Lectionary Reflection for the Third Sunday after the Epiphany

Year C: Nehemiah 8:1-10; Psalm 19; 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a; Luke 4:14-21

Jesus Christ came in order to put the world right. He did not come to help us escape to an ethereal realm by way of secret knowledge (e.g. naked souls sitting on clouds playing harps), but to rescue and renew this world. He through whom “all things were made” (John 1:3), came to redeem that which He made. Jesus came to conquer sin and death. And that victory over death is not the transference of the soul elsewhere but the resurrection of the body here. What is it that we confess week by week in the Nicene Creed? “We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” Jesus came to bring the kingdom of God to bear on earth as in heaven, to bring together the twin halves of the one creation, to truly be Emmanuel – “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man” (Revelation 21:3).

And it is only within the above eschatological framework (over against the sort of Neo-Gnosticism so prevalent in our day), that the life and ministry of Jesus will make sense. In the Gospel reading Jesus reads aloud and fulfills the words of the prophet Isaiah:

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free,

to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

Why did Jesus do all that stuff? To prove, by the fulfillment of prophecy and the performing of signs, that He was and is the Messiah. Yes, that’s part of it, an integral part of it. But it’s not the whole of it. Jesus made the lame to walk and the blind to see. And such miracles weren’t sort of arbitrary magic tricks performed simply to prove his Messiahship, but intrinsically salvific acts. They were concrete instances where Jesus was substantially reversing the curse of the Fall, and putting back together that which sin had torn asunder, namely Heaven and Earth. Again, Jesus came to put the world to rights. That’s what his ministry was about.

And what it’s still about. The ministry of our now Ascended Lord continues by the power of the Holy Spirit through His mystical body – the Church. “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21). As members of the one body of Christ, we are commissioned and empowered to be kingdom bearers and bringers. As the Church we are called to be heralds and agents of new creation. And we are most effective in carrying out that mission when we work in unity (see 1 Corinthians 12), and when our life together is saturated with Holy Scripture (see Nehemiah 8) to the point that we can say with the psalmist that “the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, sweeter than honey, than honey in the comb” (Psalm 19:9b-10).