God dwells among us in a special way when we study the Bible
2018 Winter -2019 Spring
24 March Luke 13:1-9 THE PARABLE OF THE FIG TREE · v.6
· In view of the tragic deaths of killed under Pilate, and the deaths under the falling tower points to God’s providence. - Jesus shows us how God spares us so that we may have full time for repentance and at the same time warning us if we should let that time pass without repentance.
· The owner of this vineyard and fig tree pictures God, but only some see it! - Fig trees were at times planted in a vineyard. - The point to be noted is that the vineyard and the fig tree are intended to go together. - The tree is planted in the vineyard, and it is now growing in the vineyard as a result…
· This tree was not a wild tree, it belonged to the owner of the vineyard, too.
· Whereas in the parable the attention centers on the fig tree, what is said about it and done with it extends to the whole vineyard. [· Christian’s as salt of the eart? - The fate of Jerusalem speaks to all Israel… - Because the owner planted this fig tree in his own vineyard, he had every right to expect it to bear fruit. The tree had grown to full maturity in the very best of places. Jerusalem was not the capital of some pagan nation… so the fruit was out fo the question. That is why the owner comes seeking fruit of the fig tree. - It is not said that he comes to gather fruits, but just to see whether there is fruit… [· our evaluation is taking place right now… - ‘and he did not find’ tells the sad story… /IF he does not find…? If he does!!
· The problem was not with the vinedresser or the owner… - The missing fruit is repentance.
v.7 · Fig trees bear during many months. ‘Three years’ denotes length of time… - 3 years of Jesus’ ministry… - What is significant, Jesus is using John the Baptist’s words: ‘unless you repent’, and ‘cutting out’ this unfruitful tree, out of the vineyard. - The three years refer to that John the Baptist called the nation to repentance three years ago, and now, Jesus, ‘this time’ does the same – when he first cried, ‘repent!’ - ‘This year also’: was the final work of Jesus. - Jesus was now on his way to Jerusalem for his last effort. - ‘This year also’ extends from now on until the death and the glorification of Jesus.
· ‘Cut it out!’ - There is no disagreement between God and Jesus when we hear the owner give this order and the viedresser urge delay. The owner at once consents to this delay… - This, too, is the constant teaching of Scripture which extends God’s longsuffering to the utmost. ‘This is peculiar to the clemency of God toward men that he does not bring in punishment silently and secretly but by his threatenings first proclaims them to be at hand, thus inviting sinners to repentance.’ (St Basil)
· ‘To what purpose?’ = ‘what good can it do?’ - ‘Continue to take up the ground’. Besides being unfruitful this tree prevents the ground from growing something else that will yield fruit.
· When God bestows his grace and care upon anyone and gives them a favoured position, by remaining unfruitful they also prevent that grace and that position from being used to far better effect upon someone else… (RR)
· This vinedresser is undoubtedly Christ. · The basis of Jesus’ intercession is his atoning sacrifice which is by no means only an assurance for us of God’s disposition toward us but first of all and most vitally a propitiation and satisfaction that is rendered unto God by which our sins are expiated. - This sacrifice and satisfaction necessarily occurred at a definite time, namely when Jesus bore our sins here on earth, but in the mind and the purpose of God it was a reality from all eternity. - Hence Jesus is called ‘the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world’ (Revelations 13:8, or 1 Peter 1:20: ‘foreordained before the foundation of the world.’) - It is thus that our Mediator and Intercessor Jesus speaks in the parable, and the Father accepts this intercession. - it is told us in a simple, human way in order that we may grasp it. But the essential point is that God’s grace toward us is mediated wholly through his Son, our Saviour, as our great and effectual Mediator.
· We can see Jesus’ character in the fact that this vinedresser does not act and speak as a hired servant who merely carries out orders, for he is as much concerned about the tree as is the owner.
· He asks an extension of time, that grace may do its utmost to win repentance. - The tree is not only to have more time., it is to receive the vinedresser’s intensive care: ‘Till I dig around it and throw dung’, in this way enriching the soil. - nothing that is possible is lseft undone to bring the sinner to the fruit of repentance.
· It is Jesus who uses every means of grace: we only receive and bny receigng come to the fruitage of repentance and new life.
‘And if it shall make fruit soon after’ shows and displays the vinedresser’s emotion at the prospect of securing fruit at last.
· The vinedresser (Jesus-God) goes at his work hopefully, looking for the good result, not halfheartedly, pessimistically, thinking that there is no use. (Reflect on it!). Jesus is an optimist when it comes to working upon sinners.
