Tuesday, May 17, 2022

John 5:1-9

 This passage is an alternate Gospel for the 6th Sunday in Easter, most recently May 22, 2022

Summary:  The man does not want to be healed.  Jesus must interrupt his self-pity.  Hard truth:  individuals, communities and societies often are paralyzed.  While they may complain about what others have done to them, they have no real desire (or capacity) to heal themselves.

I pray that I can preach a sermon in which I acknowledge how we get trapped in our dysfunction and are unable to move forward without Jesus.  Without being so judgemental that I fail to bring the goods, namely, the healing in the name of Jesus!

ξηρος (meaning "paralyzed", 5:3)  This word originally meant "dry" (like the Greek translation of Genesis 1:9 for "dry land" uses this word.)  Things that were dry became useless, paralyzed, so to speak.  

How have parts of your life become dry and paralyzed?  How have parts of your community or your congregation?  How have parts of society?

υγιης (with the rough breathing this is spelled:  hygies, from which we get "hygiene", John 5:6, 9, 11, 14, 15).  Jesus brings a person to a state of "hygiene."  However, something bigger than germs is going on, as Jesus is looking at the healing of the whole person.

In Greek, this word means "whole, sound, healthy".  What really sheds light on what it means is how it is used in Titus to describe, not a body, but a teaching:

  • Show yourself in all respects a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, gravity, and sound speech that cannot be censured; then any opponent will be put to shame, having nothing evil to say of us.  Titus 2:7-8 

This word is paired with "integrity" and "gravity", reminding us that this word does not simply mean "clean from germs."

The context in John's Gospel reveals this is a healing on many levels

  • Emotional:  Jesus asks him if he wants to be well.  He cannot answer this basic question, but is caught in a cycle of blaming others and forming a victim narrative.  He cannot heal himself, Jesus must intervene.
  • Physical:  Now he can walk!
  • Spiritual:  After the man can walk, he enters the Temple - likely for the first time -- where Jesus finds him (vs 14).  Interestingly, Jesus warns him to sin no more!  Which makes one consider -- was their something sinful about the state that he was in?

Some Biblical curiosities:

εορτη (feast, 5:1)  It turns out that scholars are not certain which festival John references.  How one understands which festival has implications though for how one understands the rest of the Gospel.  For example, is this a foreshadowing of Pentecost?  Is this story somehow a microcosm of the church being born and moving beyond its initial tribal and ritual boundaries?  Is it a story of how the waters must be stirred for the church to be reborn?  Or that we are waiting, as a church, for someone else to stir the waters but we are called forth to be the church?

Or it is a story about the reading of the Torah?  The foundation of God's word is no longer simply the OT Scripture, but Jesus Christ and his revelation?

5:4  Many translations do not include 5:4.  This is because most of the best sources for John's Gospel:  papyrus 66 and 75 as well as the א, B, D and W codices lack this verse.  It certainly helps make sense of the rest of the story.  It also speaks of the connection between angels and healing, if not objectively, within the minds of the people.  That is fascinating that words of healing and angels are on the margins of the church's canon.  Professor Walter Sundberg of Luther Seminary once preached on this verse, focusing on the way in which the edges of the canon and the edges of the church often become sources of renewal.

38 years old.  Still don't know why.

 

Monday, May 16, 2022

John 14:23-29

This passage occurs in the Revised Common Lectionary, 6C, most recently May 22, 2022
 
Summary:  Like many passages in John, this passage at first seems like a sequence of fairly random phrases; the preachers job is to pick the best one and run with it.  (Likely my peace I give you!)  If we take a look at the whole of verse 14, we realize that Jesus here is trying to calm his disciples down, as they are growing agitated and disbelieving in light of the coming death.  It makes me wonder -- over and against what fears and anxieties should we preach the promise of peace and God's presence?

(I think I prefer the paired Acts passage (16:9-16) for preaching, but there are some fascinating elements to the Greek here!)

Key words
μονη(ν) (meaning "dwelling", 14:23; as a participle this root word appears in 14:25):  One of the most important ways of understand the work of God in John's Gospel is "dwelling."  In the beginning of the Gospel, we learn that the word dwelt among us (different root word).  In fact, Jesus begins this section by offering that in his Father's house there are many "dwellings" (14:2, same word, but in plural form).  If we interpret 14:2 in light of 14:23, we get a really interesting concept.  In the father's house there are many dwelling places because in each and every person God can make a dwelling!  A dwelling place is a place of peace -- truly home.  This is what Jesus has come to offer!

This passage also establishes the criteria for God making his dwelling:  keeping his word and love.  So let's look at what is happening with those two criteria in this passage --

τηρεω (various forms in 14:21,23 and 24):  This means to guard, protect.  Interestingly, Jesus calls his disciples to guard:  his commandments (22), his word (23), his words (24).  Each of these connotes a different aspect of Jesus' teaching ministry.  It is also worth considering, if we just had John's Gospel, what are the commandments?  Believe in God (14.1) and love one another (14.34) stand out.  I would be curious to see what other commandments we could distill from John's Gospel besides these two foundational words, for John's Gospel offers less moral advice than the other Gospels.  Jesus does tell the woman to sin no more; other than this, what commandments do you find in John's Gospel?

