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Wrestling with the Word, episode 59: Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, Year C (February 7, 2010) January 31, 2010

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Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

A purpose-filled life is one that is willing to submit to the will of God. Saying, “Your will be done” in our prayers paves the way for each of us to lay our lives on the line. The problem with such a prayer is that God just might answer. That can spell trouble. When God comes to address us in the Word, the first impact might feel like that of a head-on collision. Yet, only that realization of the awesomeness of God’s presence can make us whole, and only in God’s gift of healing us can we participate in God’s mission to the world. God’s purpose for us gives our lives meaning. “Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 59: Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, Year C.


Psalm 138
The psalm of thanksgiving celebrates the realization that God answers prayers. That belief derives from the nature of God who acts out of covenant loyalty and fidelity. In doing so, God enables the worshiper to see that his/her salvation is part of the ongoing work of God that reaches out to the lowly. The recognition of this saving work for all people causes even the kings of the earth to acknowledge the power and glory of God. The past experience of answered prayer leads the worshiper to plead that God’s work never ceases and that God’s purpose for his/her life will come to pass.


Isaiah 6:1-8 (9-13)
The God whose holiness drives people to their knees acts to forgive sin and to bridge the gulf between people and God.


Those who are judged and then forgiven by the presence of God and God’s Word, God commissions to be God’s spokespersons — no matter how difficult and incomprehensible that mission might be.

The historical allusion to the year of King Uzziah’s death sets the passage at about 742 B.C. It was a time of impending disaster on the international scene, for Tiglath-Pileser III, king of the ever-expanding Assyrian Empire, had the kingdoms of Palestine in his sights. Takeover of the whole region by this brilliant military leader was inevitable, and the Assyrians had an international reputation for their brutality and ruthlessness. As Isaiah’s preaching developed, he interprets the Assyrian kings as Yahweh’s instruments of judgment upon the people of Israel (see Isa. 10:5-11). However, when those foreign kings became arrogant over their destructive work, then they became the object of Yahweh’s wrath (Isa. 10:12-19).

Key Words
V. 1. “the year that King Uzziah died”: The year of the king’s death was 742 B.C. In some biblical passages, Uzziah is known as Azariah. He began his rule in 783 and ruled for 42 years (not 52 years as reported in 2 Kings 15:2). Some scholars suggest that Uzziah was his throne name and that Azariah was his personal name. About 8 years prior to his death, he became leprous and was, therefore, unable to perform royal duties, and so his son Jotham became regent for his father. In spite of his illness, Uzziah proved to be one of Judah’s most able kings.

Vv. 1-2.  yôšēb … melē’îm … ‘ōmedîm = “sitting … filling … standing”  The use of the participles in a vision indicates an ongoing action, something like a peek into eternity.

V. 3.  melō’ kol-hā’ārets kebōdô = “the fullness of the whole earth is his glory”:  The literal translation of the construct relationship indicates that the whole world manifests the glory of God.

V. 4.  “foundations shook … voice … smoke”: These characteristics of a volcanic eruption occur throughout the OT (see, e.g., Exod. 19:16-18) as signs of God’s presence. In ritual the smoke results from the burning of incense, and drums and trumpets imitate the thunderous noise and shaking.

V. 5.  ’ôy lî kî-nidmêtî = “Woe is me! For I am done for!”:  The reason for his “woe” is the notion that, when a human being looks at God who is “other,” the observer will die. See Gen. 32:30; Exod. 33:20; Judg. 13:22.

V. 8.  hinenî šelāchanî = “Here am I. Send me.” The response “Here I am” is identical to that of others who are summoned by God to fulfill a mission. Cf. Abraham at Gen. 22:1; Moses at Exod. 3:4; Samuel at 1 Sam. 3:2ff.


1 Corinthians 15:1-11
God revealed to Paul that the essential content of the Christian faith is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and this is the tradition that witnesses pass on to each generation.

Paul’s moves rather abruptly from the discussion about prophecy and speaking in tongues in chapter 14 to a profound discussion of the resurrection from the dead. These verses provide the background for the following presentation on the resurrection of the dead in general.

Key Words
V. 1.  parelabete = “you received” over a period of time:  At v. 3 Paul indicates that he himself received the gospel tradition but does not indicate its source. At 11:23 he reports that he received from the Risen Lord the tradition of the Lord’s Supper.

V. 5.  ōphthē = “he appeared”:  The term is common for post-resurrection appearances; cf. Luke 24:34 (to Simon); Acts 9:17 (to Paul); 13:31 (to the apostles who became witnesses); 26:16 (to Paul).

V. 8. hōsperei tō ektrōmati = “as to a miscarriage”:  In LXX the word refers to a premature birth (Num.12:12; Job 3:16; Eccles. 6:3).


