Septuagesima / Third Sunday of Epiphany

Canticles & Psalms: Psalm 19
OT Reading: Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10
NT Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a
Gospel: Luke 4:14-21

In this passage in the gospel, Jesus is quoting a passage in Isaiah 61 – declaring it to be a prophecy fulfilled in himself.

It is so interesting to me that this passage which occurs in the lectionary of the Anglican church should have come up at the Pentecostal church I attended last week (and I have already written about it here.) I don’t suppose there are many ‘Messianic Anglican Pentecostals’ around, so perhaps this is a repetition and a reminder intended just for me, who knows 🙂

What is also terribly interesting about this passage though, is that the passage in Isaiah is a ‘Haftarah’ portion (a section from the Prophets which is traditionally read after the Torah and usually refers back to, and brings to remembrance a specific section from the Torah) which seems to have been deliberately removed from the Jewish liturgy specifically because it was claimed and quoted by Jesus. (See also a list of Messianic passages from the prophets which are likewise excluded from Jewish liturgy for being obviously connected to Jesus here.)

So what was the Torah portion in question? I read a suggestion once that it was referring back to the section in Exodus 3 where God reveals himself to Moses as “I AM” – in other words, the claim being that, in reading this Haftarah passage, Jesus was drawing attention to His divinity, which the audience would have recognised. However, that portion (Shemot) is traditionally connected to Isaiah 27-28, and there is no evidence for such a claim that I can find. Since this New Testament passage seems to be the first historical evidence of Haftarah portions being read in the synagogue, it would seem to be almost impossible to determine which Torah portion it might originally have referred to, if indeed it was actually connected to a Torah portion (although the connection between Jesus’ mission and Moses’, which was to bring about an end to slavery, is certainly fascinating). Is it a compelling connection that Jesus’ audience in the synagogue would have recognised? I don’t know. But it is interesting that when they commend Him and say how wonderful His words are, that Jesus turns on them, telling them that they will soon change their minds about him, because “No prophet is accepted in his home town.” – Luke 4:24.

The passage in Nehemiah recalls the time when Ezra opened up the Book of the Law (that is, the Torah – the Pentateuch, also called the Books of Moses) and read it aloud to the people, who cried with sorrow that they had not known the great and mighty deeds of the LORD, nor obeyed His commands.

The passage in 1 Corinthians is on spiritual gifts – referring to the way in which we as the Body of Christ, must carry out Jesus’ Mission to preach good news to the poor, bind up the broken-hearted, proclaim freedom for the captives and release for the prisioners; in short: to proclaim the Year of the LORD’s favour – i.e., by the power and work of the Holy Spirit in us.

The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.” – Psalm 19:7-11 KJV

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