Tuesday, April 15, 2014

John 20:1-18

Here are comments on each of the Gospels:

Summary:  The big story in John is that Mary needs to hear Jesus call her by name.  At that point, she recognizes Jesus.  In our grief and sorrow, we can over look Jesus and his resurrection until we hear Jesus call us by name, which he does in our Baptisms.  But if you already preached THE John sermon, here are some other ideas.

Key words:
μνημειον ("tomb", 20:1)  This word comes from the Greek for memory (like English "mneumonic" is something that helps you remember).  The complaint almost reads, "They have taken Jesus out of my memory!"  There is something to play with here, about memory and loved ones.  Jesus isn't just a memory; your loved ones aren't just a memory.  Jesus is alive!

οιδαμεν ("know" from ειδω, 20:2, 9 and 13).  This word comes from ειδω, which means to see.  In the perfect sense (I have seen), it means I know.  The point here is that John is subtly combining the ideas of knowing and seeing; and there is a lot more of seeing going on than first anticipated.  Also, this verb is in the plural, suggesting that Mary is not alone (hence synchronizing with the other synoptics).

εθηκαν ("place", from τιθημι, 20:2) This verb is all over John's Gospel, most importantly in chapter 10, when Jesus discusses himself as the Good Shepherd who will lay down his life.  No one lays down Jesus; only Jesus himself does this.  Jesus also praises one who lays down his life (John 15:13) and asks if the disciples will lay down their life (13:37)

οθονια ("fine linen", 20:5, 6 and 7)  I never realized it was high quality linen they put around Jesus!  Interestingly, this can refer in ancient Greek to a sail.  Okay.  Back to reality.  The point is that Jesus had the finest stuff that he even took time to roll up!

αυτους ("themselves", 20:10)  This word here is translated as "home."  But the Greek doesn't say home.  It literally reads, "The went back to themselves."  I think one can picture them simply going off to ponder what had happened rather than simply going back to life as it were

ο κηπουρος ("gardener", 20:15)  The big deal here is that Jesus is THE gardener.  Where is Jesus after the resurrection.  GARDENING!  Also worth noting is that like in the OT, when angels speak the Word of the Lord, the Lord shows up.

Grammar note:
20:9  Infinitive phrases:  subject takes accusative
Just a quick reminder that in infinitive phrases, the subject is found in the accusative case.  Hence "it was necessary for Jesus to rise from the dead" and not "it was necessary for him to raise Jesus from the dead."

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

John 12:12-27

Links to the relevant RCL passages for Palm/Passion Sunday may be found here:
Last year I did a study on John 12:20-33

So for today, I will focus exclusively on John 12:12-19.  Actually, I find two things worth sharing.

ωσαννα:  From the NET Bible:
"The expression hosanna, (literally in Hebrew, "O Lord, save") in the quotation from Ps 118:25-26 was probably by this time a familiar liturgical expression of praise, on the order of "Hail to the king," although both the underlying Aramaic and Hebrew expressions meant "O Lord, save us." As in Mark 11:9 the introductory hosanna, is followed by the words of Ps 118:25, "blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord."  ... In words familiar to every Jew, the author is indicating that at this point every messianic expectation is now at the point of realization. It is clear from the words of the psalm shouted by the crowd that Jesus is being proclaimed as messianic king. See E. Lohse, TDNT 9:682-84."

This leads me to wonder about Messianic expectations.  The text of Zechariah 9:9 is really indicative of the expectations:  After a victorious military campaign, the Messiah will enter in an era of peace, worship of God and human flourishing.  You could say this happens in the cross.  But what a bloody battle it was...

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

John 19:1-16a

I do not have a post this week for the RCL text, John 11, but preaching on Lazarus shouldn't be that tough ;-)

Summary:  This text drips with irony.  The irony is intended to showcase the moral banktrupcy of the Jewish and Roman leaders, if not ultimately, the entire human race.  Pondering this text forces one to ask:  "Who are we anyway?"

ανθροπος ("human", 19:5)  The classic Latin phrase:  Ecce homo (behold the man) comes from here.  This is a sad image of "the human"; beaten and tortured, wearing his mock royal clothing.  Pilate and John seem to make a statement here about the human condition.  Who are we anyway?

πορφυρουν ("purple", 19:2).  Purple is the royal color; this exclusive dye came from snails, whose production and trade were controlled by the pheonicians.  Ironically, the very traders wore the snail down to virtual/actual extinction!  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoenicia  Again, who are we anyway?

