Tissot, James, 1836-1902. Jesus Unrolls the Book in the Synagogue, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=56774 [retrieved January 25, 2022]. Original source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Brooklyn_Museum_-_Jesus_Unrolls_the_Book_in_the_Synagogue_(J%C3%A9sus_dans_la_synagogue_d%C3%A9roule_le_livre)_-_James_Tissot_-_overall.jpg.

RCL Year C, Epiphany 3
Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, and 8-10, Psalm 19, 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a, Saint Luke 4:14-21

Last Sunday, I preached that only God can change water into wine. And today the Gospel gives it to me to say that only God can read from Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,”[1] and then say, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”[2] Only God can do these things. That is the point of them. John and Luke give us events or actions that only God can perform.

Both Gospels, last Sunday’s and today’s, illustrate the Season of Epiphany, the Season whose purpose is to reveal and to proclaim that God has become incarnate in Jesus Christ.

I am old enough to tell something on myself. I was in college and a veteran of Sunday School, youth groups, and Bible Studies before I learned that the incarnation has nothing to do with flowers. The incarnation of Jesus means that God is embodied in Jesus’ flesh. Another way of saying this is that God has taken on the flesh of Jesus.

This homily can be a successful Sunday School class for the children who are here today if they begin to understand what this means. The incarnation of Christ is the central doctrine of Christianity that God became flesh. God took on human flesh and human nature in Jesus. This means that Jesus is a perfect expression of God: there is nothing about God that is not visible in Jesus, and there is nothing about Jesus that is not Godlike.

When you think about it, the writers of the Gospels are up against it. They believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and they have to depict God as a human being. They have to depict God in ways other than central casting may: having a booming voice, hurling thunderbolts, and wielding almighty power over the natural world. The Evangelists have to depict Jesus as God with omnipotence and omniscience.

And the Gospel writers accomplish depicting God as Jesus Christ by depicting Jesus Christ as doing what only God can do, such as changing water into wine. And they do it as Luke does in the Gospel today: Jesus identifies himself perfectly with God as the prophets understood God. Not only is the Spirit of the Lord upon Jesus, but, as Isaiah prophesies, Jesus is anointed to bring good news to the poor; he proclaims release to captives and recovery of sight to the blind; he sets the oppressed free; and he proclaims the year of the Lord’s favor. Luke will show Jesus being and doing all these things.

By showing Jesus doing all these things, Luke proclaims that God dwells in Jesus and God’s presence in him is there indisputably for all to see. That is very good news. We can look to Jesus and see God. We do not have to imagine God. We see God in Jesus. When we see the things that God does in Jesus, we are in the presence of God. When we do the things that Jesus does, we are God’s agents in the world. When we do the things that Jesus does, God’s kingdom has come. It is present among us. And when God’s kingdom comes, meaning triumphs over despair, strength overcomes weakness, and light shines in darkness. Isn’t that the way to be? Isn’t that the way to live?

[1] Isaiah 61:1.

[2] Saint Luke 4:21.