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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

+ Epiphany + T W O + 2010

Lexegete™ | Year A Matthew


January 16, 2011

Isaiah 49:1-7

Psalm 40:1-11 (8)

1 Corinthians 1:1-9

John 1:29-42

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).

Greek (Symbol font):

nen, oti prwtoV mou hn. 31kagw ouk hdein auton, all ina fanerwqh tw israhl dia touto hlqon egw en udati baptizwn. 32kai emarturhsen iwannhV legwn oti teqeamai to pneuma katabainon wV peristeran ex ouranou, kai emeinen ep auton: 33kagw ouk hdein auton, all o pemyaV me baptizein en udati ekeinoV moi eipen, ef on an idhV to pneuma katabainon kai menon ep auton, outoV estin o baptizwn en pneumati agiw. 34kagw ewraka, kai memarturhka oti outoV estin o uioV tou qeou. 35th epaurion palin eisthkei o iwannhV kai ek twn maqhtwn autou duo, 36kai embleyaV tw ihsou peripatounti legei, ide o amnoV tou qeou. 37kai hkousan oi duo maqhtai autou lalountoV kai hkolouqhsan tw ihsou. 38strafeiV de o ihsouV kai qeasamenoV autouV akolouqountaV legei autoiV, ti zhteite; oi de eipan autw, rabbi {o legetai meqermhneuomenon didaskale}, pou meneiV; 39legei autoiV, ercesqe kai oyesqe. hlqan oun kai eidan pou menei, kai par autw emeinan thn hmeran ekeinhn: wra hn wV dekath. 40hn andreaV o adelfoV simwnoV petrou eiV ek twn duo twn akousantwn para iwannou kai akolouqhsantwn autw: 41euriskei outoV prwton ton adelfon ton idion simwna kai legei autw, eurhkamen ton messian {o estin meqermhneuomenon cristoV}: 42hgagen auton proV ton ihsoun. embleyaV autw o ihsouV eipen, su ei simwn o uioV iwannou: su klhqhsh khfaV {o ermhneuetai petroV}.

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 1:29-42

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 1:29-42

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 1:29-42

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).


Gathering: Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies (ELW 553, LBW 265)

The Day: The Only Son from Heaven (ELW 309, LBW 87)

Offertory: Come to the Table – 481

Communion: Jesus, Priceless Treasure (ELW 775, LBW 457/8)

Sending: We are Marching in the Light of God (ELW 866, WOV 650)


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), remains 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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