Monday, July 26, 2021

John 6:24-35

This passage occurs in the RCL "Pentecost"/"Ordinary"/"Proper" Season, Year B, most recently Summer of 2015.
Summary:  The reader of John's Gospel should find little surprising in this passage. Jesus brings together lots of themes and words he has used before.  One could bridge "sending away and staying" or "seeking and finding" in some neat ways.  The granddaddy phrase though is that faith is a "work of God"; we must return to Greek 101 for some translation help here.

Two word pairs very common in John's Gospel
Seek and find [ζητουντες & ευροντες (seek and find; 25 and 24)]  From the very beginning of John's Gospel to the end, Jesus asks people what they are seeking (including even Mary Magdalene after the resurrection).  Jesus is constantly being sought too.  (If you look up the word, it appears nearly every chapter).  Likewise, people are finding Jesus (Nathaniel in John 1 and Peter finding fish and discovering Jesus in John 21).  Yet Jesus is also good at avoiding detection.  Always sought; sometimes found.

I have not explored this fully, but I think one could argue, quite well, that Jesus only is found when he chooses to let himself be found, when he takes the first step, for example, by calling the disciple's name.

Send away and stay [αποστειλεν (from αποστελλω, "send" 29) and μενω ("abides", 27)]  One cannot say enough about the importance of these two concepts in John's Gospel.  We could put them together and say that in Jesus Christ, we will be still yet conquer the world.  This is a powerful image of a Christian, one who is moved yet finally unmovable in the core.  Sermonize away...

destroy vs life [απολλυμενην (participle form of απολλυμι, meaning "destroy" or "perish", 27) and ζωη (life).]  απολλυμι is a strong word used in the Bible at key points.  Jesus says if you want to gain your life, you must "lose" it; Paul says that the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.  While John's Gospel does not focus on the word destruction, it certainly puts forward a strong motif of "life."  The whole of John's Gospel (and New Testament) is a strong contrast between life in and outside of Jesus.

Present tense:  Just a note that so many of the verbs in this passage are in the present tense:  

  • My Father gives (continually) the true bread from heaven
  • This is the work of God, that you are believing (continually) in the whom he has sent. 
  • The bread from God (continually) comes down from heaven...

The point Jesus is making is that this is not pie in the sky, but bread on earth, as heaven enters into our reality!  Always.  Continually.

Grammar review:  subjective genitive
το εργον του θεου (29)
We could translate this genitive in a number of ways:  "The work done by God" or "the work which belongs to God" or "the work which is offered to God."   You could probably squeeze most theological arguments into how we understand faith -- is it a work for God or a work from God.  I vote with the later one generally, and definitely in this case, where the whole emphasis is on Jesus, the true bread, coming from God.

Grammar review: ου μη
ου μη  (35)
This is the strongest denial possible in Greek.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

John 6:1-21

This passage occurs in the RCL "Pentecost"/"Ordinary"/"Proper" Season, Year B, most recently Summer of 2021, for July 25, 2021.
John 6 is vital for understanding the ministry of Jesus and the church.  First, Jesus' work builds on the Old Testament.  With this story, Jesus revisits the Passover.  Yet Jesus renews and redirects the OT tradition.  In the case, Jesus presents himself as the one who provides the bread.  The Gospel message is not found simply by making this academic comparison, but by driving it home toward proclamation: God provides, he becomes the Passover lamb, taking away the sin of the world, for you...even when all you felt like was a wasted fragment.

Links to Passover:
The key to this passage, I offer, is John 6:4, where we learn the Passover is near.  Further links to the Passover:
*The last verse of chapter 5 also references Moses and people not listening to him (whole book of Exodus)
*Jesus and then others cross the sea because they have seen the deeds of power (Red sea crossing)
*Jesus feeds the people from basically nothing (manna in the wilderness)
*Jesus even uses the food from the smallest boy (akin to a passover!!)
*John refers to this meal of bread with the term Eucharist

Key words:
χορτος ("hay" or "grass", 6:10):  They are sitting on grass.  They believe themselves in a forsaken place, but are surrounded by God's bounty!

συναγαγετε ("gather"; 6:12):  It is interesting here because Jesus tells the disciples to gather the missing pieces.  This is in the mission of the church, to gather the missing pieces. What intensifies this connection is the verb for gather, which is literally:  synagate -- synagogue them!  Lead them into the community centered on the Word!

