Well this week, we return to the Church lectionary. And if you do not know, we are in the fourth Sunday after the Epiphany. The Epiphany being the manifestation of Christ to the gentiles as represented by the visiting Magi after his birth, a major part of the story pf Christmas.
The word Epiphany further described as a moment of sudden and great revelation or realisation. The way the Magi/Wiseman reacted once arriving and seeing Christ offering gifts offers us a beautiful understanding and demonstration. I’ll take you there briefly,
Matthew 2 verse 11, On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. They then opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
The Wisemen, didn’t have to bow down, they didn’t have to go inside and offer gifts. They could have seen Jesus from the doorway or a window outside and decide to leave. They could have walked in and assessed Jesus, alleviating doubt or looking for evidence that Jesus was the one.
I wonder, being wiseman, and therefore logical and academically minded, if they did actually have a plan to assess and compare Jesus to their recorded knowledge and their own understandings, before making their minds up that Jesus was the Son of God.
Regardless, they Arrived, they saw, and they bowed. They recognised Jesus as the Son of God. No touching, no study of him. They had an epiphany, which they all shared at the same time, they were all in full agreement that Christ was the son.
That is impressive. When you really think about it. Aleesha and I, can’t even take the Children to a movie, without the disagreement of what to watch and debate and compromise resulting in what to watch. There was no debate with the wisemen. Simply an Epiphany and instant belief of Christ.
The Epiphany is recognised every year, 12 days after Christmas being Christ birth, as it is traditionally believed this is the amount of time it took after Jesus birth for the magi, or wise men to travel and recognise Jesus as the son of God. A set date of January 6 on our calendars.
If you’ve ever wondered why we sing the 12 days of Christmas as a Christmas carol, you now know, via your own epiphany, as a result of passed on knowledge.
And if you allow it, the Holy spirit that dwells inside of you, will provide you with all the epiphany’s you need.
I’m trying to think of my first epiphany of Christ. I have had many moments of realisations and times of total thankfulness. However, I guess one of the main moments that stand out is, When I truly heard the words written in John 3:16.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
This to me was life changing. It is a promise from God of eternal life. Heaven, a reality. The love of God displayed in the sacrifice of Christ.
I would gladly sacrifice my life for my wife and children… but sacrificing my child’s life for people, I don’t know… People who may or may not like me. People who despise me. I wouldn’t, I couldn’t. But that is why I could never be God.
And it is also why, I love knowing that God loves me that much, that he could and that he did. For me. And for YOU!
As I write this, I am looking at a sermon written by Charles SPURGEON centred on Romans 5:6, Christ died for the ungodly. Spurgeon goes on to say in respect to this phrase, never did the human ear listen to a more astounding and yet cheering truth. Because we are not Godly. Only God is Godly.
What a humbling fact. I’m a Christian After all. Every day I try to walk with Christ. I try not to sin. I be nice to people and smile and help when I can and able. I read the bible when I remember, and I pray every night. As such, I’d like to think of myself better than someone ungodly. And, there, lies my sin. My ungodliness.
We live in a world, where the prince is darkness. Although God created it. We have the temptation of sin all around us. We have the distractions of Sin competing with our souls.
As Christians, we are born again, anew with Gods love, yet still residing in a land that competes for our self-pride and glory. A world where it is easy to get lost and walk astray into darkness. Turning to our own selfish desires, needs and wants to satisfy us, to guide us and inevitably lead us to destruction.
My father in law, owns a dozen goats. Every evening he heards them to a safe place to sleep and every morning he lets them out and walks them to their feeding paddock. I watched him one morning, as he opened the goat pen and talked to them. He calls them by their names, and he set off leading them down the hill to the feeding paddock. Some follow. Right with him, even in step. Some wonder, meandering down the hill, stopping at times to look around, contemplating a different path than the one being led down. Only to be called back on track by a loud call of their names, or a simple, come on.
