Lesson: Isaiah 61:10 – 62:3
10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the LORD God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.
62:1 For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch.
2 The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give.
3 You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
The Book of Isaiah is a composite of writings from three distinct periods in Ancient Israel’s history. The writings were compiled from about 700 BCE to about 300 BCE.
Chapters 1-39 are called “First Isaiah” and are the words of a prophet (one who speaks for YHWH – translated as “LORD” in all capital letters in the NRSV) who called for Jerusalem to repent in the 30 years before Jerusalem came under siege by the Assyrians in 701 BCE. “Second Isaiah” is Chapters 40 to 55. In these chapters, a prophet brought hope to the Judeans during the Exile in Babylon (587 to 539 BCE) by telling them they had suffered enough and would return to Jerusalem. “Third Isaiah” is Chapters 56 to 66 in which a prophet gave encouragement to the Judeans who had returned to Jerusalem (which was largely destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BCE) after the Exile had ended.
Today’s reading is from “Third Isaiah” and is a series of joyful verses. The first two verses (from “I will greatly rejoice” to “spring up before all the nations” were spoken by Zion/Jerusalem. As is often characteristic of psalm-like verses in the Hebrew Bible (as was also true of ancient Canaanite poetry), the verses are repetitive – the idea in one phrase is repeated in slightly different words in the next. For example, “I will greatly rejoice” is followed by “my whole being will exult.” Similarly, Zion is clothed with “garments of salvation” and the “robe of righteousness.”
In the verses beginning “For Zion’s sake,” the speaker shifted from Zion to the prophet, but the use of repetitive ideas continued: “I will not keep silent” was followed by “I will not rest.” You [Zion] shall wear “a crown of beauty” and “a royal diadem.”
Being “called by a new name” meant that when Zion/Jerusalem is restored, it will have a change of fortune and a new identity given by YHWH.
Epistle: Galatians 3:23-25; 4:4-7
23 Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian.
4:4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. 6 And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.
Galatia was a large Roman province in what is now western Turkey. This letter was likely written by Paul in the early 50’s (CE) and dealt (in part) with controversies between Jewish Jesus Followers and Gentile Jesus Followers regarding the continuing importance of Torah (Law) and whether Gentile Jesus Followers had to be circumcised and follow the Kosher dietary laws.
It is a “transitional” letter in that – when compared to Paul’s last letter (Romans) — it shows that his views on the relationship between the Torah and the Gentile Jesus Followers continued to evolve.
Today’s reading unfortunately omits verses that would help the reader/hearer better understand Paul’s position on the relationship between the law (Torah) and the faithfulness of (not faith in) Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ.
Paul stated that through the grace of the faithfulness of Jesus the Christ/Anointed, Jesus Followers were “no longer subject to a disciplinarian [the Law]” (vv.24-25). What is translated as a “disciplinarian” is the Greek word pedagogue – a household slave charged with keeping the master’s son out of trouble, who accompanied him outside the house, and punished him when necessary. This usage shows Paul’s view that the effect of the Law was intended to be temporary until the coming of salvation/wholeness through the Christ.
He then declared (in the omitted verses) that “there is no longer Jew or Greek …for you are one in Christ Jesus … and Abraham’s offspring.” (vv.28-29).
In the second part of today’s reading (beginning with “But when the fulness of time”), Paul emphasized that Jesus of Nazareth was a human and a Jew (“born of a woman under the law,” v.4) to “redeem those under the law” (v.5) (the Jews).
The Greek word translated here as “redeem” (v.5) means to buy back, as in redeeming something one owns from a pawn shop. All persons, because of the Spirit of the Son, are children of God who can call God “Abba” (Aramaic for father) and are heirs of the Kingdom.
Gospel: John 1:1-18
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. 15 (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.'”) 16 From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
The Fourth Gospel is different in many ways from the Synoptic Gospels. The “signs” (miracles) and many stories in the Fourth Gospel are unique to it, such as the Wedding at Cana, Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well, and the Raising of Lazarus.
The chronology of events is also different in the Fourth Gospel. For example, the Temple Event (“cleansing of the Temple”) occurred early in Jesus’ Ministry in the Fourth Gospel, rather than late as in the Synoptic Gospels. In the Synoptic Gospels, the Last Supper was a Passover Seder, but in the Fourth Gospel, it occurred the day before the first day of Passover so that Jesus (who is described as “the Lamb of God”) died at the time lambs were sacrificed at the Temple for the Passover Seder to be held that night.
Today’s reading is generally called “the Prologue” to the Fourth Gospel and it signaled the major concerns of the Gospel. In referring to “the Word” (v.1), the author was speaking about the LOGOS – a philosophical idea developed in First Century Stoicism.
LOGOS has multiple meanings: it is the organizing principle of all creation; it is the “force” that differentiates all created items from one another; it is the underlying unity for all reality; it is the principle that gives meaning, coherence, and order to the complex universe.
For the author, “the Christ” and the Word and the LOGOS and “the light” (v.7) are all ways of describing the same concept.
In describing John as a “witness” (v.7), the author followed the Synoptic Gospels in making clear that John the Baptist was subordinate to Jesus of Nazareth and was not the Word/the light/the Messiah.
In the Fourth Gospel (as in many of Paul’s writings), “the world” is understood as fallible social systems and social relations created by humanity. In saying that the Word “became flesh and lived among us” (v.14), the author emphasized the humanity of Jesus of Nazareth.
The Prologue concluded with the affirmations that the “grace” we receive from Jesus the Christ is inexhaustible (“grace upon grace”); Jesus as the Christ has priority over Moses who gave the law, but that Jesus the Christ brings “grace and truth” (v.17); and has made the Father known (v.18).