The etymology of the word “epiphany” is the Greek words “epi-“ (meaning “above”) and “-phainein” meaning “to show”.
With a capital “E”, the Epiphany (for Eastern Christendom) occurred when Jesus of Nazareth (AD 0 – 33) was baptised by John the Baptist – see the record in Matthew’s biography in bold above. But with a small “e”, an epiphany is a sudden revelation of the essence or meaning of something.
This is the fifth epi-word in the series. Epi-economics draws attention to the fact that human desire is above-economics and is the thing which rules our world. Epi-emotions draws attention to the fact that human desire is above-emotions inasmuch as our desires must be fulfilled despite the hurt to others and even to our own selves. Epi-genetics draws attention to the fact that human desire and its emotional hurt passes through to following generations through the operation of the human genome. Epi-demic draws attention to the fact that human desire has given rise to an epidemic of evil and wickedness hidden beneath the surface of this world.
This was reported in Genesis around 1300 BC to be the situation long, long ago, “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
To “see” that particular global epidemic is, in a way, an epiphany in itself – a sudden revelation. But there’s another awesome epiphany within Matthew’s biographical record of Jesus Christ. It’s Eastern Christendom’s Epiphany. It is a revelation.
The background is not only that Jesus himself came to deal with the epidemic. Two other factors provide the surprise element. First, John the Baptist was calling all men and women to be truly sorry for their sins, to turn from their evil and their wrongdoing, and to be submerged openly in the Jordan River in order to indicate that they were truly sorry and wanted to live new lives, different lives. Every day huge queues formed – queues of repentant evildoers.
Second, John the Baptist was telling them all of another man who is coming to this epidemic-ridden earth with its consequent suffering and death. That other was to be so much “mightier” than John the Baptist that, by comparison, John did not have the ability even to undo his shoes. The root of the word for “mightier” which John used was the Greek word ischyo meaning “to be able” or “to be strong”. This man, said John, will immerse you, not in water but in the holy living-breath of God.
Against that background, what would you expect Jesus to do when he arrived where John and these sorrowful people were agonising over their evil in their world? What would be the epiphany on that particular day? What was, in fact, the Epiphany – the sudden revelation of the essence and meaning of Jesus?
It was this – Jesus actually joined the long queue of confessing, sorrowful, repentant evildoers. To take away sin, he joined himself with sinners. That was Epiphany – the manifestation of Jesus’ true strength, of Jesus’ true glory……
But read above what happened next.
His father above made heaven’s view abundantly clear: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” In this amazing incident Jesus disclosed what really pleases Our Father who is in heaven….
That’s the queue which I must needs join…, and which I’m happy to join….