Theophany - The Radiant Shining Forth!

January 6, 2010 Length: 38:13

From the Speaking the Truth in Love archives, Fr. Tom Hopko offers this very helpful meditation on the feast of Theophany.

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It seems to be the case quite clearly that in the earliest Christian Church, in the darkness of winter was the celebration of the festival of lights, connected with the appearing of God in the world in his Son, Jesus, who is himself the light of the world. “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and those who dwelt in the shadow of death, upon them the light has shone.” It seems that in January, on the sixth of January, in the earliest Church, a practice still preserved by the Armenian Church, there was one grand celebration of the Epiphany of God in the winter that included all of the elements of the birth of Jesus and his infancy up to the time of his appearing in public, his revelation in public, the beginning of his public ministry, at his baptism by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. This was a great festival of the Nativity and the Epiphany of God, the Son of God, on this earth.

The word epiphany, epiphaneia, it means a shining forth, a manifestation, an appearing. For example, in the writings of the New Testament, the reading from Timothy on the prefeast of the Epiphany, St. Paul speaks about having fought the good fight, having completed the course, finished the race, having kept the faith. Then he says that therefore, because of this, having fought the good fight, having kept the faith, having made the good confession, that because of all of this, what has happened is that a crown of righteousness is laid up for him, he says. It’s in the letter to Timothy. And then he says: and not for me alone, but for all those who love his (Christ’s, God’s) epiphaneia; all those who love his epiphany. In the RSV it says who love his appearing, who love his manifestation.

We should note that this term, epiphaneia, in the Latin translation of the Gospel, early translation, is translated by the word adventus. All those who love his coming, and his adventus, his coming toward us, his appearing to us. So there is this festival in the darkness of the radiant shining forth of the light of the world in the world, the very Light who proceeds from God himself, as the Nicene Creed will say, the One who is light from light, true God from true God. Or as it says in the letter to the Hebrews: the One who is the radiance, the apavgasma tes doxis tou Patros, tes doxis aftou, the exact radiance, the shining radiance, the splendor, of God the Father himself, the shining-forth of God. So phane, it means to shine, shining in the darkness, splendidly revealed.

This of course for the earliest Christians was replacing both the Jewish festival of the lights, the lighting of the lamps, the Channukah as it’s called now, and even the pagan celebration of the birth of the invincible sun, the s-u-n, the helios in the sky that begins to become brighter and brighter and brighter until you get to the springtime when you have the vernal equinox and the days become very long, and that’s when the Christians celebrated, with the Jews, the holy Passover, the Pascha, which the Christians celebrate as the passion, the crucifixion, the burial, the resurrection, and the glorification—this glory, splendid glory, of the shining—Christ rising from the dead in the springtime.

So this epiphany is the winter celebration of Christians in the ancient Church. As we said several times already, it was one big celebration in the winter that encompassed all the events of the Lord’s appearing: his birth, his circumcision, his presentation to the Temple on the 40th day, and then his hiding in his childhood, his hidden life until he becomes a mature man, and then his revelation on the Jordan at the time of his baptism.

As centuries unfolded, these events became separate celebrations, and they were more historicized. The nativity was celebrated by itself on the 25th of December, which was the pagan festival of the birth of the invincible sun, so you have the singing of “Thy Nativity, O Christ, has revealed to the world as the Sun of knowledge, the Sun of righteousness, the light of wisdom.” Of course, Malachi is referred to here, the Prophet Malachi, who said, “In the latter days, when the new Elijah appears, the sun of righteousness (s-u-n), the shining sun of justice will shine forth on the earth with healing.” And “healing,” that’s the term for salvation; that’s the word for victory, for conquering. It’s the same word in Hebrew. We might even translate it: With salvation in his wings, with the victory of God in his wings, in his power. So then you had Christmas by itself, and then on the eighth day of Christmas you had the celebration of the circumcision of Jesus. Then on the 40th day of Christmas the celebration of his presentation and the meeting in the Temple with Symeon and Anna. That came to be celebrated on the second of February.

