The Light Shines Out (Epiphany)

The Light Shines Out


We saw his star. What would cause and drive these learnéd men to travel hundreds of miles to find the toddler Jesus? There answer is simple: “We saw his star.” But what they say teaches us a very important fact. Our good and gracious Triune God is not afraid to surprise and shock us. He is not afraid to capture our hearts and challenge our minds. The wisemen saw the start and it drove them into God’s word. And then, out of pure joy, it drove them to act. In the words we look at this morning we see the same pattern. Through the apostle Paul, Jesus was capturing the imagination of his people and challenging their minds. In Acts 13, we read: 26 “Fellow children of Abraham and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent. 35 So it is also stated elsewhere: “ ‘You will not let your holy one see decay.’ 36 “Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his ancestors and his body decayed. 37 But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay.” (Acts 13:26, 35–37 NIV11-GKE)


In the words we are reading here in the book of Acts, Paul is a guest preacher in a congregation where there are Jewish people and Gentiles. And by God’s Holy Spirit he says something that should have captured their imagination and challenged their minds. He gives to them this dilemma: People thought that King David was the “Holy One.” But how can he be the Holy One if God’s word promised that the Holy One would live on and not see decay? They knew that David had both died and was buried. But yet, in front of them, for centuries was this shocking oddity—like a star in the sky that does not move. The Holy One would not see decay.


The Lord did this to capture their imagination and challenge their minds. But instead, it had the opposite effect. Some of the Jewish people ignored the words because they had no use for them. But there were godly, believing, faithful believers who failed simply because they ran out of energy. There are lots of words in the bible. And it takes real work to read them, ponder them, and process through them. And after a long work day or week, there was little energy left.


Is the same true for us? All throughout God’s word there are these parts of God’s word that capture our imagination and challenge our minds—like a bright light shining in the sky that doesn’t move. And, if we are honest, we have to confess, that, when it comes to reading and studying the bible, there have been times we had a lack of interest. But, more often than that, would it be better to say that what we face is a lack of energy? Years ago, I remember a guy who was became a leader in my church. He worked long hours during the day and he took an instruction class to join our church at night. And every time we met it was the same pattern: about a half an hour into the class, he’d begin to nod off. So, he’d get up and walk from one side of the room to the other to stay awake. As Jesus says, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”” (Mark 14:38 NIV11-GKE)


My friends in Christ, the solution to our weakness is not ignoring it. instead, it’s confessing it. It’s hearing words like Paul is just about to say to these people and cherishing them. Paul told them: 38 “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. 39 Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.” (Acts 13:38–39 NIV11-GKE)


How many sins have we been set free from? Jesus is the Holy One who died and yet never saw decay. He rose from the dead. So what Paul says is true for you: every one of our sins is forgiven—even the ones we commit when we lack the energy to study God’s word to find the light that is there in it. We are forgiven. We are justified, declared, “not guilty.”


But with that forgiveness also comes energy and zeal. The wisemen didn’t travel all that way to Israel and Paul didn’t travel all that way to Psidian Antioch on their own. No, they are just as weak, frail, and drained of energy as we are. The Holy Spirit gave them strength to study God’s word and find light, true light there in those words. And he does the same for you. So, in your life, what will that growth in God’s word look like? Will it be getting up earlier in the morning and pouring yourself some coffee and reading the bible in the morning? Will it be getting an audio bible and putting it on your phone so that you can listen during your daily commute? And when you find those parts that capture your heart and challenge your mind, will you email me or meet me at a coffee shop so that together we can an answer to these challenges? Will you set aside the time to walk through our bible study in Mark? So set aside time to plan our your year. But my dear friends, do so remembering why you did so to begin with. We study God’s word not out of a motivation of crushing guilt. No, instead, we study God’s word because there we find parts that capture our imagination and challenge our minds.


And so, as we read in these words. The light shines out. It shines out so that we would study it. But there’s more in these words: 46 Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. 47 For this is what the Lord has commanded us: “ ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” 48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.” (Acts 13:46–48 NIV11-GKE)


The light shines out so that we would study it. But the light also shines out so that we would share it. Where is the time? Where is the energy? No doubt, that was a question Old Testament believers asked. And we too ask the same question. And if it was true when it came to studying God’s word, it was even more true when it came to sharing God’s word. As a congregation, God has called on us to reach out and stretch out with this gracious gospel of Jesus, the Light of the World. But it’s so easy to run out of steam and run out of energy. And the result then is that, instead of sharing the gospel, we sit on it. And when we ponder this fact it fills us with panic and sadness. But my friends listen to what the Lord says to us from our Old Testament reading: ““It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”” (Isaiah 49:6 NIV11-GKE)


We run out of energy and say, “ok, that’s enough” when it is not enough. But look what our Father says to Jesus. He tells Jesus that it’s not enough to shine out to the Jewish people. Instead, Jesus had to shine out to us, Gentiles. How amazing and precious it is for us that where we, with tired hands and hearts, say, “it is enough”, our Father said, “not enough.” And he sent Jesus into this world to take on our humanity. He sent Jesus to die for us. He sent Jesus to rise for us. He sent the Holy Spirit to create faith in us and preserve us. All this is the work that our Triune God did for us.


And where that leaves us this morning is with another truth that captures our hearts and challenges our minds. Jesus can do so much with so little. Think of what the Lord did with our own church. Someone else put in work, trying to establish a ministry in a prison down in Shakopee. And now I get to go down and share this light of Christ with them. Think of our Jesus Cares ministry. I and a few others in our church put in some work, and the Lord, purely out of his undeserved love towards us, blessed that work. And now, every month we have the privilege of sharing this gospel light with a group of people outside of our church. But, my dear friends there is more we can do. I’m quickly running out of time in my sermon and there’s so much more to say. But, in the days that follow, I’m asking you to remember two truths: First, remember your motivation. As a church we share the gospel out of thanks and appreciation that God chose us and forgave us. Second, pray for our church, that what we have so little energy to do, God will nevertheless accomplish through us. Amen.


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