Hidden Knowledge

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Hidden Knowledge Podcast
The Explosion of Epiphany

Hidden Knowledge

January 08, 2023*


By Pastor John Partridge

Isaiah 60:1-6              Matthew 2:1-12                     Ephesians 3:1-12

If you watch the headlines, or start surfing the internet, you will occasionally see fantastic headlines or posts in the comment sections of your friend’s posts, claiming that the church is repressing the truth, that there are banned books, deliberate conspiracies of secrecy, and all sorts of hidden knowledge.  Over the centuries and millennia, many groups have launched new heresies, cults, and religions claiming that they had access to hidden knowledge that no one else could obtain.  In every case, their claims are heaping piles of hogwash. 

While I was in seminary there were several times when the tabloid style headlines claimed that there was some new revelation from a “newly discovered” or “hidden” gospel that had recently come to light, and our professors would just tiredly point out that the artifact in question had been known to theologians for centuries and that dozens of books had already been written about it.  The early church fathers, in the first centuries after Jesus, repeatedly fought against sects that preached that they alone held secret knowledge and every time, what they really held was some misinterpretation of scripture that everyone already knew about.

But in today’s scripture, Paul seems to claim that there is indeed secret knowledge about Jesus.  Or that there was, past tense, secret knowledge.  Or maybe he just seems to be saying that, and we need to slow down and read it again more carefully.  In any case, before we get to Paul, let’s back up eight hundred years, and listen to the prophet Isaiah in this passage from Isaiah 60:1-6, where he says:

60:1 “Arise, shine, for your light has come,
    and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth
    and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
    and his glory appears over you.
Nations will come to your light,
    and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

“Lift up your eyes and look about you:
    All assemble and come to you;
your sons come from afar,
    and your daughters are carried on the hip.
Then you will look and be radiant,
    your heart will throb and swell with joy;
the wealth on the seas will be brought to you,
    to you the riches of the nations will come.
Herds of camels will cover your land,
    young camels of Midian and Ephah.
And all from Sheba will come,
    bearing gold and incense
    and proclaiming the praise of the Lord.

Isaiah tells of a day when God will send a light into a world that is filled with darkness, a king so filled with the glory of God that nations and kings will flock to worship him and to listen to him.  But think about what he said for just a moment.  Yahweh was the God of Israel, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  He was the God of one family who made up the twelve tribes of Israel, but Isaiah says that a king is coming who will be so great, that other kings, and other nations will bow down and worship him.  These would, by necessity, represent people who were not family, who were not sons and daughters of Abraham, and who were not, therefore, Jewish at all.  That represents a significant change from the status quo of a people who traditionally looked down on, and avoided, Gentiles as much as possible.  But then comes the Christmas story, the birth story of Jesus, and in Matthew 2:1-12, we hear the first fulfillment of Isaiah’s words:

2:1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magifrom the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
    who will shepherd my people, Israel.’”

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

Magi, high ranking government officials representing at least one foreign government, travel to Bethlehem to deliver gifts and worship the new king that they saw foretold in the stars.  We retell this story every Christmas, and it seems so familiar that it has become ordinary.  But the familiarity of the story causes us to forget how big a deal this really was.  These men were not Jews, or members of the twelve tribes of Israel, in any way the children of Abraham.  They were foreigners, strangers, outsiders, and Gentiles.  Jesus was barely old enough to walk when, through him, God had already begun to use him to fulfill the promises of scripture and to invite the outsiders and foreigners into his family.  And after Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, that fulfillment explodes into the world as we can see in the words of the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 3:1-12:

3:1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—

Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

And here is where Paul discusses the mystery of faith that was revealed to him.  It wasn’t some sort of “secret knowledge” or any information that had been hidden in code in the Hebrew alphabet, or the writings of scripture.  The mystery was that Jesus did exactly what God had told everyone that the Messiah would do.  Jesus was the agent, rescuer and king of his people that invited the outsiders, the outcasts, and the foreigners into Abraham’s family just as Isaiah had written.  The mystery really wasn’t what God did, or that he did it, because through Isaiah and his other prophets, God had made it abundantly clear that these were his intentions all along.  The mystery of history was how God would bring fulfillment to these scriptures.  The revelation was that God chose to do these things through Jesus Christ. 

Paul’s great calling was to share the good news of Jesus Christ with the Gentiles, but also to connect the dots that had been written by the prophets and show the Jews that this was what God had intended all along.  The big deal that we miss in the Christmas story is that, for us, the climax isn’t the birth of Jesus, the Messiah of the children of Abraham.  The big deal is the arrival of the magi who announce to the world that the doors have been opened to the Gentiles.  The arrival of the magi is the moment in scripture where God fulfills his promise to invite the outcasts, outsiders, and foreigners to be adopted into the family of Abraham and be grafted into his family tree.

The big deal in the story of magi, is that this is the moment when the story really matters to us because the moment that those outsiders, outcasts, foreigners, and Gentiles are invited in, is the moment when you and I become a part of the Christmas story, and the moment when we were invited to become a part of God’s family.

