|Behold the Lamb of God,|
by Allan Crite, owned by
Michael Hopkins & John Bradley
Our first reading today is the second of the Servant Songs in Second Isaiah (Isaiah 40—55). The first one (42:1-9) was our first reading last week. We read this passage this morning and, as Christians, logically link the Servant to the Jesus whom John proclaims in our Gospel reading. In its original context we do not know who the Servant was; most scholars believe it was meant to be the entirety of God’s chosen people Israel. What is clear in this passage is that the Servant has a mission not only to Israel, but to the entire world, a major theme of Second Isaiah.
49:1 Listen to me, O coastlands, pay attention, you peoples from far away! The Lord called me before I was born, while I was in my mother’s womb he named me. 2 He made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me away. 3 And he said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” 4 But I said, “I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my cause is with the Lord, and my reward with my God.” 5 And now the Lord says, who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him, for I am honored in the sight of the Lord, and my God has become my strength—6 he says, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”7 Thus says the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations, the slave of rulers, “Kings shall see and stand up, princes, and they shall prostrate themselves, because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”
Psalm 40 is a psalm of thanksgiving with a hint of lament at its end. There is a definite structure to this psalm. Verses 1-3 are a testimonial of well-being at the hands of God. Verse 5 may very well be a response by those gathered to hear the testimonial, or perhaps by a priest. Verse 6 and following is a direct address to God. This may have been an actual liturgical structure.
1 I waited patiently upon the Lord; *
he stooped to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the desolate pit, out of the mire and clay;*
he set my feet upon a high cliff and made my footing sure.
3 He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; *
many shall see, and stand in awe, and put their trust in the Lord.
4 Happy are they who trust in the Lord! *
they do not resort to evil spirits or turn to false gods.
5 Great things are they that you have done, O Lord my God!
how great your wonders and your plans for us! *
there is none who can be compared with you.
6 Oh, that I could make them known and tell them! *
but they are more than I can count.
7 In sacrifice and offering you take no pleasure *
(you have given me ears to hear you);
8 Burnt-offering and sin-offering you have not required, *
and so I said, “Behold, I come.
9 In the roll of the book it is written concerning me: *
‘I love to do your will, O my God; your law is deep in my heart.’”
10 I proclaimed righteousness in the great congregation; *
behold, I did not restrain my lips; and that, O Lord, you know.
11 Your righteousness have I not hidden in my heart;
I have spoken of your faithfulness and your deliverance; *
I have not concealed your love and faithfulness from the
12 You are the Lord;
do not withhold your compassion from me; *
Today we begin a continuous reading through the First Letter to the Corinthians during the season after the Epiphany (we will not get the entire way through; we’ll pick it up again next Epiphany in Year B). 1 Corinthians was written to a church in some distress and conflict and Paul’s primary message is the call of Christians to live in community. The greeting of this letter is typical for Paul, as is the thanksgiving for the local church. It is interesting that here Paul takes a reassuring tone, since later on in the letter he will be quite challenging.
1:1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, 2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, 5 for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind—6 just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you—7 so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. 8 He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
On the Second Sunday after the Epiphany we always read from a portion of the latter half of the first chapter of John’s Gospel or the beginning of the second chapter. This is a long tradition in the Church, driven by the ancient need to tell the Cana story close to the story of Jesus’ baptism (it is the Gospel on this Sunday in Year C). This passage is essentially John’s story of Jesus’ baptism, but the central moment here is John’s proclamation, “Behold the Lamb of God.” The story ends with Andrew’s bringing of his brother Simon Peter to Jesus. Even the future leader of the church needed someone to lead the way.
1:29 John saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.” 35 The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). 42 He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).
The Scripture quotations (except for the psalm) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission. All rights reserved. The Collect of the Day and the Psalm translation are from The Book of Common Prayer. Commentaries are copyright © 2017, Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843, www.epiphanyesources.com. All rights reserved.