· Jesus, however, is not a blind, foolish optimist. He initiates the final trial. Even before it happens jesus reckons also with failure. ‘IF not’: Jesus considers what shall be done if the tree, Jerusalem, actually proves hopeless. If the final effort proves hopeless, ‘thou shalt cut it out.’ Of the vineyard. ’
· The vinedresser does not say, ‘I will cut it out’ of the vineyard, for he already received this order. God judges us, but he has committed all judgement to the Son. In the parable, the Son honours the Fatehr’s will, and the Son will perform the act.
· It is a fact that judgement is often preceded by an intensification of grace. (Noah’s case.. it was the situation before the flood!, Jeremiah and other prophets just befor the captivity)
·Thi sis in the case of Jesus himself before Jerusalem’s doom. · We should see it from God’s angle. This supreme eeffort of grace cuts off every shadow of excuse (Isaiah 5:3-5), ‘What cold have been done more to my vieyard, that I have not doen in it?’ See also Rom 10:21.
· Did the thee at last bear or dit it, after all, remain unfruitful? The answer is purposely withheld. · It is not about our free will that we can decide between God and Satan. Sadly, in the fall, mankind decided to vote for its evil inclinations. But the grace of God is brought to bear upon him with power from on high in oder to release his will from its bondage.
· But many will nullify every effort of that liberating, saving power and wilfully cast it from him/her for good and all. Their doom is then sealed, and sealed by themselves. - But if the power of saving grace succeeds in freeing him/her, the decisive factor is God’s will and loving support.. The work is wholly one of grace, and the glory of it belongs to that grace alone.
17 March 2 Lent Year C - THE TRANSFIGURATION OF JESUS
TRANSFIGURATION 2 LENT Year C
· There is a connection between Jesus’ Passion, Messianship and Transfiguration · Jesus is preparing his disciples for the close of his earthly life and work. He is indeed the Christ of God. He shall indeed will be raised from the dead, and he shall come to judge (v.20, v.22, v.26) - The transfiguration cast its light on all these statements like a great shining seal of verity.
· Jesus selected the three whom he had chosen as witnesses, and they will be so distinguished at another time (Matthew 26:37) - Only these three were to see and to hear what was now to be revealed, for the testimony of two or three witnesses is sufficient. - The way in which Jesus takes them to this mountain height shows clearly that he knows in advance what will happen there. Since they believed and confessed the deity of Jesus these disciples were to see Jesus in the glory of the Son of God.
· In addition to the proofs of his deity which they have already received Jesus will now snow himself to them transformed in actual heavenly glory. (2 Pet 1:16-18 Peter stresses the great glory of revelation)
· It is futile to identify the exact mountain, which is called high by the other synoptics. The traditional site is Mount Tabor.. But the records agree that Jesus was still near Caesarea Philippi, and one does not see how he could so soon be considerably south of even Caparnaum. - Luke alone states that Jesus went there to pray
v.29. · The transfiguration took place while Jesus was praying (R) -The transaction was a transaction between the Father and his beloved Son incarnate, who always received everything from the Father. - Jesus did not ask to be transfigured jus as he did not ask to have the Spirit descend upon him as a dove. - Jesus knew the Father’s intention and took with him along the needed witnesses. - The body and human nature of Jesus were glorified.
· The appearance of his countenance became different / Matthew: ‘It shone like a sun’ - actual changes are reported. - rationalist explanation should be dismissed that the rays of the sun caused this vision while Jesus was standing on a higher elevation
· Jesus was as brilliant and dazzling as the sun itself. This extended to his entire form, it was ‘white, dazzling’ - the verb used here refers to the flashing of lightning - Mark adds: ‘such a fuller on earth is not able to whiten.’
· Philosophising about this transfiguration is delusive. - all we know: it was the same body and human nature that the Virgin bore but in that birth joined to the nature and the person of the Godhead. - by virtue of this union the human nature shared in the divine attributes but during the days of humiliation used these attributes only on exceptional occasions. · Easter Christian tradition: Jesus always was had his glory among us, it was our human perception and senses that need to be transformed.
· On this occasion the whole body of Jesus was allowed to shine with the light and the splendour of its heavenly divinity. - Jesus now shines thus in heaven for ever. Of the holy city (heaven) it is said: ‘The Lamb is the light thereof’ - The glory was thus not extraneous, glowing for a while and then being removed…
· The remarkable feature is that the earthly clothes of Jesus were transfigured like his countenance. Explanation?....