But then on the twelfth day of Christmas, you have the celebration of the Epiphaneia, the Epiphany. Now, in the Western Church, that twelfth day of Christmas—there’s even the song about the Twelve Days of Christmas—was kind of the end of the Christmas festival, and in the West it was a celebration of the arrival of the Magi from the East, the nations, the wise men of the nations, coming to bow down and to worship and adore the newborn Jesus. We have this, of course, in the gospel of St. Matthew. Then we have the gifts of the magi—the gold, the frankincense, and the myrrh—which traditionally came to be interpreted as the gold, to Jesus as the king; the frankincense to him as the great High Priest and the one to be worshiped and who does worshiping; and then also the myrrh being connected with his death, with his redeeming act, the myrrh which anoints the corpse, the dead body of Jesus. So it shows in these three gifts the three ministries of Jesus as the Messiah, the messianic King, the messianic High Priest, and the messianic Victim, the Lamb of God who is killed.

But in the Eastern Church and in the ancient churches in the East, this twelfth day of Christmas, which would be the sixth of January, which was the original festival of Epiphany, Epiphaneia, the shining-forth, the revelation, was connected not with the arrival of the Magi, not with finally the wise men of this earth coming to bow down before the newborn King. Once I heard a homilist say, a preacher say, a very touching thing. He said when Christ was born, the first to adore him after the angelic hosts were the shepherds and their animals—the ox and the ass and so on—but the shepherds being the kind of simple people, the rustic people, they came immediately to the newborn king. The wise men of the earth, they come only later. They finally get there, they finally adore him, but only later. The simple people arrive first; the wise of the earth—hopefully, by God’s grace—do arrive, but they arrive usually later.

But again, in any case, in the Eastern Church, this twelfth day of Christmas is specifically dedicated to the epiphany of God in Christ at the time of Christ’s baptism in the Jordan River by St. John the Baptist. That act is considered to be the manifestation or the appearing or the coming-out of God himself in the Person of his Son, epiphany. It’s also called, in fact, technically it’s called in the Eastern Orthodox Church not Epiphaneia, Epiphany, but it’s called Theophaneia, in Slavonic Bogoyavleniye, the shining-forth of God, the epiphany of God, the theophany. So the technical name would be the Theophany, the appearance of God in the flesh.
Here the liturgical services of the Orthodox Church, they do make this marvellous distinction. They say when we go to celebrate the birth of Christ, that birth was somehow a mystical secret. You have Mary, you have Joseph, of course the shepherds come, the angels sing, the wise men finally show up, but it is not a public showing-forth of Christ. In fact, Joseph and Mary have to flee with Jesus. They have to hide him from the world. Herod tries to kill him. They go into Egypt. They have to come out again. That’s Matthew’s gospel, signifying the coming out of Egypt of God’s Son. “Out of Egypt I will call my Son.” The new Moses, the new fulfiller and giver of the final law, the nomos tou Christou, as St. Paul calls it, the law of Christ, the law of God in Christ, that fulfills the old laws, including the law of Moses. But it’s hidden. It’s in secret. In the mystery of the cave it takes place. In the secret of Mary’s heart it’s all pondered. There is no public showing-forth.

The public showing-forth, the appearing in public, the public ministry begins when Jesus is about 30 years old, it says in the Scripture, and he comes forth when John the Baptist is baptizing at the Jordan River, because there’s a lot of water there, it says, preparing the people for the coming of the salvation of the world, the coming of the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Savior, the Redeemer, the final Prophet and Teacher.

Now, this is in all four gospels; it’s one of the things that is in all four gospels: the baptism of Jesus by John in the Jordan. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the stories are virtually identical. They are more than similar. You can almost say they are just almost exactly the same. You have John announcing the coming, preparing the people for the kingdom, calling them to repent because the vasileia tou Theou, the kingship of God, the reign of God, the coming of God’s kingdom to the world is at hand. He really gets into it in St. Luke’s gospel with the people; he calls them broods of vipers and coming to be baptized.

Then the various groups ask John what they ought to do, if this is the case, that the kingdom is coming. The crowds ask him, “What should we do?” and he says, “He who has two tunics, give one to the poor, and he who has food do the same.” In other words, radically divest yourself of your earthly possessions. The tax-collectors, the publicans, they say, “What should we do? Ti poiesomen; What should we do?” And he says to them, “Don’t collect more than you ought to and that you’re assigned to, and stop extorting and ripping off the people.” The soldiers and you might even say those who serve in military and protective things, the soldiers and the policemen, so to speak, they come and they say, “What should we do?” And it’s very interesting. He doesn’t say, “Stop being solders, or stop being police.” He says, “Don’t do any extortion, don’t do violence to any person.” Then he says, “Be satisfied with your pay, your wages,” which basically means: Don’t take spoils. Don’t rob people’s houses because you’re in power. If you’re at war, you can’t seduce the women and rob the people’s possessions and plunder their houses and so on. You have to just be satisfied with whatever your pay is. Your job is to protect people and guard people against evil-doers, not to be evil-doers yourselves.