Some though, generally at the back, thinking they will not be noticed or that they know best, go their own way. Yet Darren watches and calls their name. they don’t respond, and you can tell they know, that Darren knows what they are doing, but they act oblivious. However, Darren doesn’t just let them go off, he keeps an eye on them as he ensures the main bunch are led into the paddock and feed, before he returns up the hill to call their names. On this day, as I was sitting down laughing at the free show I was watching, Nanny, Darren’s wife, comes out to help. They end up successfully Harding the last 2 goats in the paddock and it wasn’t until this moment, that I had an epiphany. This is how Christ is with us. He is the good Shepard. We as the goats, cared for by Jesus. When we stray too far off the track, he comes back for us, and provides through us the ability to help him, spread his word and to go for him.
Our first reading from the Old Testament
Deuteronomy 18:15-20 NIV
The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.  For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.”  The Lord said to me: “What they say is good.  I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him.  I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name.  20 But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death.”
These words were written and spoken by Moses in the fields of Moab just before his death and is believed to have been part of a verbal sermon to the people of Israel as they prepared to enter the promised lands of Canaan. It was addressed to the new generation who were about to be provided with a new land to live in. To start new. Knowing they needed guidance.
This also can be used by us today. As in Reading it, we too can appreciate the new land, born a new, as Christian disciples, once being blind, but now able to see. And by seeing we identify the prophet to be raised up by God, is Jesus Christ, to look to and follow in our lives for guidance. A shepherd for the sheep, or goats for that matter.
And what is written next, YOU MUST LISTEN TO HIM. Can it be any clearer or easier to understand. Moses, the prophet, speaking of the messiah, pleading with the people then and now, including you and me.
Moses then goes on to tell us through the words spoken by our God, “I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name.”
This is why when Jesus speaks in the New Testament book of John, at time he says, Truly truly I tell you. He speaks as prophesied.
John 5:24 Truly truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life and does not come into judgement, but has passed out of death into life.
No other prophet speaks in this manner.
While we are focused on Christ and his godly importance in this reading we will go straight onto the second reading from the New testament, Jesus at the start of his ministry, in Capernaum, where he has just called his disciples to follow him and he has started to perform miracles turning water into wine and his teaching for repentance and the good news of the Kingdom of God.
Mark 1:21-28 NIV
21 They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach.  The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.  Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out,  “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”  “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!”  The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.  The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.”  28 News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.
We read here that Jesus attends a Synagogue on the Sabbath and begins to teach the word of God. Interestingly, of note, Deuteronomy was one of the most common books quoted by Christ during his earthly ministry.
As Christ teaches, the people are amazed at his teachings, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. I believe what it is trying to say here is that, Christ teachings were not second-hand accounts and presumptions. They were straight from God. Like Moses prophesied.
We read on a see, a man in the synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out,  “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”  “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!”  The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.
This moment is important, as it shows us so much when we open our eyes and ears. We see the authority of Christ on display and his unfearing acceptance and ability to be used by God, for Gods will.
We see Jesus speaking in a synagogue on the Sabbath. That action alone would have brought attention to him. The fact that he was doing it better than the teachers of the law, also would have been enough to attract attention from all around. And it did.
This Authority of Jesus was so captivating and soul hitting that even the impure spirits heard it and had to acknowledge it and the kicker is, that even the impure spirit new who Jesus was, name and all! No introductions where needed.
Now, I want to focus on this evil spirit. The Spirit must have been so frustrated, aggravated and jealous by the word of God being spoken, that it just had to speak. It couldn’t help itself, its self-pride obviously on display. And when it did speak, it mentioned Jesus by his name and his place of birth.
Clearly informing us that it already knew who Jesus was and his existence and Christ purpose. It had a form of interest in him, why do you think? I think because it foretold the end of sin and evil in the world. It proved Gods Kingdom had arrived.
The next sentence is a question. Have you come to destroy us? Again, highlighting to us, the foreknowledge of Jesus and him defeating the devil. The Spirit attempts to control the conversation and offers a statement not waiting for a reply from Christ and again showing us the pre obtained knowledge and awareness of Christ. I know who you are—the Holy One of God!
However, Jesus interjects, sternly, “Be quiet!” “Come out of him!
