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Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A., Editor

The Second Sunday After Epiphany
Series B

Option #1: "The Difference Between Hearing and Listening"
1 Samuel 3:1-10
Rev. Wayne Dobratz, M.Div.

This time of the church year is about seeing the light. That’s what the word "Epiphany" means. Try to remember that flash of insight you had when you understood what your teacher was trying to tell you. If you’re the teacher, you can see it in the faces of students when the light goes on. The Old Testament Reading for today is about the difference between hearing and listening. Those who hear don’t always listen; those who listen "see the light."

I. Hearing without listening--Isa 6:9

    A. Eli’s sons--1 Sam 2:22-25, Jer 7:9-11; Ezek 22:26-29; Hos 4:9-12

    B. The consequences--1 Samuel 3:11-14, 4:10-21

II. Hearing and listening--the career of Samuel

    A. A good start: text, v10--the word is hineni--"Here I am!"--Gen 22:1; Exo 3:4; Isa 6:8; 1 Tim 1:13-17; compare 1 Sam 2:26 with Lk 2:52

    B. Bearing fruit from listening to the Word; cf Mark 4:20

        1. Samuel preached the Law to Eli as God instructed--3:11-18

        2. Samuel grew and was recognized as God’s prophet--3:19-20; see also Jeremiah 15:1, 1 Sam 12:23-24

       3. He also administered justice as in "a circuit court"--1 Sam 7:15-17

            a. He warned of future injustice when Israel asked for a King--8:10ff

            b. He established a precedent that later prophets would follow in curtailing the King’s power--10:25

       4. His prophetic role continued even after his death--1 Sam 28

Note: This life of service and sacrifice came from Samuel’s hineni attitude: "Speak, for your servant is listening"

Samuel’s death brought national mourning (1 Sam 25:1; 28:3). It also left Saul without access to God’s Word. In desperation he acknowledged Samuel’s power and influence by seeking to commune with Samuel’s spirit (1 Sam 28). Thus in life and death Samuel cast a long shadow over Israel’s history of worship, rule, prophecy, and justice." (Holman Bible Dictionary)

Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Old Testament: "All Israel lamented him; and they had reason, for they all had a loss in him. His personal merits commanded this honor to be done him at his death. His former services to the public, when he judged Israel, made this respect to his name and memory a just debt; it would have been very ungrateful to have withheld it. The sons of the prophets had lost the founder and president of their college, and whatever weakened them was a public loss. But that was not all: Samuel was a constant intercessor for Israel, prayed daily for them, chapter 12:23. If he go, they part with the best friend they have."

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Option #2: "Ordinary People, Extraordinary God"
John 1:43-51
Rev. Kelly Bedard, M.Div.

1. God qualifies the called, not calls the qualified

2. Believers are followers, followers leaders

3. Leaders are movers and shakers: "Come see!"


1. Jesus did not see people the way they were--he saw people for who they could be. (Jerry Goebel)

2. dolos {dol'-os} (v47): from an obsolete primary verb, dello (probably meant to decoy); guile, subtlety, deceit, craft. (Strong's)

3. These greater things are not bigger and better miracles. They are about what is to happen to Jesus, what we will see, especially at his death. Such contrasts are common in John. Jesus will scold Nicodemus for not seeing what he is doing on earth and then asks: "How are you going to believe if I tell you heavenly things?" (3:12). He then goes on to speak of the lifting up of the Son of Man, his ascension (3;13-14). And after the extensive discussion which follows the feeding of the 5000 Jesus makes much the same point. "You have problems with what I am claiming to be now: ‘What if you see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?’" (6:61-62). Here, as in 3:13, 1:51 and elsewhere, John has Jesus speak of himself as Son of Man when he announces his future exaltation, glorification, ascension, and return to the Father. These all refer to the one single complex event which take place at Jesus’ death. (William Loader)

4. There are two ways of looking at what Jesus says to Nathanael. One is that Jesus catches Nathanael in his sarcasm ("Can anything good come from Nazareth") and embarrasses Nathanael with his own candor. In this case, Christ’s words might be interpreted with a slight tinge of humor; "Well, here’s a guy who tells is like it is." Or, Jesus’ words could be construed as a blessing, such as, "Here is a man who bears no falsehood." To call Nathanael "a man with no guile" (or "with no deceit") could actually be interpreted either way. My sense is that Jesus used this statement to cut straight into Nathanael’s heart. For, by Nathanael’s response to dear Philip, he must have grown weary of seeking. It is what Jesus says next that would genuinely break the heart of the hardest man. "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you." This statement is more than just factual; it is fig-urative (sorry about that pun!). The fig was considered the sweetest fruit of the desert people. To eat of the fig tree was a blessing, to have your fig trees knocked down was a curse. It meant that the sweetest things in your life would be taken away from you. (Jerry Goebel)

5. There are three meanings to the Greek akoloutheo ("acolyte" comes from this word): (1) literal meanings: (a) to walk behind; (b) to let another lead (one may be walking behind or by the side of the leader); (2) more figurative meaning: to be a disciple of. If a more literal meaning was intended (as in 1:37, 38, & 40), Philip fails. He does not follow. He goes and finds Nathanael! If a more figurative meaning was intended, we might translate the command: "Be my disciple." Then Philip's actions of "being a sign pointing to Jesus" could be an illustration of what "following" Jesus might mean. (Brian Stoffregen)

Kelly Bedard

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