ει αν (markers of conditional phrases): 
Heavy Greek lifting you can skip: 
These two words can work together to set up an IF...THEN...clause in Greek.  Depending on the tenses and moods used, it defines what kind of IF...THEN statement you get.  In the case of verse  14:28, "If you love me, then you would rejoice that I am going to the Father..." you have an ει+indicative imperfect followed by an αν+indicative aorist.  This type of phrase means IF (but it is not true) THEN (therefore this is not true).  So for example, in John 11:21 and 11:32:  If you had been there, my brother would not have died.  (But you weren't there, so my brother did die.).  See also John 18:30 and Acts 18:14 for examples. 

Based on the verbs, Jesus is actually saying in verse 28:  "If you have been loving me (which you haven't), then you would rejoice that I am going to the Father (which you aren't)!  I think this drastically changes the understanding of Jesus words.  He knows his disciples are distressed.  He tells them in the beginning (14:1) and at the end of the passage (14:27) not to be worried (ταρασσεσθω, from ταρασσω). 
 

While it may seem harsh that Jesus is telling his disciples they don't love him, he is actually speaking loving truth here:  They don't get it why Jesus had to die.  The other Gospels make the struggle of the disciples clear; this is the part of the Gospel when the disciples are showing they are struggling to understand and believe.  So what does Jesus do?  He offers them the promise of his presence and his peace.  Sometimes this is all we can do for people!

αφιημι and διδωμι ("leave" and "give", 14:27)  The word αφιημι is fascinating here, but I want to focus more on the fact that we are in the present tense.  This means that Jesus will continually leave and give; this is not a one time transference, but a ministry commitment for Jesus.

I want to borrow from another blogpost I have about the paraclete

***
παρακλητος (paraclete, 15.26 and throughout John 15 and 16) The word parakletos for the Holy Spirit is a tough one to crack! The noun literally means "one called along side of." Originally it meant a "legal assistant." Hence the affinity for the term advocate.

Yet, the whole field of words related to parakletos pushes against a cold, judicial term, especially in terms of our relationship with God.

14.16 The parakletos is a gift from God
14.17 The parakletos will be with us, even abide in us forever
14.26 The parakletos will teach you and cause you to remember the words of Jesus
15.26 The parakletos will witness about Jesus
16.8 The parakletos will prove the world concerning sin, righteousness and judgment.
16.13 The parakletos will guide you on the way
16.13 The parakletos will listen to the Father and Son
16.14 The parakletos will glorify Jesus 
16.14 The parakletos will make Jesus known

Interestingly, the Vulgate does not even use the term advocate to translate parakletos, instead transliterating the word "paracletus." In fact, the Latin does translate the word "parakletos" from the Greek into the Latin "advocatum" once, and this is from 1 John 2.1, where the sense is different. Indeed, here the idea is Jesus interceding for us against the judge of the Father concerning our sins; in John's Gospel the idea of the parakletos has nothing to do with a legal metaphor before God the Father, but the enabler of Christian before the world of unbelievers.

Furthermore, a look at the verb παρακαλεω, the related verb for the noun παρακλητος, really brings home that this word (really word field) is not primarily about legal matters:
Isaiah 40.1 "Comfort, comfort my people, says your God."
Psalm 23 "Your rod and staff, they comfort me."
Proverbs 8:4 "To you, O people, I call and my cry is to all that live."
2 Corinthians 1:3-4  "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation,  who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God."
 

Monday, May 9, 2022

John 13:31-35

This passage occurs in the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C, most recently May 15, 2022

Summary:  I offer some initial reflections on the Greek.  If I preach on this, I will likely draw on the narrative in which it is set:  Jesus washing his disciples feet, Jesus being betrayed, Jesus about to be arrested, condemned and crucified.  Jesus is not just talking about love, but revealing it to his disciples.  Likewise, we are called to love each other.  In reality.

Key words:
εδοξασθη (aorist form of δοξαζω, meaning "glorify, 13:31,32):  I was struck by this word; what does it mean for Jesus to be glorified?  What does glory mean in John's Gospel.  In the Old Testament, the word for glory is associated with the awe-inspiring presence of God:
  • Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Exodus 40:34 
  • Blessed be his glorious name forever; may his glory fill the whole earth. Amen and Amen.  Psalm 72:19
John presents Jesus as the fullness of God's glory on earth.  The miracles of Jesus reveal this glory.
  • And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth.  John 1:14
  • Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.  John 2:11 
  • Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. John 17:24 
  • So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.  John 17:5
Yet Jesus begins to discuss God's glory, especially in these passages (13:31-32) in connection with his crucifixion and resurrection.  This is kind of strange; either John wants us to see the resurrection as the glory (total Christus Victor) or John sees that somehow the crucifixion is an revelation of God's glory.  That is something truly worth considering, not as a theological question, but as a Biblical question -- does John go that far?

The other movement in terms of God's glory is that the disciples, by their actions, reveal God's glory:
  • My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.  John 15:8
This is something really worth pondering -- and struggling with as a Lutheran -- to what extent is God's glory revealed through our Spirit-led actions?