Luke 5:1-11
Jesus Christ calls to be his disciples those who are so overwhelmed by his presence that they confess their sinfulness before him.

In the previous chapter, Jesus began his preaching and teaching ministry in his hometown at Nazareth. From there the people drove him out because of his teaching that the grace of God was for Gentiles. Then he went to the synagogue at Capernaum where he rebuked an unclean spirit. Following that exorcism, Jesus entered Simon’s house where he healed the man’s mother-in-law. Later, when people tried to constrain him, Jesus indicated his mission was to preach the good news of the Reign of God. This passage has its roots in Mark 1:16-20, but Luke adds a new twist by adding the story of the miraculous catch of fish (compare John 21:1-11). The call to Simon, James, and John, occurs without the fishing miracle at Mark 1:16-20 and Matthew 4:18-22. In those gospels, the calling of the fishermen appears prior to the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law (Mark 1:29-31; Matt. 8:14-16; but Luke 4:38-40).

Key Words
V. 2. “the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets”: The setting, similar to that of Mark 1: 16-20, presents Jesus, the Son of God, calling followers who are at their daily work.

V. 8. exelthe ap’ emou, hoti anēr hamartōlos eimi, kyrie = “Go away from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” While the words are similar to those of Isaiah, it is not the presence of God in a theophany but the miracle that Jesus performed that led Peter to his confession.

V. 10.  mē phobou = “Do not fear”:  The phrase is used often in connection with an epiphany or a theophany (cf. Exod. 20:20; Luke 1:30; Matt. 28:5). Luke has already used the expression in the angel’s address to Zechariah (1:13) and to Mary (1:30). It seems to mean, “do not worry” as Jesus speaks the expression to Jairus concerning his sick daughter (8:50) and to his disciples about the kingdom at 12:32. Luke will also use the expression in the same way at Acts 18:9 and 27:24.

V. 10.  apo tou nun anthrōpous esē zōgrōn = “From now on you will be catching human beings alive”:  In Jer. 16:16 God promises to send out fishers and hunters in order to gather people for the Day of Judgment. Amos also picks up the image for his announcement of judgment on the Day of the Lord (“the time is surely coming” at Amos 4:2). Habakkuk uses the image to portray the glee of the enemy at catching “people like the fish of the sea” (Hab. 1:14-15). While something similar might be intended here, the emphasis lies in the realm of “catching alive” for life in the kingdom. Jesus here makes the promise solely to Peter, although others see it, and their amazement leads them to follow Jesus also.

V. 11. aphentes panta ēkalouthēsan autō = “leaving everything, they followed him”: Their following arises not from volunteering (like Isaiah) for a mission but from the direct call from God’s on Jesus. Peter’s eventual execution will prove powerful evidence that he “left everything” to become Jesus’ disciple. Note how Luke magnifies the sacrifice the fishermen made by changing “leaving their nets” (Mark 1:20) or “leaving their boat” (Matt. 4:22) to “everything.”

Wrestling with the Word, episode 16: The Resurrection of our Lord, Year B (April 12, 2009) March 23, 2009

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The Resurrection of our Lord

Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! The words express the way Christians greet one another on this Easter Day. However, much more than a greeting, the words define our faith and what it means to be Christians. Paul wrote, “… if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain” (1 Cor. 15:14). Everything depends on the truth of what God accomplished this day. At the heart of the matter is the trustworthiness of God and God’s ability to accomplish whatever God promises. In the resurrection of Jesus and in God’s word of promise that we will join Christ and one another, we find comfort and a future with hope. That joining begins even here and now as we eat and drink together in Jesus’ presence as a community of faith. This community consists of all people who believe in Jesus, confess his name, and go into the world as witnesses to what God has done.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 16: The Resurrection of our Lord, Year B.


Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
Use in Judaism
This psalm is the last of six Hallel psalms (113-118) used as part of the liturgy for autumn feasts and Passover (see Mark 14:26: “and when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives”).

Form: Individual Song of Thanksgiving
The psalm is one of praise and thanksgiving to God after deliverance from a life-threatening situation. The tone of thanksgiving sounds clearly right at the outset. That both a lament and the Lord’s answer has preceded the thanksgiving is stated at v. 5. The answer from the Lord appears again in our verses at v. 21. The description of the distress that pits the “nations” against Israel is understandable from the perspective of Passover but it runs counter to the other lessons for this day (see vv. 10-13). The attention of the verses selected for us is focused on the celebration of thanksgiving following the deliverance (vv. 14-29). Of particular significance for Easter are the words of vs. 17: “I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord.” Then, of course, is the resounding announcement, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Use in New Testament
V. 6. “With the Lord on/at my side, I will not be afraid. What can mortals do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6)
V. 18. “The Lord has punished me severely, but he did not give me over to death” (2 Cor. 6:9)
Vss. 22-23. “The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes…” (Matt. 21:42//Mark 12:10-11//Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11-12; 1 Peter 2:7)
V. 24. “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Rev 19:7)
VV. 25-27. “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord” (Matt. 21:9//Mark 11:9-10//Luke 19:38//John 12:13; also Matt. 23:39//Luke 13:35)


Isaiah 25:6-9
Against all the hunger, suffering, death, and mourning of the present age, God promises in the kingdom to come a banquet and the end of death itself, in response to which the people of God rejoice.

