“Now Appearing!” I read the words with a mixture of pride and embarrassment! You see, this was part of a sign advertising a book signing I was doing in an area. Ugh!
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled to be a “published author.” Frankly, coming from the back woods of the American South, being the first member of my family to have a Master’s degree, a passport, and going to Europe (voluntarily!) gives me a sense of accomplishment. It’s just not part of the world I grew up in. But it has been an amazing experience for me.
I just can’t let this “Now Appearing” foolishness intoxicate me into believing something that isn’t true! Because the appearance of something means that it’s true nature is being reveals. Otherwise, it’s just one more delusion and fantasy, and that’s not an “appearance” at all! An Appearance is suppose to be a Revelation of Reality!
Look at our Lesson today in Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7:
TITUS, my son, the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men, training us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions, and to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world, awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of the great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.
Three times St. Paul uses the word “appearance” in this passage to his spiritual son, St. Titus. And these three “appearances” reveal the very nature of WHY Jesus appeared and WHAT His Appearance is suppose to accomplish.
First, The Grace of God APPEARED FOR salvation. The whole point of God stepping into His creation as the “theanthropos” – Jesus Christ, the God-Man, is for us. God didn’t NEED to appear among us. God doesn’t need anything or any one. It is the pagan gods and the false gods of false religions that “need” to do anything. But our God needs nothing, including us! So everything He has done, is doing, or will do is for our benefit, our salvation. This revelation tells me a great deal about the God we “SEE” in Jesus Christ. It tells me He is selfless AND humble. God doesn’t think about Himself. God thinks about YOU!
Next, The Appearing of the Glory of God. Jesus Christ is God’s glory. And Paul let’s us know that if we ever hope to enjoy God we are going to have to deal with His loving actions in the Person of Jesus Christ. We are going to have to authentically wrestle with the implications of God becoming human for our sake. We are going to have to deal with the reality that if God really has done this, then nothing, especially me, can ever be the same. This Appearance means even my very behavior is transformed and this affects my past, present, and future, because Jesus’ Appearing isn’t a one time event – it’s going to happen again!
Finally, Our Good and Loving God HAS Appeared. And He has done this loving work for me, not because I “deserved” it, or because I had “earned” it. No, God does all this for me even before I knew I needed Him to do this for me! His salvation is in His Appearance. Why? Because in His Appearance, He weds my physicality to His Deity! He invites me to become like Him. And it’s only in being like Him that I can enjoy His salvation.
All of this appearing that our Lord does at His Birth, at His Baptism, during His life, on His cross, in His tomb, at His resurrection, and during His ascension is all meant to get you and me to “see” Him so that we can become like Him and enjoy His life, His eternal life that He has granted the whole world. Face it; you are going to live forever. Christ has trampled down death! Now the question is will you know how to enjoy life forever with Him.
Today, as we finally SEE God in His appearance and this invitation to KNOW Him changes me, my whole life, and all my relationships. His comprehensive Appearing is meant to restore, rescue, and remake His humanity into what we were intended from the beginning to be – Like Him.