εμαστιγωσεν ("flog", 19:1)  The Greek leaves two questions here.  First, whether Pilate himself actually did the beating (which the grammar suggests but would have been inconcievable historically).  Second, how severe was the beating?  The Vulgate, a 4th century translation, does not translate this verb in the most severe sense, although the NET suggests this should be done:
"This severe flogging was not administered by Pilate himself but his officers, who took Jesus at Pilate's order and scourged him. The author's choice of wording here may constitute an allusion to Isah 50:6, "I gave my back to those who scourge me." Three forms of corporal punishment were employed by the Romans, in increasing degree of severity: (1) fustigatio (beating), (2) flagellatio (flogging), and (3) verberatio (severe flogging, scourging). The first could be on occasion a punishment in itself, but the more severe forms were part of the capital sentence as a prelude to crucifixion. The most severe, verberatio, is what is indicated here by the Greek verb translated flogged severely (mastigo,w, mastigooÒ). People died on occasion while being flogged this way; frequently it was severe enough to rip a person's body open or cut muscle and sinew to the bone. It was carried out with a whip that had fragments of bone or pieces of metal bound into the tips."
εποιησεν ("make", 19:6) The Greek literally reads, "Because he made himself into a son of God."  Most translators take this to mean "claimed" or made in the "fashioned" sense.  But again, what an ironic assertion:  No one can make themselves into a son of God.  This comes from above as Jesus points out!

Λιθοστρωτον and γαββαθα ("lithostroton" and "gabbatha", 19:13)  First, a side note.  I find Biblical archeology fascinating because everyone is always trying to prove eveyone else wrong about what they have discovered or not.  It may be that such an insertion into John's Gospel offers a very late dating of John's Gospel.  But my sense is that such debates don't ever get resolved.

Anyway, what is interesting here is that the Greek and Hebrew (or really Aramaic) actually don't match up.  The word gabbatha speaks about the location, but Λιθοστρωτον describes the place as covered with in-laid stones.  In short, a tesselated floor.  Jesus, bloodied, yet innocent, is sentenced on a beautiful stone covered floor.

Καισαρα ("Caesar", 19:12)  For the Jews at this particular juncture to declare, "We have no king besides Caesar" is absurd.  The LORD is King.  This is irony to the point of absurdity.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

John 18:28-40

Summary:  Pilate's character in the Gospel of John is complex.  It seems that John wants to drive home the point that not even Pilate is in control of the situation, but only Jesus.  Pilate's interview haunts us with the question:  What is truth?  The answer is obviously Jesus, but what does that mean?  And yes, our answer should be slightly offensive.  It got Jesus killed; it should at least get us in a little trouble.

μαρτυρεω ("testify", literally martyr, vs 18:37)  This word means to give a witness, like in court.  Jesus takes his place as the first Christian martyr, one who will be killed for the truth.  So many Christians died giving their witness that the word's meaning changed.

βασιλευς ("king", vs. 18:33,37)  BDAG define this as "One who rules as possessor of the highest office in a political realm."  Already this shows Pilate consides the whole trial as a sham.  Could Pilate really execute the king of the Jews?   Obviously not.

κοσμος ("world", literally cosmos, vs 18:37)  Just a reminder:  God loves the world, but the world doesn't love back:
Throughout the Gospel of John, the world doesn't like God. It doesn't understand God (1:10); it doesn't give like God (14:27) ; in fact, it hates God (7:7). Yet God loves it still.
αληθεια ("truth", vs 18:37,38)  BDAG writes, "truth is a favorite word of the Johannine literature" and play a major role in it.
John 17:17 God's word is truth
John 14:6 Jesus is the truth
John 16:13 Spirit leads to truth
John 8:32 Truth sets on free

Βαραββας ("Barabbas", vs. 40)  This word literally means "Son of the Father."  Quite an irony that "Son of the father" is chosen and its not Jesus!  This also picks up on the irony that the Jewish leaders are concerned about ritual purity as they hand Jesus over to death (18:28)

ληστης ("thief", vs. 40)  The word means robber.  But Josephus, a Jewish historian writing during this time, always uses this word to mean social bandit/revolutionary, it clearly can mean this too.  If you totally cannot focus on your sermon, you can read about what Josephus says about Jesus here:

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

John 18:12-27

The RCL text for this week, focusing on the woman at the well, may be found here:

Summary:  This is a haunting and challenging passage for all of us.  Jesus is being smacked in the face while Peter warms himself by a fire, denying Jesus.  There is much law in this passage:  How do we deny his lordship in our lives?  But there is much Gospel too -- Jesus redeems Peter, in fact, he recreates the scene for Peter in John 21.

Some key words
η παιδισκη η θυρωρος ("servant girl, the gate keeper," 18:17)  John sets up an amazing juxtaposition here.  Peter is asked a question by a simple peasant child and he offers denial.  Jesus is interrogated by the chief priest's father in law, surrounded by armed men.   Even after having his face slapped, Jesus remains defiant; Peter is scared before any violence has been enacted.  Ironically, Jesus tells them to ask those who have heard his words to serve as a witness (21:9).  Peter is the first witness and fails...at least this time.

ανθρακια  ("anthracite coal," 18).  This minor detail is set beautifully within John's Gospel.  Where will Peter be forgiven?  At the breakfast coal fire (same word; the ONLY other time it appears in the whole Bible).  Jesus goes right to the spot of Peter's denial to forgive Peter.  He recreates the scene to forgive and redeem Peter!