Then he says, “The axe is laid to the root of the tree, and the trees that don’t bring forth fruit are going to be cut down and thrown into the fire.” You have the same imagery in St. John’s gospel, when Jesus says, “I am the vine, and you are the branches,” and the branches have to bring forth fruit, and they have to be pruned. God himself is the husbandman of the vineyard. Jesus is the vine. Those who are in Jesus are the branches. And we have to bring forth fruit. St. John the Baptist calls it the fruit worthy of repentance. St. Paul will call it the fruit of the Holy Spirit: love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, fidelity, self-control. That fruit has to be produced, and the husbandman, the vinekeeper, cuts the vines—it’s a violent image again.

You have these violent images of God’s action in the holy Scripture. God is the Father who chastens his sons, his children. God is the lover who wounds and flees from his beloved. God is the jeweler who burns the gold in the crucible. God is the potter who smashes the vessels and refashions them so they can be vessels of grace, the mud pots holding the transcendent glory of God. And God is the vinekeeper who cuts the vines. Then in John’s gospel it says if these vines don’t bring forth fruit, it’s exactly what John the Baptist said when he was baptizing: then they’re cut off and they’re thrown into the fire and they’re burned.

When John came preaching he said the winnowing fork is in his hand. God is already separating the chaff from the wheat. The wheat he stores up, but the chaff, the weeds, are burned with unquenchable fire. So this is a baptism of preparation. You find that in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Now, it’s referred to in John in well, that John the Baptist comes baptizing; he is in all gospels. He’s referred to in the Isaiah prophecy. Who is he? He is the voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the ways of the Lord. Make his paths straight.” Then in Luke it even continues, every mountain being laid low, every valley being exalted, the crooked being made straight—because the salvation of God, the victory of God, the kingship of God is coming to the world.

In John’s gospel, however, you have no description of the baptism itself. You do have the Lord telling to John that he is to come out, and the One upon whom he sees the Spirit descending and remaining, the One that God anoints—because that descent of the Spirit was a sign of the anointment, the unction of the Messiah. The Spirit has to descend upon him. And in John’s gospel it says the One that you, John, see the Spirit coming, he is the One. Then John says, “He is greater than I. I am not worthy to unstrap his sandals,” and so on. He says that when John is asked, “Are you the Messiah?” he says, “No.” “Are you the Prophet?” “No.” “Well, who are you?” “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.”

Then he calls himself the friend of the bridegroom in John. Here it’s interesting. Fr. Sergius Bulgakov, in his book about John the Baptist, he entitled the book Friend of the Bridegroom. Fr. Sergius said that in the same way that for the Messiah to appear there had to be the Virgin Mother, there had to be Mary, this woman capable of giving birth to him, so also there had to be the predictive Forerunner. There had to be the final prophet; the greatest born of woman had to be alive. That’s what Jesus said about John: “He’s the greatest born of woman, greater than all the prophets. But the least in the kingdom is greater than he,” he said. So John said: I am the voice. He is the Word. I am the friend, the best man. I’m the friend of the bridegroom; he’s the Bridegroom. The liturgy will play with that. John is the lamp-stand; Jesus is the light. Jesus is the light of the world, not John. John comes to bear witness to him, to baptize him.

But it’s interesting in St. John’s gospel; it says St. John the Baptist says twice: “But I did not know him.” That’s very important, because twice he says it, because sometimes people imagine that John knew Jesus from their childhood, that they were kind of raised together or whatever, but that’s not true at all. John the Baptist was in Judea; Jesus was in Galilee. John at a very early age—we don’t know how early—but he went out to live in the desert, perhaps even among the Essenes as a kind of celibate monk, a Nazarite, to use Old Testament terms, fasting and praying and drinking no alcohol and eating locusts—that’s locust plants, by the way, not insects—and wild honey. He was just a totally purified, righteous, zealous, prophetic man, the greatest that ever existed, humanly speaking.