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*You have been reading a message presented at Christ United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page.  Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ UMC in Alliance, Ohio.  Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you.  Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601.  These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership.  You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at secretary@CUMCAlliance.org.  These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.com .  All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.comThe “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™



August 01, 2021*

By Pastor John Partridge

2 Samuel 11:26 – 12:13a                    John 6:24-35              Ephesians 4:1-16

What does it mean to be “worthy”?

We hear the word used a lot, but what does it mean?

The dictionary definition helps a little.  It says:

wor·thy (/ˈwərT͟Hē/)


“issues worthy of further consideration”

To repeat, “having, or showing, the qualities or abilities, that merit recognition in a specified way.”

In practice, we use this a lot.  We consider whether a scout, or a military person, or an employee is worthy of promotion to the next rank or to a new job.  We consider whether a political candidate, or Carnation Festival queen candidate is worthy of our vote. 

But why does any of that matter to us in church as the followers of Jesus Christ?

For the moment, just trust me that it does matter.  And hopefully, you will understand why before we finish.

We begin in 2 Samuel 11:26 – 12:13a as we remember the story of how God sent the prophet Samuel to confront David for his sin in sleeping with Bathsheba and in murdering her husband Uriah.

26 When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. 27 After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing David had done displeased the Lord.

12:1 The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup, and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.

“Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”

David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”

Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’

11 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’”

13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”

The story begins by saying that what David had done “displeased the Lord.”  God was not happy.  God expected better from David.  God expected better for the leader of the nation of Israel, and David had fallen short of God’s expectations.  But one of the things that makes this story so compelling, is that when he was confronted by Samuel, and was asked to judge the rich man in the story, David angrily demands swift punishment for the rich man and condemns himself in the process.  When confronted with his own actions, David makes it clear that he has not only fallen short of God’s expectations, but he has fallen far short of his own expectations as well.  God deserved better.  Israel deserved better.  And, although it’s too late to do anything about it, clearly Uriah deserved better as well.

And then, in John 6:24-35, as crowds of people follow Jesus after the feeding of the five thousand, we discover that not everyone who followed Jesus did so for the right reasons.

24 Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.

25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”

26 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”

29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

30 So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”

35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

Some of the people following Jesus are doing so because he has given them food to eat, and they want more.  But Jesus encourages them not to expend their work and energy for food that spoils, but instead to work for food that lasts for eternal life.  Jesus says that they can get this eternal food from the Son of Man, upon whom God has placed his seal of approval and considers to be worthy.

But the people demand that Jesus feed them like God gave their ancestors manna in the time of Moses.  In the end, Jesus simply says that God has already given them the true bread because he himself is “the bread of life.” 

Let’s step back a moment and consider what we know.  God chose David from among the entire nation of Israel.  David was said to be “a man after God’s own heart.”  We would be safe in thinking that God thought David was worthy of being Israel’s king.  But even so, David fell short of God’s expectations as well as his own.

Jesus was worthy of God’s seal of approval and his life, and his death, are evidence of that.

But what does that mean?  What does worthiness have to do with us?  And why does it matter?

We find the answer in Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus in Ephesians 4:1-16, where Paul says:

4:1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says:

“When he ascended on high,
    he took many captives
    and gave gifts to his people.”

(What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows, and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

I urge you to live a life that is worthy of the calling that you have received.

Let me say that again.

I urge you to live a life that is worthy of the calling that you have received.

David was called to be the king of Israel.  God had judged him to be worthy of being king, but David didn’t always live up to God’s expectations.  David fell short and didn’t always live a life that was worthy of the calling that he had received.  And so, Paul encourages his church, and us, to live a life that is worthy of the calling that we have received, to do our very best to live up to God’s expectations of us.

The next question is, what would that look like?  What would it look like if we lived lives of worthiness?  And Paul’s answer is that living up to God’s expectations means that we would lives that are completely humble, gentle, compassionate, and patient with one another, lives that make every effort to be united in Spirit through the bonds of peace.  And, more than just living lives of individual struggle, we are to work together to equip one another for works of service, to learn and to grow in knowledge and in faith so that we might all become mature followers who can each do their share of the work for the Kingdom of God.

We aren’t just called to claim Jesus as our savior… and then coast. 

We were called to expend ourselves, to work toward a common goal, to learn, to grow, and help others to learn and to grow, so that everyone might become mature disciples of Jesus and share the work of building the Kingdom of God.

God has called us just as he called David.  

And God has expectations of us just as he had expectations of David.

May we struggle, work, and make every effort to live lives that are worthy of God’s calling.

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*You have been reading a message presented at Christ United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page.  Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ UMC in Alliance, Ohio.  Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you.  Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601. These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership.  You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at secretary@CUMCAlliance.org.  If you have questions, you can ask them in our discussion forum on Facebook (search for Pastor John Online).  These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.wordpress.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.