Wednesday, April 15, 2020

John 20:19-31

In the RCL, this passage appears on Easter II (April 28, 2019)

Summary:  This is a rich enough story to preach on every year.  There are so many directions!

What stands out to me this year (2019) is that Jesus wounds do not go away with the resurrection.  They are healed, but still present.  Furthermore, the disciples, AFTER having seen the risen Lord, still lock their doors.  In short, the changes brought by the resurrection are more subtle, more of a dialectic: "crucified AND risen", "afraid AND hopeful", "doubting AND believing."

Key Words:
λεγει ("speak", 20.19)  The verb here for "speak" is the present tense, which suggests repeated action: He continually was saying to them, "Peace be with you."

υμιν ("you all" in the dative, 20:19).  The Greek leaves out the word "is" in the sentence, simply declaring "Peace to you."  Hence, the Greek is a bit more ambiguous here as to whether Jesus is offering a blessing or making a statement: "Peace is with you" could work. All that the Greek has is "Peace to/for/with/by/in you."

Always worth addressing to an American audience:  This you is a plural you.  The peace is among, with and for the whole group, not just an individual.

θυρα ("gate", 20.19)  The word for "door" or "gate" here is θυρα; this word is used in other Gospels to talk about the entrance to Jesus tomb.  It can be hard to make cross-Gospel connections, so a bit simpler:  Jesus calls himself the θυρα, or the Gate in John's Gospel (10:1-9).  See also:

κεκλεισμενων ("locked", 20.26) The text literally reads: "The Jesus of locked doors/gates came stood into the middle of them." This is a very odd placement/case of the expression "locked doors/gates."  It may modify the circumstances under which Jesus came (ie, Jesus came in after the gates were locked), but it might also modify Jesus.  This is the more exciting possibility.  As in, it could (and probably should) read "Jesus came while the doors were locked."  But it could read "Jesus of locked gates came." The former is the more likely translation, but John seems to suggest the latter through his narrative.  My point with the "locked gates" Jesus is that Jesus is very good at breaking down barriers that we establish.   

αποστελλω vs πιμπω ("send", 20.21) Jesus here will use different verbs for the father's sending and his sending of the disciples, αποστελλω vs πιμπω .  Don't read into this.  John just likes to use variety. See 8.29 and 17.18 for examples of Jesus using these verbs interchangeably.  The big deal is that Jesus sends the disciples.  Don't buy the idea that this is a core Johannine theme; this is a core New Testament and whole Bible theme!

ενεφυσησεν (aorist form of "breath-in", 20.22)  The verb "breath-in" is a rather rare verb in biblical Greek, appearing once in the NT and nine times in the OT Greek.  Significantly, in the OT it shows up in Genesis 2:7, when God breathes into the humans; in 1 Kings when Elijah revives a boy and also in Ezekiel 37, when God's Spirit breathes into the bones.  The disciples are coming alive! 

COVID-19 reflection.  It wasn't enough for Jesus to be raised from the dead.  It was also not enough for them to hear the news.  Jesus had to physically interact with them.  We are incarnate creatures.  Which means that the spiritual is also the physical.  The spirit itself is associated with breath, not internal mystical feelings.  We are inspirited creatures, something not opposed to incarnate creatures. 

αφεωνται & κεκρατηνται (perfect forms of αφηιμι & κρατω, meaning "forgive" and "hold", 20.23) The verb tenses of "forgiven" (αφεωνται) and "bound" (κεκρατηνται) are in the present for the disciple's actions, but in the perfect tense for the result -- the effect is lasting. Actually, the tense for forgive is in the aorist and the tense for bound is present.  This suggests that binding/retaining a sin takes energy -- we have to keep it up...I think this is true on an individual level, where retaining a sin takes energy as we hold a grudge. I think this also is true on a societal level, where calling something a sin and continuing to claim it as such takes energy too. 

τυπος ("mark", 20.25)  This word can mean "wound" or "mark" but clearly comes into English as another word:  "Type."  A τυπος originally meant a mark created by a blow or impression.  Eventually it came to mean a mold or form into which something could be made (you make such a form by impressing or blowing something!); then it came to mean example, often related to a set of teachings.  For example Paul writes in Romans 6:17 (NIV)
"...you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted."

The idea being that Christ's teachings made an impression and formed a mold.

So what is the mold and form of the Christian teachings?  Resurrected wounds from the cross!!  Death that leads into life through the Spirit!  This is the substance of the Christian proclamation.

ου μη ("no-no", 20.25) The ου μη that Thomas uses is a strong future denial meaning "ou meh," as in "will never."

οκτω ("eight", 20.26) The number eight here is a reminder that Christians gather on the 8th day, the day after the (Jewish) Sabbath, the day of resurrection.  Baptismal fonts have eight sides...

απιστος ("unfaithful", 20.27)  Thomas never "doubts" as a verb. The word doubt is not used, but rather, unfaithful! Jesus says literally, "Do not be unfaithful but faithful."  Side note:  I've often wondered if Thomas struggled to believe the resurrection more emotionally than intellectually because he knew exactly what it meant if Jesus had been raised -- they would all have their lives totally changed...exactly what happened to Thomas, even traveling to India to proclaim Jesus is Risen!

1 comment:

Aileen Lawrimore said...

I appreciate your blog so much! Always helps to clarify the text for me!