Sunday, January 12, 2014

Epiphany 1: How Much More?

Epiphany 1
Jan 12, 2014
Fr. Phil Eberhart

(click title for audio)

This morning is the commemoration of the Baptism of Jesus Christ in the Jordan, by his cousin, John, the Baptizer.  The Gospel reading sets the scene for us, and John describes the event - His protestation to Jesus, Jesus insistence for the sake of "fulfilling all righteousness," and after the baptism in water, the full presence of the Trinity - Baptizing Jesus in the Holy Spirit and empowering him for His earthly mission.  The Father's voice in affirmation, "This is my Son, the beloved.  With Him I am well pleased!"

Friends, can I ask a question?

If Jesus, the beloved Son of God, who emptied Himself of his prerogatives as God (in Phil 2, Paul writes that "Jesus did not think of equality with God as something to be grasped for, but he "emptied" himself") -  Jesus emptied himself of his omniscience - his ability to know all things; of his omnipresence - limiting himself to one place as Jesus, the man.  If Jesus, the Son of God, needed the fulness of the Holy Spirit to fulfill his mission on earth, HOW MUCH MORE do we, His followers, need the Spirit of God to do the works of God and extend the Kingdom of God in our day?   HOW MUCH MORE?

When we read the gospel stories of Jesus, often times we assume that he knew things or did things because of his GOD-NESS - his all-knowing mind or all-powerful nature as God.  Never forget Philippians 2.  Jesus emptied himself - that is why this passage and this Sunday is so important for us to remember.  The writer to the Hebrews tells us that Jesus was made like us in every way, except was without sin.  He felt all the weakness we feel; He felt all the temptations we feel;  He was hungry, thirsty, tired, lonely, abandoned, betrayed, --- and the list can go on and on.  

Jesus emptied himself by becoming a baby and growing up naturally - he didn't arrive full grown!  He was just like us!  Just like you and just like me, in every way.  Stop the tape and think about that for a minute!


Jesus needed the ministry of the Holy Spirit to fulfill his role as Savior, Redeemer, Healer, Teacher.  All of those things came to him as he relied on the presence of the Holy Spirit, given to him at this moment we just read about.  The instances where Jesus knows people's thoughts is a revelation from the Holy Spirit, - we could call it as Paul did in 1 Cor 12, a "word of knowledge" or a "word of wisdom."   The times when Jesus heals the blind, or casts out demons, or sets men free from leprosy or other crippling diseases, it is the ministry of the Holy Spirit, through Jesus, in His fulness, that can be seen!

I want you to get a grasp on this here this morning.  Jesus was not GOD, apart from our limitations, he was GOD in the midst of our limitation - because of the empowering presence and fullness of the Holy Spirit.

There is a phrase that I saw this morning in the sermon that Peter preached - in fact, he may have been the one to "coin the phrase" ---  That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: [Here's the phrase:] how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 

Luke sets this phrase in the mouth of Peter, within weeks or months after Jesus' ascension.  Matthew uses this same word picture, almost exactly, as a textual "INCLUSIO" - a literary device used to set apart the details of Jesus Ministry in Galilee from Mt 4:23 - 9:35 -  He uses that same phrase in both verses to set apart what is in-between as the core of Jesus ministry in Galilee, prior to his sending His disciples out in Mt 10.

Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.

It's interesting and compelling to me that in both Matthew 10 and Luke 10, we have the logical outgrowth of this ministry that Jesus was demonstrating and teaching along the way, from Matt 4 - 9.  Jesus came, not to do it all, but to share with us, with his disciples and followers, the ministry that He did - in the same way that He did it!!

Paul tells us that Jesus was the "firstborn among many brethren" - He was the head of a new kind of humanity - the instigator of a new race, called from every tribe, and tongue and nation - a race of Jesus' followers, called to look and act like Him, regardless of color or culture, of ethnicity or equality, regardless of lineage, longitude or latitude!  The season of Epiphany is all about this fact!  That ALL means ALL - the Whole world is included and invited:  "Whosoever will may come."  The banner on the front of the pearly gates!  God so loved ...?  THE WORLD.  No one is excluded of the invitation.

And friends, we are now the SENT ones.  What Jesus said and did next in those 10th chapters of Mt and Lu, is true for us today, just as surely as it was true for the original disciples and apostles.  What they had going to them, we have going for us!  What is that ... that special something that they had?   The Holy Spirit!

You all are familiar with the beginning of Acts - Luke's follow on piece, regarding the spread of the church/ the Kingdom, after the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus.  What was the day called - fifty days after Jesus resurrection?  Pentecost.

Pentecost was one of the ancient feasts of Israel - 50 days (thus PENTE) after Passover - called the Feast of Weeks.  7 weeks in fact, the number of fulness.  There are sooooo many layers to this all, we cannot possibly even touch the depth of God's wisdom here.  But this is important, for the one promise that Jesus gave to his disciples, whose question was, "Are you now going to restore the Kingdom to Israel?"  Jesus once again said to them, "it is not for anyone but the Father to set those times and seasons by His own authority."  And then, here are some more of those PAY ATTENTION words:

BUT YOU!   Do you remember last week we talked about those kind of words and phrases:   Therefore!!  So that...  But now ...
here's another one:   BUT YOU...

"but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth."

Some today ask the 'why' question:  "Why do I need the Holy Spirit?"  

Friends, if Jesus needed the Holy Spirit to complete the work of the Kingdom that He was given, HOW MUCH MORE do we need the presence and the powerful fulness of the Spirit of God, for the continuation of that work today?  HOW MUCH MORE?

I challenge you to look closely at the accounts of the ministry of Jesus in the gospel accounts and have the list from 1 Cor 12, 13, Rom 12, and Eph 4 close at hand.  You will be able to put names on the gifts and graces that the Holy Spirit gave to Jesus throughout his ministry in Galilee and down to Jerusalem - from his baptism to his death - Jesus was filled with the Spirit of God, not because he was God's Son, but because God was well pleased to be IN HIM by His Spirit and working THROUGH HIM by His Spirit.  Jesus was just like us friends - a vessel and instrument in the hands of His Father "whom God anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power"  to "go about doing good, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, teaching in their synagogues and healing all who were oppressed with every kind of disease and every kind of sickness, for God was with Him."

This is our legacy and charge in the Body of Christ!  Do what Jesus did - How Jesus did it.  We have the same "equip-ment" friends, the equipping of the Spirit of God.  But don't ask, "Why do I need the Holy Spirit?"  Isn't it plain for us to see ...
If Jesus Christ himself, who made himself just like us here on earth, save the sin, needed the Holy Spirit to do His work and to complete the Father's will for him, HOW MUCH MORE do we need that same presence and power that has been promised to us and given at Pentecost?  HOW MUCH MORE?  INDEED!

Shall we pray?

God our Father, send your Spirit this day upon us, who wait for You;  Enlighten our minds and empower our lives, that we may be salt and light in the world around us, and that we may do the works of Jesus as He did, in the power of Your Spirit, teaching, healing, sharing Good News of great joy.  By your Spirit, reach out and touch the world in the Name of your Son, Jesus Christ through our hands - As you moved through Jesus, move through us, dear Father.  We offer ourselves as your vessels in this present world, that your Kingdom may come and Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  To the glory of Your Name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.   Amen.

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