But he had to exist when Jesus was coming. It was prophesied that he, this kind of man, capable of being the complete and total friend of the bridegroom, the prophet, the voice, the lamp-stand, the precursor, the forerunner, even into death—because John gets killed before Jesus, and he announces his coming even to those who were dead, into Hades—this man had to exist, and he did exist. But in John’s gospel it doesn’t describe the baptism itself, although it does say that John was baptizing and that John’s disciples, Andrew and then his brother Peter, James and John, they went and followed Jesus. And then it says that Jesus continued to baptize when John was baptizing, after the baptism, after Jesus himself was baptized. But then it kind of corrects itself. St. John corrects himself: Well, rather, no, it wasn’t Jesus who was baptizing; it was Jesus’ disciples who continued to baptize people, preparing them also for the coming of the kingdom of God. So they just continued to do what John was doing and what they were doing with John. That’s what is recorded in the Gospel according to St. John.

But if we go to Matthew, Mark, and Luke now and see the actual event, which is very familiar to most of us, John the Baptist is baptizing for repentance. He’s telling people to change their minds, change their attitudes, change their ways, repent of their sins, change the way that they’re living in the face of the coming kingdom, because this kingdom is coming. Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. That will be the first words of the public preaching of Jesus himself. Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. But there’s a radical difference between Jesus and John. Jesus is God’s Son. Jesus is born of the Virgin. Jesus comes from Nazareth. Jesus is of the house of David.

Here when we look at the relationship, the blood relationship between John and Jesus, we have to remember that John’s mother and father, certainly his mother Elizabeth, who was a kinswoman of Mary, Jesus’ mother, was older. She conceived in old age. Probably Elizabeth was of the generation before Mary’s generation. So John the Baptist was of the generation one generation before Jesus’ generation, even though they were the same age, born at the same time. Jesus was born of a very young woman who also was a virgin, conceived of the Holy Spirit. John was born of a very old woman, and he’s born of course from his father Zacharias, who sings the Benedictus when John is born and predicts that he will be great and called great, and he will be the forerunner of the Most-High God, the coming of the kingdom.

So in the baptism itself, let’s just quickly remember what happens. John is baptizing. Jesus comes and asks to be baptized. John says no. Jesus says yes. “Let it be so now, because I must fulfill all righteousness.” That’s a very important sentence: “in order to fulfill all righteousness.” Because Jesus had to fulfill all righteousness according to Mosaic law. In order to be the Savior of the world, the Yeshua, the Savior, he had to fulfill all righteousness. He had to go through all of these steps humanly, being the eternal Logos, the pre-eternal God, the One who is before John, the One whom John can’t even untie his sandals or unstrap them or whatever the imagery there would be—so much greater, incomparably greater, so much greater as the difference between one born of God the Father from a Virgin than one born of the union of Zachariah and Elizabeth, very, very holy people, the holiest possible in this fallen world, but still mere mortals, not God’s Son, not the Messiah, not the final Prophet, not the Savior and Redeemer of the world.

Radical difference between those two, but Jesus comes to be baptized, and John allows him. Then it says in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, when Jesus descended into the waters, and he descends—vaptizma means immersion: he goes into the water itself, and he emerges out of it. Baptism means immersion. That’s why baptisms must be done by immersion, not by sprinkling water or pouring water, but by being immersed in water. So Jesus is immersed in the water, and then it says when he comes up out of the water, during that act, the voice of the One who begot him, that is, God the Father, is heard, saying, “This is my Son, my beloved, in whom is my evdokia, my good pleasure. Listen to him. This is my Son.”

You have exactly the same thing happening at the Transfiguration of Jesus in the middle of the gospel; the high point of the gospel is the Transfiguration. You have the Baptism at the beginning, the Transfiguration in the middle as the climactic center, and then the Passion, Death, and Resurrection at the end as the resolution, the final fulfillment of the Gospel itself. But you have the voice of the Father.

Then you have the Holy Spirit descending in the form of a dove. Luke, it says in the form of a bodily form. It’s interesting that in the iconography of this baptism of Jesus, the dove is put in a mandorla, which means that nobody standing around would have seen any dove or any bird. In fact, in the gospels, the gospels either say… I can’t remember which says which, but there’s only three different things that are said. One says that the dove came, and it doesn’t say who saw it. Then it said that Jesus saw it, that he saw the dove ascend and remain upon him. And then it says that John saw it, in St. John’s gospel, but it doesn’t say that the crowd saw it, and the iconography testifies to that by putting the dove over Jesus in that mandorla, which shows that this is a spiritual, mystical, theological act that was not capable of being seen by anybody simply standing around.