κλασματα ("fragments"; 6:12):  It seems strange the bread fragments are so valuable.  Was Jesus a spend thrift??  It seems that Jesus has a spiritual meaning here.  I think it is fair to say the fragments represent us, broken pieces, whom God has blessed, broken and then gathered into one.

ευχαριστω ("give thanks"; 6:23):  While neither the words "Holy Communion" nor "Eucharist" appear in 1-14, the word Eucharist does appear in 6:23:  "The place where they had eaten the bread after Jesus had given thanks [eucharisted]"  Christians took up this word in a different manner -- Paul begins this in 1 Cor 10:16.  They transformed the word for Thanksgiving and turned into a significant meal -- much like America's November holiday!  In this case, Jesus is taking the world's oldest Thanksgiving meal and giving it new meaning.  The full meaning of this meal will not be clear until Jesus dies and rises.

απολλυμι ("perish" or "lose"; 6:12):  Fascinating here -- Jesus discusses the collecting the fragments, lest they get "lost".  The word here for lost also means "perish" as in John 3:16 or John 18:9, "I did not lose a single one whom you gave me."

Two other tid bits:
6:9 The words for bread and fish here (krithinos and opsaria) denote common bread and fish, almost like "cheap bread and fish tidbits"

6:17 The word σκοτια is darkness; that is what is occurring here; yet, John 1 said the darkness could not grasp/overcome the light!

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Mark 6:14-29

This passage occurs in the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B, most recently for July 2021

Summary:  It is quite odd that this story appears as a lectionary text.  There are no words or teachings of Christ.  I will pair this up with Jesus feeding everyone immediately following all of this.

It is quite striking the contrast between the work of the powers in this world and the powers of Christ:  Throw a banquet for pleasuring the wealthy with sex and macabre vs feeding the poor; decapitation of the noble; recapitulation of all things, including human failings, into the cross.

Some words of juxtaposition:  Herod's meal vs Jesus' meal
Note I will also bring in Ephesians 1:3-14, which is the selected New Testament paired with this Gospel.  

ενεχω ("hold a grudge", 6:19) The word for "hold a grudge" is literally "have-in (ενεχω)" kind of like have it in for someone.  Jesus, on the other hand, has compassion (6:34)

αγιος ("holy", 6:20) There is an odd juxtaposition this week: Ephesians says we will be holy before God; here John is considered holy (αγιος) before Herod.

δειρνον ("banquet", 6:21) Herod throws a banquet here (δειρνον). The next chapter Jesus will throw a meal for his disciples and the 5,000.

μεγιστασιν χιλιαρχοις πρωτοις ("magistrates, high captains and 'the firsts', 6:21)  Mark really lay it on thick here letting us know the power and status of the guests.  Quite a contrast to the poor nameless masses whom Jesus serves.  Interestingly, the word for "groups" as in Jesus puts the people in groups is πρασια, which Liddel Scott says is "properly a bed of leeks: generally, a garden-plot."  Instead of divisions Jesus puts them into groups for planting!!

ηρεσεν ("please" from αρεσκω, 6:22)  Herod's main goal it seems, is to please himself and his guests.  Jesus goal is not to please himself but to χορταζω (satisfy!) the people.  This is a distinction worth pondering.

περιλυπος ("grieve", 6.26) Herod is deeply grieved (περιλυπος), the same word of Jesus in the Garden (I am deeply grieved).  Interesting to observe how quickly Herod goes from enjoyment to grief.  This is a reminder about a world in which pleasure becomes our main objective, for its thrills are fleeting!

αποστελλω ("send", 6:27)  Herod sends (like as in sends an apostle) to order the execution of John the Baptist.  Jesus on the other hand, sends his disciples to feed people.

αποκεφαλιζω ("behead", 6.27) Herod orders John αποκεφαλιζω (beheaded); this then presents a fascinating juxtaposition between the Ephesians 1 text and this one; Jesus ανακεφαλιοω (Eph 1:10, recapitulates, brings all things together, heads all things up) whereas all Herod can do is decapitate.

Some other minor comments:

6:14 Herod hears that Jesus' name has become known (or manifest: phaneros/φανερος). Jesus warned in 3.12 not to make known (phaneros) what had happened; and that in 4.22, things will be made known. Well, now things have been made known and the result is not good.

6:14 The word "dyanmis" (δυναμις) continues to "manifest" itself in Mark; here it is in the plural which means it should be translated miracles.