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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.”