return home

Where is He?

January 4th 2015 by Joel Schultz

Today we celebrate Epiphany Sunday - the day the Magi came to Bethlehem to worship the King, Jesus. In the Gospel reading, they ask Herod, "Where is He...?" Read or listen to find out...

Epiphany of Our Lord B – “Where Is He?” – Matthew 2:1–12 – 1/4/15

A pastor was called to a member’s home on the sudden death of the member’s son. As he stepped onto the porch, he was greeted by an angry father who shouted, “Where was God, Pastor, when my son died?” The pastor looked at him feeling his anger and sadness and responded, “The same place He was when His Son died!”

All of us experience tragic struggles that cause us to ask, “Where is God?” Feeling our loving Father’s absence in the midst of life’s burdens, cares, and worries can test our faith, cause us to question our faith, even cause us to deny our faith. Our expectations are that He will always be there to deliver, guard, protect, and defend us from the least to the greatest of trials.

Through the inquiry of the Wise Men, the opportunity is provided for us truly to examine God’s abiding presence in our daily walk. When the Magi ask, “Where is he?” God’s Holy Spirit leads us to discover the comfort and assurance that rests in the fulfillment of God’s promise through the Child born in Bethlehem.

The Magi had a specific reason for asking their question. The question and concern for people today, believers and unbelievers, is much like that of the father at the door. They want to know where this all-knowing, all-loving, all-present God is.

The Day of Epiphany provides us with the glorious message of “showing forth” and “making known” – of “revealing” – the true God who seems hidden and absent from a world lost in its own darkness and despair BUT who ultimately “shines forth” in three specific “places.”

The very first answer is that He is in his Son. Throughout history, God has been present among His people. First physically, as He walked and talked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Later, God’s presence was on Mount Sinai, then within the tabernacle, and later in the temple. God’s people always had a place where they could witness His presence. They had a place where they could “get in touch” with Him and see His glory. They knew where He was!

In the midst of a long period of what appeared to be God’s absence from them because of their sin and rebellion, Isaiah prophesies to King Ahaz about one who will come and restore God’s presence, whose name will be called Immanuel, “God with us.” In the verses preceding our text, the angel Gabriel came to Joseph in a dream and assured him that God’s plan was unfolding. “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us)” (Mt 1:22–23).

And when the fullness of the time had come, as the apostle John records in the great Gospel for Christmas morning, God arrived to be present among us through His Son. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt (tabernacled) among us” (Jn 1:1, 14).

Scripture clearly teaches beyond all doubt that God reveals Himself and presents Himself in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. In Jn 14:8, after Philip has asked Jesus to “show us the Father,” Jesus declares, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?” (14:9–10). God is present among us in the person of the flesh-and-blood Jesus Christ, and He clearly reveals Himself to us in the life and ministry of Christ.

Ultimately, God’s presence in His Son takes its path to Calvary. The pastor’s member cried in frustration, “Where was God when my son died?” Yes, He was in the same place when His Son died! And therefore He knows where we are in our suffering. He was “being in touch” with all mankind as He offered His Son on the cross as the sacrifice for the sins of the world, and He continues to come to all men, whatever their state, to bring His comfort, consolation, forgiveness, and deliverance.

When the world searches for the presence of God, it must always stand at the foot of Mount Calvary. It is there, most fully, that God gets “in touch” with man and man with God. It is on that cross of Calvary that God becomes one with man and aligns himself with man in our condition so that He might be “a very present help in trouble” (Ps 46:1). When the world searches for God and asks, “Where is he?” the clear response is “He is in his Son!”

The problem for many people is that although they believe that God is present in His Son, they still feel alienated from Him because of their guilt and shame, fears and doubts. They still search for some tangible means through which they can feel His presence and power.

Truly, the challenge that confronts us in a time much removed from the first century is to understand how this God, who revealed Himself and declared His presence in Jesus Christ, is truly present for us today. Where does He get in touch with us, and where do we find Him?

What an overabundant gift of God’s grace is delivered to us in His Holy Sacraments! The blessing that is ours is that through Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, God unites Himself with us and promises to abide with us throughout life.

Through water and the Word, God binds Himself to us in Holy Baptism and proclaims that He will never leave us nor forsake us. Baptism is a declaration by God that the sin, which justly should forever separate us from Him, is removed and we are one with Him and receive all the blessings of His presence.

Likewise, our gracious God continues His presence in our life through the gift of the Lord’s Supper. In this most precious Means of Grace, the God who is present in His Son, Jesus Christ, still offers Christ’s presence in, with, and under the bread and wine. God is present in the presence of His Son as Holy Communion continues to offer us the forgiveness of sin and strength to live our life of faith. And the Sacrament sustains us in our steadfastness.

Nowhere are we more in touch with God or He with us than in the Means of Grace. These gifts of God offer us union with Him and the assurance that He is near us to sustain us in our hour of trial, to equip us for the testings of our faith, and to strengthen us amidst the burdens, cares, and trials of this world. Where is He? He is in His Word and Sacraments, bringing to us every blessing of the victory purchased and won for us on the cross and through the empty tomb.

“Where is he?” Finally, He is in our service. As God seeks to be with us, He has chosen to make His presence known through us. In 1 Cor 6:19, the apostle Paul reveals that God dwells in individual believers: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?”

And to the Ephesians, Paul explains: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Eph 2:19–22).

As the people of God and the world search for the answer to “Where is he?” the Church, the Body of Christ, brings His presence into the lives of the world through its acts of loving service.

God has gifted the Church with all that’s necessary for it to be imitators of Christ and bring His compassion, care, and comfort to a world overcome with the darkness of sin and death and the forces of the evil one.

Too often the Church has imitated everything but Christ. It has tried to model itself after corporate America. It has yielded to psychological trends and sociological influences. It has sought the world’s wisdom and not the wisdom from above. Too often it has displayed to the world a character that is totally unlike that of God.

The Magi served the Christ Child by placing extravagant and elaborate gifts at His feet. This was the manner in which they honored Him. Today, the gifts that honor him are our lives offered in service and sacrifice.

Paul emphasizes this ministry in Romans 12. He exhorts his hearers with these words in vv 1–2: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.”

Paul follows with a clear affirmation of God’s gifts of grace and how putting these gifts in service are the marks of a true Christian. God seeks to make His presence known to the world through the loving service of the Body of Christ.

The Epistle for the Feast of Epiphany proclaims that God works through the Church to reveal to all mankind that through the mystery of the Gospel, all mankind are “members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus” (Eph 3:6b). Thus, through our deeds of love and service, we “show forth” the God who dwells in us through his Spirit.

This, finally, is where the Old Testament Reading for Epiphany also leaves us. Where is God? Isaiah tells us. “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising” (60:1–3).

Debug parameters