If it is true that God is the end to which we are all called, the source from whom all life emerges and the goal for which we yearn and strain, then it is so for all people. The knowledge of God is not simply something which becomes known with the coming of Christ, it was known before his coming and available to all people. Yet, the reality was that most people did not comprehend this knowledge. Isaiah 60 speaks of the coming of a light to guide the path to knowledge and comprehension:
“Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far away, and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses' arms. Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice, because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you. A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.” (Isaiah 60:1-6 NRSV)
This light for the nations was seen as a future event by Isaiah, one which would be accompanied by the coming of the nations, and by the gathering in of the exiles (“your sons shall come from far away, and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses' arms”) and the bearing of gifts (“gold and frankincense”).
The Apostle Paul recognizes it as an event that has already occurred, a time in which now all humanity lives. Whereas natural knowledge of God shrouded many people in darkness, the revelation of the light opened up the possibility that all could know and believe. So Paul writes that “In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Ephesians 3:5-6). We have lost the wonder, the late Ben F. Meyer wrote, of the early Christians that even the Gentiles could be called into the family of God, but Paul calls them synkleronoma, “fellow heirs.” To be an heir is be a part of the family, to share in the inheritance, which in this case is God himself.
Epiphany is the light to make the path clear, the sign that God is here for all of us, like a star shining in the sky, it points us beyond ourselves to the truth for which we are yearning.
John W. Martens
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