Matthew 4:16 – The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. (NIV)
Have you ever experienced an epiphany, an "aha!" moment, when a captivating notion suddenly dawned? Maybe an old assumption came alive with new vitality, as if emerging through the foggy layers of your mind. Perhaps you found yourself awakened to a new outlook. Perhaps this launched you on a life-changing quest — like the Magi who set out to find an infant King in Judea. Their epiphany came through a star. I wonder how your epiphanies have come. As for me, the Magi's epiphany, in itself, became my own epiphany.
Oh, I've always known of the "wise men"; they're carefully placed in every crèche. But this time, I observed their careful placement in Matthew's gospel. "Presentation is everything!" says the fine-dining chef. We get it: Our dining experience is enhanced by everything around the meal, the overall setting. Likewise, our appreciation of scriptural morsels is enhanced through their setting. And that's how the Magi story became an "aha!" moment for me.
In Matthew's gospel presentation to Jewish readers, the Magi essentially kick off the story of Jesus' life. How unexpected: A foreign entourage comes to worship their King! Yet, these are pagan astrologers — Gentiles, outsiders to Israel's heritage and traditions. There's no mention of guidance through Jewish writings. Perhaps that happened, but Matthew mentions only the star. That's part of his presentation. He's contrasting the Magi's eagerness, despite limited knowledge, with the apathy of the religious leaders and the hostility of Herod's court — those who had the Scriptures to inform them. Here, we see how the Messiah is welcomed by the least likely and rejected by the most likely. And isn't that the setting of the overall Bible!
The startling impact can get lost to us through over-familiarity. Those wise men figurines get stored away with the crèche, out of mind — unless an "aha!" epiphany re-imprints the Magi event into our psyche, or in some other way, we are re-awakened to the sheer wonder of God's love for the world.
I've been reminded that our God still shines His light on those living in the land of spiritual darkness — through their own epiphanies. He can reach those we see drifting on the tide of contemporary culture: perhaps loved ones who show little interest in God.
God also provides epiphanies for us, His followers, to stave off the drift into despondency and apathy, and to re-ignite fervent hope. We need those "aha!" events, so that we will cling to the ancient promise for our unbelieving loved ones and those "living in the land of the shadow of death", that they will see that "a light has dawned" and embark on their own spiritual journey to find the King.
Prayer: Lord, grant us each our own epiphanies, that we may keep following after Your "great light" — wherever that takes us — in our thoughts, actions, intercession, or whatever. Amen.
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