υμιν υμας (forms of "you", 13:34)   Jesus gives us a new commandment to YOU and declared he loved YOU.  But the YOU here is actually plural:  Y'ALL!!  Worth remembering that Jesus love is for the whole community, not just the individual.

διδυμι ("give"; 13:34)  Jesus gives this command in the present tense, "I keep giving you the new commandment."  We must be taught, again and again, to love each other.

μαθηται (form of  μαθητης, meaning "disciple"; 13:35).  The word for disciple means pupil.  Are we called to be a pupil of Jesus or his teachings?

Monday, May 2, 2022

John 10:22-30

This passage is from the Revised Common Lectionary.  It appears during year C on the 4th Sunday of Easter, often called "Good Shepherd" Sunday.

Summary:  So much promise.  Jesus knows us, Jesus gives us life, the Father holds us in his hands.   Still dreaming on this passage...

I think the Greek in this passage is not complex.  You are likely work through it with a little help.  Go for it.  The verb tenses are worth paying attention to.

Key terms
εγκαινια  (Hanukah; 10:22)  Most translators call this the Festival/Feast of Dedication.  Which is true, but it would be known to most English readers, certainly in America, as the Hanukah!  Just a reminder that Jesus is a practicing Jew.  In fact, the action in John typically revolves around Jesus celebrating and interpreting anew the Jewish feasts.  The original Hanukah involved a miracle that allowed the temple to stay lit throughout worship...over and against occupation.  So when they ask Jesus if he is the Messiah/Christ, it is a very loaded question.

στοα του Σολομωνος (Solomon's Colonnade/Porch/Stoa; 10:23)  There is a portico that comes up a few times in the New Testament, where Jesus gathers.  Here is a website that does a nice job giving a quick summary:  https://www.gotquestions.org/Solomon-Porch.html

εργα (works; 10:25, 33)  The NIV translates this word as "miracle"; the NET Bible as "deed" and the NRSV as "work."  I like "work" because it allows for Jesus to say in vs 33 "good works", which has a more biblical ring.  I also think that miracles has a specific Greek word from which it is typically translated (dynamis) and in John's Gospel is related to "signs."  Question to ponder:  What is the difference in a work of God and a miracle?

Verb tenses

It is important to pay attention to the verb tenses in this passage

  • εκυκλωσαν αυτον .... ελεγον αυτω (10:24) [Aorist verb followed by imperfect verb] 

They encircled him (aorist = one time event) and they were saying to him (imperfect = action not complete, therefore on-going and typically begun in the past)

εκυκλωσαν (encircled; 10:24)  The people have encircled Jesus, not gathered around him!  

Also, they are speaking (ελεγον, imperfect tense) repeatedly to him.  There is conflict brewing!

  • ειπον και ου πιστευετε (10:25)  [Aorist verb followed by present tense verb]

I spoke (aorist = one time event) and you are not believing (present meaning repeated action).  

Jesus speaking was an event in the past; the not believing is an on-going state of affair 

  • A number of verbs are significantly in the present sense, meaning they are on-going actions:
γινοσκω ("know"; 10:27)    This word is kind of boring in Greek:  Know, recognize.  But it likely is a translation of the Hebrew "Yada," which has a more intimate meaning.  Regardless, worth pondering -- what does it mean for Jesus to know us!!

ακολουθουσιν (follow; 10:27). If we are to follow, this means that Jesus is leading.

διδωμι (give; 10:28) Jesus indicates he is always be giving us eternal life.  It is not a) not simply a future gift and b) is not a one time gift!  Jesus is always giving us life.


Monday, April 25, 2022

Luke 24:13-35

This passage occurs in the RCL during Easter (Year A, B and if you like, C).

Summary:
A very moving piece of Scripture.  You might argue it is the "ultimate" piece of Luke's Gospel, bringing together so many themes:  importance of hospitality, completion of OT salvation and vitality of worship to name a few.  

A reflection on this passage and Holy Communion:  The disciples recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread and the ties to Holy Communion are obvious.  However, a few curiosities.  First, Jesus does not use the word Eucharist here, which he does at the last supper.  Furthermore, the resurrected Christ shows up to the disciples not in the breaking of the bread, but in the proclamation of the Word as they tell each other Jesus is risen! (Vs 36!) Finally, when Jesus first gives them the bread, it is not after the breaking but after the distribution that their eyes are opened.  They had to know that Jesus was for you in order to know Christ.  Ultimately though, this theological masterpiece cannot be used against communion, but I want to point out that for Luke, everything good and wonderful (including praise, the power of the Word and the importance of intimacy, even relationship with Christ and the community) is included!  To put it more eloquently:  This passage is about way more than breaking bread.  Likewise, Holy Communion is about more than breaking bread, it is about praising God in Glory, proclaiming the death and resurrection of Jesus and finally, by the Holy Spirit, recognizing Christ did this for me and my brethren.

Key Themes:  

1)  Intimacy and fellowship

The story shows the main two ways in which humans are involved in intimate conversation:  taking a walk together and enjoying a meal together.  Here are some other hints about this 'togetherness'

συν (preposition meaning "with"; but it can also be combined with verbs to slightly change their meaning; three such verbs appear in 24:14,15)  By using these words Luke plays on the sounds the words make; he also subtly suggests those on the road were together.  In fact, even the word for converse (ομιλεω) has 'homo' as a root word, which means 'of one.'

