Third Sunday after Epiphany
January 23, 2011 (Lectionary 3)
Psalm 27:1, 4-9 (1)
1 Corinthians 1:10-18
Prayer of the Day
Lord God, your lovingkindness always goes before us and follows after us. Summon us into your light, and direct our steps in the ways of goodness that come through the cross of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
Alleluia. Jesus preached the good news | of the kingdom
and cured every sickness a-| mong the people. Alleluia. (Matt. 4:23)
1a. CONTEXT: Matthew 4:12-23
This Sunday is rather blah, stuck as it is between the festivity of Christmas and solemnity of Lent. The color is green, which alerts us to life and growth, though our eyes are accustomed to the drabness of January. Our attention is focused on congregational meetings, perhaps (belated) recognition of Martin Luther King,Jr., the imminent Superbowl Sunday (and related good causes) , and the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, each of which comes around this time of year and is more or less important in the lives of individuals, congregations and communities. This Third Sunday after the Epiphany is preceded by Matthew's account of the Baptism of Our Lord (3:13-17) and John's proclamation of Jesus as the "Lamb of God," as well as Andrew's faith statement to and recruitment of his brother Peter (John 1:29-41). The Sermon on the Mount material forms the basis for the remaining Sundays of Epiphany.
Generally the emphasis has been on Jesus' calling to follow, and consequently has given rise to an evangelism emphasis, as if we who follow 2000 years later could do what Christ did, or respond as the fishermen did.
Matthew 4:12-23 serves to launch Jesus into his public ministry, and to summarize his proclamation--"Repent, for the realm of heaven is at hand" (AILL). Matthew duplicates all of Mark 1:14-20 and adds Isaiah 9:1-2, thereby implying is fulfillment, which would be meaningful and significant for Matthew's Jewish audience. Matthew's sensitivity causes him to use "basileia ton ouranon" 34 times, though this phrase is not found in the other Gospels. Frederick Buechner (Wishful Thinking, p. 79) says that "to repent is to come to your senses. It is not so much something you do as something that happens. True repentance spends less time looking at the past and saying 'I'm sorry,' than to the future and saying 'Wow!'" According to Gunther Bornkamm (Jesus of Nazareth, p. 82), Repentance is "to lay hold on the salvation which is already at hand, and to give up every- thing for it." Finally, Floyd Filson in A New Testament History (p. 94) says that the Kingdom is the theme of the synoptics. Jesus announces the Kingdom or Realm as a present reality and a future hope. The announcement is preceded by a summons to repent. The appeal is urgent, for this Realm comes not by the brilliance and action of God's people--rather by God's intervention in the person of Jesus.
1b. Text: Mt. 4:12-23
12akousaV de oti iwannhV paredoqh anecwrhsen eiV thn galilaian. 13kai katalipwn thn nazara elqwn katwkhsen eiV kafarnaoum thn paraqalassian en orioiV zaboulwn kai nefqalim: 14ina plhrwqh to rhqen dia hsaiou tou profhtou legontoV, 15gh zaboulwn kai gh nefqalim, odon qalasshV, peran tou iordanou, galilaia twn eqnwn, 16o laoV o kaqhmenoV en skotei fwV eiden mega, kai toiV kaqhmenoiV en cwra kai skia qanatou fwV aneteilen autoiV. 17apo tote hrxato o ihsouV khrussein kai legein, metanoeite, hggiken gar h basileia twn ouranwn. 18peripatwn de para thn qalassan thV galilaiaV eiden duo adelfouV, simwna ton legomenon petron kai andrean ton adelfon autou, ballontaV amfiblhstron eiV thn qalassan: hsan gar alieiV. 19kai legei autoiV, deute opisw mou, kai poihsw umaV alieiV anqrwpwn. 20oi de euqewV afenteV ta diktua hkolouqhsan autw. 21kai probaV ekeiqen eiden allouV duo adelfouV, iakwbon ton tou zebedaiou kai iwannhn ton adelfon autou, en tw ploiw meta zebedaiou tou patroV autwn katartizontaV ta diktua autwn: kai ekalesen autouV. 22oi de euqewV afenteV to ploion kai ton patera autwn hkolouqhsan autw. 23kai perihgen en olh th galilaia, didaskwn en taiV sunagwgaiV autwn kai khrusswn to euaggelion thV basileiaV kai qerapeuwn pasan noson kai pasan malakian en tw law.
Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition © 1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart;
The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition © 1975, United Bible Societies, London
Jesus Begins His Ministry
12 Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. 13 And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
16 the people dwelling in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,
on them a light has dawned.”
17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Jesus Calls the First Disciples
18 While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
Jesus Ministers to Great Crowds
23 And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.
ESV © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
2. ANALYSIS: Matthew 4:12-23
Mt. 4:15 - Galilia ton ethnon - Literally, "ring of foreigners," referring to the far reaches of the Northern Kingdom. Jesus withdrew to Galilee (compare Mark 1:14, "Jesus came into Galilee") because: 1)he was from there, and 2) many who were baptized by John were also from there; hence, the message of the Kingdom would find readier acceptance among those who were most dissatisfied with current political, economic, social and religious conditions (a region of shadow and death, 4:16).
4:17 - ho Iesous kerussein - "Jesus began to preach" (AILL) - Literally, Jesus began proclaiming or announcing. Fundamentally, kerussein is the declaration of an event and not "to preach" in the usual sense. In Jesus, what is proclaimed is a creative force; it gives what it declares. Its goal is faith, rather than understanding. Its companion is "teaching," but "teaching" is reserved for believers, usually in the synagogue. Proclaiming is for sinners, and occurs anywhere.
