“Jesus not only shows us but gives us to be most human” Epiphany 1 2023

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08. January 2023

Epiphany 1

Luke 2:41-52

[Jesus] went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.

In this season of Epiphany, Jesus is revealed to you as true God, begotten of the Father from eternity. This revelation came even before He was born on Christmas Day. As we heard the angel Gabriel testified to St. Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:53). As we confess the same: “He showed His divine majesty even in His mother’s womb, because He was born of a virgin, without violating her virginity. Therefore, she is truly the mother of God and yet has remained a virgin” (FC SD VIII.24). 

Next week, Jesus will reveal His divine majesty when He turns water into wine, according to His good will and pleasure (John 2:1-11). There are many miracles recorded throughout the Gospels, too. In the garden, when He is betrayed, He cast His enemies to the ground by the word of the Divine Name (John 18:6). And even in death, He did not simply die as any other man, but in and with His death conquered sin, death, devil, hell, and eternal condemnation. “Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in [His crucifixion]” (Col 2:13-15).

Today, He is also revealed as the eternal Son of the Father. After three days of catechesis, His parents find Him exasperated. “Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.” And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” St. Mary, the most blessed Virgin, did not bear a mere man. By the power of personal union and communion of Jesus’s humanity and divinity, she bore a man who is, in truth, the Son of the most high God. He is Immanuel, God-with-us, to do for us what only God can do. 

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth… And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:14-17). That God became man is both true and a mystery that can’t be understood but confessed. And in confessing, we believe that God is for us, not against us, and always has been. Jesus is the revelation of the eternal will of God to save His people from their sins and bestow on them every God gift for those who are His children. “For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross” (Col 1:19-20).

During this Epiphany season, Jesus does not only reveal Himself to be true God but also true Man. Because we were all originally made in His image, Jesus reveals to us what it means to be most human. Our rebellion against God not only distorted our view of God, the Holy Trinity, and obfuscated His will and Word. For this reason, we think God is our enemy or make God out to be our enemy. Yes, and our rebellion against God is a rebellion against whom He has made us, including what He has given us to be, to do, to think, and to say. But in Jesus, we see what in Adam was lost and what in Jesus, by Baptism and the indwelling of the Spirit, is beginning to be restored. 

We were made for faith and love. Sin is what the Bible calls our lack of faith in God and our love for one another. Our rebel will instead make God’s gifts into idols and uses life to bring about death. We we use our freedom in shameful spite to curse God and hate our neighbor. We live as if we matter most and neither God nor neighbor matters at all. Apart from Jesus, His works, and His ways, we know neither God nor love one another as ourselves.

But this is not who we were from the beginning. We were created to love and be loved. We were made to live trusting in God, our whole lives a divine service. In Jesus, we begin to see that restored in us, as our sins are forgiven in Him. We are given new life in Baptism, once again God’s own children. And as God’s children, we again live lives wholly dedicated to God’s Word and His will. “[God] gives to all life, breath, and all things…He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:25-28).

During this Epiphany season, Jesus is shown as true Man. His life is lived in faith in God the Father. God’s eternal will, expressed at Sinai in the Ten Words, remains as true for Jesus and us as it did for Moses. To be a true man, one’s whole life is conformed to that eternal will. So, Jesus and His parents went us every year at the Feast of the Passover. God gave this feast to remember His deliverance of His people from slavery and death, appointed to be kept until it is fulfilled in Jesus’ suffering and death. Jesus will say during Holy Week, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God” (Luke 22:16). 

As true man, Jesus keeps the Sabbath day wholly dedicated to God’s Word, holding it sacred and gladly hearing and learning it. We find Jesus today at age twelve, deep in catechesis amid the teachers, echoing back and forth what they have learned together from God’s Word. Here we bump up again with the mystery of the incarnation, that Word made flesh in His flesh studies His very Word. But again, this is, in part, what it means to be human. Just like Adam in the garden, you lose your grasp of what it means to be human when you live even a day or an hour apart from God’s Word. 

Jesus is most human as He goes about daily life in God’s Word with His family, friends, community, and even in far-flung foreign lands. He would frequently preach and teach Himself from the Synagogue. The Gospels record that His daily life was lived in prayer. This is not some monastic life, holed away in an ivory tower with a pile of books. As recorded, Jesus applied God’s Word to His entire human life, hearing it and keeping it. As He and His disciples walked about, they delivered the good news of the Gospel to the poor, the sick, the lame, the blind, the mute, the leper, the paralyzed, and the demon-possessed. As true man, Jesus lived and showed us how to live as God’s people again. He was dedicated daily to liturgy and song and lived in love, grace, and mercy for those around Him. 

This is who we were from the beginning. We were created to love and be loved. We were made to live trusting in God, our whole lives a divine service. That is being restored in us, as our sins are forgiven in [Jesus]. We are given new life in Baptism, once again God’s own children. And as God’s children, we again live lives wholly dedicated to God’s Word and His will. Jesus not only shows us but gives us to be most human again.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guards your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amen.

Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
St. John Ev. Lutheran Church & School – Sherman Center
Random Lake, Wisconsin