ωμιλουν (form of ομιλεω - important to note there is a rough breathing accent here; 24:14)  This word is literally:  homoleoo, from which we get homiletic, as in sermon.  Ironically, this word often comes to mean a sage on stage, but the root of the word is conversation, in this case conversation on the road together!  How is your preaching like a conversation?  For me, my delivery has a few ways to engage the listeners, but the main way in which it is a conversation is the Bible studies that I do during the week surrounding the week's preaching text(s).

παροικιες (from "παροικεω" meaning "temporarily dwell", 24:18)  I love that Jesus is described as only temporarily living in Jerusalem.  There is such truth to this -- He was an outsider in the extreme! 

μενω ("abide," used twice in 24:29)  Although a more essential word in the Gospel of John, this word still carries import here.  The disciples invite Jesus to abide with them.  Not in their heart, but at their table!  Also the one who was an outsider becomes the ultimate insider!

ηθροισμενους (perfect passive form of "αθροιζω", meaning gather, 24:33)  This word for gather comes from noise.  Like when you gather people, you get noise.  Imagine a house full of people joyfully saying that Jesus was alive!

κατακλιθνηαι (from "κατακλινω", meaning "lie down", 24:30)  Jesus is lying down on their floor!

2)  Faith and Sight

ηλπιζομεν (imperfect form!, meaning hope, 24:21)  This word is not in the perfect (nor aorist) tense.  It is in the imperfect tense.  They are still hoping.  They have not lost hope.  They just cannot see!

εγνωσθη ("know" aorist form of γινωσκω 24:35)  I point this verb out because Luke changes it from the earlier "recognize" (επιγινωσκω).  I cannot figure out why Luke draws this distinction, other than to say: If you know Jesus, you will recognize him; if you recognize him, you know.  To put it in familiar Lutheran terms:  To know Christ is to know his benefits.  When it comes to these words, I am not sure if I know the difference, even though I recognize it (haha).  

It is worth putting this word in play with two other words that Luke uses: 

ειδον (see, 24)  The early disciples did not see Jesus; more importantly, they did not recognize what this meant. You cannot see what you do not believe, even when it is right in front of your eyes.  Until we have internalized a new story, we will reject new data.  (See COVID reaction in America for this.  We cannot emphasize this enough in our post-consensus-truth society.  People like and agree with facts that coheres with their worldview).  I would argue that someone has to translate the Biblical story into our lives in a way that we can see something new.

ανασταντες (raise up, 33).  Once they did recognize the risen Lord, they themselves "rose" up -- they experienced resurrection.  Even though at that point he was invisible!

κλασει ("breaking" dative of κλασις 24:35; in a verb form κλασας 24:30; also sounds like the name Κλεοπας)  It is in the breaking of the bread that the disciples recognize Jesus; worth pointing out, however, is that it is also in the proclamation of Jesus resurrection (vs 35-36) that Jesus shows up.  Luke does not neglect a theology of the Word!  It is also worth pointing out that the first time they recognize Jesus, they do so, not in the breaking of the break, but while the bread is being distributed.  Based on the verb tenses you get:  Taking the bread he blessed it.  After he broke it he was distributing it.  And their eyes began to be opened (or became opened).  The point here is that breaking the bread may not be the only "magic" moment when Jesus shows up.  In other words (I know I am pushing it here), it was only when they heard the for you that the recognized Jesus.  If you don't know Jesus is for you, you can't see him in the world!

3.  Salvation - roots in the OT
λυτρουσθαι ("redeem," present infinitive form of λυτρομαι, 24:21)  This verb means redeem in a the "ransom" sense of the word.  The Bible uses this word to talk about people redeeming property with payment.  People can also make a redemption payment to God to avoid punishment for their sins (see Number 35:31).  In Exodus, in fact, the people must pay a ransom to God to avoid a plague (30:12).

A few other points:
- Redemption can avoid punishment but not ultimate death:  Psalm 49:8-9 For the ransom of life is costly, and can never suffice that one should live on forever and never see the grave.  (NRSV)  The idea of redemption into eternal life seems a human impossibility and a new testament novel development.

- God was not the only one from whom redemption could be sought.  For example, God redeems (same verb) the people from slavery in Egypt (2 Sam 7:23, Deut 13:5).  In this sense, God redeems from an agent hostile to God's will for the people.

- It is worth point out that Luke employs the idea in a different manner here than in Mark 10.  In Mark, Jesus is the redemption (the thing paid to do the redeeming, 10:45).  Based on the structure of this sentence in Luke, Jesus is the one doing the redeeming.  This small distinction raises great question for Christians:  Who was Jesus redeeming Israel from (Rome?); why was Jesus redeeming them?  What was the payment (his suffering?)?  Who did God possibly have to deal with?  But if you don't want to go there, keep it simple:  Jesus gave his life that you might be redeemed, namely, set free from sin and death.

