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Wrestling with the Word, episode 57: Third Sunday after Epiphany, Year C (January 24, 2010) January 13, 2010

Posted by fostermccurley in Wrestling With The Word podcast.
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Third Sunday after Epiphany

Many people have told me over the years that they get so little out of reading the Bible. Some have said that they feel they are reading somebody else’s mail. Others have told me it just does not make any sense in our day; it is just too old, too disconnected from issues in our time. All those concerns are completely understandable. Yet, the biblical records tell us that people who lived in biblical times had similar concerns. They needed to have the Bible read to them and interpreted. Sometimes in the process, those ancient people discovered to their surprise that they were part of the unveiling of a new day. It just happens to be the one Jesus started with his first sermon. It’s the day they share with us and we with them. We have all received the same letter.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 57: Third Sunday after Epiphany, Year C.


Psalm 19
The psalm is a combination of several psalm types. Verses 1-6 is a hymn of praise to God the Creator by creation itself, glorifying God without words but with sound. Verses 7-10 praise God for providing the words of the Torah to maintain order and joy among the people with many beneficial results. Verses 11-13 extol the Torah for its function of warning “your servant” against errors and of offering guidance to walk blameless and innocent. The final verse expresses the well-known petition that the use of these words prove acceptable to the Lord, identified as “my rock and my redeemer” (gō’ēl).


Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10
When Ezra read aloud the book of the law of Moses while other people interpreted (or translated) the reading for the people, Ezra and Nehemiah announced “the day is holy to the Lord your God,” encouraging the people to rejoice over their understanding of the words.


1 Corinthians 12:12-31a
Continuing his teachings about the one Spirit distributing various gifts to the members of the church “for the common good,” Paul uses the human body and the correlation of all its parts as the image to teach the oneness of the body of Christ, the church.

Already in the first chapter of this epistle, the Apostle thanks God for the fullness of spiritual gifts bestowed on the congregation in Corinth. Immediately, however, he pleads “that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you” (1:7, 10). Having written about many questions the people themselves asked via mail, Paul also had some things of a theological nature to say about their obvious divisions—among them spiritual gifts. While he does not use the word in this chapter, Paul speaks of “upbuilding” (oikodomeō/oikodomē) seven times in chapter 14 as his reason for relegating speaking in tongues to a lower level of importance than other spiritual gifts. More valuable, according to Paul, are those gifts of the Spirit that employ articulate and edifying speech.


Luke 4:14-21
On the basis of Scripture’s promise of a new day to come for those who suffer, Jesus announces that his presence is the dawning of that new day.

Like Mark and Matthew, Luke follows the temptation story with the beginning of Jesus’ preaching about the new day promised in Scripture. While Mark and Matthew summarize that preaching in terms of the “kingdom of God/heaven at hand” (Mark 1:15-16; Matt. 4:17), Luke tells it in terms of “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  Moreover, unlike Mark and Matthew, Luke places this initial preaching not merely in Galilee but in Nazareth, Jesus’ hometown, where he is rejected by his own people.  This rejection in Nazareth Mark (6:1-6) and Matthew (13:54-58) postpone until later in the story. However, Luke wants to place the rejection at the very beginning of the story in order to move quickly to Jesus’ ministry among the Gentiles for whom Luke wrote his Gospel.

Key Words
V. 14.  en te dynamei tou pneumatos = “in the power of the Spirit”:  Luke emphasizes the role of the Spirit beyond the other synoptic writers. Zechariah and Elizabeth and their son John are filled with the Holy Spirit (1:15, 41, 67); the Holy Spirit was involved in Jesus’ conception (1:35); the Holy Spirit descended at Jesus’ baptism (3:22); Jesus was “full of the Holy Spirit” when he faced his temptations (4:1), and now Jesus begins his ministry “in the power of the Spirit.”

Vv. 18-19.  The quotation comes from Isaiah 61:1-2. However, added to the reference is Isa. 58:6: “to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” Note that the second line of Isa. 61:2 is missing (“the day of vengeance/vindication of our God”) perhaps because it could have sounded a negative note against Gentiles who are in fact the audience of Luke’s Gospel. Perhaps also the line is saved for the brief sermon Jesus preaches in the next verse.

V. 21.  sēmeron = “today”:  Luke uses this word to announce the birth of Jesus (2:11), the salvation of the outcast Zacchaeus (19:9), and the entrance into the kingdom by the repentant thief on the cross (23:43). All cases have an eschatological thrust, but none more strongly than here. The passage from Isaiah 61 indicates that part of that prophet’s message concerning the transformations of the kingdom to come is proclaim “the day of vindication of our God” (Isa. 61:2), that is, the Day of the Lord.