ουκ ειμι ("I am not", 18:17)  Peter twice says "I am not."  This can be part of the statement "I am not a disciple."  But existentially, Peter is saying something even more.  He is nothing.  When push comes to shove, he is nothing.  He has denied Christ and in doing so, has denied himself of everything.  Of course he is cold.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

John 13:1-17

Exegetical work on this week's RCL text, John 3:1-17, is found here.

Summary for John 13:1-17:  In this passage, Jesus asserts himself as a moral example and THE teacher, concluding with a challenging 'if' statement about blessings.  Perhaps this law-filled message is a good one to hear during Lent -- our journey to the cross is not simply one of mild self-imposed discomfort.  Rather, it is the difficult work of dealing with, if not healing, the sins of others in a caring manner.  Admittedly, there is plenty of Gospel too, revealed in the extent of Christ's love for us in both the foot-washing and the foreshadowing of the cross.  And yes, there's living water once again.

As I ponder this text within the context of Lent, I see the powerful interplay between faith, humilty and grace at work.   We will not be able to serve others, certainly not blessed by it, until we become aware of grace, of Jesus Christ and his tremendous self-emptying love.  I believe that only in acts of having our feet washed -- realizing that Jesus knows our sins, and still loves us and cares for us -- are we made into disciples.  We cannot "accept" Jesus, but we learn to confess him as teacher and Lord as we encounter him in times of weakness and sin.

Key words
εις τελος  ("completely", 13:1)  Jesus hear says he will love the disciples "to the end," literally.  It means more naturally "completely" but translators wanted to leave in this connection to Jesus words from the cross, "it is finished."  If they really wanted to do that though, they should have translated this passage as "He loved them to the finish."  A gift to my methodist friends:  The phrase could also mean "into fullness" or "into perfection." (Love divine anyone!!)

τιθησιν  (from τιθημι, "to place or lay down". 13:4)  In John chapter 10, Jesus declared he is the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep.  Here Jesus lays down his garments.  I think this suggests his act of food washing is the beginning of his laying down his life for his disciples.  (Indeed 13:3 gives the context for Jesus' actions)

βαλλω  ("throw", 13:2 and 5).  In vs 2, this verb appears in a brutal form:  genitive perfect participle!  The point is that the devil throws something into Judas' heart, namely greed, fear and hatred.  Jesus, on the other hand, throws water into a basin.  Water to cleanse, water to heal and water to make whole.

ο διδασκαλος ο κυριος ("THE teacher THE lord"  13:13,14)  Every translator drops the article from both versus.  Jesus is not just a teacher or a lord, but THE teacher and THE lord.  This alone is worth preaching on.

ει and εαν (if, 13:17)  These words are best translated as "if."  Both are used in John 13:17
ει you understand, you are blessed εαν you do these things.
The first ει means more "since" than "if" when it is paired with an indicative verb, as it is in this case.  This is why the NIV gets it right by translating this "Now that you know these things"
εαν is more hypothetical and demands the subjunctive, as it is in this case. 
But this if could also be translated as "when"; see John 11:10; John 12:32.
In short, the sentence could read:
"Since you understand this, you are blessed when you do these things."

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Transfiguration 2014

RCL for Matthew's Tranfiguration account:  http://lectionarygreek.blogspot.com/2011/03/matthew-171-9.html

Summary:  I am not sure if I will use the John text this week; I really don't like missing the transfiguration story from the synoptics.  If I got with the John text, I will focus on how Jesus' claim to be the light of the world doesn't simply put him above it all.  Rather it puts him in the midst of it all, even amid people's problems and divisions.

Some key words:
επτυσεν πτυσματος ( "spit" (aorist form) and "saliva", 9:6)  In order for Jesus to give man sight -- to be the light of the world -- he must spit.  John uses the word as a noun and verb to make sure we picked this up.

νιψαι ("wash", from νιπτω, 9:7)  This word comes back into John's Gospel at another interesting juncture:  When Jesus washes their feet!  Again a reminder that being the light of the world, washing people, is a very humble and earthly task.

φος ("light", 9:5)  One can go many directions with light.  It is interesting to see where the word light appears in John's Gospel.  Almost all the time there is a contrast of living in the dark vs living in the light.  Can we read John's Gospel (and preach on it) without getting into the current cultural clashes over a variety of issues?  The Jesus of John's Gospel is a prophet in many ways, who speaks out against the church and culture of his day.

Here are the light passages in John that reference light vs dark

John 1:5: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it
John 3:19:  This is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.
John 8  Jesus says he is the light of the world, but immediate the pharisees protest against this
John 11:9-10  But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.

John 12:35-37 Jesus said to them, "The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going.  While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light." After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.  Although he had performed so many signs in their presence, they did not believe in him.

John 12:46
I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness.