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Sunday, January 6, 2008

Epiphany Two

Lexegete™ | Year A Matthew

January 20, 2008 (Lectionary 2)
Isaiah 49:1-7
Psalm 40:1-11 (8)
1 Corinthians 1:1-9
John 1:29-42

January 25, 2008
Week of Prayer for Christian Unity ends
Acts 9:1-22
Psalm 67 (3)
Galatians 1:11-24
Luke 21:10-19

1a. CONTEXT: John 1:29-42

This is the testimony of John which parallels Matthew 3 and
Luke 3, and follows the account of the baptism of Jesus (Mt. 3:13-17)
on Epiphany I. Here the emphasis is on John the Baptist's
recognition of Jesus as his successor, the one whom his preaching
anticipated. Unlike the synoptic accounts, the Fourth Gospel
underscores this public acclamation of Jesus, a confessional formula
which links Jesus to Jewish apocalyptic. John's focus is on his
coming to awareness of who Jesus is, associated with descent of the
Spirit. Thus the passage becomes an important development of the
meaning of Epiphany, defined by Marion Hatchett as a "manifestation"
or "appearance." In the fourth gospel John's role as baptizer and
foreteller is subsumed under his recognition of Jesus as the Christ.

For John, Jesus becomes the source of the Spirit. After its
descent, it authenticates his person and witness. In turn the Spirit
abides in the church's witness, because it is mediated through Jesus.
Ever elusive, the Spirit assures unity and purpose to the community.
John the Baptist's role is to see the Spirit's descent upon Jesus.
John can link who Jesus is and what Jesus does. In turn, John
becomes the paradigm for the believer and for the Church. He
perceives the transfer of the Spirit through Jesus to a new

However the new community, the Church, is not a total break
with the past. The calling of Simon and Andrew as Jesus' first
disciples occurs as a transfer. They are standing with John when
Jesus walks by. Again John acclaims Jesus as the eschatological
figure he has foretold. Andrew and Simon follow Jesus when they hear
John's identification of who Jesus is. The clear message is that
John's allegiance, including his following, has shifted to Jesus.
The theological implication is that John understands Jesus as the
legitimate heir to the Jewish apocalyptic expectation, as Israel's
fulfillment. John's contrast between a synagogue community and a new
community has encouraged scholars to believe that the fourth gospel
had a Christian group expelled from a synagogue as its backdrop. The
confessional formulae here argue that Jesus, in his person and in his
community, fulfill eschatological hope. Andrew's confession and
Jesus' designation of Simon as Cephas complete the creation of the
new reality.

1b. Text: John (NRSV)

Jn. 1:29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, "Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
Jn. 1:30 This is he of whom I said, `After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.'
Jn. 1:31 I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel."
Jn. 1:32 And John testified, "I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him.
Jn. 1:33 I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, `He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.'
Jn. 1:34 And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God."
Jn. 1:35 The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples,
Jn. 1:36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, "Look, here is the Lamb of God!"
Jn. 1:37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.
Jn. 1:38 When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, "What are you looking for?" They said to him, "Rabbi" (which translated means Teacher), "where are you staying?"
Jn. 1:39 He said to them, "Come and see." They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o'clock in the afternoon.
Jn. 1:40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother.
Jn. 1:41 He first found his brother Simon and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which is translated Anointed).
Jn. 1:42 He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas" (which is translated Peter).

νεν, οτι πρωτος μου ην. 31καγω ουκ ηδειν αυτον, αλλ ινα φανερωθη τω ισραηλ δια τουτο ηλθον εγω εν υδατι βαπτιζων. 32και εμαρτυρησεν ιωαννης λεγων οτι τεθεαμαι το πνευμα καταβαινον ως περιστεραν εξ ουρανου, και εμεινεν επ αυτον: 33καγω ουκ ηδειν αυτον, αλλ ο πεμψας με βαπτιζειν εν υδατι εκεινος μοι ειπεν, εφ ον αν ιδης το πνευμα καταβαινον και μενον επ αυτον, ουτος εστιν ο βαπτιζων εν πνευματι αγιω. 34καγω εωρακα, και μεμαρτυρηκα οτι ουτος εστιν ο υιος του θεου. 35τη επαυριον παλιν ειστηκει ο ιωαννης και εκ των μαθητων αυτου δυο, 36και εμβλεψας τω ιησου περιπατουντι λεγει, ιδε ο αμνος του θεου. 37και ηκουσαν οι δυο μαθηται αυτου λαλουντος και ηκολουθησαν τω ιησου. 38στραφεις δε ο ιησους και θεασαμενος αυτους ακολουθουντας λεγει αυτοις, τι ζητειτε; οι δε ειπαν αυτω, ραββι {ο λεγεται μεθερμηνευομενον διδασκαλε}, που μενεις; 39λεγει αυτοις, ερχεσθε και οψεσθε. ηλθαν ουν και ειδαν που μενει, και παρ αυτω εμειναν την ημεραν εκεινην: ωρα ην ως δεκατη. 40ην ανδρεας ο αδελφος σιμωνος πετρου εις εκ των δυο των ακουσαντων παρα ιωαννου και ακολουθησαντων αυτω: 41ευρισκει ουτος πρωτον τον αδελφον τον ιδιον σιμωνα και λεγει αυτω, ευρηκαμεν τον μεσσιαν {ο εστιν μεθερμηνευομενον χριστος}: 42ηγαγεν αυτον προς τον ιησουν. εμβλεψας αυτω ο ιησους ειπεν, συ ει σιμων ο υιος ιωαννου: συ κληθηση κηφας {ο ερμηνευεται πετρος}.

Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition
© 1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart;

The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition
© 1975, United Bible Societies, London

2. ANALYSIS: John 1:29-41

Jn. l:29,36 - Tei epaurion blepei ton Iesoun erkhomenon pros auton,
kai legei, ide ho amnos tou theou ho airon ten hamartian tou
kosmou....kai emblepsas toi Iesou perpatounti legei: ide ho amnos tou
theou - "John saw Jesus approaching, and said 'Behold, the Lamb of
God, who takes away the sin of the world!'...and he looked at Jesus
walking by, and said, 'Behold, the Lamb of God!' (AILL) - Early
Christian eucharistic imagery of Jesus as the Lamb is powerfully
expressed here. The innocence and purity of the ancient Israelite
sacrificial lamb and the lamb's role in restoring human relationship
to God were prominent features of the early Church's faith. The
image of the Lamb received impetus from the Jewish apocalyptic
tradition of the conquering lamb and the Essene tradition of the
Messiah who purifies the world of its sin. This image helped the
community to portray who Jesus was and what he did.

1:33 - k'ago ouk eidein auton, all' ho pempsas me baptizein en hudati
ekeinos moi eipen: eph' hon an ideis to pneuma katabainon kai menon
ep' auton, houtos estin ho baptizon en pneumati hagioi.... - "I
myself did not know who it was; but the one who sent me to baptize
with water said to me, 'The person on whom you see the Spirit descend
and remain, this is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.'..."

(AILL) - This verse parallesl a number of NT instances (Luke 3:22,
Mt. 3:16, Mk. 1:10, Acts 2:33, Acts 10:38) where the Spirit's descent
on Jesus revealed that he was holy. In John's Gospel, the Spirit's
descent has less to do with the performance of baptism than it does
with John the Baptist's recognition of who Jesus is.

l:34 - huios tou theou - Son of God ("Child of God" - AILL) is the
title of Jesus most characteristic of the Fourth Gospel. Jesus is
unique, beyond merely human origin (1:12-14). Jesus is sent to save
the world (3:16), and is equal with God (3:35f.). Jesus does not
need to testify to himself. The divine sonship becomes apparent to
those who are properly attentive. This emphasis on Jesus' identity
reaches its height in the Fourth Gospel.

3. STRATEGY: John 1:29-41

John's Gospel offers rich possibilities for an Epiphany homily.
Its emphasis upon Jesus' nature and identity lends itself to a rich
liturgical context. The passage is a treasure-trove of imagery of
the Eucharist and of the Church. It is appropriately confessional
without a triumphalist overtone. Rather it is an opportunity to
reflect upon the Church's dependence on its Lord, and the Church's
mystical oneness which has its source in the Spirit.

Themes of continuity and of change are a more subtle but
important aspect of this passage. John the Baptist presides over the
dissolution of his mission, realizing that the successor whom he
expected has arrived. Yet John the Baptist is not eclipsed. Instead
he is absorbed into a greater reality. The preacher might use John
as a believer's paradigm. He works not for his own glory, but for
the establishment of a cause that transcends any individual.

The passage also suggests an evangelism sermon. In the
twentieth century evangelism often stresses technique--what to do in
order to attract and to hold church members. Ultimately the care and
feeding of new members relies upon the recognition by all of Christ's
Lordship in the community. Faithfulness in ministry, more than any
technique, becomes the surest means of evangelism. When people are
acknowledged and seen for who they are, then Christ can be discerned
and worshipped. The passage could be used at an annual meeting, or
on a Sunday when ministry and evangelism are special foci.

4. REFERENCES: John 1:29-41

Brown, Raymond. The Gospel According to John. The Anchor Bible.
New York: Doubleday, 1966.

Hatchett, Marion J. Commentary on the American Prayer Book. New
York: Seabury, 1981.

Leon-Dufour, Xavier. Dictionary of the New Testament. San
Francisco: Harper and Row, 1980.

Smith, D. Moody. "The Presentation of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel,"
Interpretation, October, 1977.

5. MUSIC SUGGESTIONS: John 1:29-41

already used, is an excellent Epiphany hymn, as is CHRIST WHEN FOR US
YOU WERE BAPTIZED (HB 121). Alternatives would be AT THE NAME OF
(LBW 86).

Exegete: William L. Sachs is the Assistant Rector of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Richmond, Virginia. Author of The Transformation of Anglicanism.


If evangelism is the sermon topic, an interesting book to read
is OF ONE BODY: Renewal Movements in the Church (Atlanta: John Knox
Press,1986) by this week's exegete, William L. Sachs and Joseph W.
Trigg, also a contributor to LEXEGETE. There is much tension today
between renewal movements and "mainline" Christianity. The thesis
of the book is that the church needs to learn from the phenomenal
growth of such movements, and can be strengthened by a healthy
dialogue between these two areas of faith and life in the Spirit.
This thought-provoking thesis is well-stated, as noted by Martin E.
Marty in his Foreword. It speaks to all who would tell Good News!

Since January 15 is the official observance of the Birthday of
the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., this is a good time in the church
year to remember the life and ministry of Martin Luther
King,Jr. An "evangelist" in the best sense of the word, his powerful
book of sermons, Strength to Love (Phila.: Fortress Press,
1981), is indispensable reading for such an observance. Sermons like
"Paul's letter to American Christians" reveal a keen homiletical
strategist whose communication style was intensely creative. His
epitaph lives on : "he tried to love somebody." He was not only a
"drum major for justice" but a prophet of non-violence in an age
and a land riddled with violence.




Dartmouth,MA 02747


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