Third Sunday After the Epiphany, Year A: Matthew 4:12-23: Fishing for People

You can see all the lectionary readings for the Third Sunday After Epiphany, Year A by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Matthew.

The gospel lesson this week is about the start of Jesus’ public ministry. Jesus has learned that John was put in prison and he himself goes back home to Galilee. But he doesn’t stay in Nazareth, his hometown. He goes to live in Capernaum, which is in the area near Zebulun and Naphtali. It says he did this to give meaning to what the prophet Isaiah said: 

“Listen, land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, lands by the road that goes to the sea, the area past the Jordan River—Galilee, where those from other nations live.

The people who live in spiritual darkness have seen a great light. The light has shined for those who live in the land that is as dark as a grave.”

Matthew 4: 15-16

Jesus begins to teach. He tells people “Change your hearts and lives, because God’s kingdom is now very near.”

One day he is walking by Lake Galilee and he sees two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew. They are fishermen and they’re out on the lake fishing with a net. Jesus tells them, “Come, follow me, and I will make you a different kind of fishermen. You will bring in people, not fish.” They immediately stop fishing and follow him. I love the idea of this. Here are these two regular guys out fishing for a living. Jesus walks up and is like, “OK, quit that and I’ll teach you how to fish for people.” And they’re like, “OK, let’s go.” In the version of this story found in Luke’s gospel, more happens (you can read it here) but it’s crazy to imagine these two guys just dropping their nets and taking off with Jesus. How amazing Jesus was and is to affect people that way.

Jesus then goes all over Galilee teaching in the synagogues and talking about God’s kingdom, as well as healing people. Think about this a bit: his main gigs were teaching and healing. How far can Christianity get from this sometimes? And his teaching is not a judgmental, condemning kind of teaching. Yes, he tells people to change their lives and do good, but he doesn’t turn away those whom society would consider bad. He welcomes all. But perhaps that is a lesson for another day—or I think every day.

So this is how Jesus starts his ministry. He doesn’t go straight to the temple in Jerusalem, the religious hot spot. He will eventually get to that, but he starts out in the countryside in smaller towns. He goes straight to the people, not to the bigshots–so very typical of our beloved Jesus.  

Second Sunday After the Epiphany, Year A: John 1:29-42: Lamb of God

You can see all the lectionary readings for the Second Sunday After Epiphany, Year A by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of John.

John the Baptist sees Jesus approaching and says, “Look, the Lamb of God. He takes away the sins of the world! This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘There is a man coming after me who is greater than I am, because he was living even before I was born.’ I did not know who he was. But I came baptizing people with water so that Israel could know that he is the Messiah.”

He says he didn’t know who the Messiah was but God told him he would see the Spirit come down and rest on a man, who is the one will baptize with the Holy Spirit. He says he has seen this happen and declares he saw the Spirit come down like a dove and rest on Jesus. He declares that he is the Son of God.

Again another day he sees Jesus and calls him the Lamb of God.

Two followers hear him and start following Jesus. Jesus asks them what they want.

They ask, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” The text notes that Rabbi means Teacher.

He says, “Come with me and you will see.” So they go with him and see where he was staying. Then they stay there with him that day.

One of them is Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter. So Andrew finds his brother Simon and tells him, “We have found the Messiah.” The text notes that Messiah means Christ.

When Andrew brings Simon to Jesus, Jesus tells him, “You are Simon, the son of John. You will be called Cephas.” The text notes that Cephas means Peter.

This story seems to emphasize how Jesus is greater than John the Baptist, including words to that effect from John and how John calls him the Lamb of God. He also tells the story of seeing the dove descend on Jesus during his baptism. Then John calls Jesus the Lamb of God again and two of his followers go on to follow Jesus.

I think this passage is also a little primer for newbies to Christianity and explaining some Hebrew terms for his readers (like the words rabbi, messiah, and Cephas).

This is an essential text for Epiphany because of its emphasis on understanding the importance and divinity of Jesus. The Lamb of God title refers back to the Passover Lamb of Exodus, sacrificed to save the Children of the Israelites. It also refers forward to Jesus’ death and resurrection, a sacrifice for all our sins.

Proper 19, Year B: Mark 8:27-38: “Who Do You Say That I Am?”

 

You can see all the lectionary readings for Proper 19, Year B by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Mark.

In today’s passage Jesus and his followers are traveling around and he asks them who people say that he is. They respond with various answers: John the Baptist, Elijah returned, one of the prophets. He then asks who they say he is and Peter says, “You are the Messiah.”

He tells them not to tell anyone and explains that he will suffer many things–that he will not be accepted by the leaders and that he will be killed and rise again after three days.

Peter takes him aside and criticizes him (like a friend might criticize another for being negative, I suppose). But Jesus rebuked him saying, “Get away from me, Satan! You don’t care about the same things God does. You care only about things that people think are important.”

Jesus tells the crowd they have to stop thinking only of themselves. He tells them to save the life they have, they must lose it. They must take up the cross to follow him. “It is worth nothing for you to have the whole world if you yourself are lost. You could never pay enough to buy back your life.”

This whole passage very much puts the focus on Jesus as Messiah. But it also puts the focus on our response to the Messiah. Who do we say that Jesus is? Do we live as though we know Jesus is the Messiah? Do we take up our cross to follow him?
We are to deny ourselves and sacrifice in following  him. I don’t think this means that we are called to hate ourselves but that we are called to love others and to be unselfish in our love. What does this mean in your community? Who is your neighbor?

Proper 7, Year A: Romans 6:1b-11 : New Life in Christ

Respect and praying on nature background

Respect and praying on nature background – Source: iStockphoto.com/ipopba

You can see all the lectionary readings for the Proper 7, Year A by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the book of Romans from Track 2.

In this passage, Paul asks if we should continue to send so that grace may abound—in other words, maybe our sinning makes grace all the greater, so should we just sin away to demonstrate that amazing grace? Paul says BY NO MEANS. If we have died to sin with Christ, we can’t go on living in it. As we are baptized, we are baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus—which is the death of our sin and our resurrection into new life—not an old life of sin. As Paul puts it, “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”  Obviously, we do not achieve perfection in our baptism, and we will go on to sin, but we must not wallow in that sin and consider that grace’s work done. We go on day by day to embrace the new life in Christ Jesus. We go on to discipleship in him—I consider discipleship just a way to say lifelong learning and growth in the love of Jesus. If we are learning and growing in Christ, we are seeking to avoid sin and instead to love with the love of God.  Let us go forth in the name of Christ.

Proper 6, Year A: Matthew 9:35-10:8: The Disciples Sent Out

Jesus spreading his teaching to people

Jesus spreading his teaching to people – source: iStockphoto.com/artisticco

You can see all the lectionary readings for the Proper 6, Year A by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Matthew from Track 2.

Today’s reading begins with Jesus doing his work, traveling around, teaching, preaching, and healing people. I especially like this part:

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

So many of us today need that compassion. We are harassed and helpless, looking for leadership, sometimes following the wrong people instead of Christ.

Jesus sends out his twelve disciples with some pretty strict instructions and a pretty demanding set of tasks:

As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.

They are also sent only to the Jewish towns to minister to their own people at this point. As we know from the story of the Ascension, they will eventually be sent out to the whole world, but for now they are only reaching out to gather in their own people and save and minister to them.

These instructions could also be useful for Christians today. Start in your own backyard and later move on to serving the whole world. And make your focus healing and caring for people, as well as proclaiming the good news. There’s no need to get bogged down in anything else. If you start to get bogged down, it’s time shake the dirt off your sandals and move right along and keep sharing the love of Christ.

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