Scripture readings for 2/17

The readings for the Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany tell us about the upside-down nature of God’s kingdom and church. Jesus has come in the flesh to heal people, to give forgiveness, and to preach the gospel of the kingdom of God. Those who trust in him are blessed because they are receiving God’s favor, regardless of the circumstances. What greater proof could there be than Christ’s own upside-down resurrection from the dead?

  • In the Gospel reading, Jesus shows his power and compassion by healing many people who relied on him, and then describes life in his upside-down kingdom, encouraging us when we must suffer for his sake.
  • The Old Testament reading also encourages this upside-down trust: a trust in the Lord for our hope and confidence rather than in our own human strength.
  • In the New Testament reading, St. Paul points to the ultimate upside-down event as proof for our ultimate blessing when we rely on Christ: his own victory over death.

The Gospel reading:

Luke 6:17-26

As his mission attracts a large following, Jesus did something provocative by forming them into a new Israel, appointing the twelve apostles as leaders, a clear symbol of Israel’s original twelve tribes (Luke 6:12-16). Then in this “Sermon on the Plain” Jesus taught them about his upside-down kingdom. God’s kingdom brings a reversal of our value systems, and Jesus is here to form this new, alternative people of God. His response to those wishing to follow him is to draw their attention to the great theme of Christianity: the theology of the cross, that God is found in suffering. This touches all doctrines of the Christian faith in that they seem opposite than human reason expects.

Jesus’ words cut both ways: four woes and four blessings, law and gospel. Hard hearts are to be broken and broken hearts are to be mended. Our God addresses people with what they need to hear, sometimes in very different ways. But the final purpose is the all the same: that we be led to Jesus, our forgiveness, life, and salvation.

The Old Testament reading:

Jeremiah 17:5-8

This poetic wisdom poem encourages us to do something upside-down from our natural inclinations: to trust God instead of ourselves. The two sections of the poem contrast trusting in the power of human beings versus trusting in the power of God. Trusting in God is like being continually connected to a source of life-giving water.

This seems easy for Jeremiah to say, but difficult for us to follow. How do we acquire such trust in God? Only by overwhelming evidence and constant reminders of his trustworthiness. This is given us in Scripture, which is the constant source of life-giving water that keeps our leaves green and produces fruit in us. Scripture lifts our eyes from focusing on ourselves to focusing on Jesus. Only then can we survive long months of drought in our lives until we are once again planted in the Garden of Eden.

The New Testament reading:

1 Corinthians 15:12-20

Some of the Greeks at Corinth, while continuing to believe in the shadowy existence of the soul in the after-life, could not agree to a true bodily resurrection. They were saying the idea of resurrection is ridiculous, and that it doesn’t matter to being a Christian. St. Paul reacts strongly, by saying the resurrection is an indispensable part of the gospel. Without it, Jesus’ death would be meaningless and we would all still be lost in our sin. At that point, we should all just stop being Christians.

But, in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead! We believe in the resurrection because of the hundreds of eyewitnesses that saw Jesus alive after being publicly executed. The core teaching of the Bible is upside-down to our expectations: rather than any human power or work, the Bible presents Christ’s death and resurrection as the only solution to sin.