Summary: A sermon for the 2nd Sunday after the Epiphany, Series B
2ND Sunday after Epiphany, January 18, 2009 “Series B”
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Dear Lord, in each generation you call forth those to follow you, and carry the message of your redeeming grace to those around us. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, open our hearts and minds to your call, and teach us to listen for your leading. Make us eager to respond to your call, and grateful to carry on the work of your church in our world. This we ask, in your holy name. Amen.
Our Gospel lesson for this morning brings to a close the opening chapter of John’s Gospel, which is quite a different introduction to the life of Jesus the Christ, than is recorded in the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. As a result, I would like to begin by offering a brief summary of this key chapter of John’s Gospel, in which I believe there are several epiphanies to behold.
First, John opens his Gospel with these words: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” And through the use of a chiasm, the next thought that John expresses is that this “Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.” As I have stated before, the term “grace and truth” should really be translated as “the steadfast love and faithfulness of God.”
Nevertheless, here in these first two verses of John’s Gospel, we have our first epiphany. In Jesus the Christ, we behold the very essence of God, his Word become flesh. And the fact that John uses the phrase “In the beginning” to introduce this epiphany, is a reference to God’s creative activity, which, “In the beginning,” separated light from darkness in the creation of the universe. As a result, John is telling us that through the incarnation of Jesus the Christ, God is about to create something new. And as in Genesis, God separated light from darkness, John tells us that the incarnate Word will shine light into the darkened world of our lives.
Next, John’s Gospel tells us that there was a man sent by God to bear witness to the incarnate Word of God, to not only prepare people to receive Jesus as the Christ, but to point to him as the one whose sandals he was not worthy to untie. And in the verses that precede our text for this morning, John the Baptizer does just that. He proclaims Jesus to be “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” And as a result of this second epiphany, or manifestation that Jesus is indeed the Christ, two of John’s own disciples become disciples of Jesus.
Then, after these two disciples spent a day with Jesus, we are told that one of them, Andrew, went and found his brother, Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah, (which is translated, the Anointed.)” After Jesus met Simon, Jesus said, “You are Simon, son of John. You are to be called Cephas, (which is translated Peter.)”
Here we have two more epiphanies. One when Andrew searched out his brother and proclaimed Jesus to be the Messiah, and the other when Jesus assumed authority, in renaming Simon as Peter. For as in Genesis, for Adam, who has the authority to name every living creature and plant, was the one who, created in the image of God, had dominion over them.
Thus, before we even come to our lesson for this morning, John’s Gospel has already given us at least four epiphanies. Of course, John ends his first chapter with yet another manifestation to Jesus being the incarnate Word of God. In today’s text, Jesus himself calls Philip to be one of his disciples, asking him to follow him. Following the example of Andrew, Philip went and found his brother Nathanael, who told his brother that he had found the one “whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Epiphany number five.
Of course, Nathanael was a little skeptic of his brother’s claim, but yet he followed him to meet this person that had so captured his brother’s awe. And when he met Jesus, Jesus greeted him with an awareness of him as a person, and knowledge of his skepticism. Epiphany number six. And as a result, Nathanael responds by saying, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God!” Epiphany number seven.
Clearly, John wants to make it clear, right from the opening chapter of his Gospel, just who Jesus is. Listen again to these epiphanies. 1) Jesus is the incarnate Word of God, who took part in the creation of the universe and became flesh to reveal the light of God, which is God’s steadfast love