- There is another complex way to think about redemption looking at the book of Numbers. I wrote about this word extensively in a post on Mark 10.  In that post, I delve into the truth that a transactional sense of Jesus' work on the cross has clear biblical roots...but is not the best way to understand the data. 

δοξαν ("glory" accusative of δοξη, 24:26)  This word has many layers; originally meaning "opinion" it can also mean "splendor."  In the Old Testament, the glory of God was revealed in God's presence and thus, the two became inter-connected.  So in the New Testament, borrowing from the OT, "glory" also means the amazing presence of God!  Luke uses this word at some key passages to point toward the glory related to the presence of God and his kingly splendor:  Glory of Christmas Angels (2:9/2:14); Devil's promise (4:6); Transfiguration (9:32); Palm Sunday (19:38); Second coming (9:26/21:27)

καιομενη (present passive participle of καιω 24:32)  While God often makes things burn out of his anger, I think the best recollection for this verb is the burning bush -- it was not consumed, but the Word of God kindled it brightly!
 

Lastly...
προσεποιησατο ("pretend" aorist of προσποιεω, 24:28)  So, can Jesus pretend?  Yes!!

Grammar review:  Negative questions
Greek shows questions with a ";" mark.  Some sentences can be very tricky because we miss this!
Also, in Greek, a question can include a negative.  Depending on the wording, the question expects either a no or yes answer.  In English we have something similar, in that a question can expect a yes or no answer, but it is the word order, if not inflection, that reveals this information in English:
"You don't think that is a good idea, do you?" (Expects a no answer)
"Don't you want you some ice cream?"  (Expect a yes answer)
In Greek, the distinction is easier!  When they use "μη" they expect a no answer. When they use "ου" they expect yes.
So, for example, when Jesus asks the question, "Grapes are not gathered from throns, are they?" the Greek uses a μη (7:16, technically μητι). 
Again, if it has a "ου" it expects a "yes."  The only challenging part is that ου can show up as ουκ when it appears before a verb; also ουχι is a more intense form, like "REALLY PEOPLE, the answer must be yes..."

In this 24:26, Jesus asks the question about the necessity of his suffering:
ουχι ταυτα εδει παθειν τον χριστον και εισελειν εις την δοξαν αυτου;
Because the sentence (really a question!) begins with ουχι it expects a "yes" answer:
"REALLY PEOPLE, wasn't it necessary for the Christ to suffer this and then enter into his glory?"

Monday, April 11, 2022

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."

Luke 24:1-12

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

Summary:
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) For lent 2019 my congregation 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 M-W.com 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?

Monday, April 4, 2022

Luke 19:28-40

This passage appears in year C of the RCL for Palm Sunday, most recently April 10, 2022.

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.  I offer one avenue is to 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 II 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! 

I also find it interested that before we can lead people, we need to free or loose them.  Typically leading people can seem like controlling them, but in this case it is a freeing them.

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.

Monday, March 28, 2022

John 12:1-8

This passage is the Revised Common Lectionary Passage year C, Lent V, most recently April 3, 2022.

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.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Luke 15:11-32

This passage appears in the RCL for Year C during Lent.  (Lastly: March 31, 2022)

Summary:  Like other great and familiar stories, the prodigal son does not require anything overly advanced in terms of understanding Greek.  The best thing we can do is help our listeners slow down, ponder the story and dwell on its many meanings, most of which are not too secretive.  But if you want something to chew on...recently I have been reflecting on how modern humans are Homo Economicus, defined by our market based relationships.  This passage presents some very interesting connections between money, life and happiness.  Both sons must learn that true relationships are based on compassion and grace, not the exchange of goods and services.  Yet true relationships reveal themselves in exchange of goods and services.

Side note:  In 2019 my church read Henri Nouwen's book, The Return of the Prodigal, based on Rembrandt's painting of this story.  Excellent read!

σου (of you, vs 30).  This is a little word, but it is significant (and its meaning clear in English).  The older brother considers his brother only a son of the father (your son!).  The father explains that it is actually his brother (your brother).  Economic relationships can be severed, but blood relationships cannot (or not without some serious difficulty).

ουσιας and βιον ("estate" and "money" in vs 12).  These words mean more deeply "life" or "essence."  (Think: Ousia from "one ousia three hypostasis"; and bios in "biology").  It is striking that the Father is asked and gives not simply of his money, but of his essence, his life, his estate.  There is a strong relationship between what the Father has and who the Father is.  Both sons perceive correctly that the Father's giving away of possessions reveals something about his character.  What we have to give is reflective of who we are.  To think about it differently and in terms of God's gifts, to know Christ is to know Christ's benefits (as Luther said).

καλλαω ("be employed" in vs 15).  This word actually means cling.  (Husband shall cling to his wife).  How many of us are clung to our jobs?  The assumption is that the economic relationship will provide a basis for existence.  But it does not.  The younger son is only the hired hand (μισθιων).  In fact, when he seeks to return to his father, he offers to become a hired hand, where the relationship would be simply economic between him and his father.

εσπλαγχνισθη ("compassion," vs 20).  This word means, literally, intestines.  The idea of Greek compassion is that when you have compassion on someone, your insides get tight.  The father has compassion on the son.

