and you don’t even have to be good enough. You just have to be seeking for the truth.
Jesus tells us in John 14:1-6,
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
We are all still seeking an ‘Epiphany,’ our illuminating discovery of the Divine Truth, will you know it when you see it? You will if you truly know God. The wise men searched Him out all those thousands of years ago and today wise men and women still seek Him if they are truly wise. I pray for all of you to seek Him out, Christ Jesus, our Lord and King.
Thanks be to Almighty God, Amen.