Lessons for the First Sunday after the Epiphany, January 7, 2018

Genesis 1:1-5

Of the two stories of the Creation in the Book of Genesis, today’s description of the very first day is from the priestly source, written probably about the sixth century during the Babylonian exile.  A theological statement rather than a scientific treatise, this lesson emphasizes a basic element of life, that of light as opposed to darkness, thus the two elements of time, day and night.

Acts of the Apostles 19: 1-7

Luke’s story of the development of the church today recalls Paul’s visit to Ephesus, the cultural and religious center of Asia Minor.  The story notes that Paul comes upon a group of men, probably followers of John the Baptist, twelve and called disciples but undoubtedly disciples of John not Jesus.  It is now known that John’s “movement” existed alongside that of Jesus on the first century.  Luke now makes the significant point that John baptized for repentance and to announce the coming of Jesus.  John’s disciples are thus newly baptized by Paul receiving the Holy Spirit, previously unknown to them.  With this new force of understanding they added to the continuing rise of the faith

Mark 1: 4-11

The Gospel this morning further marks the separation between John’s baptism of repentance and his baptism of Jesus as the coming Messiah of the Jews.  Mark goes to some length to emphasize the difference in these baptisms, using phrases of “Heavens torn apart” and “Spirit like a dove”, together with God’s approbation, “My son”, thus in Mark’s Gospel leaving no doubt as to who this man Jesus is to the world.  Yet why was Jesus baptized as others were by John for repentance of their sins, given that Jesus was without sin?  Mark basically ignores this delicate theological point, apparently believing his readers, years later, will simply understand the progression without doubt.