Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Luke 24:1-12

Here are links for Greek commentary on the resurrection accounts in all four Gospel

The church normally reserves discussion about doubt for Easter II and the person of Thomas.  But as I read Luke this year, the disciples spiritual blindness and doubt really struck me.  Luke does a masterful scene of portraying the difficulty of that morning and the struggle for the early disciples to believe.  Rather than cast doubt on the resurrection this amplifies its true meaning:  Christ is raised amid the chaos of real life, with darkness, doubt and even despair, not in a fairy tale world where everybody gets it.  Christ is raised and to be praised then, even as we struggle to figure it all out.

Key words:
βαθεως ("very early, or more literally, deep"; 24.1) The dawn is not simply described as early but as "Bathos" or deep. It is a deep dawn.

ευρον ("find", from ευρισκω; 24:2 and 3)  This lent we did a (lectionary based) preaching series on Lost and Found.  Finally we come to the end of Luke's Gospel, expecting to find Jesus.  The disciples too come to the tomb ready to find Jesus.  They instead they found the stone rolled away; more significantly, they did not find Jesus.  A possible preaching trajectory:  We do not find Jesus, we can only find evidence of the resurrection.  In short, we can linger in the tombs, linger in history, linger in apologetics, linger in "historicity" but none of this will ever show us Jesus.  The living Jesus must find us.  This finding us likely includes times of wonder, disbelief and pondering of what it all means.  In short, the disciples are all lost because they cannot fathom the height and depth of the resurrection.  Perhaps we do well, for a moment, to consider how mind-bending this is (see the work of NT Wright for the utter "shock" of the resurrection.)

απορεισθαι ("at a loss"; 24.4)  Previously I offered a break down of this word that is incorrect.  I offered that the word for "at a loss" is related to the word for vision -- "apo-ora-oo" literally "away from sight."  I leave this mistake on my blog as a reminder that learning means making mistakes!
It turns out this word is α-πορεω not απο-ρεω.  This means the word is:  "to be without resources, to be in straits, to be left wanting, to be embarrassed, to be in doubt, not to know which way to turn."  It adds to the level of confusion in the whole story.

τον ζωντα ("the living"; really "the living one"; 24.5)  Oddly enough, the translators are too literal here with the phrase "why are you searching for the living among the dead." The phrase "the living" is exactly what it says in Greek, word for word, but the grammar of the sentence dictates the translation:  "the one who is living" or "the living one."  Point A)  "The living among the dead" is more poetic.  When it comes to preaching, go for it!  Point B) It amplifies the confusion of the disciples.

ηπιστουν (disbelieving, from απιστεω; 24.11)  It is not only Thomas who doubts, but the whole crew!

θαυμαζω ("wonder"; "amaze"; 24.12) The word here is "thaumaz-oo" means "amaze" or "wonder" in Greek. You can even see the word "amaze" in it (even though does not give this as the etymology. Whatever.)  The vast majority of the time Luke uses this verb, it means wonder, as in amaze. For example, when Zachariah writes, "His name is John (1:63)" or when Jesus sees a person's faith, he is amazed (7:9 Roman centurion). So it seems a bit odd that Peter, according to the NIV and  NET translators, is left wondering and not being amazed. But perhaps a bit of a play on this is a helpful insight into all of us -- we are both wondering and amazed.

προς εαυτον ("to himself"; 24.12)  Most translators take the phrase, "to himself" to mean "to his possessions," namely, Peter's house (including BDAG).  Hence they translate it "Peter went to his house."  Yet, Peter does not necessarily go to his home. It literally says, "He went away to himself." This could just as naturally read, "He went away by himself." As the KJV puts it "wondered in himself."  Most translators likely base their translation on John 20:10, where it is more clear that the disciples went home.  But Luke's imagery is of Peter walking away by himself, pondering these events, likely without any real direction in his wanderings.

Some translation help (and perhaps a nugget for a sermon):

Three "buts"
μεν...δε (24.1):  The last verse of chapter 23 has a μεν, which demands a δε.  They both mean but/and, but are put together to form a pair, like:  "On the one hand, but on the other."  Luke lets us know that the story keeps going!

