Gospel: Mk 1:4-11 tells of John the Baptist proclaiming the return to Israel of YHWH who had departed from Israel and the Temple in BC 586 just before the neo-Babylonians invaded Judah and destroyed the Temple. Old Testament prophets said He would return (Isa 40:3-5, 9-11; Ezek 43:1-7; Zech 2:4-5, 10-12; Mal 3:1-4; Ps 50:3-4 passim). Following the birth narratives in Mt and Lk, Jesus’ public ministry is beginning with His baptism by John in the Jordan (vv.9-11) when He received the Holy spirit and God expressed His love for Him and designated Him as His beloved Son. This season of the liturgical year following Christmastide is about Jesus’ identity becoming manifest (the meaning of ‘epiphany’). He is the Messiah, the Ruler of the world but He comes to us with His true nature unknown, to be revealed. He has come to set the world right after Adam and Eve’s original sin had estranged and alienated humanity from God. God had intended that mankind would rule the world for Him as described in Gen 2, but the fall due to man’s sin had spoiled human nature and our relationship with God. We became selfish and self-centered, corrupted and depraved as a species which corrupted our ability to rule wisely and made us miserable (Keller KIng’s Cross, pp 6-8). This is the story of Israel in the Old Testament. Instead of fulfilling God’s commission to them through the Patriarchs to reform mankind by means of the oracles of God (Rm 3:2ff), they perverted God’s law and became of debased mind (Rm 1:18-3:20). Jesus of Nazareth, the Word of God incarnate, came as promised by the prophets (Isa 40-66; Ezek 36: 22-38; Dn 2,7,9) to fulfill the covenant with Israel to redeem mankind from his plight of exile as God had promised to Abram (Gen 12:1-3; 15; 17:1-14), Isaac (Gen 22), and Jacob (Gen 28,10-22). N. T. Wright in How God became King says that one of Jesus’ main purposes was to launch the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven (Mk 1.14 passim). The church has become so concerned to help people realize that Jesus is divine (God incarnate) that it lost sight of what Jesus came to do: which was to establish the kingdom of God through His followers. This kingdom is made up of those who have through faith received His Holy Spirit to empower them to become a royal priesthood (Ex 19:6; 1 Pet 2:5,9; Rev 1:6, 5:10, 20:6), as part of a new creation to reflect God’s loving nature into the world and to reflect the praises of the world back to God. Instead of receiving this message from YHWH through the Lord Jesus as set forth in the Gospels, most have thought the message was about overcoming sin in order to live moral lives (it is this, of course, but more) in order to go to heaven as disembodied spirits forever. The real message is a vocation to which believers are called to help God bring in His kingdom on earth so that He will in the fullness of time bring heaven down to join a renewed earth (Rev 21,22) where His people will live eternally in resurrected bodies as revealed by Jesus Himself. This is the message that needs to be proclaimed in Epiphany to manifest Jesus’ real identity and His aim and intention for us and our world.
Memory Verse: Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying,”The time is fulfilled and the kingdom God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mk 1:14,15).