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The relatable, full, and abundant Jesus
For me, Epiphany, which was yesterday, marks the end of the Christmas season, even if B101 stopped playing Christmas music weeks ago and even though I put out my prickly, prickly blue spruce on the curb before I celebrated it. Epiphany's a feast that honors the manifestation of Jesus. It celebrates the fact that he came on earth to redeem us. Epiphany is celebrated by both the Eastern and Western Churches, but a big difference is what events it celebrates.
For Western Christians, the feast primarily commemorates the coming of the Magi, while it occasionally mentions Jesus’ baptism and his turning water into wine. Eastern churches celebrate Jesus’ baptism as the major event. In both traditions, the essence of the feast is the same: the entrance of Christ to the world. There are three major events in Christ’s life today as we learn to celebrate his manifestation on earth: his birth, his baptism, and his miracle at the Wedding Feast at Cana.
Jesus relates to us in his birth. In his birth, we see God as a humble infant, Jesus as a vulnerable baby, who is ready to suffer alongside of us and with us for the sake of his Gospel. He is someone who is strong enough to carry the whole world in his hands, but humble enough to enter into it in the form of a baby. He is someone who brings us hope because he can so easily empathize with us and we can so easily believe it because he isn’t just God, but a human. He is trustworthy. He’s believable. He’s genuine. He’s relatable.
Because of his relatable, he compels us to be equally relatable. Obviously, we’re all humans and we are and it might seem like a redundancy that we are called to relate. But we are so prone to compartmentalization that we forget with whom we are supposed to relate; we might have a hard time praying, so we don’t even know who God is calling us to relate to. Try and answer this question: who are you neglecting that could really use your friendship?
Jesus isn’t just relatable, his actually offers us a proclamation of his belief in baptism. In his baptism, we can follow Jesus into wholeness. He becomes not just someone with whom we can relate, but someone that we can follow. He leads us in our faith on earth and this was made clear during his baptism. This event, by itself, shows us, that we need to be redeemed and that in our obedience, God will find favor in us.
Even John the Baptizer realizes that Christ himself should be the Baptizer, but Jesus gives John the opportunity to do something miraculous and to get to experience Jesus, his Father, and the Holy Spirit all united together in one of the great moments in history. Jesus doesn’t “need” to be baptized and he does more to dignify John than anything else. In Matthew, we see John’s hesitation. John may not know that Jesus is the Messiah, or savior, but he does know that Jesus was holier than he was. But it is through His baptism that John realized who Jesus is.
If we were given a chance to baptize Christ himself, I wonder how we would respond.
The catch is to really to believe that he’s found favor in us regardless of what we’ve done. That the new covenant and the new cup he offers us has more to do with Him and His sacrifice than it does us and whatever we’ve accomplished. We don’t need to worry about doing the right thing for him to find favor in us, he already has. His entrance into the world, his death and resurrection is proof enough of that he has.
At the Wedding of Cana we see Jesus not only move from a place of relatability, to a place of wholeness, but to one of abundance. Jesus offers us eternity. He’s at a wedding feast and the wine runs out. Once the booze runs dry, the party ends. So Jesus gives them even more of the good stuff.
On Epiphany, we celebrate Christ’s abundance. We celebrate his miraculous nature. This compels us not just to believe, but to believe that in him there is enough to go around, there is enough love to go around, and that he has defeated finiteness. Eternity begins now. The wine is never going to run out.
In Eastern culture for a host to not provide enough wine was an act of shame and discourtesy. You’d be able to see this if you visited my mother during a meal time—you’d get more than enough food on your plate. These days, we don’t even provide enough for anyone, everyone has to bring their own stuff (and sometimes we hide our good stuff in the vegetable crisper). Well, it turns out that Jesus fills the need wherever he is. So his abundance covers us and completes us.
He takes was we have, reconstructs it into something better, and it saves us. He took Jewish jars meant for ceremonial washing and declared that we no longer need them for our cleanliness, that He alone was sufficient.
In God becoming a person, he defeated that which limits people: death. So we don’t need to fear death and we really start believing that eternity starts now. We are free to try and fail, to relate and conflict, to love and to suffer, because we are held by a God who defeated death and grants us eternity. What is there to worry about in a world where King Jesus reigns? What is there to fear when our eternal life begins now?
That’s the new covenant he offers us in his life. We are free because shadow of death no longer hangs above us. God is with us. That means we are free to love and love fully. We no longer need to operate out of our limitations.
We can go and redeem the whole world and fulfill our ultimate purpose in life because God has freed us. This isn’t easy to believe. It sounds kind of hokey. It sounds like we are desperate (and we are). And for those of us who are too cynical to really believe it, we’ll need some saving too.
What does it take to really believe that Christ has defeated death?
It will take faith. It’ll take believing in something that doesn’t make “sense.” I wonder how quickly we will die to the rationality that the world teaches us. That might mean denying what you’ve learned and being willing to relearn something. Being willing to be redefined and recreated. Being willing to put your precious opinion aside and trust someone else. Jesus subverts our assumptions and offers something new. I hope we can believe in him.
It will take confidence. I hope we can believe ourselves too. Knowing that God has created us specifically to love the world and to redeem it. This is our reason for existing. I wonder if we get that all of the time. I wonder how important we think we are. I wonder how qualified we think we are for this job. It takes guts to believe that God is going to use you. And it takes confidence to really believe that we have something worth sharing.
It will take work. We don’t work. Nothing really works. Our theories don’t work. Our charts don’t work. The Congress doesn’t work. Only Jesus works. I hope we can be partners in a mission together. Let’s do what it takes to operate out of a new promise that promises life now without perfection. It’s not easy to do this and it’s not easy to find partners to do it. But it is great and it is worth it.