I was in Jerusalem, and what an unbelievable experience
that was, to be able to go to Bethlehem, and actually put
our hands on the place where Christ was born. There is a
little star on the floor and we could see the place where
the Christ child lay. We went to Nazareth and we saw the
home of Jesus, we went to Capernaum where Jesus had his
ministry and to the Jordan River where he was baptized.
We also went to Jerusalem, to the Mount of Olives and Mount
Zion, and the upper room. We walked the footsteps of Jesus.
We walked the Via Della Rosa. We saw the way of the cross.
We saw where He was crucified. We saw where He was buried.
But his body was gone. The tomb was empty. There weren't
any bones. There was nothing there and to this day, no one
has ever found a single solitary trace of the body of Jesus
Christ. I wonder why?
is said it is because He rose from the grave, that He sits
at the right hand of God the Father Almighty and from there
he judges the living and the dead. Do you know what? I believe
that. I believe it because I know it to be true. I have
felt the presence of Jesus in my own life. When that happens,
do you know what that's called? It is called an epiphany,
where the Almighty comes and reveals himself to you and
you have a divine encounter with God, an epiphany.
is the epiphany I want you to have today. The epiphany I
want you to receive is to open your eyes, to open your ears
and to open your heart to embrace your tomorrows. We embrace
our tomorrows, by opening our hearts and experiencing Jesus.
Jesus went up to an area called Caesarea Philippi and he
asked his disciples:
"Who do people say the Son of Man is?" And they replied,
"Some say John the Baptist, and others say Elijah,
and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
And Jesus said but what about you? Who do you say I am?
And Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the
Son of the living God." Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon, Bar-Jonah,
for this was not revealed to you by man but by my Father
in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter and on this
rock I will build my church and the gates of hell will not
overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of
heaven. Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven,
and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."
Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he
was the Christ. (Matthew 16: 13-20)
need to open our eyes and see the Messenger, see Jesus Christ.
When we look at the prophets of the world we see that they
carry a message and in Judaism there were many prophets
and in Islam we see the prophet Mohammad and in Christianity
we see Jesus. But the uniqueness about Christianity is that
Jesus is not only the Messenger, he is himself the Message. Jesus said, "I
am the Word." In Jesus Christ the Word was made flesh.
The Messenger became the Message and that's what epiphany
is all about, where we understand and realize and open up
our eyes and we come to an understanding of who Jesus is.
Beyond that, we also open our ears and we hear His message.
do we embrace our tomorrow? We embrace it with open eyes
to see Jesus Christ and what His message is all about; with
open ears to hear His message that He is the Christ, the
Son of the living God; and open our hearts to allow His
Spirit to come, to penetrate our hearts and open us up to
the reality of who He is. Epiphany is the realization of
understanding that Jesus Christ was more than just a prophet,
that Jesus Christ was the Son of the living God. Peter recognized
it. His name was Simon Bar Jonah. When Peter recognized
the fact that Jesus Christ was more than the Messenger and
that Christ was actually the Message, Jesus said to him,
"Simon Bar Jonah, Simon son of Jonah, you are petros,"
which means rock. That is the Greek translation of rock
-- petros. Christ said to Peter, "You are rock and
upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell
will never prevail against it." An epiphany is a time
for us to be able to realize that we can see the message
in the Messenger. We can look into the face of Jesus and
say, 'here is the Christ, the Son of the living God.' When
we do that we receive this incredible gift from Jesus and
He looks at every single one of us and he says, 'you are
rock, and upon this rock I will build my church.' It is
not just a single point in time but it is an epiphany that
takes place every time we recognize that Jesus is the Message,
and Jesus Christ, the Word, was made flesh.
I was in Jerusalem recently, you may recall that I addressed
you from there. Through the terrific, incredible wonders
of modern technology I was able to talk to all of you from
Jerusalem. It is an incredible place. The most incredible
thing for me was to actually stand in the place where Jesus
lived, where he was born, where he walked, where he taught
us how to love everybody, where he taught us to embrace
those who are imprisoned, and to care for those who are
unloved. Today I want you to open your eyes and your ears
and your hearts to the unloved, to embrace all humanity.
While I was in Jerusalem I went to a place called the Holocaust
Museum. There we saw the tribute to the 6.5 million Jews
who were killed by Nazi Germany. I have often wondered,
how could this atrocity have taken place and how could the
church sit back and look at what took place and not do anything
about it? I started studying what took place in Germany
with the relationship with the churches. Hitler was very
involved in the church. He used the church and manipulated
the church to accomplish his means and his ends. Here are
some of the things that Hitler said in his speeches. He
said, "The national government will maintain and defend
the foundation on which the power of our nation rests. It
will offer strong protection to Christianity as the very
basis of our collected morality." And Hitler went on
to say, "Today Christians stand at the head of Germany.
I pledge that I will never tie myself to parties who want
to destroy Christianity. We want to fill our culture again
with the Christian spirit. We want to burn out all of the
recent immoral developments in literature, in theater and
in the press. In short, we want to burn out the poison of
immorality which has entered into our whole life and culture
as a result of liberal excess during the past few years."
In January 1933, Hitler appointed Ludwig Mueller, who was
the leader of the German Christians, to create a state church
called The Great Evangelical Church, and in September they
had 20,000 German Christians gather in the Berlin Sports
Palace and there they affirmed their allegiance to Hitler
as the leader of their church. Unbelievable! But there was
a small band of men and women, theologians and pastors,
who could see through this charade, who could see past this
curtain that Hitler had placed in front of their eyes and
could see the truth of the gospel message of who Jesus is
-- a God who loves, a God who cares, a God who embraces
all. They put together a group and on May 29,1934, in Barman,
Germany, this small group of men gathered together and Carl
Barth wrote a declaration which has since been called 'The
Barman Declaration,' which established what Christianity
was all about. Today those groups of churches in Germany
are known as The Confessing Churches and they confess who
Jesus Christ is and it is a wonderful statement. Martin
Niemoeller preached a sermon later entitled "Christ
is My Fuehrer," and he spent time in Dachau prison
for that sermon. Most of the members of that Confessing
Church were arrested and spent time in the concentration
camps, and many of them died for their faith.
has called us to love everybody. He has called us to feed
His sheep, and as long as we embrace our future with open
eyes, open ears, and an open heart, our future will be bright
and beautiful and full of joy and the promise of the Good
News of Jesus Christ. Will we have problems and struggles?
Yes, you can count on it. The rain falls on the just and
the unjust alike. The only difference is that we know our
future. Our profession of Jesus Christ gives us the knowledge
and the understanding that when God calls us home, we know
exactly where we are going. We are thankful to God for His
Message and His Messenger wrapped up in one, Jesus Christ.
Heavenly Father, we thank you that your word is proclaimed,
that you are the Word, that you are the Message, that today
we come as your servants and your children. So touch our
hearts with the reality of your goodness. Open our ears
that we might hear your message. Open our eyes that we might
see who you are. Now we love you, Lord, and we praise your