The Third Sunday after the Epiphany (1/24/2021)


Ps. 62; Jonah 3:1-5, 10; 1 Corinthians 7:29-35; Mark 1:14-20


Time, [T]he time has grown very short … For the form of this world is passing away (vv. 29, 31b).


Hostilities commenced on Jesus’ Baptism and the “shortness” of this age was patent and urgent; what hostilities? The HS drove Jesus into the desert, there he fasted forty-days awaiting the world’s “prince” for warfare.


Jesus dispatched Satan’s blandishments on his “home-turf”, signaling kingdom regime change. Jesus, faithful to his Father’s word proved himself true Son and new Israel. Jesus broadcast his victory in Galilee, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mk. 1:15a).


Final victory was in view; God was taking-back what Satan claimed by “adverse possession”; “the heavens and the earth” were soiled by Satan’s tenancy. By power of his word God would “make all things new” (Rev. 21:5).


God commissioned Jonah to deliver a ten-word Sermon in Assyria, “Yet in forty days Nineveh is about to be changed” (Jonah 3:4b). As with Jesus’ proclamation, the Sermon spoke law and gospel. Crises was coming to Nineveh; in forty days there would be regime change. Ninevites repented; God relented and judgment became grace.


Two Sunday’s ago, JB urged, “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mk. 1:4) with the result, “all Judea and Jerusalem” were baptized, confessing sins (v. 5).


Last Sunday Nathaniel responded to Philip’s invitation, “If you come, you will see” God’s Messiah (Jn. 1:46b). Nathaniel “saw”, became a disciple and gesticulated, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the king of Israel” (vv. 48b, 49). The Word is such that long conversion Sermons are unnecessary, hearts only need be made receptive.


Today, Jesus comes to Galilee, announcing victory and God’s kingdom (Mk. 1:14, 15); the proclamation is urgent. As Bethsaida’s fishing fleet readied for the night’s catch, Jesus gazed upon Peter and Andrew, then James and John; personalizing God’s mop-up operation, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men” (v. 17).


Nineveh, Judea, Jerusalem, Philip, Nathaniel, Peter, Andrew, and Zebedee’s two sons, at God’s word, discerned the “appointed time” and its “shortness” for calling all to whole-hearted Kingdom response. God comes to men for mercy and grace; or if refused, judgment. He desires we choose Life.


So, what is “shortened time’s” urgency, but kingdoms at war, where there is no place to hide except in the fortress pale of God’s word. Between Jesus’ first exorcisms: Satan’s desert expelling and the that of the unclean spirit in Capernaum’s synagogue (Mk. 1:21ff.), Jesus enlisted his war-council, a militant earthly (cf. Rev. 7 & 14) “band of brothers”.


All men are born into sin and bondage. Today, in the “appointed time”, if you hear his word, you too must transfer allegiance to a different life than offered from a dying world.


Jonah burned his draft card. In God’s war against Satan, one cannot be a pacificist, superior or ambivalent toward the Lord’s salvation; one is either for or against God’s reign in Christ. Jonah, rejected his Superior’s orders and for treason was thrown into the abyss.


But God is God of second chances, assigning a “great sea-monster” for rescue. After three days inside the belly-grave, Jonah rose from baptismal death for new obedience to God’s word.


Jesus raised his apostolic band out of the sea to be “fishers of men”. God’s word catches into the church to be our Light in the new creation. The Apostles responded unhesitating. Peter left worldly comfort of home and occupation. Zebedee’s sons urgently left their security and business opportunity; but with St. Paul we encounter God’s “second chance “Apostle”.


From martyred St. Stephen, Saul heard of Christ crucified and risen; nevertheless, he rejected Stephen’s witness to persecute the church, re-crucifying the body of Christ.


On the Damascus road, Saul bore the same anger toward God in Christ as Jonah for God’s intended salvation of all men. Jesus, enfleshed Torah of God, spoke to Saul in heaven’s blinding Light, according him a second chance, Baptism for sight and apostleship.


Like Jonah, Paul received a second chance eschewing judgment for repentance. Jonah continued anger toward God’s grace to Gentiles; Paul glorified God as “least” of brothers, to be the Apostle to Gentiles (1 Cor. 15:9, Eph. 3:8).


Paul urged the Corinthian’s to remain committed to Christ’s victory in the continuing attacks. Paul would have us understand God’s activity in Christ crucified; his blood, Spirit in water and word making us new creatures for a new creation. This is the sight to which Christians are called in the Light of the church.


Paul sheds more light, “let those who have wives live as though they had none” (1 Cor. 7:29b). Men and women marry in the world where men are wont to arbitrary dominion; and women desire their husband’s authority.


But the Baptized marry “in Christ”, the center and font of forgiveness in the sacrificial love God intends for marital union. Men live with wives, as Christ loves his church; and wives love their husbands as the church loves her Lord, who has given all.


Paul continues, “[A]nd those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it” (vv. 30b, c, 31). It is vanity to rejoice in the things of a dying world, being remade to a new and better creation. Rather rejoice in God’s abundant word; and do not squander Christian joy toward the world’s passing stuff that merely delights our decaying flesh.


You have been plucked from the abyss of Satan’s kingdom, that distracts from what God has done in Christ for your eternal inheritance in him; in that Joy and those riches is your delight and hope. Amen.


pem.