παρακαλει ("encourage," 28)  I think it interesting that the verb here for encourage is related to the word for Holy Spirit (paraclete).  The father is encouraging the older brother.  We confess in the Apostle's Creed a belief in the forgiveness of sins.  This petition of faith is in the third article, which consists of things having to do with the Holy Spirit.  We definitely need the Holy Spirit to enable us to forgive each other.

εις εαυτον δε ελθων  ("came to himself", vs 17)  The Greek is literally "under the circumstances of having come into himself, he said, "How many of the hired hands of MY father"  When he went in he remembered the core identity of his father -- a generous person who claimed him as a son.

Lastly, a note on parental love for children.  I grew up in a wholesome family that communicate love from the parents to the children.  I have a favorable impression of parental language for God.  The idea that my parents would love me no matter what helped me, I think, understand that God would love me no matter what.  I realize that not everyone has this kind of love and that parental images of love may be harder for some.

As a parent of a teenager and tween, I now realize how vulnerable parental love is -- it can be rejected!  I guess I had always known this.  For God to claim us as children means there is a permanence in the relationship, but also an admission that it can go south; the child can leave!

Monday, March 14, 2022

Luke 13:1-9

This passage is found in the Revised Common Lectionary year C during Lent (Most recently: March 20, 2022)

Summary:  This passage must be read in conjunction with 13:10-13, where Jesus heals someone who has been sick for some time.  The point is that Jesus does not give up on us, but always calls us to repent.  To put it another way -- repentance is not grounded in fear, but in hope.  Hope that judgment may be avoided; hope that the future will not simply be a repetition of the past; hope that God has power greater than sin. 

(It also obliquely answers the question about the suffering of the just).


Some key words:

πεπονθασιω (perfect form of πασχω, meaning "to suffer"; 13:2)  The word here for suffer is "pasch-oo" (hence the English 'passion').  Interestingly this is the only time in the Gospel of Luke where someone else besides Jesus is suffering.  Also interesting is that the verb is in the perfect, meaning they suffered, but are still in the state of suffering.  Trying to unpack that one.

It is theologically worth noting:  God does not cause all suffering, but God can cause woe in our lives to call us to repent.

μετανοητε ("repent"; 13:3,5)  The form of this verb is important.  The Greek for "repent" here is a present tense subjunctive, not an aorist imperative.  Literally: "If you are not continually repenting..."  In short, Jesus is not calling them to repentance once (or over one sin) but calling them to a lifetime of repentance (the thesis #1 of Luther's 95 theses...)

απολλυμι ("destroy"; 13:3,5) The word here for destroy is "apollu-mi." This word means destory or lose.   (Lose is in the middle voice)  In chapter 9, Jesus warns his disciples that they must "lose" their life (same verb)

ευρισκω ("find"; 13:6 and 7)  The word find (ευρισκω) is very common in the Gospel of Luke (almost as much as M, M and J combined).  Luke presents Jesus as a God who finds us, finds us suffering, lost and in need of repentance.  But he brings us in any way!

αφες (αφιημι; 13:8) The servant here, as he is telling the master to "leave it alone," is also in the Greek saying, "forgive it."  Forgiveness means "give it another chance!"

βαλω κοπρια ("throw manure"; 13:8)  I find this both humorous and haunting.  What might cause repentance?  Throwing poop on something!  I image of the divine throwing poop is crassly funny to me; but also more haunting -- what actually causes repentance?  Likely the crap of life...

Monday, March 7, 2022

Luke 13:31-35

This passage is found in the Revised Common Lectionary Year C during Lent (Most recently March 13, 2022)

Summary:  This passage portrays Jesus as a healer and even a hen.  This might tempt one to present a softer image of Jesus.  While Jesus does have great compassion and does show tremendous care, Jesus is not "soft."  He is casting out demons, condemning the people's heritage, standing up to power and predicting his own death.  The healing Jesus brings represents far more than a band-aid; rather it destroys evil and the restores our relationship with the world.

ιασεις ("iasies" meaning "to heal"; 13:32)  This word comes into English in the "iatry" family (psychiatry; podiatry), meaning to heal.  Perhaps this word can help us connect today's healing (all of the -iatries) with the work of Jesus, both then and still today.

αποτελω ("apoteloo" meaning "to complete"; 13:32).  I offer this word because it connects with the τελειομαι, the last word of the sentence.  Jesus is talking about "completing" a healing today.  We must wonder again, what kind of healing does Jesus have in mind?  What does it mean for Jesus to complete a healing?  I think about how long healing really takes for people after severe physical or emotional trauma.  Healing is often a longer process.

τελειομαι (passive perfect form of τελειοω meaning "complete"; 13:32)  Jesus here literally says, "I  have been completed on the third day."  There are many directions to unpack what Jesus means.  I would offer for this passage that Jesus' death and resurrection could be seen, in light of this passage, as a work of healing.  This healing includes purging evil from the world.  I would add further that healing often requires removal of "demons" from our lives.  This is not simply touchy-feely stuff, as Jesus discussion of coming death (33) reminds us. 

Aside:  This is the same verb that Jesus will utter from the cross (in John's Gospel) as he says, "It is finished."  Which brings up how to translate that passage -- perhaps better than "it is finished" is "it is perfected" or "it is fulfilled" or "it is completed."