·v.30 - Luke exclaims: ‘lo!’ when they noticed that two men was in conversation with Jesus in his transfigured form. - Moses was the great representative of the Law, Elijah the great representative of prophey. - Both are outstanding figures in the OT, and both represent Law and prophecy. - Moses stands at the head of Israel’s history, Elijah appeared when Isreel had declined so that only 7000 remained who had not bowed to idolatry. - The days of Elijah were like those which Jesus found when all the rulers and the great mass of people had lost the true faith and had gone away from God. - The appearance o these two with Jesus intended to assure the disciples that the death of Jesus was in perfect accord with the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah. - The disciples had other ideas and found his death a great scandal.
v.31. · ‘Having appeared’ visibly. It is Luke who states that it was in ‘glory’ - sent by God from heaven, they appeared in their heavenly radiance. - The disciples could contemplate them without being blinded. - Only Luke says about the content of their conversation: ‘his departure which he was about to accomplish in Jerusalem.’ - It means more than the ‘decease’ or death of Jesus
· It denotes the entire exodus by which Jesus left this earth, the sacrificial death plus the resurrection and the glorification. - They were now in glory like all the saints in heaven. - All the saints in heaven looked forward to this accomplishment of Jesus. - Redemption was intended for the universe of men, for the dead as well as for the living and those yet to live.
v.32 - Luke alone has preserved this information. - While Jesus continued in prayer, the disciples fell asleep · Then, at once, they were all fully awake… - Then they actually saw ‘his glory’, ‘the two men standing with him’
· How did they recognise that these were Moses and Elijah? No conversation… - A far better answer is that the saints in heaven need not to be introduced and named to us but are known at once through an intuition that is wrought by God.
· Elijah ascended bodily to heaven and thus undoubtedly appeared here in his glorified body. - Moses? He died and his body was buried by God himself in an unknown place (Deut 34.5) - Like the angels, the saints in heaven have no bodies of nay kind, yet, they can be seen when they are sent to earth just like the angels.
v.33 Peter’s words sounds like an effort to keep Moses and Elijah from leaving although he dares to address Jesus only - He feels that it is ‘excellent’ to be here. - The quality, the positive nature of this experience cannot be enhanced… It was Peter’s desire to prolong their experience. He practically asks that Moses and Elijah should remain…
· Peter says nothing of shelters for the disciples, out of humility. ‘It is a good thing that we are here’ · ‘Not knowing what he said’ shows that Peter was talking foolishly, just babbling as it were. The foolishness lies in the idea that men who were in the glorified state would remain here o this unglorified earth and would need shelters for the night as ordinary men do. - Mk explains further that the disciples were upset with fear, and that peter thus babbled s he did. - Therefore Jesus gave no answer at all…
24 February / Session 14 Luke 6:27-38
v.27 • This is the second part of the Sermon on the Mount. • The stress in this second part is laid on contrition, repentance, and faith, following these with the proper conduct of life towards our neighbours.
• he asks us to show the evidence ein our lives that the gospel blessings have been truly taken seriously by us, and that we have taken the warning of the woes to heart. - In the Baptist’s words (3:8) those who do repent must show the fruits that are worthy of repentance. • “you that are hearing” means that are really hearing, i. e., taking to heart what I am saying. Jesus is singling out the true believers. − The ‘blessed ones’, they will be able to love their enemies, etc − A new life and a new power are in their hearts − and they will show their presence in the most distinctive and tangible way. The fruits of repentance which Jesus names are those which the world cannot achieve by any ethics it may invent or practice
•to love our enemies is a fundamental requirement of Christian love. To treat well, to bless, and to pray for them, only a true follower of Christ can love his enemies thus. − At this point the ways of the world and those of the church not only part, they run in opposite directions. − The imperatives are present tenses, they are covering the entire lives of the believers. − The usual conduct of our enemies is that they keep on hating, cursing, and mistreating us. They may go on in their wickedness toward us, we, too, will go on in our love and loving treatment of them; they shall never outdo us. − The text mentions personal enemies who for any reason take their spite on us. Let our ways be the very opposite.
• The true meaning of agapón here. It is in contrast to filein which denotes the love of mere affection and liking. − This kind of love would be impossible toward an enemy. He would not accept our affection, would strike us if we tried to embrace him. Nor should we ever be able to like our enemies. − In the New Testament, agapon denotes the love of intelligence, comprehension, and corresponding purpose. It sees all the hatefulness and the wickedness of the enemy, feels his stabs and his blows, may even have something to do to ward them off; but this fills the loving heart with only the one desire and aim to free its enemy from his hate, to rescue him from his sin, and to save his soul. − Its inner motive, be the object worthy or not, is to bestow true blessings upon the one loved, to do him the highest possible good.
• I cannot like a filthy, vicious beggar and make him my personal friend; I cannot like a low, mean criminal who may have robbed me and almost taken my life; I cannot like a false, lying, slanderous fellow who has perhaps vilified me again and again; but I can, by the grace of Jesus Christ, love them all, namely see just what is wrong with them, desire and work to remove that wrong thing, and to this end do them all good.
• It is in the spirit of John 3:16. It is in this sense that Jesus specifies: “be doing well to those hating you,” meet them with the exact opposite of their hating. − The enemy’s behaviour is the ignorant, noncomprehending hate, whose purpose and efforts are according, that damages others indeed but damages itself still more. − One of the ways of overcoming this hate is to keep meeting it with kind deeds, heaping coals of fire upon the hater’s head (Prov. 25:21, 22). If he goes on hating in spite of our doing him all manner of good, our conscience will be clear, we shall be showing the true spirit of the disciple, and the Lord’s favour will be ours.
• Note the gradation: hate—cursing—despiteful abuse. And the corresponding intensification of love: doing good—blessing—praying for − Although the hater curses us and wishes God to strike us with damnation, we go on blessing him and wishing that God may do him all manner of good. Whereas he actually abuses us, we not only quietly take that abuse but pray for the benefit of our abuser (ὑπέρ) in his behalf, that God may change his heart and not give him what his deeds deserve. − The best commentary on this praying for our abusers (Matthew “persecutors”) is the prayer of Jesus for his executioners. How love like this can and does come into our hearts is shown by the beatitudes. • R(eflection): René Girard’s theory of mimesis: Jesus is the only one who can break the cycle of growing violence, scapegoating, and retaliation. The task of his disciple is like being a curative virus within our culture.
• The natural and unregenerate heart is thoroughly selfish and stands on its rights. (Connection: Matthew 5:39). Jesus therefore adds these illustrative injunctions that point in the exactly opposite direction. To the one who strikes thee on the cheek present also the other; and from the one taking away thy robe also the tunic do not withhold. To everyone who asks thee be giving; and from him who takes away thy things be not asking them back. − These precepts have an astounding sound, and that is exactly what Jesus wants them to have. They do teach the complete reverse of the behaviour that hurts us. − From Matthew we see that Jesus teaches us that the principle of right, retribution, and punishment according to which the courts of the land act, is not the principle according to which the disciple is to act Rom. 13:4 stands
• But the very God who placed the civil and criminal law and its execution where they belong, in the hands of the government, by so doing places another law and its execution, the law of love, into the hearts of Christ’s disciples. This law requires patience, forbearance, willingness to forego our rights and to suffer wrong in order to overcome the evil with good, that the courts may not need to step in, and that we may honour the name of our Lord.
• This love is explained in the sermon by the illustration of the nonresistance that is due to love, that love which acts intelligently and with the purpose of Jesus. − Rather than to give way to anger when he is struck unjustly on the cheek or even to strike back in anger as natural right dictates, the disciple who has this love in his heart will offer the other cheek for a second blow that would otherwise not be struck. A false literalism would make a farce of Jesus’ precept. The point is breaking the culmination of violence in the world and in personal life. • The worst part of the sin of retaliation are the anger, resentment, and passion which fill the heart in such resistance… − Again, rather than resentfully to resist and to fight him who takes away his robe, the long outer garment that is worn by Orientals, the disciple would not withhold also his tunic, the inner garment that is worn next to the body, and regard the double loss as pure gain in that he keeps his heart free from angry passion
• Love will always be ready to help, to give without expecting a return. • , “from him who takes away thy things,” “do not keep clamouring to get them back.
• By means of these striking illustrations Jesus wants to protect the disciple’s soul from damage and loss. − It is better to suffer in body and in goods to every extent than to let passions and wrong desires possess the soul − As for the wicked, God will deal with him, and God has authorized penal laws for his punishment.
