Epiphany Morning Service (2 January 2022) 1 Thessalonians 2:8
We all know that Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea during Herod’s reign. There was no place in the inn and the humble king was born in a manger. Angels announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds in the fields. But these wise men from the east followed the star and came to Bethlehem looking for Jesus. And when the found Him, they worshipped Jesus. This day is celebrated as the day of Epiphany on the sixth day of January. In Anglican churches, we celebrate the Epiphany today. The real meaning of this day is the physical manifestation of Jesus to the gentiles. On Epiphany, Jesus was revealed to the wise men from the east. What does ‘the east’ mean? Theologians say that if we draw a straight line from Jerusalem to the east, it will extend to India and Mangolia or some part of China. These wise men from the east were the first gentiles who visited Jesus and worshiped Him with their gifts. Although Jesus’ birth was not announced by the angel to the gentiles, the wise men followed the star and came looking for Jesus.
We know that Jesus Christ came to save the world to redeem the world by His blood and to preparing us all to inherit eternal life. Jesus Christ offered Himself as the one-time sacrifice and shed His precious blood for the remission of our sins. Jesus Christ fulfilled the Almighty Father’s will and broke the chain of bondage and gave us the gift of salvation through His blood. He commanded us to follow His example, so we can live our lives like Him. The disciples and the early apostles sacrificed their lives for showing Jesus as the true light. They spread the Good News to everyone. The early church also was persecuted by Roman emperors and the spiritual leaders in Judah. History tells us about the various ways in which the apostles died.
Peter was one of the prominent disciples and important persons in the early Christian church. When Emperor Nero troubled and persecuted the early Christian churches around 64AD, he crucified Peter also. Peter thought he was not worthy to be crucified like Jesus on the cross. He asked to be crucified upside down on the cross. St. Paul was beheaded by Nero before 68 AD. Andrew, Peter’s brother, was also crucified. Andrew also said he was not worthy to be crucified on the cross like Jesus. Theologians believed that he was crucified on a X-shaped cross. Acts 12:1&2 confirms that James was killed by king Herod. Theologians believe that James was killed by sword during 44 AD in Jerusalem. Philip died as a martyr in Hierapolis. Bartholomew lost his life as a martyr for the sake of Christ. John was deported to Patmos. Thomas established Christianity in India. He was killed by spear. Jude and the other apostles also died for Jesus as martyrs.
Although the apostles lost their lives as martyrs for Jesus, they established the early Christian churches all around the world. When Pharaoh afflicted the Israelites, Exodus 1:12 says, “the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew.” Similarly, persecutions and troubles could not stop the growth of the early Christian churches. Reformation in Judaism started with Jesus and the small group of disciples and apostles. Today, more than 2.2 billion people are Christians around the world. Jesus gave His life for the people. The disciples and the apostles also followed Jesus’s example and sacrificed their lives for Jesus. In 1 Thessalonians 2:8 we read, “So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us”. As Paul said in this verse, the apostles sacrificed their lives to spread the gospel to the world.
A few decades ago, many missionaries from this country travelled throughout the world and spread the gospel everywhere. They also lost their comfort, lives and loved ones for spreading the gospel. Even today, we have people making sacrifices to take the Word of God to the unreached. It is very sad that the church-going Christians are decreasing in numbers in our country. What are we doing to do for the kingdom of God? John 12:24 says, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit”. Jesus died on the cross and the reformation took place in Judaism. Apostles died for the reformation and Christianity was taken to the world. The wisemen from the East did not know about Jesus. They saw the star and followed it. They were led to Jesus. Today, we too can be that guiding star for others if we have Jesus, the true light, in us. Can others see Jesus in us? Will they find Jesus if they follow us? Jesus did not come as the light to be hidden under the bushel. We who have Jesus in us should give His light to others. We have tasted the love of our Lord for many years. We have a personal relationship with Him. Have we taken any effort to take the Gospel to people our families, neighbourhood and communities? Are we willing to come out of our comfort zone so others can see the true light?
Revelation 6:11 says John saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held for the lamb of God. The verse also says their reward: they were given white robes.
When Jesus comes to receive the church, will we be in the group with white robes? I pray we are able to carry Jesus, the true light, to the world and lead others to His light. May the LORD enable us to lead others to Him and to inherit the kingdom of heaven. Amen!