Rev. John Muhlfeld
God knows the struggles we face in this life. The afflictions, the concerns, the sorrows. We often find ourselves besieged from without and disheartened from within. But just when we’re at our lowest point God gives us what we most need: A renewed vision of Himself! As the apostle John discovered, nothing is more glorious or soul-restoring than a glimpse of the power, beauty, and perfection of our Triune God. The One who reigns on high rules over all creation and refreshes the souls of those who look to Him for grace.
“Epiphany” is a word used to describe a life-changing realization that has just dawned on you. In the Church calendar, it’s used to describe the life-changing revelation of Jesus Christ to the gentiles, as seen in His appearing to the wise men. Celebrated twelve days after Christmas, Epiphany is great opportunity to take stock of where we stand before the King of glory. Are we seeking Him? Are we trying to use Him for our own purposes? Are we worshipping Him? True joy is found in giving our lives to the One who first gave His life for us.
One of the most amazing things about Jesus’ final encounter with Peter is that He not only forgave his betrayal, but restored him to a position of leadership. Christ’s love is so deep that it that it not only saves us, but restores us to the places God intended for us from the beginning. Part of the good news of Advent is that there is no life so lost or broken that it cannot be restored by the love of Christ through His work on the cross.
Jesus was not known for aggressive behavior, but following His triumphal entry He zealously drove merchants out of the temple area, overturned the tables of the moneychangers, and barred people from carrying merchandise through the temple courts. What would ignite such a response from our Savior? Nothing short of love for the lost, whose access to the atoning grace of God was being blocked by commercial interests. Our Lord’s first advent was marked by a passion to reach the lost; a passion He imparts to us as we await His second glorious advent.
In Jesus’ day lepers were helpless, isolated, and hopeless. They faced shame, rejection, and ultimately death. Yet at the hand of Jesus they found cleansing and life. We, too, have a terminal disease far worse than leprosy called sin. Yet at the hand of Jesus we find cleansing and life through the Savior whose compassion on the cross knew no limit.
Matthew Levi’s dream job had become a nightmare. He had gotten rich, but at the expense of becoming an outcast from his own people. Worst of all, there was no way out. He was trapped in the snare his own hands had created. But into his world of merited misery came the unmerited love of Jesus Christ. The One who was born to die showed undeserved grace to a sinner in desperate need. Praise be to God, He continues to do so today!
Refugees have a tough life. Driven from their homes by things like famine, persecution, and war, they face danger, deprivation, and despair. No one chooses to become a refugee, but our Lord Jesus willingly took on flesh, knowing that the very first stage of His earthly life would be lived as a refugee in Egypt. But it was all part of God’s grand plan of salvation. Jesus would become a refugee for us so that we might find our refuge in Him. He would shelter us through His blood so that we might help shelter others in His Name.
No amount of human ingenuity or effort can bring forth Reformation. Only God can bestow it by His grace as we appeal to His glory, mercy, and purposes. He shines His face upon us through the man at His right hand, the son of man whom He has raised up for Himself: the good Shepherd, the true Vine, the only Savior, Jesus Christ.
Christianity transforms not only our thinking and beliefs, but our lifestyle and actions. Once enough people in ancient Ephesus had become born again, the very fabric of the city began to change. Popular pagan industries began to falter, resulting in a backlash of tribulation against the Church. But God used even the tribulation for His glory. His reformation through the gospel of His Son is a glorious work that can never fail, and it is a work that He is still doing today.