‘Epiphany’ is a word that describes a moment of enlightenment, a revelation, a moment when the light goes on and understanding is achieved. Educators look for it. Inventors live for it. Musicians are on a continual quest for it. That epiphany moment is when what has been unclear, misunderstood, without harmony or has been kept in secret is finally revealed. What a discovery! What a feeling!
Working with leadership groups over the years, I came to understand early on that if a leader is to have success in developing a team, and be effective in casting a vision and a mission for that team, there must be a moment of epiphany. There must be a moment when the light comes on and each individual “gets it”. It will most certainly come at different moments and through different means. But it must come.
Knowledge without revelation is nothing more than mere matter in motion. But add a clear revelation and you have conviction. It is an element that must not be taken for granted. For in its presence a fact becomes a truth, and an idea becomes a principle. It produces a cause with force inside. It brings power with it. It can produce a cause for which to live, and if necessary, for which to die.
Jesus knew that. He knew that if He was to leave the destiny of the Church in the hands of common people like you and me, it would require a revelation. It would require an impartation. So before He could send His disciples to Jerusalem to receive power, He must send them to Galilee to receive revelation. Power without understanding will always produce confusion.
If you harmonize the Gospels you will find that after Jesus was resurrected, He sent His disciples into the region of Galilee to await his arrival there (Matt.28:10). This meeting would become an extended time of explanation and revelation. Even after the Resurrection, the disciples still did not get it. They were in many ways still in the dark as to the plan of God and what had been accomplished on the Cross and through the Resurrection.
They were in the dark partly because of their own shame. They couldn’t have been feeling very good about themselves at this time. I am sure that their emotions were confused as well as being ashamed of their actions during the trauma of Jesus’ trial and execution. And now that He had risen, they probably were delighted with Him, but felt even worse about themselves. What would Jesus do to them? How would He relate to His leadership team who had just blown it so badly?
The answer to this question comes after they have migrated to Galilee and have gone back to work – fishing. It is early one morning when Jesus appears on the shore after they have fished all night and caught nothing. He invites them to again do things His way and, of course, they experience a great catch of fish. Then He invites them for breakfast. It is time for their first “post failure leadership meeting”, a performance review. They brace themselves. Here it comes, at least an “I told you so,” or maybe even worse.
It is during this encounter that I am awed by the leadership style of Jesus. He feeds them and encourages them, and never even mentions their failure. Never even mentions it. Instead, He cuts right to the heart of the matter with the one who was the king of failure, Peter. The one who had lied about Him, cursed, and even swore to God that he did not know Him. And His word to this man was an invitation to restoration. Restoration it seems will always lead to fresh revelation.
“Peter, if you love Me feed My sheep.” I would imagine that Peter was quite taken back by this. “What did you say Lord?” he might have said. “It sounds like an invitation back into ministry. Have you forgotten what I did? What I said? You of all people should know that I can’t come back. I’m disqualified. I’m a quitter, a loser, a coward in the first degree.” But Jesus’ response was simply to say again, “Peter, if you love Me feed My sheep.”
It then was necessary that Jesus take them to a private location where He could explain the events of His life, death and resurrection in light of the Old Testament.
It would be easy for us to get a little judgmental toward the disciples at this point, but it was not so much about unbelief as it was misunderstanding. They could not deny that Jesus was alive. He clearly was. The question was, “What does it all mean?”
Sometimes making sense of it all is half the battle. Even in our lives when we have been through a similar pattern regarding our own destinies and dreams (and we all have), it takes a little while, maybe even a seminar with the resurrected Lord who can bring a revelation to our thinking so that we can understand the plan of God, and why things happened the way they did.
Jesus, during this extended time together, was able to explain to them the whole story from the beginning. Luke says (LK 24:44-49) that He discussed how the Law and Prophets and even the Psalms spoke concerning Him and His mission to earth. Can you imagine what it would be like to be part of this class? What an opportunity to hear God explain His intentions and the accomplishments of redemption to those eager ears.
For example, He probably explained that the blood of a spotless lamb could never take away the sin of a man, but rather that the lamb represented a sinless Man who could; that the scapegoat could never banish the sin of the nation of Israel but rather represented the Man who would carry away the sins of a new nation, a nation of redeemed people whose King would buy their freedom with His own blood.
There had to be understanding and clarification before there could be an acceptance of the mission that would become their life’s work and purpose and the mission of the Church. So powerful was this time together that almost all of them would eventually die for the truths that were communicated and clarified during this forty-day seminar. And not one would recant or deny the reality of what they had learned there.
After Jesus explained it all again, Luke says that He opened their understanding that they might comprehend the Scriptures (Luke 24:45). As He gave them revelation, suddenly it all made perfect sense. With this new enlightenment now they could see Him everywhere in the Old Testament: in the Tabernacle, the Priesthood, the Temple, and yes, of course, in the feast, and in the wilderness.
Revelation will always precede a new mission, a new level of authority, a new season of responsibility. Therefore, equipped with this divinely released revelation, they were now ready to receive their mission and purpose. With complete understanding they would be able to defend their faith in a hostile world and social system. Their faith based upon their understanding of the purposes of God in Christ would become the foundation of fulfillment of their mission.
Their mission would be to “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel (Good News) to every creature” (Mark 16:15). It would be to “Make disciples of all nations”, “Teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19, 20). To accomplish this objective they must have a revelation and be able to bounce back from the greatest trauma of their lives, the events of the Jerusalem experience.
And so do we. A fresh revelation is the price of passage into your future, especially after you have been traumatized by failure. Those Jerusalem moments: the garden, the rejection of the religious, the misunderstanding of the world, the death of their dream, each event had to be processed and put in their place so that those who had experienced them could move on.
The disciples had to understand those moments as part of a divine plan to accomplish God’s purpose in Christ. They had not been misled or deceived. Even their failures fit into the plan. God did have a destiny for them all, and was never out of control. But was rather calling the shots at each moment, even the uncomfortable ones. As a result they would never be the same again.
I guess they also were not as likely to judge others and their failures either. There is something very humbling about being broken by your own weaknesses. When revelation comes and with it a proper perspective, that healing can position a leader for greatness.
After the Lord opened their eyes and demonstrated His love for them in spite of their failures, it brought a new perspective to their thinking. From this new perspective they could forgive themselves, and see the light of destiny through the dark clouds of despair. They finally understood.