• Christ’s injunctions are not to be applied mechanically, just formally, or in foolish blindness which loses sight of the true purposes of love. Love is to foster no crime in others or to expose our loved ones to disaster or perhaps to death. (Christ never told me not to restrain the murderer’s hand, not to check the thief and robber, not to oppose the tyrant, or to foster shiftlessness, dishonesty, and greed by my gifts)
• This is the so-called Golden Rule. − It is a misconception to think that Jesus makes self-love the measure of love to our neighbour. Jesus is speaking to those who accept his teaching (see v. 27), not to men in general whose self-love is selfishness. − It is not natural self-love(selfishness) that he has in mind but that purified regard for self which the kingdom (v. 20) puts into the hearts of the disciples; this spiritual love for self is to be the norm for our love to others. − The disciple is concerned about his soul, his spiritual interest, and what he wants men to do to him is to aid, support, and further him in these interests. He does not want any innate selfishness to be satisfied by men about him. And thus, Jesus says, he is to treat others in the same way, to help and to support them in what is truly blessed for them. This is not a game of you gratify my selfishness, and I will gratify yours; you satisfy my worldly desires, and I will do the same for yours.
− Christ’s Golden Rule has appealed to many, yet only true disciples have understood it and have found the power to translate it increasingly into their lives. − The ‘parallels to Jesus’ saying’ remain distant and superficial parallels. His teaching is unsurpassable. E. g., Take as an example Rabbi Hillel’s dictum, which is only the voice of selfishness and nothing spiritual: “What is hateful to thyself, do not to thy neighbor; for this is the whole law, and all else is its exposition.” Hillel voices the egoism which witholds injury lest it again suffer injury. Hillel’s dictum is only formally like the saying of Jesus
• The saying of Jesus is positive and affirmative and thus of an altogether different type; it moves where spiritual life alone moves and thus needs no negative which, when offered alone, is bound to remain in the domain of this selfish world.
12 February / Session 13 - Luke 5:1-11 'Throw your nets into the deep', the miraculous catching of fish
v.1 · At the centre of the miracle is a demonstration of the unseen power of the Word of God. · It is worth noting that this miracle is repeated in John’s Gospel after the miracle of the Resurrection of Jesus. - Jesus repeated this miracle before he ascended to heaven.
· The closely packed crowd was pressing on Jesus while he was speaking, they were all eager to hear. - Jesus was standing for some time, like the multitude, besides the lake. It was an inconvenient position to preach.
v.2 · A remedy was found. There were two vacant boats. The fishermen to whom they belonged had stepped out and were busy washing their nets. - They had worked all night, vainly, and were now cleaning the nets. (R.) - This was a small size of net to be thrown on either side of the boat.
v.3. · So Jesus stepped into the boat that belonged to Simon and requested him to put out a little from the land. - He was using the boat as a pulpit, sitting as was the custom for preachers and teachers.
v.4 · A startling command indeed! What did Jesus know about fishing in contrast with an expert like Simon? - It sounded like ignorance for this former carpenter to designate ‘the deep’ as the place for making a catch of fish… It is almost a double ignorance to ask that this effort be made now, well on in the day, about noon… (Fish are lazy in an oxygen-free warmer water….) - Jesus orders this while multitudes line the shore, many of whom were conversant with fishing, who certainly would give Peter the laugh for doing something that is apparently irrational, and really foolish, and contrary to experience! - Jesus intended it to be an order, and Peter’s face must have been a study when he heard it.
v.5 · Peter realises what Jesus means. Not the deep but the places of moderate deep are the right ones for fishing; not the broad daylight but the night-time is the best for fishing.
· We should see that Jesus is asking much of Peter! Peter is rightly uttering a misgiving, for he and his helpers worked in the best places of the lake at the best time and continued their labour many hours with absolute failure. - Perhaps Jesus did not know that they caught nothing.
· Yet Peter declares that he will obey. The emphasis is on that he does it ‘on thy utterance.’ He will lower the nets. He intends to say: ‘The fact that thou hast spoken commands my will’. This is a great respect for the Master, which is even stronger than the title, Rabbuni/Teacher. - This is exactly what Jesus wanted: Peter was to drop everything else and to throw himself absolutely on his Lord’s utterance alone.He was to go counter to all his own experience (R! on growth in our experience), science wisdom, reason. - It was a great test of genuine faith in whatever Jesus might say… in order to have absolute confidence in his Lord’s word in all his future apostolic work! - And Peter’s experience is set down for us so that in us, too, it may produce the same effect. It is this faith that overcomes the world, the faith that conquers by the Word. - The weakness of our believing and of our preaching lies in not taking Jesus altogether at his word.
· There were several men in the boat (‘nets’ is in plural). Peter’s boat was sizeable as it occasionally carried all the disciples.
v.6. · The miracle is told in the simplest, most matter-of-fact way. They followed the word of Jesus and at once their nets were so full of fish that the nets started to tear.
