King, Priest, and Sacrifice: One Man
#KingPriestSacrifice is the podcast for January 6, 2019, the Epiphany. Non-Jews came to praise Jesus as a baby. It threatened a king, expanded the tent, and made a loud proclamation to the world. Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #Matthew #Matthew2 #Epiphany #King #Priest #Sacrifice #Gold #Frankincense #Myrrh #Dickens #Scrooge #AllPeople #Evangelism
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For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Fr. Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 1/6/2019 The Epiphany
Please pause this audio and read Matthew 2:1-12.
Why are Christians so heaven bent on telling everyone about Jesus? Why do some of us knock on doors to tell people about what Jesus means to us? Why do we teach our children about him? Why do we center our lives around him and change the way we behave because of him? Why do we risk losing earthly things and even relationships over him? The answer lies in the significance of Epiphany.
Epiphany is about a lot of things. It is mainly about the manifestation of Jesus, who is both fully God and fully human, being made known. In fact, an epiphany is “a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.” Could it be something like, oh, say, the appearance of an especially bright star in the sky? YES! It could be a star.
So far, up to this point in Jesus’ life, we have been in the Jewish context. An angel appears to a Jewish girl in the Gospel of Luke to tell her she will be overcome by the Holy Spirit to carry the Messiah in her womb. She is told that God himself will be the Father of the child. That same angel, Gabriel, appears to Joseph in the Gospel of Matthew to tell him that he should not dispense with the girl with whom he is betrothed because it is the Holy Spirit himself who has conceived a child within her. The angel goes on to say she has fulfilled the Jewish prophet Isaiah’s message to the world about a virgin who will conceive. Gabriel says to Joseph, “This is that event. The girl is carrying the Messiah, he will save the people from their sins.”
Hebrew shepherds in the field see the angelic hosts proclaim, Jesus is born in Bethlehem. They go and tell the couple in the animal pen that the child they have is the Savior of the world.
Isaiah the prophet is fulfilled according to Matthew and Luke. Micah is fulfilled by his birth in Bethlehem, the City of David. Psalm 110 is passage. There are all kinds of fulfillments we could mention, that is fulfillments of the Hebrew, Jewish, Scriptures. Today, something else happens.
Today is the day that something is made known to us, an essential meaning of something ordinary is made known to us. A star has led kings who are not Jewish, who are Gentiles, from Arabia, to worship the child. In fact, the Gentile kings follow the star to Palestine and they start poking around to find this newborn king.
They are seeking the King of the Jews, but when they find the little guy, they “fall on their knees”. They do not gingerly get down on their knees. They “fall”. They not only fall, they give the child gold (and you thought you over spent for Christmas!), representing kingship. They give the child Frankincense, smells great and was used in religious rites of the time. It is the sign of Jesus’ priesthood. They also give myrrh, an aromatic that was used in embalming. It is a sign that Jesus is the Sacrifice.
It is Gentile writings, their prophecies that told them that there would be a great star and it would lead them to a Great King. In fact, he is the King of the Jews to whom these kings fall on their knees in worship and give gifts that proclaim he is King, Priest, and Sacrifice. It is the manifestation, the revealing, of the fact that this King of the Jews is not just for the Jews, but he is for the entire world.
His priesthood, where he pleads for us at the right hand of the Father, is for the whole world. His Sacrifice is for the whole world, for all people at all times. All of this is declared not just through the Hebrew Scriptures, but through the actions of the Gentile kings who come to pay homage.
What is the proper response to a King who comes to serve and save? It is to worship him. It is to follow stars that lead us to him. It is to cross deserts, make relationships, take on danger, talk to kings, shepherds, Jews and Gentiles, to tell everyone about him. It is to build our lives around him, he who is about to give the ultimate sacrifice to save us.
Again, to those who are worried about earthly power, in this instance Herod, Jesus is an enigma, a mystery. There is no manifestation about him at all, but that he is a threat. In fact, it is amazing how we, who try to love others and have to listen to a lot of stuff that is just, well, nuts, we are the ones who are talked about as being a threat. Why? Because if you follow Jesus Christ first, there is no room to follow anything else first. Our citizenship is in heaven, so we will follow the will of Jesus before the will of Herod, and Herod cannot have that.
Good news is a dangerous thing. Setting the poor free is seen as a threat to take away from the rich. Giving the outcast a seat at the table is seen as taking away a seat from someone in the in crowd. Asking for someone’s needs to be considered is often thought to be a risk of denying another person their needs. These are the lies of earthly power and status. We believe just the opposite. God’s generosity made known at the Epiphany is a gift to the entire world. The one who created all does not have a limit to his generosity. It is this generosity that marks the love of God manifested this day.
It is no mistake that Dickens points out that it is Fezziwig, Scrooge’s boss when Scrooge was an intern, who had the admiration of many when he spent on staff, warmth, and joy for others. Fezziwig in Dicken’s story “A Christmas Carol,” has more love, warmth, and friendship the more generous he is. Scrooge on the other hand, in the story, is taken by the spirit of Christmas past to another scene right after we meet Fezziwig and his generosity. It is the scene where on a Christmas day long ago, the love of Ebenezer’s life left him because he could not give, but horded and desired money. Dickens is pointing to the fact that the desires of power often lead to greed and calamity for others. Herod’s greed for power causes him to kill innocent children in Bethlehem trying to eliminate a child who hasn’t even gotten old enough to threaten him.
The epiphany for us all this day is that the Kingship of Jesus gives to the rich so they can care for the poor. Jesus’ Priesthood has an altar large enough to welcome those who are outcasts. Jesus as Sacrifice considers the greatest need of all humanity, forgiveness, and offers it to all people for all times by dying on the cross to pay the price owed to God for our misdeeds. The Epiphany is the manifestation of the generosity of God for all people, Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female.
This is a message that not only Jews, or people in the in crowd, need to hear. It is a message that needs to be heard by all people. It is a message that must be proclaimed as a star that leads all people to Jesus Christ, the King of kings, Lord of lords, the child to whom kings bend the knee.
This is why we proclaim him to people everywhere. This is why we knock on doors, those of us who do. This is why we teach our children about him. This is why we order our lives around him. This is why we risk losing friends, family, and other relationships for him. This is why we come to worship him, without fail, every Sunday and holy day.
He is the King, the Priest, and the Sacrifice made known to us today. He is the manifestation, the Epiphany of the generosity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2018.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian