Epiphany: A season of reflection and response to the revealed glory of Christ
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
The Baptism of Jesus
I never saw it coming. One minute, I’m moving swiftly through the family room, on my way to accomplish some highly important task. The next, I’m yelping in agony and carefully examining the sole of my foot, almost sure that I’m going to find profuse bleeding from the life-threatening LEGO wound. In a strangely biblical sense, I experienced an epiphany…of the LEGO. As Pastor Brenton explained a couple of weeks ago, during the season of Epiphany, we celebrate the manifestation (epiphany) of Jesus to the world. The image portrayed by the word manifestation is that something was always there, but we didn’t really see it…until, through an act of revelation, we finally get or see the significance. Did the LEGO suddenly appear out of nowhere? Contrary to my kids’ assertion, no. It was sitting there long before our ill-fated encounter. What changed is that I was now (painfully) aware of the presence and significance of this protruding piece of plastic.
One of the key events in the life of Jesus that the church has long celebrated during Epiphany is his baptism. It is in his baptism where Jesus is manifested (revealed) as God’s Son and the long-awaited Messiah. Jesus didn’t become God’s Son and Savior of the world at his baptism. Much like the LEGO on the carpet that was there before I saw it, Jesus always was the Son of God. It’s just that—with a few notable exceptions, like Mary, Simeon, and Anna—no one could see it. At this critical, watershed moment in salvation history, however, Jesus was revealed as God’s Son by the power of the Holy Spirit and through the affirming voice of God the Father.
As I meditated on this passage (and the additional readings below) this week, my heart was stirred in a few ways. I share them below with the hope that one or more may resonate with you.
- I found myself with a deep longing that the baptism of Jesus wouldn’t be just a historical event outside of my experience, but that it would become a living expression of Epiphany spirituality…a personal epiphany of Jesus for me…that just as the Holy Spirit revealed Jesus at his baptism, the Spirit would open my eyes, that I might see Jesus more clearly and proclaim like John the Baptist, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
- I was reminded that I am called to participate in this manifestation of Jesus to the world today…but perhaps not in the way that I might expect. Sometimes I try to “reveal” Jesus to others in my own power, my own way, or my own timing. I forget that Jesus, rather than manifesting himself to the world, relied on the timing of the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit (received at his baptism) to accomplish the works of God (Acts 10:38). The same Holy Spirit who descended on Jesus indwells each person who follows Christ, empowering us to embody this ‘epiphany’ to others. My role is to remain attentive to what the Spirit is doing and join him in the way that he is prompting, which is partly accomplished through #3.
- I was encouraged that the Father was “well pleased” with the Son before he performed any ministry activity. Jesus’ identity as Son was part of his essence, and not based on his accomplishments. Of course, the powerful teaching, preaching, and healing ministry of Jesus would follow, but they would be rooted in his Sonship and accomplished through the Spirit’s empowerment. Sometimes I can look for my identity in what I do or accomplish for God rather than in simply who I am in Christ—a child of God, someone in whom the Father delights. I was reminded that my doing for God needs to be rooted in and not exceed my being in God. When my doing exceeds my being, I end up with good—but frenetic and unsustainable—activity that plants me on the path toward burnout.
Scripture Readings for Week 3
Questions for Reflection
- Have I ever experienced a personal epiphany of Jesus? What was it like? How did that manifestation change me? If not, how might I create space in my life to pay attention to the Lord and how he might want reveal himself to me?
- What does it look like to embody an epiphany spirituality for others? In what ways might the Holy Spirit be empowering me to reveal, in tangible ways, the presence of Christ to people in my life—people both close to and far away from God? How do I stay in step with the Spirit and not get ahead or lag behind?
- Where is the primary place I find my identity? In the quality of my work, the number of my accomplishments, or how much other people affirm me? Or, is my identity rooted in being a child of God? If I never accomplished another thing, would I feel less worthy? Is my doing for God outpacing my being in God? If so, what needs to change?
Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen. – Book of Common Prayer