Epiphany in Four Parts 04 - Squeezing Out Love
Epiphany in Four Parts (05) - The Prophetic Love
Jeremiah 1:5, 8 - Before I formed you in the womb I knew you . . . appointed you a prophet to the nations . . .I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.
Psalm 71:4, 6 - Upon you I have leaned from my birth; it was you who took me from my mother's womb. . . . Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked.
1 Corinthians 13:2 - And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries . . . but do not have love, I am nothing.
Luke 4:21, 28 - "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” . . . There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian. When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage.
Explanation – We are coming to the end of Epiphany season this year and beginning Lenten preparation. Epiphany’s Light shows us God’s prophetic call which culminates in Jesus.
Exposition – In Jeremiah’s call to be a prophet “to the nations” from the womb, he recognizes his own deficiencies yet God confirms that he will deliver Him. Like Jeremiah, the Psalmist (Ps. 71) is dependent on the Lord from the womb and God will deliver him. Luke 4 shows Christ’s fulfillment of the prophetic role. When Jesus declared He was Messiah, fulfilling Is. 61, the congregation marveled approvingly. However, when He confronted them with God’s past judgments of Israel contrasted with grace to other nations, they hated Him. Like Jeremiah and the Psalmist, Jesus needed to be delivered from their murderous evil. In contrast to that congregation, 1 Cor. 13 calls us to forsake such hatred and gain the supreme attribute of love seen in Christ’s mission for us.
Exhortation – The prophetic ministries of Jeremiah and Jesus, both tear down and rebuild (Is. 61:2 - “the day of vengeance”). Christ did not come to save the “righteous,” but sinners. Jesus implied that the Israelites themselves were sinners deserving of vengeance and Gentiles would receive God’s favor. They show their true colors (violating God’s laws of love). It is the Law-keeping-religious, as in Jeremiah’s day, that need judgment and pagans (Babylon, Persia, etc) receive Light. Do we have this Light or do we walk in the darkness of hatred? The test is what is inside. Is it hatred toward “others” or the love that is evident in Jesus’s sacrifice and declared in His teaching (personally) and through Paul. It does not come from religiousness, works-righteousness, inflated status from a special ethnic, social or cultural group, or having “the right system.” This love is only available when we humble ourselves like the widow, wash like Naaman, and see our justification-poverty, when we see all we are apart from Christ is rubbish and rags. It is then that we can let go of our “powers,” our knowledge, our religiousness and love with Christ’s love (1Cor. 13:2).
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as receive a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more