Jesus Appears as Light Shining in Darkness
These are the readings for the Third Sunday after Epiphany.
God’s Word for This Week
Jesus appears as the light that shines in the darkness. Dark places remain covered in the shadow of sin and unbelief. Now there are, however, bright places, too, and there you find God’s children. Jesus shines his light by preaching repentance and the good news of the nearing kingdom, and he invites us to follow him to a life illumined by him. Following him means living in the joy of freedom (First Lesson) and walking in the light of love for God and brother (Second Lesson).
Traditional First Lesson – Isaiah 9:1-4
What kind of “darkness” were the people walking in?
These people were walking the spiritual darkness of sin and death. St. Paul says that we were “dead in our transgressions and sins” and “objects of God’s wrath” (Ephesians 2:1,3).
What “great light” did they suddenly see?
Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12) that brings spiritual peace and joy.
The story of Zebulon and Naphtali was one of suffering. These northern tribes bore the brunt of foreign attacks, most notably by Assyria. Adding insult to injury, the land had become Galilee of the Gentiles, a melting pot of resettled peoples and a hot bed of crass syncretism. It was a land covered by the darkness of gloom and unbelief. Though the people’s punishment was well deserved, it was not an end to itself, but a means to God’s end. God’s plan broke upon them as suddenly as light shining into the darkness when Jesus appeared and began to preach and teach. He fulfilled every one of Isaiah’s prophecies: he honored them with his presence; he gladdened them with his gifts; he freed them with his sacrifice for sin.
Supplemental First Lesson – Isaiah 8:19-9:2
What does Isaiah have to say to those people who try to find answers and guidance by talking to psychics or astrologers or mediums? What is the only place to find answers, guidance and light?
The supplemental selection focuses more tightly on this Sunday’s theme. Man cannot find his way through the darkness of the world except by inquiring of God. No spirit, no man, no other message brings light to those living in darkness. To the law and to the testimony! There you find the Word, the great light for those living in darkness.
Traditional Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 1:10-17
What difficulty was Paul dealing with in the Corinthian congregation? (verses 10 and 11)
There were divisions and quarrels within the congregation.
How does Paul address this problem? (verse 13)
He asks the Corinthians to consider whether Christ is divided. Either you’re a Christian or you’re not. The members of Christ can’t be divided.
What specific job had Paul been sent to do?
Paul had been sent specially to preach the gospel. Apparently he often left the job of baptizing to others.
Supplemental Second Lesson – 1 John 2:3-11
How can we be certain that we know God? How do John’s words apply to people today who think they know God?
John says, “Obey his commands.” The gnostic heretics that John combated had little regard for laws and sin and the commands of God. They felt they knew God well enough without worrying about acts of obedience. How similar to modern unbelievers and even to many Christians today! They think they know God, but they have little time for talk of sin, guilt, and obedience. John tells us that contrary to their opinion, they do not know God. Jesus, our Morning Star, has already come, and the light of his dawn is beginning to break over the world, and the time for deeds of darkness is fading fast. There are still places of deep darkness, but that is not the place to find God’s children. They will be found walking in the light and shedding their own light on the darkness around them by living in love for God and brother.
Gospel – Matthew 4:12-23
What did Jesus do when he heard that the Baptizer had been arrested?
He returned to Galilee to preach the gospel, fulfilling the words of Isaiah in the First Lesson.
What did Jesus do to help him in his job of preaching the good news of the kingdom?
He began to call his disciples. What faith they showed by dropping everything and following Jesus!
The light of the world appeared and began to cast its beams. Fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy, the bulk of Christ’s ministry took place in Galilee of the Gentiles which had been so oppressed. Galileans were the first to see the light of God’s day breaking over the world. From that time on, Jesus began to preach, and we hear the first public words of Jesus Christ: Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near. With those words the Holy Spirit describes Jesus shining his light into the shadowed nooks and crannies of the world. From fishing boats to synagogues, from workmen to lame men, Christ cast a beacon of light into the darkened world around him with his three-fold ministry of teaching, preaching, and healing. The kingdom of heaven drew near and called God’s children to follow the light and live in the light.