Tuesday, April 15, 2014

John 20:1-18 (Easter)

Here are links for Greek commentary on all four Gospel
Matthew 28:1-10
Mark 16:1-8
Luke 24:1-12
John 20:1-18

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 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, "They 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

This passage occurs in the Narrative Lectionary for Palm Sunday.  It encompasses another RCL passage, John 12:20-33.  You can find my commentary for that, here.

A brief comment here on the remainder of the passage, John 12:12-19; 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

This passage occurs in the Narrative Lectionary, Year 4, Lenten cycle.  Most recently April 6, 2014.

Summary:  This text drips with irony.  The irony is intended to showcase the moral bankruptcy 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 inconceivable 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 tessellated 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.