The first reading is a message of encouragement to those in exile from the prophet known as Second Isaiah. Bereft of home, political power, and even its religious center—the temple—the Jews in Babylon are told that they need no money to eat well. God will renew the covenant made with David. They need only seek and call out to the Lord, who is near. The poetic utterance presents God’s invitation to feast and the renewal of the Davidic covenant (vv. 1–5) and an invitation to repent and trust God’s word (vv. 6–11). For those in exile, Isaiah 55 pointed to a future yet to be realized. Because God’s word doesn’t return without achieving its end, both the exiles and we can trust the invitation still stands.
The second reading is from the First Letter of John, so designated because it shares with the Gospel of John similar themes and vocabulary. Though the author is not identified, he and his community appear to be part of the larger Johannine community. False teachers within the ranks are denying that Jesus is the Christ and the son of God (2:22–23) and that he came in the flesh (4:2–3). Today’s passage reflects on belief and love. True children of God believe Jesus is the Christ begotten of God and love God by keeping God’s commandments.
All four Gospels record the story of John’s baptizing ministry. Matthew and Luke have as their source the Gospel of Mark. John’s source is independent. Despite their slight differences, they all agree that John deferred to Jesus, recognizing that “one mightier than I is coming after me” (Mark 1:7). In Mark’s account of Jesus’ baptism, the descent of the spirit occurs immediately as Jesus comes up out of the water. A voice from heaven addresses Jesus directly: “You are my beloved son.” Mark suggests that this was a personal revelation meant only for Jesus. Matthew’s account is slightly different. The voice from the heavens speaks to all present, “This is my beloved son.” Throughout Mark’s Gospel, Jesus’ true identity is not made public until after his crucifixion, since Mark’s portrayal of Jesus is as the suffering Messiah (Mark 8:31).