Epiphany (The Benedictus of Zacharias)
Epiphany is God’s Light - The word, “Epiphany” gathers all the themes of the imago Dei into One and provides a vivid image - a shining Menorah-like star lighting the true Tabernacle. “Epiphano” (Greek) means “give light, shine on” or “be manifested, appear.”
It is poetically placed in Zacharias' Benedictus, “The Sunrise from on high shall visit us, to give light [epiphano] to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death” (Luke 1:78-79). The structure of the Benedictus shows the Light comes to fulfill the covenant promise:
A Lord God of Israel has visited us
B Accomplished redemption raised up a horn of salvation
C In the house of David
D As He spoke by His holy prophets
E Salvation from enemies, hate us;
F Our fathers
G His holy covenant,
G’ The oath
F’ Abraham our father
E’ being delivered of our enemies
D’ Prophet of the Most High
C’ His people
B’ The knowledge of salvation forgiveness of their sins
A’ Sunrise from on high shall visit us, to shine in darkness
Epiphany is God’s Light into the Darkness -
We may see the depth of this theme (light into darkness) by surveying any Gospel (Matthew, Mark, or John), but we will view this through the lense of Luke.
Luke is centrally concerned with the fate of the temple and its priesthood. It begins in temple (with Zacharias) and ends in the temple (24:53). A large part of the Gospel is Christ's journey toward the holy place. He “steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem” (9:51).
When He arrives at the temple (Luke 19:45), He symbolically destroys the temple and its work, reenacting the words of Jeremiah (Jer. 26:6).
Whereas the temple was to be an artifact of God dwelling with man, by the time of Jesus it was dark and needed destroying. The darkness of the apostate temple was overcome by the true Tabernacle, the Light of the World (John 2:21, Matt. 12:6).
Luke 22:52-54 52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests, captains of the temple, and the elders who had come to Him, "Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs? 53 "When I was with you daily in the temple, you did not try to seize Me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness."
His people now are the epiphany of that temple (Eph. 2:21), hence we sing Simeon’s Nunc Dimittis (Luke 2:29ff).
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more