ηθελησα/ηθελησατε (from θελω meaning "wish or will"; 13.34)  It is fascinating to see how Jesus admits that humans resist God's will.  Jesus wanted to gather the people in; but it will require Jesus death and resurrection for this to happen.

τεκνα ("tekna" meaning "child"; 13:34)  In this passage, the word for "chick" is simply "child."  Often we think of God's relationship with humanity in parental terms.  We can sentimentalize this relationship, ignoring the pain that parents experience over their children, both in real life and in the Bible.  If God is our parent, than God assumes the emotional train wreck that comes from parenting!!
It also suggests that God desires for us to be like children who receive his protection.
"He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler."  (NRS Psalm 91:)
I think it is possible to use this verse and passage to understand Jesus' work on the third day as a restoration of our status as God's children. 

Some odds and ends: 

ορνις (hen; 13:34)  This is a quality feminine metaphor for God.  It is also fascinating how Jesus speaks in the first person singular for God!

πορευου ("go!", used three times in the passage).  I also need to ponder more the way the word "go" shows up in this passage.  Jesus is told to go (πορευου); then he tells them to go (same word) and that he must keep going (same word).  Can't decide if Jesus is just being clever with words or something deeper is going on.  Also the verb tenses here switch carefully between present and aorist, a mini little case study on what those tenses signify.  (For example: "Herod wants to kill you", want is present; kill is aorist).  But strangely, the command to leave (εξελθε) is in the aorist, but the following (πορευου) is in the present.  Something like "Move now and then keep going"...

Greek grammar tid bit: Solving for a missing word:
In both 13:32 and 33 Jesus skips a word
32: "today and tomorrow and τη τριτη ____ "
33:  "today and tomorrow and τη εχομενη _____."
Greek will often skip a word where the context is entirely clear.  In this case, they drop the word "day."  The context of the sentence should make this clear.  Another hint is that in both cases, the word "the" is in the feminine (dative), telling you a feminine noun has been dropped.  As it turns out ημερα, the word for day, is a feminine noun.  Case closed.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Matthew 6 (Ash Wednesday)

 This passage occurs on Ash Wednesday

Summary:  I've never done a post on this passage before, but I just saw how strange vs 6:1 is!!  Jesus is -- years before the internet -- warning us against group virtual signalling.  Ouch.

6:1  Προσεχετε δε την δικαιοσυνην υμων μη ποιειν εμπροσθεν των ανθρωπων προς το θεαθηναι αυτοις, ει δε μη γε, μισθον ουκ εχετε παρα τω παρτι υμων τω εν τοις ουρανοις

This is often translated as something like what the NIV or NSRV have:

NIV "Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

NRS "Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.

A more literal translation might have a bit more bite:

"Beware of practicing your righteousness  before others for the purpose of being seen; if you don't, you are not having a reward from your Father in heaven."

A) Your:  This whole sentence is directed toward the "group" not just the individual.  It is a "you" plural.  Jesus is warning against group virtual signalling, not just individuals.  So much of life is acting out our own virtues, hoping for likes and hearts.

B) Your righteousness:  Turns out their isn't any righteousness that is our own!  There is the Kingdom's righteousness (6:33) but never "your" righteousness.

C)  The word for see will come into English as theater (θεαομαι).  The later word υποκριτης (hypocrite) refers, in fact, to an actor.  Jesus is warning us against "playing a role" for an audience, reminding us that the true audience is God alone!

D)  The not having a reward is an on-going present tense reality, not a future one.


Monday, February 28, 2022

Luke 4:1-13

This passage is found in the RCL, Lent 1, Year C (Most recently: March 6, 2022)

Summary:  I'd like to propose an understanding of this reading that I think is fairly Lutheran.  (Shocking, I know).  I was struck by the idea that Jesus is full of the Spirit.  What does this mean?  It means he is filled with the Word in order to combat the devil.  The Word and the Spirit go together; to be Spiritual means you know the Word well enough that it becomes part of you, so that you might draw on it in time of temptation.

Pastoral note:  I think this is what sanctification actually looks like, that the Word has become so a part of us that we can actually draw on it.  In my experience, when people go through challenging times, the immediate reaction of the Christian is not much different than a pagan.  However, the Christian, when she or he hears the promise, either in a verse or hymn, has something resonate in his or her soul that revives them.  The pagan does not. The Word, like daily bread, has a shelf life, but it also eventually converts itself into muscle that can be called on for great strength.

Key Words
πληρης ("filled", 4.1)  This adjective means filled.  This is straight forward; interestingly the only other time in Luke's Gospel this word occurs it refers to someone filled with leprosy.  Also interesting is that leprosy normally entailed banishment, which is what Jesus is suffering here in the wilderness.  Even without the leprosy connection, Luke and the synoptic Gospels make it clear: to be baptized means to be led by the Spirit which entails confronting evil.  Once again, we see how in Scripture the Spirit and Word work together.

