Reflections for the Week of Sunday January 15, 2017 Second after Epiphany

Gospel: John 1.29-42 tells of John the Baptist identifying Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” The next day John the son of Zebedee (the evangelist) and Andrew follow Jesus, spend the day with Him, and are convinced He is the Messiah. Andrew brings his brother, Simon, to Jesus who renames him Cephus, (Peter), meaning the rock. Last week John the Baptist baptized Jesus to show that He allied Himself with sinful man as a forecast that He would take mankind’s sins on Himself on the cross. At the baptism John the Baptist saw the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus as a dove fulfilling the sign given him (John) that Jesus is the Messiah.

In today’s gospel the epithet “Lamb of God” refers to the Paschal (Passover) Lamb whose blood placed on the door frames of the Israelite’s houses in Egypt saved the Israelites from the Angel of Death that caused all the first-born of the Egyptians to die. To call Jesus the Lamb of God means that He will save His people from death by shedding His blood for them. His shed blood cleanses believers from sin, reconciles them with God, and gives eternal life overcoming death. The Old Testament had made clear that “life is in the blood” and the shedding of the blood of a sacrificial animal would redeem from sin. Jesus, as High Priest, offers Himself as the true sacrifice once for all and saves all who are “covered” by His shed blood forever.

The recognition of Jesus as the Messiah (the Christ i.e., the Anointed One), is another step in the public revelation of Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah. His identity was largely unknown at His birth except to His parents and the shepherds and a couple of others at His circumcision in the Temple. His identity remained hidden from the world until His public ministry began with His baptism. Even then He concealed His true identity except from John the Baptist and the disciples. He remains hidden from people today until His identity is revealed by the Holy Spirit through hearing or reading God’s Word. People can hear with their external ears but fail to hear internally in their spirit. “Many are called but few are chosen” ( Mt 22.14). It is a sad fact that the churches are full of nominal Christians who hear the gospel every Sunday but fail to believe it applies to themselves. Most people believe they are “saved”–receive eternal lie–by living decent lives, but the truth is that we are all sinners (Rm 3.23) and deserve only death, and are saved only by the atonement of the sacrificial death of the Lamb of God. Salvation is based on what He has done for us, not what we do to try to win God’s favor. In keeping with Epiphany what the world needs is for all believing Christians to engage in active discipleship to be sure that everyone (especially church members) understand the nature of saving faith and the gospel. We need to know that Jesus of Nazareth is God the Son, the second Person of the Trinity. This is made clear in the Prologue of the Gospel of John 1.1-18 where Jesus is identified as the Word of God who is God and then that the Word became flesh (v.14), in other words incarnated (enfleshed) in Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus did what only God could do such as forgiving sins (Mk 1.27; 2.7). He is explicitly called God in Rm 9.5 and Jude 5. He stilled the storm, brought people back to life (Rm 11.1-44), and is identified as the Messiah, the eternal King of the Jews and of the universe (Jn 19.19-23; Col.1.15-20).

Memory Verse: And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him (Heb 11.6).

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