The big reveal

Scriptures: Isaiah 60:1-6; Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12

Hollywood doesn’t realize it, but they – as much as they trash the Bible, misrepresent it, and in general hate it – have been following a plot formula shown in the Bible over 2000 years ago. We can call it “the big reveal.”

Now, you may have heard of that term, or you may not have. So let me put it into context, with, say, TV shows. Mysteries – the big reveal is when the sleuth puts all the clues together, gathers everyone, and then explains exactly what happened, and the dastardly deed, and the one who did it, is exposed, and is caught.

In action or hero films, it’s usually when the bad guy goes on a monologue, and he has the hero in a bad place, and he tells him all of his dastardly plans. After which the hero usually then escapes, and turns the tables, and saves the world.

In serials and sitcoms, even, you have the big reveal. There is always some major plot twist revealed near the season end to try and hook the viewer for next season. And I have to admit, there have been a few times where I just sat there and said, “What?!”

Heck, even in movies you see it. I know this is going back a ways, but “Luke, I am your father.” That would be called a big reveal.

Christmas was, without a doubt, the greatest reveal of all, as God showed his plan of salvation in the birth of His only begotten Son in the little town of Bethlehem. But you see, while that may have been the most important reveal, it might not have actually been the greatest, for us.

God had promised salvation to the Jews for centuries. They had been waiting, praying, and agitating for the Messiah to come, as we saw in the reading from Isaiah. They wanted the nation of Israel once again to be free, and the kingdom of Zion (which they saw as synonymous with the kingdom of God) to once again be in place, so that everyone would pay homage to Jerusalem. But it was for the Jews.

They didn’t expect it quite the way it came – on the cross. But even those who believed in the Gospel originally thought it was for the Jews and God-fearers. Yet God had made a great reveal some 30 years before the cross. And it was in this story of the magi, with what we call “Epiphany”.

Now, you have to understand a little context, again. Matthew was writing to Jews. He was not writing to Gentiles. He was writing to Jews, the same ones that thought they were going to have the Messiah, the kingdom of Zion would be put back in place, and all that.

There’s always a message behind each of the Gospels. They each have a different focus, a different point. Matthew’s point is always very clear. If Mark’s was “Who is this man?”, Matthew’s was “This is the King of kings. Now what are you going to do about it?”

So we have Matthew’s purpose, to the Jews, telling them, showing them that this truly was the Messiah, and now what are you going to do about it? Then he makes this little insertion, a twelve-verse insertion in the birth story of Christ, with the magi

Or wise men. Or in the hymn we sang, “We Three Kings.” I want to touch on some things, because there are a lot of traditions about this story, most all of which bear no relevance to what’s actually in the Bible. First of all, they weren’t kings.

In our reading, they were called “wise men.” This translation says they are “magi.” They were men who were learned, astrologers and astronomers, counselors to kings. There’s no doubt they were representing kings when they came. But they weren’t kings themselves.

Most scholarship – and it’s all guesswork, but most scholarship believes they were probably Zoroastrians who worshiped the Light. I find that fascinating, because John talks about in the beginning the Light came into the world. So they would have followed that star. They would have been joyous about that star, the light that shone, and showed the King of kings.

We don’t know that there were only three wise men. We just know the three gifts that were given, gold, frankincense, and myrrh. There’s a lot of speculation, again, about that, that’s important to understand. Those three gifts were representative of Jesus’ role, as prophet, priest, and king.

Gold for the king. Frankincense for the high priest. Myrrh, indicating his sacrifice on the cross, because most of the prophets were killed for the news that they brought of God. So these three gifts all pointed to the purposes of why Christ came.

But I want to note something. Being Zoroastrians, being probably Persian, and maybe having heard about the prophecies from Daniel, because of the time that the Israelites were out there in Babylonia and Persia, the wise men were not Jews.

They weren’t even “God-fearers.” God-fearers were those people that declared they were going to follow the ways of Judaism. They lived kosher lives, they went to temple and they were in the Court of the Women and all that. But they refused to take the final steps of baptism and circumcision, to become actual Jews. (Adult circumcision is rather painful.)

So they weren’t even God-fearers. They were Gentiles. They weren’t just Gentiles in the middle East, either. They were from far away. Yet apparently, we see in this story, this little twelve-verse story, Christ had come to be their king, too.

As long as they believed, took Him as Savior, and made Him Lord, they too could become part of this Kingdom of God. Now, this is radical. This is radical. Back in those days, your religion was usually determined by your nationality. Even today, in the Middle East, we can see this mind-set in action. And I’m not talking about just the friction between Arabs and Jews.

Israeli citizenship – entry into the nation of Israel – is only for those who can prove their lineage. It doesn’t matter where you came from, as long as you prove your lineage. My wife is one of those. Go back about three generations, and they were German Jews. So she could get in as a citizen, and my boys could as well, because they figure it through the mother’s line.

But me? No. I could never become a citizen. I could live there all my life. I could have a strong faith. I could be active, and Christian – because they do allow Christianity there. But I would never be a citizen of the nation of Israel. Now, this tells us something about the radical-ness of this concept, that Matthew put forth.

The gifts that were given showed that the Magi realized just who Jesus was; and it says that they bowed down to worship Him. In that moment, God revealed that He hadn’t just come for the Jews, to set up Zion.

No, it was bigger than that. Much bigger. He came for everyone, regardless of nationality; regardless of socio-economic status; regardless of what they believed in the past. He came for the World. And He came for you.

His Kingdom is not of this world, yet it spans it. He rules in each of our hearts as individuals, yet also shapes the hearts of people we can’t even begin to know. His reign spans all cultures, all peoples, and all times.

God showed in this little story His intent for the future, the future of the kingdom of God. And we begin to have a foretaste of that future now, in the church, through the Holy Spirit. We can experience the community of the faithful – all equal before God – in worship, and especially in the Sacraments.

In the Eucharist, we remember what Christ did for each one of us as individuals, and remember the promise of that new covenant. The new covenant affirmed in the Last Supper, the new covenant pointed to by Paul in his writing to the Ephesians, as he said that promise was extended to the Gentiles, and he was the agent of that good news.

So my challenge for you is two-fold for today: to celebrate the wondrous love of Jesus in the Sacrament, and then to go out and share that love with others in the world around you. Now I know that sounds a little vague compared to what I usually do when I give you a challenge and application.

But if this story reveals anything to us, it is that God reveals Himself in ways and manners that we can’t plan for. What we need to do is be open. Open to the movement of God in our lives, and open to the revelation of His will and His plan for each one of us.

His kingdom comes; let us help His will be done. And may we be faithful instruments of revelation to those around us. So that when people look at you, and at me, they see Jesus and His love for them.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

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