αλλα (24.6):  This is the "big" but, the one that lets you know what comes before and after are significantly different (and cannot be joined by a simple word 'and').  In this case, the only "bit" but in the section comes between "He is not here" BUT "He is risen!"

σαββατων 24.1 Grammar note: The Greek literally says, "On the first of the Sabbath." This means the first day after Sabbath (ie the first day of the week), which would be the 8th day, or Sunday. This is why we worship as Christians on the 8th day, the day after the Jewish sabbath. Also, Jesus will appear to Thomas 8 days later, reaffirming this 8th day connection! (In Luke's Gospel, Jesus was also transfigured on the 8th day)

ιδου 24.4 The word "suddenly" is actually an interjection -- "idou" (like the Hebrew henneh)

μνησθητε 24.6 The word here for "remember" is related to the word for "tomb" (both have the same root, which in English comes in as mnemonic.

αροματα 24.1 The word for spice is "aroma"

αποκεκυλισμενον 24.2 Grammar note: The word "rolled away" is a participle here. It is perfect passive. This is a helpful verb for understanding what the perfect in Greek means. The stone had undergone the action of being rolled away and its present state was a result of that action. Perhaps a sermon idea: Something has been permanently changed by the Resurrection. The tombstone is gone

αστραπτουση 24.4 The angles in the tomb are flashing; Jesus says the son of Man will be "flashing" in his coming. (17.24)...hmm...Perhaps Luke suggests that in the resurrection, the kingdom has come?

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Luke 19:28-40

This passage appears in year C of the RCL for Palm Sunday, most recently April 14, 2019.

Summary:  Luke's Gospel records the entry into Jerusalem with some notable absences:
No "Hosanna" and No "Palm Branches."  On the other hand, Luke offers us some events the other Gospels miss:  stones that cry out and crowds that sound like angels.  For me, I will likely focus on how Jesus' word and ministry sanctifies and even transforms things -- transforms disciples, transforms donkeys and even transforms crowds, all into instruments of God's work.

Note on passion Sunday:  As culture shifted away from company's offering employees off on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, church leadership grew concerned that people were not hearing the full passion.  This gave rise to Passion Sunday.  For many older members this is really hard because they remember Palm Sunday as a day of celebration, almost Easter 1.  The congregation where I currently serve actually used to do Passion Sunday on Lent 5, following a pre-Vatican 2 tradition.

Key words:
απεστειλεν/αποσταλμενοι ('send'; 19:29, 32)  It is always worth noting this verb.  The disciples are sent!  Are we sending our people out each week?  It is also worth noting why they are sent out:
ευρον (find, 19:32)
λυσαντες (loose, 19:29)
αγαγετε (lead, 19:29)
While the disciples are instructed regarding a colt, I think we can abstract this rather easily to people:  We are sent out to find people, free them and lead them to Jesus, where they will be put to work!

εχει χρειαν ('have need'; 19:31, 34) The Lord has a need!  This is really mind blowing.  This passage feels like an Old Testament story to me, in that God is sovereign, but the people can rebel; it pushes against easy answers to the question of free will and God's control.

δοξα εν υψιστοις ('glory in the highest'; 19:38)  This harkens back to the nativity (2:14), where the angels proclaim "peace on earth" (here peace in Heaven) and "Glory in the Highest!"  Jesus is transforming people into angels, into heralds of the good news!

μαθηταις ('disciple'; 19:39)  It is interesting how Latin changed the tenor of this word.  The word in Greek means student, which implies the key concept is learning of knowledge and wisdom.  The word 'disciple' in Latin means student, but I think when we hear it, we associate it with discipline (spiritual disciplines, for example).  The disciples were first and foremost students, people seeking to learn from Jesus.  They make mistakes, they are rebuked and their flesh is weak.  But they follow Jesus, along the way sharing the news and multiplying Jesus ministry.

