There are two important issues in this text: First, there is the issue of Jesus’ rejection. Our text suggests that he was rejected because of what is usually called “nationalism.” Not only did he accept Jews who threatened national solidarity because of their non-observance of the law (the poor), but he also did not proclaim vengeance against the Gentiles. Second, there is the issue of Jesus’ announcement of the new age—first of all to the people of God (the sermon is given in a synagogue at Nazareth); but it also means good news to the poor, the outcasts. If the people of God reject the message, it will go to the Gentiles (of whom the widow of Zarephath and Naaman the leper are types). Those originally “called” reject the Gospel not because they were wicked or hard-hearted. Rather, the message is a warning relevant to the people of God in every century, including the church today.
In this Gospel text Jesus launches his ministry in the synagogue of his home town of Nazareth during a regular liturgy of the Word. Reading from Isaiah 61, he declares that the prophet’s words have been fulfilled in their presence. The purpose of the Spirit that came down upon Jesus (Luke 3:22) and drove him into the wilderness (4:1) is now made clear. Jesus’ whole ministry is inspired by the Spirit. It is the Spirit who will lead Jesus to take sides. His ministry will not be to the prosperous and healthy, but to the poor and oppressed. What this will mean is not yet clear. But it will mean liberation for those held captive and freedom for the oppressed—a new exodus. He will announce the year of jubilee (Leviticus 25) when the poor are released from their debts and can start over again. This vision would seem like good news to the poor, but Jesus knew not everyone would like this program! Certainly, our release from our debt of sin and a new life to follow is the vision of salvation Jesus is offering us. All of us poor sinners, oppressed by the terrors of death and the devil, need just one thing: the good news that in Christ God has forgiven our sins and freely given us life and salvation. That is what manifests God fully and truly sets us free.
Probably the most widespread misunderstanding about miracles in the Bible is that they are proofs of Jesus’ divinity and offer concrete proof that Jesus was the Son of God. Miracles in the ancient world were not regarded as proof of anything. The Bible recognizes that even a false prophet can perform signs and wonders. By themselves, miracles offer no certain proof of Jesus’ divinity. We do not first believe in the miracles and then draw conclusions about Jesus from them. Rather, it is only if we first believe in Jesus on other grounds that we are likely to believe in the miracles. Why a wedding miracle? Within the early church, the kingdom of God was often compared to a wedding or a wedding banquet. The fact that the ministry of Jesus opens with a wedding celebration is a claim that the kingdom of God has come. This claim is supported by the abundance of wine, which in the Old Testament, was one of the features expected of the new age (Amos 9:13-14; Joel 3:18; Isa. 25:6). Thus, the wedding is a sign pointing beyond itself to the dawn of a new age and the replacement of the old accompanied by Jesus.
In Baptism, we celebrate our entry into the family of God, with God the Father as source of life, Jesus as our redeemer, and the Spirit as the one who communicates God’s life to us and guides us in our lives as followers of Jesus. As Baptism was an important moment for Jesus, so is our own baptism a very important moment in our lives because we enter into a new relation with God as our Father, the source of our life, with Jesus our redeemer and with the Spirit of God who will guide us in our lives as he guided Jesus. Never adopt the opinion that your Baptism is something that happened in the past and cannot be used in our present life. Baptism is not a one-time action, but a truly splendid, on-going, act of God. Even years after we have been baptized it continues to snatch us out of the devil’s jaws, puts away our sin, and each day anew strengthens the new nature of Christ that is in us. Baptism and its benefits keep functioning and remain until we enter eternal life. Everyone should therefore look upon Baptism like the clothes we put on every day. We should at all times be clothed in the blessings of Baptism. We must every day remember our Baptism so that our old nature is suppressed and our new nature in Christ would grow toward maturity. -Martin Luther
We celebrate Epiphany on January 6 (or the nearest Sunday). Epiphany, Easter, and Pentecost were the great holy days for the early church. It was not until five hundred later that Christians began to celebrate Christmas. The word epiphany means an appearance or manifestation, particularly of a divine being––or an illuminating discovery, especially one that comes unexpectedly. Epiphany marks the first manifestation of Jesus to the Gentiles. It signals that God loves Gentiles as well as Jews––that God's plan of salvation includes Gentiles too. Epiphany challenges us to reconsider all the people whom we see as outside the boundaries of God's love. Instead of shepherds, Matthew gives us Magi from the East. Instead of a stable, Matthew takes us to Herod's palace. Instead of a manger, Matthew shows us gifts fit for a king (gold), a priest (incense), and the death of a Savior (myrrh). Instead of angels, Matthew tells us of dreams. The wise men's visit probably took place long after the shepherds had departed. Presumably the wise men visited during the latter part of Mary and Joseph's visit to Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Matthew includes a number of dark elements in his story: Joseph resolves to put Mary away quietly (1:19). (Exodus 1:16,22); Herod kills babies in an attempt to do away with the newborn king (2:16-18). (Exodus 2:1-10); Joseph and his family flee to Egypt to escape the murderous king (2:13-15). (Exodus 2:15); Joseph and family return to Nazareth rather than Bethlehem (2:19-23). (Exodus 4:19); For Matthew, these are important parallels between the stories of Moses and Jesus. "Wise men (magoi) from the East came to Jerusalem" (v. 1c). These magoi come to Jerusalem, because the capital city is the logical place to look for a king. Magoi, "originally the title of a Persian priestly caste who played an important role in advising the king, was applied more widely to learned men and priests who specialized in astrology and the interpretation of dreams, and in some cases magical arts." They were probably members of a priestly caste in ancient Persia, possibly followers of Zoroaster. We call them kings, but Matthew calls them magoi, which we transliterate "Magi." We think of these magoi as astrologers because they are observing stars (v. 2). However, from the perspective of the Jewish people, magoi look to the stars for answers that legitimately come only from God (Acts 8:9-24 and 13:6-11). From the perspective of the Jewish people, magoi work magic using demonic powers. They are far from the Jewish community, which makes these magoi especially useful for Matthew's purposes as he shows how the Messiah brings salvation even to Gentiles (non-Jews)–even to Gentiles who might be magicians or sorcerers. Matthew's Gospel is very Jewish, but he introduces these Gentile worshipers at the beginning, preparing us for Jesus' last words to his disciples, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations" (28:19 –– the Greek word translated "nations" is ethne, which also means "Gentiles"). We are struck by the contrast between these Gentiles, who follow the star to Jesus, and the chief priests and scribes, who know the scriptures but who do nothing to seek out the Messiah, whom they have determined to be only five miles away in Bethlehem (v. 5). God's people ignore the Messiah, while pagans eagerly seek him out. Without this newborn king, the astrologers and King Herod (and we too) remain in sinful separation from God, living in the miseries of our own devising, believing that worldly wisdom can somehow offer us a relationship to God. For the most part, we misunderstand faith and trust in God as something of our own making, instead of a gift from God. The power of God's Spirit transcends the Church. The Spirit of God is at work in the world, especially in the lives of our family and friends, even those outside of the Church. This frees us to invite our unchurched loved ones to deepen their relationship with God where they are at, instead of thinking that we have to bring them to God -- who only resides in the church.