4:17 - metanoiete....he Basileia ton ouranon - Metanoiete is "to change one's mind" - In the OT, the concept is one of "return," or doing an about-face. It had for the prophets and Jesus three facets:
l) obedience to God's will; 2) trust in God alone; and 3) turning aside from everything ungodly. God grants con-version as both gift and task. Repentance is not law, but gospel -- it is God's gift which binds one to joyful tasks. - He Basileia ton ouranon is synonymous with "Kingdom of God" - The kingdom is different, miraculous, not a human product. Jesus does not promise political
glory to Israel, but salvation to the world. The actualization of God's rule is future, but this future determines the present. It is a gift set before us, and with another gift -- repentance -- we are but in touch with a realm which comes apart from us.
4:19 - deute opiso mou - "Follow me" (AILL) - Opiso has such meanings as - behind, after, later and again. This invitation is a binding one to the person of Jesus--it is not simply a following that is asked of
the disciples, but a total commitment to and entry into the kingdom.
It means self-denial, cross-bearing, and self-surrender. There is no
going back, and exclusive belonging to Christ is the reality for the
one who follows.
4:20 - aphentes - "They left" (their nets) (AILL) - This term is more
akin to "release, leave behind, to let go." It is used most often in
the NT as a word for forgiveness, something constantly needed and
granted when requested if there is a willingness to do the same for
others. Forgiveness is God's act, bringing total renewal, and is
received when God's judgment is affirmed by the confession of sins.
4:23 - didaskon en tais sunagogais - "teaching in their synagogues"
(AILL) - (see note above on kerussein,4:17) - Jesus uses the form of
a typical teacher and his material is traditional. But he aims to
order all life in relation to God and neighbor, appeals to the will,
and calls for decision for or against God. The teaching is not in
reference to intellect, but to the total will of the hearer, their
whole personhood. What raises the hostility of other teachers is the
absolute claim that Jesus alone is the fulfillment of the law
(greater than Moses) and the way (for others) to its fulfillment.
4:23 - kai therapeuon - "and healing" - Physical healing, in the
sense of the total healing of the whole person is implied. With
Jesus, God's realm has broken into our suffering world. The real
miracle of healing is not the breaking of natural law, but victory in
the conflict with hardship.
3. STRATEGY: Matthew 4:12-23
There is an intriguing change evident in this text. The message itself is a call to change - "Repent, for the realm of heaven is at hand."
There is a change in Jesus from passive to active. With John's voice silenced, Jesus begins to proclaim the same message (Mark
1:15). Passive, in the sense of "being acted upon," preparation is over. Now comes the change from passive to active--going, preaching, teaching and healing. This change might serve as a model for Christians: first a need to be acted upon by the power of God, and then empowered by that power.
There is an implicit change for those drawn by the message.
There is no need for them to come to hear the message of God's gifts
of the Kingdom or repentance. Now the message goes forth in the
person of Jesus--the message and the messenger.
There is a change in the four fishermen. Note the immediacy of their response in the "M and M" gospels. Are they akin to our contemporaries who experience restless dissatisfaction with life or self? Weight-watchers, AA, Stop Smoking seminars, psychiatry, psychotherapy, counseling and doctors' offices are full of those engaged in activity which they feel is destructive, unfulfilling or unrewarding. These are people whose change must be immediate. And what of those called to follow? Were they perhaps restless about themselves or life? The preacher should jump into one of these fishermen's boats: is this all there is?--4 a.m. risers, stinking fish, putting up with brothers and others, and old man Zebedee, the CEO? Were they people who wished to find meaning in their life but could not?
Jesus ignited their imagination and set them aflame for the possibility of more joyful, satisfying service, and they followed immediately! Do not discount the effect of cold, dark January days and nights in the northern climes on people in the pews. Perhaps they are looking for some CHANGE or newness in liturgy, order of worship, method and style of preaching. There are myriad ways to "change" the setting and situation (one pastor actually wheeled a small boat into the nave for a children's sermon on this text). Change is grace--dare to be creative!
4. REFERENCES: Matthew 4:12-23
Bornkamm, Gunther. Jesus of Nazareth. NY: Harper & Bros.,1960.
Buechner, Frederick, Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC. New York: Harper and Row, 1973.
Filson, Floyd V. A New Testament History: Story of the Emerging Church. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1964.
5. MUSIC SUGGESTIONS: Mt. 4:12-23
If not previously used, JESUS CALLS US, O'ER THE TUMULT (HB 549,550;LBW 494) is the most obvious hymn choice for the day.
Also recommended are "COME,FOLLOW ME," THE SAVIOR SPAKE (LBW 455), HAIL TO THE LORD'S ANOINTED (HB 616,LBW 87), HAVE NO FEAR, LITTLE FLOCK (LBW 478) and REJOICE, YE PURE IN HEART (HB 556,557;LBW 553 alt.) is a good processional hymn. Also, if a "healing" theme is pursued, THINE ARM, O LORD, IN DAYS OF OLD (HB 567,LBW 431) is an ideal hymn for the day.
Gathering: Thy Strong Word (ELW 511, LBW 233)
The Day: O Christ, Our Light (ELW 675, LBW 380)
Offertory: Come to the Table – 481
Communion: Now We Join in Celebration (ELW 462, LBW 203 or 224)
Sending: Lift Every Voice and Sing (ELW 841, LBW 562)
Exegetes: R. Ervin Walther & Philip H. Scherr
Lexegete © 2011
Dartmouth, MA 02747