Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

Jesus is Often a Rejected Savior

These are the readings for the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany.

God’s Word for This Week

Was Jesus’ earthly ministry a huge numerical success? Hardly. After his ascension, 120 believers gathered in Jerusalem (Acts 1:15). He was not the type of Savior many expected. He was not flashy enough. He did not offer instant gratification. He said his followers would suffer. As a result, people in Jesus’ time and today often refuse to follow him.

Traditional First Lesson – Jeremiah 1:4-10

When Jeremiah was called to be God’s prophet, how did he react?

He was not interested in serving God this way. He argued that he was too young and not able to speak.

How long had God planned to use Jeremiah as his representative?

The Lord had planned to use Jeremiah as his specially appointed prophet even before he was born.

What promise did the Lord give to this young man?

Though Jeremiah would face much rejection as a prophet of the Lord, the Lord promised him that he had nothing to fear. He would give him the words to speak, “to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”

Supplemental First Lesson – 1 Kings 17:7-16

Where was Elijah to go?

God told Elijah to go at once to Zarephath of Sidon (well north of Israel). Evidently his prior pronouncement of no rain made it necessary for him to leave Israel. Authorities would likely have wanted to retaliate against Elijah. Starving people would likely have hounded him for relief.

What did the widow tell Elijah when he asked her for a piece of bread?

The widow told Elijah she had only enough flour and bread to make a meal for herself and her son. Then they would die.

What happened when Elijah told the widow not to be afraid, but to make bread first for him, then for herself and her son?

The widow kept having more and more oil and flour. We stagger at the miracle, but Alfred Edersheim wisely points out: “It is difficult to know which most to wonder at: Elijah’s calmness, consistency, and readiness of faith, or the widow’s almost incredible simplicity of trustfulness.”

Traditional Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 12:27-13:13

What gifts did the Corinthians most desire?

The Corinthians wanted to have those gifts that would most readily put them in the spotlight. They wanted to be prophets, apostles, and teachers. They wanted to perform miracles and speak in other languages.

According to Paul, what is the greatest Christian gift?

Paul argues that the greatest Christian gift is love. It is the gift that we should most desire.

Why does love rate as the greatest gift?

Love is the greatest Christian gift because love is what makes all other gifts valuable. If we have many gifts, but do not use them lovingly in service to others, they will be of no benefit to others and will not bring glory to God. Eventually these gifts will be taken from us and given to someone who will use them wisely. (See Matthew 25:28-30.)

Supplemental Second Lesson – Romans 10:18–11:6

Did first-century Jews commonly disbelieve the gospel of Christ because God did not want to save them?

No, God very much wanted to save Jewish people, both in Isaiah’s day (about 700 B.C.) and Paul’s day. All day long God held out his hands to them. (Picture it. Imagine the physical weariness/agony.) But they stubbornly refused.

Did God reject his people completely? (See 11:1.)

No, God did not reject his people. Paul was as Jewish as could be. God had chosen to save Paul.

As in Elijah’s day, in what manner did God choose to save anyone? (See 11:5-6.)

God chose ahead of time to save sinners by grace alone. No human merit could figure in or grace is no longer grace.

Gospel – Luke 4:20-32

When Jesus claimed that he was the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies, what question did the people raise?

The people of Nazareth asked themselves, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” They had seen Jesus grow up among them. They had a hard time seeing him as the promised Messiah.

What did Jesus say that aroused the people’s anger?

Jesus said that “no prophet is accepted in his home town.” He alluded to the prophets Elijah and Elisha, who helped Gentile foreigners because God’s Old Testament people were, for the most part, unwilling to listen to the prophets’ message. Jesus would have much the same experience. “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him” (John 1:10). Jesus was usually rejected as Savior.

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