The Evil Spirt, had no other option but to obey the words of Christ, and left the body of the possessed man, violently. With a shriek. I am only guessing, but I believe the shriek was one of fear and shock, of the witnessed and felt power of Christ and the truth that Jesus brings and his predestined position as the King of Kings.
I say fear, as the evil spirit did not hang around to challenge Christ further. He was gone. Gone to cower in a dark place with no light, where no Christ was present.
This act was not lost on the gathered crowd, as it is recorded at the end of this reading, He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.”
How does this piece of scripture impact you? If even the evil spirts obey Jesus. How can you not?
The scripture provides more to us than the fact that Jesus has authority over Spirits and the word of God. It teaches us evil is real. As are evil spirits and that even these evil spirits recognise Christ for who he is, the Son of God.
It teaches us that Jesus acts for us, without our knowing for Gods glory. The Possessed man had no idea what was happening, yet Christ saved him. Christ provided a better life for him.
Just like Christ can do and will do for you, if you allow him. The possessed man, although having no idea what was happening or going to happen. He remained open to Gods will. Like I encourage all of you to do.
To Remain open to Gods will in your life. Allow Christ in, to guide your thoughts and actions.
But the big take home for today is to do and say as Jesus said and say be quiet, to sin.
We read just now that the evil spirit initiated the contact with Christ and spoke openly about his knowledge of Christ asking a question and not waiting for the answer. Just like Sin in our lives. Initiating its desire in our lives by way of temptation, then keeping us distracted, attempting to stop us from thinking godly.
The world we live in, as Christians is one where the desires of the flesh, seem to be the focus of human life and the start of our temptations. They introduce themselves first, then try to keep us distracted. We each have our problems and battles with sin and its temptations. We all at one time or another, have been a lost sheep, whether knowingly choosing our own path or unknowing wondering away from the gaze of the Shepard.
But today when we leave here, I want you to follow Christ in his own words. I want you to stop and say, “Be quiet”, to temptation.
Be quiet, to anger, that is slowly building because of an obnoxious neighbour, work college, or 4-year-old boy who won’t go to bed on time.
Be quiet, to jealously because they have what I want, or they have a boat and I don’t.
Be quiet, to self-pride, telling me that I am not appreciated and should do nothing from now on to help anyone.
Be quiet SIN. I do not want you; I have Christ in my life for my comfort and peace.
Once you learn to say be quiet, you allow Christ to say, Come out of him.
In your life and its sufferings stop. Tell your human mind to be quiet. Allow yourself to Listen to the Spirit inside of you and know. Know God is there working for you. Even if you can not see it. Have faith and trust.
Believe. Christ is real.
Listen to his call to you personally. Understand his will, is for you to walk with him, to listen to him and allow him to guide you to shine his light of glory and love as a disciple going from him. You will soon see that God’s will is a blessing and it is a will that provides joy, love and peace.
Know that God is in control and always will be in control of your life to provide you goodness.
Believe and know, Jesus is the one promised and is our saviour. He is the source of our hope.
Don’t allow your hearts to be hardened by the world around you and the daily, worldly distractions. Instead say, be quiet, stop and Find a Focus on Christ. Let the sinful desires you are battling come out of you on Christ command.
Exodus 14:14 The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
James 4:7 Submit yourselves then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
I will finish with, 1 Corinthians 8:6
Yet for us there is but on God, the father, from whom all things came and from whom we live, and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.
Lord, help us to say, be quiet, to the worldly distractions around us, competing for our soul.
Help us to quiet our minds that are easily led to focus on concerns of the flesh, rather than your love and your will.
Guide us lord through your teachings, helping us to be still and listen to you for counsel, as spoken through your word.
Help us lord, to allow you in, and to not just acknowledge, but to truly understand and accept you are in control and your plans are good and have a purpose.
Allow us to confidently hand our lives over to you, to enable us to walk beside you and to go for you, in our lives, spreading your love and compassion on all those we meet.
Keep our focus on you lord in all we do.
Benediction – Gods original benediction
The Lord Bless you and keep you; the lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.