What Is Epiphany?

God Made Manifest in Christ

On January 6, twelve days after Christmas, the Western church celebrates Epiphany. The word epiphany comes from a Greek word that means “to manifest” or “to show,” and on this date the church has traditionally commemorated the visit of the magi and the “epiphany.” What epiphany?

God’s manifestation to the Gentiles. God showed himself in the person of Christ to the Gentiles. That’s what that holiday is all about. So go ahead and tell your boss that you’ll take Epiphany off because it is an important religious holiday for you. And on that day, before you pack away your Nativity set, celebrate by looking closely at this passage again and noticing how the whole scene is filled with scandal.

This good news is for all people, even the “least likely candidates for God’s love.”

We have a teenage mother, a child conceived out of wedlock, lowly and dirty and usually irreligious shepherds (as well as lowly and dirty and certainly irreligious animals) and then . . . the magi—a bunch of “Star-led Wizards,” magicians of sorts, Gentile sinners.

Good News for the Gentile

What a scandalous scene! Ah, but what a beautiful one as well. This scene depicts so perfectly the good news of the gospel of the kingdom. This good news is for all people, even the “least likely candidates for God’s love.”

Like scrap metal to a magnet, this good news draws “a hodgepodge” of fallen humanity—Samaritan adulterers, immoral prostitutes, greasy tax collectors on the take, despised Roman soldiers, ostracized lepers, me (the son of a poor man from Connemara on the west shore of the Emerald Isle), and even you (the son or daughter of whomever and wherever you are from).


Douglas Sean O'Donnell

Deftly guiding us through the Gospel of Matthew, O’Donnell shows us how Jesus’ kingly authority is central to the book and has profound implications for how we live in God’s kingdom.

Are you a Gentile? Are you a sinner? If so, I have some good news for you! The grasp of the King of the kingdom of heaven can reach even you and even now.


  1. In William Hendriksen, Matthew (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2002), p. 151.
  2. Hoezee, “Years A, B, C: Epiphany of the Lord,” p. 7
  3. See ibid.

This article is adapted from Matthew: All Authority on Heaven and on Earth by Douglas Sean O'Donnell.

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