The so-called Apocalypse of Isaiah begins at 24:1 and continues through chapter 27. Because of the apocalyptic themes, it appears to be the latest section of the Book of Isaiah. The heavenly battle occurs in 24:21-23, and the victory of YHWH over the heavenly and earthly foes leads to the Lord’s enthronement on Mount Zion. Such a sequence of victory–reign–feast is common in the mythology of the Babylonians and the Canaanites.

Key Words
V. 6. we‘āsā YHWH tsebā’ōt lekol-hā‘ammîm bāhār hazzeh mištēh = “And on this mountain the Lord of Hosts will make for all peoples a feast”: In the Canaanite religion Mount Zaphon was the place of the banquet for 70 gods and goddesses that celebrated the victory of Baal over the chaos of the Sea. The mountain of God’s holiness serves as the scene for banquets throughout Israel’s history. Mount Sinai/Horeb is the scene where Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the 70 elders of Israel “ate and drank” (Exod. 24:9-11). Mount Zion, the home of the temple, is the place where the people of Israel offered sacrifices and “ate and drank” together (Deut.12:18; Ps. 22:26; 116:13, 17). The banquet of the Day of the Lord will be open not only to Israel but also to “all peoples.”

V. 7. billa‘ hammāvet lānetsach = “he will swallow up death forever”: In the Canaanite poetry, Death (the god Mot) “swallows up” the fertility god Baal. In this prophecy, the Lord will have Death for dinner—as the entree.

V. 8. kî YHWH dibbēr = “for the Lord has spoken”: The words of this promise can be believed because the word of the accomplishes what it promises.


Acts 10:34-43
Since God shows no partiality, God sent Peter—one of those who ate and drank with Jesus after his resurrection–to announce to Gentiles that God’s acts in Jesus’ ministry of preaching, teaching, healing right up to his death and resurrection—result in forgiveness of sins for everyone who believes in him.

God had brought together two quite different men for the purpose of spreading the good news about Jesus. Cornelius was a centurion of the Italian Cohort. Peter was a Galilean fisherman who spent the previous years as a disciple and apostle of Jesus. God spoke to each of them in visions. In addressing Cornelius, the angel of God told the man about Peter who was staying in Joppa. In a vision to Peter, God taught the apostle that the line between clean and unclean has been erased. That led to Peter’s trip to Caesarea where he preached the sermon to Cornelius and his household. Thus begins the witnessing to the gospel to the ends of the earth (Acts 10:1—28:28)

Key Words
V. 35 all’ en panti ethnei ho phoboumenos auton kai ergazomenos diaiosynēn dektos autō estin = “but in every nation anyone who fears him (God) and works righteousness is acceptable to him”: The universal nature of Peter’s sermon occurs also at v. 36 “Jesus Christ—he is the Lord of all”; v. 38 “healing all that were oppressed by the devil”; v. 39 “we are witnesses to all”; v. 42 “judge of the living and the dead”; v. 43 “everyone who believes in him.”

V. 43. toutō pantes hoi prophētai martyrousin aphesin hamartiōn labein dia tou onomatos autou panta ton pisteuonta eis auton = “To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives the forgiveness of sins through his name”: Peter demonstrates that God has been in the forgiveness business for the people of Israel through the preaching of the prophets. In actuality, “forgiveness” is relatively rare in prophetic preaching. Passages like Isa. 33:24; Jer. 31:34; 36:3; Amos 7:2 are powerful simply because they are not common. However, in the Mosaic law, a major part of the sacrificial system is designed for the forgiveness of sins, and in the psalms “forgiveness” appears frequently as a statement of what God has done or is petitioned to do. The major point in this verse, however, is that the forgiveness of God that had been given to the people of Israel now extends to “everyone who believes in him.”


1 Corinthians 15:1-11
God (through the Risen Christ, the Spirit, the apostles) delivered to Paul the content of the Christian faith, the message about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and this is the tradition that Paul transmits to the Christians in Corinth and to us.

Paul moves rather abruptly from the discussion about prophecy and speaking in tongues in chapter 14 to a profound discussion of the resurrection from the dead. These verses provide the background for the following presentation on the resurrection of the dead as essential to the faith.