But the Spirit descends and remains upon him. St. Athanasius the Great, in explaining that—he follows St. Irenaeus; he follows the holy Scripture, namely that Jesus, the Savior, born of Mary, has to go through all the human stages. Not only all the human stages, but all the Jewish stages: all the stages of a righteous man according to the law of Moses, so everything he has to accomplish humanly. So Athanasius and the holy Fathers say that Jesus had to receive the Holy Spirit humanly. The Holy Spirit had personally to descend upon him, abide on him, indwell him, rest upon him, so that he could act completely and totally at all times by the personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit on him and in him, upon him and within him. Everything that Jesus does, he does by the Holy Spirit. That is witnessed to throughout all the gospels. He preaches by the Spirit, he does the miracles and signs by the Spirit, he defends his Messiah-hood, his Sonship, his relationship with God the Father by pointing to the witness of the activity of the Holy Spirit in him.

So all of this is done for our salvation. He’s born for our salvation. He’s circumcised for our salvation. He is subjected to his parents as a child for our salvation. He’s presented into the Temple for our salvation, fulfilling all the ritual requirements of the Law. And then he is baptized. So this act of being baptized shows that he identifies with us completely and totally in every possible way. The Russian theologian, Vladimir Lossky, said it this way; he said: There’s two aspects of the Incarnation, the epiphany of God in Christ, the shining-forth, the appearing. One is his becoming human, becoming a man, a real man, a real human being, Yeshua ben Yoseph, Jesus the son of Joseph legally, Mary’s child. But then there’s this second aspect where he takes upon himself the sin of the world. He becomes the Lamb who takes upon himself the sin of the world. John the Baptist bears witness to that in St. John’s gospel.

So he has to show that he’s going to take upon himself the sin of the world. In other words, he identifies with sinners. By being baptized, he identifies completely and totally with sinners. As the Apostle Paul will say in his letter, he became sin for us. He became a curse for us. He became exactly what we are so we could become exactly what he is. Not only human, but curséd, numbered among transgressors, accounted with sinners. And then of course the wages of sin is death, so he comes in order to die.

Baptism is a sign of death. Baptism, the immersion into the water, is a sign that you’re going to die. So the baptism of Jesus on the Jordan—and it’s important that it’s the Jordan, because the Jordan surrounds the promised land. The Jordan is the river that Yeshua, the original Jesus, the Jesus the son of Nun, that’s the river that he went through, prefiguring the baptism of the new, final Christ-Jesus, Jesus Christ, Christ Jesus—St. Paul often calls our Lord “Christ Jesus” rather than “Jesus Christ”—but the Messiah Jesus. He has to go into that water himself, and that very stream. Not any other stream, not the Tigris, not the Euphrates up in Babylon, not the Nile or this other river in Ethiopia—what is it called, the [Peshon] or something—there’s these rivers that you find mentioned; in Genesis story various rivers are mentioned. No, no, it’s got to be the Jordan river.

And he goes into those Jordan streams, and the psalms already were prophesying, because of course Elijah made the Jordan River stand, and Joshua made the Jordan River stand. Now Jesus goes in, and he’s enveloped by the Jordan River streams. You have that psalm, “What ails you, O sea, O Jordan, that you’re driven back?” That’s sung at the service of Epiphany. “The sea saw and fled; Jordan’s streams turned back. What ails you, O Jordan, that you flee?” Well, waters are the symbol of the foundational reality. In the Genesis story, the Spirit of God is brooding over the waters. The waters are already there in the Genesis story, by the way. From the beginning, God divides the waters. Water is the primal element from which life comes. In the Genesis story, God says to the waters, “Let the waters bring forth all the swarms of living things,” so the living things come right up out of the waters. They come right up out of the earth, and the earth is barren and cannot bear anything if it is not irrigated by water.

We human beings, actually, we all began our life in water; in our mother’s womb, nine months we lived in water. We were water creatures. We all know that when a woman’s going to have a baby, the water has to break. The woman’s womb is filled with water, so we’re all water creatures. That water is that primal element. You could make a whole meditation on water in the Bible generally, and the Jordan River in particular.

But for now let us see that Jesus goes into those waters and they envelop him and they hide him in the waters in his nakedness. He’s naked when he descends into the water. By the way, Jesus was not baptized by John the Baptist pouring water out of a seashell with him being fully clothed, as you see sometimes in some Christian art. That’s not a baptism; that never happened. That’s simply incorrect, historically wrong.

