A new creation

This coming Sunday is the 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time. In yesterday’s post we took a moment to place the Sunday gospel in a liturgical and scriptural context. Today, we will go a little deeper into the scriptural context as we consider the simple phrase, “the next day.” (John 1:29)

Like the audience at a play, who by means of the printed program receive advance information about the actors, so these verses in John put the readers/hearers in a position of special knowledge as the drama of Jesus’ life-story is played out. From the very beginning they are told who and what Jesus is. The testimonies flow as follows:

First day (vv. 19–28).

  • Witness: John the Baptist to priests and Levites.
  • Testimony: John is not Christ, nor the expected Elijah of Mal 3:23 (4:5 in some versions), nor the prophet of Deut 18:15, 18, but “the voice of one crying out in the desert,” himself unworthy to untie the sandal strap of the one coming after him.

Second day (“next day” of vv. 29–34).

  • Witness: John the Baptist at sight of Jesus.
  • Testimony: Jesus is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”; he who ranks before John; he on whom the Spirit descended and who baptizes with the Spirit; God’s chosen One.”

Third day (“next day” of vv. 35–39).

  • Witness: John the Baptist to two of his disciples, who go to Jesus about 4 p.m. and stay.
  • Testimony: “Behold, the Lamb of God.” (This would be a reference to the paschal lamb and/or to the suffering servant of Isa 53:7, silent before its shearers.)

Fourth day (vv. 40–42).

  • Witness: Andrew to Simon /  Philip to Nathaniel
  • Testimony: “We have found the Messiah.” / “the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets.

Seventh day (“On the third day” of 2:1–11).

  • Witness: Jesus’ Cana miracle.
  • Testimony: “ … and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him” (2:11).

Our author seems to be laying out an artistic first week in the good news of Christian re-creation to recall the first week of the creation story in the Book of Genesis. Both Genesis and John’s Gospel begin with the identical phrase, “In the beginning.” This is probably intentional. The succession of days in John are clearly marked. This first week of re-creation will conclude with the Cana miracle and the first manifestation that in Jesus is God’s residing glory, his divine presence. “On the third day” of 2:1 should also remind us of the future supreme manifestation of God’s glory, the resurrection.

Image credit: The preaching of St. John the Baptist. Chromolithograph by L. Gruner after C. Mariannecci after D. Ghirlandaio, 1490.

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