Key Words
V. 1. parelabete = “you received”: The verb tense indicates they received this message over a period of time. In v. 3 Paul indicates that he himself received the gospel tradition but not its source; at 11:23 he reports that he received from the Risen Lord the tradition of the Lord’s Supper.

V. 3. apethanen huper tōn hamartiōn hēmōn = “he died for our sins”: reference to the Suffering Servant at Isa. 53:5, 8 (LXX).

V. 4. tē hēmera tē tritē kata tas graphas = “on the third day according to the scriptures”: The expression is identical to Hos. 6:2, the only reference in the OT to a resurrection from the dead on the third day.

V. 5. ōphthē = “he appeared”: The term is used for post-resurrection appearances; cf. Luke 24:34 (to Simon); Acts 9:17 (to Paul); 13:31 (to the apostles who became witnesses); 26:16 (to Paul).

V. 8. tō ektrōmati = “as to a miscarriage”: The word in LXX refers to a premature birth (Num.12:12; Job 3:16; Eccles. 6:3).

V. 10. chariti de theou eimi ho eimi = “But by the grace of God, I am what I am”: God’s grace defines Paul and assigns him the commission to preach what he had received, namely, the gospel of Jesus Christ. The expression is similar to but not identical to God’s definition of self to Moses, “I am who I am” (egō eimi ho ōn) at Exod. 3:14.

V. 11. houtōs episteusate = “you believed”: aorist tense, that is, a spontaneous act.


Mark 16:1-8
In confronting us, the Risen Christ calls us to respond to the miracle of his resurrection with fear and trembling, even ecstasy.
Jesus affirms his divine authority by fulfilling the promise he had made earlier, namely, his resurrection and his reunion with the disciples in Galilee.

The story of the crucifixion of Christ (15:21-39) is followed by the request of Joseph of Arimathea for the body of Jesus so that proper burial could occur in Joseph’s tomb (15:42-47). Singled out as knowledgeable about the location of Jesus’ body are Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses.

The details of the Easter story are sufficiently different in each of the four Gospels that it impossible to determine exactly what occurred. Each account is an expression of faith rather than a historical record, and so each account takes on the living faith of the evangelist and/or the community in which the evangelist lived. What stands out as consistent, however, is Mary Magdalene, the empty tomb, and the time as Sunday morning.

Key Words
V. 1. hēgorasan arōmata hina elthousai aleipsōsin = “bought spices so that they would go to anoint him”: Their mission was not possible because the tomb was already empty, but the unnamed woman in the home of Simon the leper had already anointed Jesus’ body for burying (14:3-9).

Vss. 1- 2. Kai diagenomenou tou sabbatoukai lian prōi tē mia tōn sabbatōn = “And when the sabbath was over … and very early on the first day of the week” The timing of the resurrection has resulted in the church’s assertion that the first day of the week is set over the sabbath as the day to celebrate God’s mighty act.

V. 6. Iēsoun zēteite ton Nazarēnon ton estaurōmenon ēgerthē = “you seek Jesus the crucified Nazarene; he has risen”: Jesus had predicted his suffering, death, and resurrection at 8:31; 9:9-11, 31; 10:33-34. The “young man” announced to the women that what Jesus had been telling the disciples had come to pass, that is, he had spoken with the authority of God. (Recall the discussion of Isaiah 25:8: “for the Lord has spoken.”

V. 7. ekei auton opsesthe, kathōs eipen hymin = “there (in Galilee) you will see him, just as he told you”: This conclusion to the messenger’s report further confirms that Jesus had spoken with the authority of God, that is, his word effected what he promised. Strikingly, we have no record in Mark’s Gospel of Jesus’ words concerning a reunion in Galilee.

V. 8. tromos kai ekstasis … ephobounto gar = “trembling and ecstasy … for they were afraid”: “The words “fear” and “trembling” appear together at 1 Cor. 2:3 as Paul’s style of ministry; at 2 Cor. 7:13 for the Corinthians’ reception of Titus; at Eph. 6:5 for the attitude of slaves toward their owners; and at Phil. 2:12 for the attitude in which to work out “your own salvation.” As for ekstasis, the word occurs at Mark 8:23 to describe the crowd’s response to Jesus raising from the dead the synagogue leader’s daughter. At Luke 5:26 the crowd is ecstatic over the healing/forgiving of the paralytic man. Likewise, at Acts 3:10 the word describes the crowd’s “astonishment” when Peter heals the man “lame from birth.” On the other side, at Acts 10:10 and 11:5, the word describes the “trance” that came upon Peter to make him receptive to the vision, at 22:17 Paul uses the same word for the “trance” in which Jesus warned him to leave Jerusalem.