bible blog 1246

This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news


Bulgarian Epiphany Celebration

Bulgarian Epiphany Celebration

Matthew 12:14-21

J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)

14 But the Pharisees went out and held a meeting against Jesus and discussed how they could get rid of him altogether.

Jesus retires to continue his work

15 But Jesus knew of this and he left the place.

16-21 Large crowds followed him and he healed them all, with the strict injunction that they should not make him conspicuous by their talk, thus fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy: ‘Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved in whom my soul is well pleased; I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will declare justice to the Gentiles. He will not quarrel nor cry out, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and smoking flax he will not quench, till he sends forth justice to victory. And in his name Gentiles will trust’.

This is one of the readings for Epiphany, the festival invented by the early church to celebrate the revelation of Christ to the Gentiles, using the story of the visit of the Magi to the child Jesus as a sign of this plan of God. It is the festival of Jesus as a universal saviour and of the church as an ecumenical community.

Epiphany in Barcelona

Epiphany in Barcelona

Matthew’s gospel presents Jesus as both Messiah and universal saviour, with its own unique emphasis. For Matthew, Jesus the true Messiah of his people is rejected by them. It is Matthew indeed who gives to the Jewish people the terrible words, “His blood be upon us and upon our children.” The gospel ends with the command of the risen Jesus that his disciples should go out to all nations. Although Matthew does not articulate the idea, the reader senses from his narrative that it is Jesus’ rejection by his own people that leads to the mission to the Gentiles, which has in Matthew’s view been prophesied.

But this is where Matthew’s view of Jesus becomes particularly interesting. The prophecy he quotes is from Isaiah chapter 42, the first of the so-called “songs of the servant” in which the prophet speaks of a mysterious beloved servant of God, who is both ideal individual and true Israel, suffering so that the Gentiles may know God’s goodness. Matthew even interprets Jesus’ healings in terms of the final servant song, “Surely he has borne our diseases.”  The servant suffers as a witness to God’s compassion. In the passage above, Matthew affirms that Jesus is the true servant of God, chosen by God and beloved, in whom God’s soul delights. Moved by God’s spirit Jesus declares, in his whole life-and-death-and resurrection, God’s saving justice to the gentiles.He is not a religious or political demagogue, nor is he a harsh judge. In this humility, which for Matthew includes his crucifixion, he puts God’s saving justice on the way to victory.

Epiphany Horse Race in Romania

Epiphany Horse Race in Romania

The Christian community is universal if and when it follows Jesus the suffering servant of God, in receiving God’s love, teaching God’s way, healing the diseased, suffering so that God’s saving justice may be known throughout the world. Viewed in this way, Epiphany is an annual reminder to the Christian community of its origin and purpose. As migrants from Bulgaria and Romania arrive in various EU countries, the Christian communities in these nations must show clearly their multinational nature in the face of nationalist nonsense and prejudice.

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