Some weeks after Jesus was born and his parents, Joseph and Mary, had found a house to stay in while in Bethlehem, wise men appeared bringing gifts for the Christ child. These men, traditionally three in number and called Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar, had travelled a long distance from the East (perhaps Persia) to witness an epiphany—God’s revelation to them that that Jewish child was divine. In fact, he was a divine king, hence they brought him gifts fit for a king: myrrh, frankincense, and gold.
A mysterious star had led them on their journey to the little hamlet of Bethlehem not far from Jerusalem. It was there they had been guided and it was there they found Christ and worshipped him. Once they returned to their country we hear nothing more of them; they vanish from the pages of Scripture and history.
But theirs was not the only epiphany in the New Testament. I think of Saul of Tarsus, an intellectual giant of his day, having studied under the still famous Rabbi Gamaliel. He was thoroughly versed in Scripture, totally devoted to God and country, and fanatically opposed to all things Christian. It was he, who declared a personal war on the Christians: jailing, beating, killing and forcing some to recant their faith in Christ.
It was on that journey to Damascus that Saul had his epiphany. Suddenly and without warning a great light appeared to him in broad daylight. In that blinding light was Jesus, the very one he had been persecuting. After that encounter—after his epiphany—he realized how wrong he had been, how terrible his actions were, and how great a sinner he really was in the eyes of God. He had actually been fighting against the Son of God, who he now had come to know face-to-face. Saul’s epiphany changed his life. He took the name Paul and worked tirelessly spreading the faith that he had once sought to stamp out.
I have a few thoughts about epiphanies. In both the case of the wise men and Paul, it was God who opened their eyes and led them to the truth. And what is truth? Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
Ultimate TRUTH in life is to be found in Christ. This revelation—this epiphany—is a “God thing.” Or, as Jesus said:
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day” (John 6:4).
There are those in this world—people you and I know–people, perhaps in your own family, who have yet to discover that ultimate truth. They have yet to make that spiritual pilgrimage to Bethlehem as did the wise men; yet to experience an epiphany on the road to Damascus. They live in darkness and don’t know it. The live in the land of the shadow of death and may even sense that things aren’t right, but do not see the light of Christ—they have had no epiphany.
The answer to big questions in life elude them: Who am I? Why am I here? If there is a God, and how does this all fit together?
During this Epiphany season let us do two things. One, thank God that in His mercy He has revealed to us who His Son is and we have been led to worship Him as did the wise men and Saul of Tarsus. And, two, let us pray for those who we know and love, that God in His mercy would give them the same Epiphany.