But Jesus goes into the water, comes up out of the water: the voice of the Father and the descent of the Spirit. That’s why at the festival, the main hymn, the main feast—there’s the two main hymns of the Epiphany, the Theophany of God in Jesus on the Jordan are the following. The troparion of the festival is sung many times, and on this festival the water is actually blessed in churches and in streams and in rivers and in lakes. The Christians go there, and they take the cross of Christ and they put it into the waters, showing that the waters have been sanctified, that the earth has been cleansed, the air has been purified. The angels, the elements, the birds, the plants—everything is glorifying God now, because God has revealed himself in the Person of his Son.

The main hymn says: When you were baptized in the Jordan, O Lord; when you, O Lord, were baptized in the Jordan, the proskynesis, the adoration, the worship of the Trinity, tes Triados—and then it says—ephanerothe, epiphanied. The Trinitarian worship, the worship of the Trinity shined forth. You have the epiphany of the Trinity, of God. Then it says: For—and we usually say in English: For the voice of the Father was heard—bore witness, testified—calling you his beloved Son.

Actually in Greek it says: For the voice of the one who begat you was heard. It doesn’t say, He phone tou Patros; it says, He phone Gennitoros, the voice of the Generator, the Progenitor, the Begettor was heard, testifying to you, and calling you the beloved, the beloved Son. “Beloved Son” is used in Scripture very often for Jesus. We’ll speak about that at some point. St. Paul in Colossians doesn’t only say “beloved Son”; he says “the Son of his love.” God is love, and Jesus is the Son of his love. Ho Yios agapis aftou. He’s calling Jesus his beloved Son. So the voice of the Father testifies and calls Jesus his Son.

Then it says: The Spirit in the form of a dove confirms this testimony, the truth of this word, the truth of the word of the Begettor, the Father. Then it says: O Christ our God, Ho epiphaneis, O Christ our God who has revealed yourself, who has epiphanized, and has enlightened the world, photisas ton kosmon, doxa soi, glory to thee. The One who has radiantly shined forth and has enlightened, brought light to the world, glory to thee.

Then the kontakion, the second great hymn of the festival, says: Today, Semeron, today you have epiphanied, you have revealed yourself to the civilized world, epiphaneis semeron te oikoumene; you shine forth today kai to phos sou, and your light, O Lord, has shone upon us, shined upon us. Then it says: En epignosei, in knowledge hymning you, singing to you with knowledge, you have come, you have shined forth, you have manifested yourself, to Phos to aprositon, the unapproachable Light. And God dwells in unapproachable light. He is the light of God himself. Light from Light. You have come, you have revealed yourself. It is your epiphany, the Light that is not approachable, that Light that is so dazzling that the holy Fathers call it the Light that is so dazzling that it is divine darkness because it is so filled with light.

So this is what we have. Today the epiphany, the theophany, the shining-forth from God. What is that epiphany again? It’s two things. First, it’s the revelation of the Holy Trinity: the voice of the Begettor, the Father; the beloved Son, called the Son by the Father, the Son, Jesus Christ, the Son of God—“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”—and the Holy Spirit. So you have Father, Son, and Spirit. You have the One who begets, you have the One who is begotten, and you have the breath and the wind of God who breathes forth from the Father, as the Scripture says, and rests and dwells upon the Son from all eternity, and then upon his humanity, beginning in earnest, personally, hypostatically, at the moment of his baptism in the Jordan. The Theophany is of the Holy Trinity. Here it even says it’s the first showing-forth of the Trinity, clear showing-forth of the Trinity.

But then there’s the second aspect, and that is that one of the Trinity, the Son of God, the Logos, the Lamb, he comes to die. He is the Messiah. So you have the revelation of the Trinity, and you have the revelation of Jesus as the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Lamb of God, the Suffering Servant, the One who came to become sin, curse, dead, to redeem the world.

So in his baptism on the Jordan, you have this great revelation when Jesus is baptized. You have the epiphany of the Trinity and the epiphany of Jesus as Messiah, of Jesus as Christ and Savior and Redeemer and Lamb and Suffering Servant and Victim. It’s all there in that act when he comes to John seeking baptism. John says no; he says it must be, and then he’s baptized, and in that act you have the grand, majestic, splendid epiphany of the Holy Trinity, one of whom is now in human flesh, being baptized by a slave, by a servant, in the Jordan River to show that he is the Christ and the Savior of the world.