κραξουσιν ('cry out'; 19:40)  This verb does not mean sing, speak loudly or shout.  It means cry out in a protesting and even crazy way.  Like the crowd will 'cry out' to crucify Jesus; the demons 'cry out' at the sight of Jesus.  The stones here are not simply singing a song of beauty and praise, but also of protest.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

John 12:1-8

This passage is the Revised Common Lectionary Passage year C, Lent V, most recently April 7, 2019.

Summary:  The Greek does not give one permission to avoid the obvious implication of the text:  The world will always have sin and poverty, so focus on Jesus' death and resurrection.  If anything, the Greek simply amplifies the language to support this conclusion!  In the 20th century, the Lutheran church made an error by so focusing on Jesus' death and resurrection that we avoided all together the nasty business of calling the world to action (see 1930s in Germany for the ultimate example of this.)  I wonder if in this century we have strayed too far in the other direction and once again, need to hear this passage.  Yes, young adults and seekers want to see the church involved and leading the way in social service .  But ultimately our gift to the world and our passion must be Christ crucified and resurrected. (Okay, okay, now that you've read that, I confess I have a bit of good stuff about serving others in the Greek blog)

Key words:

εξ ("six", 12.1)  The whole verse that includes the word "six" is foreshadowing.  Six is the penultimate number in the bible; on the sixth day Jesus died (Friday).  This is a penultimate story, one that points toward a bigger story, namely, the events that follow.  If you don't buy the "six" thing, John spells it out:  Before the Passover...after Lazarus had been raised from the dead.  Big events are ahead!

δειπνον ("feast", 12:2)  This word can mean "main meal", but also "feast." (See NIV translation:
Here a dinner was given in Jesus' honor.)  Jesus only has two δειπνον / "feasts" in John's Gospel; once in this case with Lazarus and then soon afterwards during the last supper.  The juxtaposition of these feasts suggests numerous preaching directions, including parsing out various aspects of Holy Communion.  I would suggest in depicting this meal, John invites us into praise and pondering of Jesus' death during Holy Communion.

διηκονει ("serve", 12.2)  The word here for "serve" (as in Martha "served") is where we get our word "diaconal" and "deacon." In this version of the story, Martha is not criticized for helping out.  So before we get too much into a battle of liturgy vs diakonia, we need to take a deep breath.  In fact, you could preach/argue that either a) Martha's work makes Mary's worship possible or b) that Mary's work is worship in itself. 

μυρον ("oil", 12:3).  The word can simply mean oil, but in our case, the important thing to note is that it is oil from "myhrr", which is used for people's burial.  Again, foreshadowing of death!

John's Gospel has an odd array of words here: "roman pound (λιτρα) perfume (μυρον) plant (ναρδος) genuine (πιστικος) expensive (πολυτιμος)" This is not typical, as far as I have read, of John's style to stack so many words.  It is almost exactly what Mark has. He really wants to draw attention to what is going on here; ie, he is writing like Mark!  "Polytimos" (πολυτιμος) is an unusual word -- the pearl of great value (Matt 13:46) uses the same word. 

επραθη ("sell", from πιπρασκω, 12:5)  The word for sell is very interesting here. It is "piprask-oo." It has the connotation of selling for a bribe; or even sell into slavery (Romans 7:14). It will be used in contexts that probably mean simply sell, but again, will be used in contexts of sell for a bribe, sell for slavery.  In short, Judas here is predicting exactly what he will do.

πτωχους ("poor",12:8) John's Gospel never uses the word poor outside of its connection with this story.  It is worth pointing out though, that is was Jesus overturning of the money tables in the temple that began his conflict with the authorities.  The Jesus of John's Gospel is not unconcerned with "earthly" matters!

Curious note: 
πασχα ("Passover", 12:1) This word "Pascha" (hence "paschal" mystery) is rather interesting. It comes from the Hebrew P-S-K (pasach) which means "passover" as in the angel "passed over" the houses. However, πασχω as a verb in Greek means "to suffer" and comes into English as "passion." An odd coincidence where a number of words in different languages seem like cousins.