αγω ("lead", 4.1, 9)  Intensifying this connection between the work of the Spirit into confronting evil:  The Spirit "leads" Jesus into the wilderness; later, the Devil "leads" Jesus to a high mountain

πειραζω ("tempt", 4.2)  but really:  "μενος" (this is not a word, but is the ending of a word.  Greek participles are complicated, but when you see this five letter suffix, you know you have an present, passive participle; 4.2.)  In this case, the verb for "tempt" is a present, passive participle. This means two things. First, that the temptation was on-going. Second, because "being tempted" is a present participle, this action occurred concurrently with the action of the main verb.  In this case the main or governing verb is "being led" by the Spirit.  (which is a passive and imperfect verb). So while he is continually being led by the Spirit, he is continually being tempted by the Devil. The two are on-going and concurrent actions.

Further, the word here for "test" (4.12) is essentially the same word as tempt (the word has a little preposition to intensify its meaning). Jesus here tells the Devil to stop tempting him basically -- do not put the Lord, ie, me, to the test!

παραδιδομι ("betray" or "give over", 4:6)  The word for "given over" is paradido-mi, which also means "handed over" as in "betrayed."  This suggests that perhaps the devil is not fully honest in his description that all things have been handed over to him.  If they have, it is through betrayal, where people thought they gained someone for themselves only to have the devil take it back.

Grammar:  Since you are the son of God!

ει ("if" or "since", 4:3) The Greek for "if" here (ει) does not necessary translate as "if." Normally, the decision to translate "ει" as "if" or "since" depends on the mood of the verb; if the corresponding verb is indicative, then one translates it as "since." In this sentence, the corresponding verb, "to be" is in the indicative. This means "if" could, if not should, read "Since you are the son of God..."

Another grammar tid-bit:
4:4 "Man does not live by bread alone." Interesting here is that the Greek takes this Hebrew imperfect (which connotes it as on-going or future) and puts it in the future: "Man will not live by bread alone." Making it a promise more than a given reality!

Monday, February 21, 2022

Luke 9:28-36 (Transfiguration)

This passage is found in the  Revised Common Lectionary on Transfiguration Sunday, Year C (Most recently:  February 27, 2022)  The Roman Catholic church does not celebrate Transfiguration at this time.

Summary:  The Greek gives one license to drive this sermon in just about any Scriptural direction one's heart desires.  It is all there -- Baptism, end times, resurrection, even the Exodus.  The inclusion of Elijah and Moses already suggested this, but the Greek allows for all sorts of connections!

Key words that are unique to Luke's account:

οκτω ("eight"; 9:28)  In the early church, the 8th day was significant because it was the day on which the resurrection and hence all Christian worship, was celebrated.  In modern times, we often think we worship on the 7th day, but really, we worship on the 8th day!  That the transfiguration happened on the 8th day.  In this way, Luke points us toward the resurrection.  A possible sermon:  Our baptismal charism is the ability to see resurrection where others see death!?

προσευχομαι ("pray"; 9:28)  Jesus prays quite a bit in Luke's Gospel, far more than in the other gospels.  (Curiosity:  Although he does pray in John's Gospel, the word is never used!)  In fact, in Luke's Gospel, Jesus is praying as the heavens are opened in his baptism.  Jesus prays other times too, but these are unique to Luke's Gospel.  This suggests that for Luke, there is a connection between prayer, baptism and the gates of heaven being opened for us.

εξαστραπτω ("shone brightly"; 9:29) The Greek for "brilliant" (his coat) has tucked within it the word "astra" like "astronomy." Jesus is bright like the stars. Interestingly, the only other place this word appears in the whole Bible is Ezekiel and Daniel, whose passages are filled with "end-times" language.  (One could argue that Luke suggests the person seen by Daniel in Daniel 10 is a pre-incarnate Jesus; that perhaps the one riding the chariot in Ezekiel is also Jesus!)  Even if that is too much, this a reminder that transfiguration has an eschatological bent -- it is the future breaking in.  When it looks like the past, that is simply because the future broke in then as well.

What is worth noting is that the word transformation (μεταμορφοω) is not used in Luke's Gospel (as opposed to Matthew and Mark.  Jesus face just became "other" (ετερον, literally "hetero.")

εξοδος ("departure"; 9:31) The word for "departure" here is literally "exodus." Moses is talking with Jesus about Jesus' exodus.  A couple of points here:
- The term exodus is not accidental.  There are a number of other allusions to the original exodus:
They go up a mountain to encounter God (ορος 28); God's glory (δοξη 31) appears in a cloud (νεφελη 34) through which a voice appears; the humans seek to build a tent/tabernacle (σκηνας 33) to worship him.
- Jesus has just been preaching about his death and resurrection; so quickly turning to this event gives us permission to read the paschal mystery in light of the exodus!
- Is the Christian exodus more of a social/political exodus (leaving behind oppressive governmental systems) or is a spiritual exodus (away from the power of death and sin).  Both?  Regardless, it seems fair to understand Jesus mission within the context of the second book of the Bible, one of liberation.
- Jerusalem is the goal of this exodus.  Jesus will soon set his face toward there (9:53); he will be crucified, resurrected and ultimately glorified there.  Why is this so important to Luke?

Note:  For those hungry for some more morsels, I also have a previous post on this text http://lectionarygreek.blogspot.com/2010/02/luke-928-36.html