5 Epiphany, Year A: A True Interpretation

SUNDAY’S READINGS | February 5, 2023

Isa. 58:1-9a (9b-12)
Ps. 112:1-9 (10)
1 Cor. 2:1-12 (13-16)
Matt. 5:13-20

Jesus comes not to abolish the law but to fulfill it. This requires, he suggests, observance even of the smallest details — “not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished” (Matt. 5:18). Jesus is not commending a slavish literalism, but insists that the authority of Scripture is subordinate to his authority: “You have heard it said to those of ancient times … But I say to you” (Matt. 5:21-22).

Jesus is the interpretive-exegetical key to the Old Testament. Indeed, he is the interpretive key that opens the Father’s heart. “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known” (John 1:18). Speaking to Philip, Jesus says, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Jesus is Lord over Scripture. And he is the way to the Father. We are dealing here with a sublime and elevated view of Jesus, the One who was in the beginning with God and is God. In the words of a well-known New Testament hymn and confession: “God has highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11).

Turning us toward Scripture, Jesus directs us to an “exceeding righteousness,” an observance deeper than the mere letter. Jesus would have us read Scripture so that our lives become “salt” to the earth. As salt, our lives are holy and purified; they give a savory taste, like a condiment of joy, to this sinful and broken world. Our lives are light. “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). The fulfillment of Scripture in our lives is the whole world giving glory to our Father in heaven!

We have, by the indwelling of the Spirit, the very mind of Christ. The prophet Isaiah mentions a particular observance: fasting. Outwardly, fasting is often accompanied by public displays of “humility,” bowing the head, and the wearing of sackcloth and ashes. Inwardly, however, fasting and any other public religious observance may be spoiled by wrong motives and a corrupt heart. “Look,” says the prophet, “you serve your own interests on your fast day, and oppress all your workers. Look, you fast only to quarrel and fight and to strike with a wicked fist” (Isa. 58:3-4).

Fasting is a form of abstinence intended, in part, to deepen human empathy. When you feel your need, the needs of the world come into sharper focus. The prophet tells us about a true fast: “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your kin?” (Isa. 58:6-7). “If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday” (Isa. 58:9-10).

True fasting is a life of compassion. A true interpretation of Scripture unfolds in merciful lives that bring salt to the earth and cast light upon the nations.

Look It Up: Psalm 112:4-6

Think About It: The observant are merciful and full of compassion.


Online Archives