Epiphany is a season that especially celebrates revelation. The disclosure of God’s Spirit and favor on Jesus at the time of his baptism echoes the people Israel’s disclosure of God by means of their life as God’s people, and reverberates in the continuing witness of those who follow Jesus.
The First Reading
The Restoration of Zion as a Light to the Nations
This reading from the book of Isaiah proclaims the people of Israel to be God’s servants, a light to the nations through whom divine recompense—God’s saving power—becomes available to all peoples. Here as elsewhere, the Hebrew Bible sounds the theme of God’s extending covenantal blessings to gentiles through Israel. In the season of Epiphany, the church takes up this theme to ground its presentation of Jesus as one through whom God likewise makes salvation available to all.
- 1. Coastlands, listen to me;
- pay heed, peoples from afar.
- The Lord called me from the womb;
- from my mother’s belly God pronounced my name.
- 2. God made my mouth like a sharp sword;
- God hid me under the shadow of his hand.
- God made me a polished arrow;
- in his quiver God concealed me.
- 3. God said to me, “You, Israel, are my servant through whom I shall be glorified.”
- 4. I thought, “For no purpose I have toiled,
- for nothing and in vain I have exhausted my strength.”
- But in truth, my just due comes only from the Lord;
- my reward is from my God.
- 5. And now the Lord has determined—
- who created me from the womb as his servant—
- to restore Jacob to him,
- so that Israel to him will be gathered.
- And I have been honored in the eyes of the Lord,
- and my God has been my strength.
- 6. For God said, “Is it a trivial thing for you to be my servant,
- to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the saved of Israel?
- For I have made you a light to the nations,
- so that my saving power will reach the end of the earth.”
- 7. Thus says the Lord—
- redeemer of Israel, its Holy One—
- to the despised one, the one abhorred by nations,
- the servant of rulers:
- “Kings will see and will stand,
- chieftains, and they will bow down,
- on account of the Lord, who is trustworthy—
- the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”
Proclaiming God’s Greatness
The psalmist declares the need publicly to extol God’s wonders and mighty deeds that rescue God’s followers from harm. Such public proclamation follows God’s instruction (verse 8) and pleases God even more than animal sacrifice (verse 6). In the verses included for today’s reading, the psalm reflects on God’s past actions in redeeming the psalmist from danger. At the end of the psalm (see verse 11), the psalmist expresses hope that God similarly will offer protection from threats and dangers that the psalmist currently faces.
- To the director, an accompanied psalm of David.
- 1. I have eagerly awaited the Lord,
- and God has turned an ear to me and heeded my cry for help.
- 2. God lifted me out of the pit of roaring waters,
- from the muddy bog.
- He set my feet on a rock outcropping,
- making firm my footfalls.
- 3. God placed a new song in my mouth
- of praise to our God!
- Multitudes will see and stand in awe;
- they will trust in the Lord.
- 4. Happy is the one who makes the Lord the ground of trust,
- who does not turn to the defiant or those who fall away to falsehood.
- 5. Many deeds have you yourself done, Lord, my God—
- your wondrous plans for us!
- None compare to you.
- Were I to open my mouth and speak these things,
- they would be more than can be told!
- 6. Sacrifice and offerings you do not desire—
- you have opened my ears.
- A burnt- or sin-offering you do not demand.
- 7. Then I said, “Here! I have come!
- In a book-scroll, it is written for me:
- 8. To do your will, my God, is my desire.
- Your instruction is at my core.”
- 9. I reported tidings of righteousness in a vast congregation.
- I will not restrain my lips,
- you know, Lord.
- 10. Your righteousness I did not hide within my heart.
- Your faithfulness and redeeming power I have told.
- I have not concealed your steadfast love and fidelity for a vast congregation.
- 11. You, Lord—
- do not withhold your compassion from me!
- Your faithfulness and redeeming power will forever protect me.
The Second Reading
1 Corinthians 1:1-9
The Endowment of Grace for All Who Await Jesus’ Final Revelation
In writing to several communities of believers in Corinth, Paul addresses them as a single “assembly” (ekklêsia, which may also be rendered “church”). He does so because he thinks of each community as one part of a collective body, sanctified by the Spirit in their common baptism. All are endowed with what they need for faithful life as they await revelation, which is a future reality as well as an inheritance from the past.
Paul, called to be a messenger of Jesus Anointed through the will of God, and Sosthenes, the brother—to the assembly of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Jesus Anointed, known as holy ones, together with all those calling upon the name of our Lord Anointed Jesus in every place, whether theirs or ours: Grace to you and peace from God our father and the Lord, Anointed Jesus.
I give thanks to God always for you, for the grace of God given you in Jesus Anointed, because in every way you have been endowed by him, with every word and all knowledge. The testimony of the Anointed has been confirmed among you in this way, so that you do not lack in any grace as you await our Lord Anointed Jesus to be revealed. So also he will confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus. God is faithful, through whom you were called into life shared with his son, Anointed Jesus our Lord.
Jesus, “the Lamb of God,” and His Followers
The Gospel according to John depicts John the Baptist’s interaction with Jesus differently from the other Gospels. John does not baptize Jesus, but sees the Spirit descend upon him. This correlates with his testimony that Jesus himself baptizes others in the Holy Spirit. Thus the epiphany of Jesus as imbued by Spirit means that his followers will be steeped in Spirit as well.
On the next day John saw Jesus coming to him, and said, “Look, the Lamb of God that removes the sin of the world. This is the one I was talking about: ‘A man comes after me who has priority over me, because he was before me.’ I did not know him, but so that he could be identifiable to Israel—for this reason I came immersing with water.” John testified, “I observed the Spirit descending as a dove from heaven, and it remained upon him. And I did not know him, but that one who sent me to immerse in water said to me: ‘The person on whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining, this is the one who immerses in Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and have testified that this is the son of God.”
The next day again John stood with two of his students; he gazed at Jesus walking by and said, “Look, the Lamb of God.” The two students heard him speaking and followed Jesus. Jesus turned and observed them following and said to them, “What do you seek?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which means “teacher” when translated) “where do you stay?” He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” They came and saw where he stayed, and they remained with him that day; it was about the tenth hour. Andrew—Simon Peter’s brother—was one of the two who heard what John said and followed Jesus. First thing, he found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated “Anointed One”). He led him to Jesus. Gazing at him, Jesus said, “You are Simon, son of John; you shall be called Kayphas” (which is rendered “Rock”).