- How did all these fish come to that most unlikely place and at that altogether wrong time, and why were they so ready to enter Peter’s nets? - John 21 gives us the answer: Jesus exhibits his absolute power in the domain of ordinary nature. · In both miracles the ethical purpose is to demonstrate the power of Jesus’ word.
- When Jesus sat in the boat teaching, the power of what he spoke was invisible. Spiritual things are invisible, nobody’s eyes see that they are wrought. - We often thin that our work is in vain. - And how could Peter and the apostles face Judaism and the pagan world with absolute assurance of victory when they had only the Word? Here was the visible answer: the nets full of fish caught at Jesus’ words, and at that word alone. - So the net of the gospel would be filled to the top. These gospel fishermen would most assuredly succeed.
· ‘on thy utterance’ and ‘having done this’ is vital! Any deviation from the Lord’s utterance in word of in action is fatal to success. Improve on his Word, and you fail! (R: our image of the Church, its teaching, Tradition…) - Say that Jesus would today modify his utterance, and you are trying to justify your deviation from it. Nothing saves souls except the Word, and that Word unchanged in any way. The divine and saving power lies in that Word and in nothing else.
v.7 · When the Lord gives he is never stingy. His generosity is overwhelming, think of Cane. But this load of fish When the Lord gives he is never stingy. His generosity is overwhelming, think of Cane. But this load of fish symbolises in advance the abounding success of the Gospel, its allsufficent power to catch men. - The boats simply could not held more fish. Thus, too, there is exemplified the fact that Pter cannot do the work alone, he must have many associates.
20 January / SESSION 12 - THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD (Luke 3:15,16, 21, 22)
· It was John’s task to announce the coming of the Christ. - Since he himself was such a strange and powerful figure, it was no wonder that in their expectation of the Messiah the people kept wondering whether, perhaps, John himself was the Messiah. - Luke, though does not say so directly, implies that John had from the start proclaimed the Messiah’s nearness and coming.
· John here and in John 1:20 emphatically denies that he is the Messiah. - John has never been tempted to make himself the Messiah! - John learnt what the people thought in their hearts… some of them spoke. - He at once made a public answer to suppress this false supposition. - With an emphatic ego (Greek) John places himself over against the Messiah. He intends to say: ‘If you think that I am great, he who will be here presently is infinitely greater.’ With erhetai John says that the Messiah is not yet here, but that he is on the way, is coming right now. (‘every moment can become the gate of the Messiah’s arrival’)
· the lowest slave was to remove and to clean the sandals of his master or of any visitor. -- ‘If John is not fit to handle the sandals which only the feet of the Messiah have touched, how great, then, must this Messiah be?’ - He is ‘stronger’: the power and strength of the Word of God is referred to here. - John implies that he, too, is ἰσχυρός, “strong,” the divine strength of the Word having been given to him. His is no false humility but a clear understanding of the facts.
· Their different ‘strength’ refers to their different tasks and works. - John baptizes with the ordinary sacrament by employing water; God’s Son will crown his great redemptive work by baptizing “in connection with the Holy Spirit and fire”. A divinely appointed man may use water in the sacrament; only the Son of God can pour out the Holy Spirit, and even he only after completing his redemptive work and then ascending to heaven. - To claim that because Jesus baptized in connection with the Holy Spirit, John’s baptism was devoid of the Spirit, is to draw an unwarranted conclusion. - From the day of Pentecost onward his presence, power, and gifts flowed out in wholly unrestrained measure and over all the earth. - The distinction is not: before Pentecost no Spirit; after Pentecost the Spirit. If this were true, no soul could have been saved before Pentecost. The true distinction is: before the actually completed work of redemption the limited preparatory work of the Spirit; after Pentecost the superabounding fullness of the Spirit everywhere.
· The value of Baptism. The idea that even our present baptism is only water, a mere sign and symbol without the Spirit and only a confessional act and a work of obedience on our part is not tenable. It is much more. So it is not true that the only baptism that gives us the Spirit is the so-called “baptism of the Spirit,” by which the Spirit is supposed to seize a man suddenly, without the use of divine means (converting him by this seizure and later in the same way suddenly totally sanctifying him), is a fanatical view. It limits the power of the Holy Spirit. The sacrament of baptism cannot be reduced to human emotions.
· The miraculous outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is the supreme work and thus the final great mark of the Messiah. None but the Son, who had gone to the Father (John 16:7) - After completing redemption, could thus send the Comforter. · ‘Fire’ is not only the symbol of destruction and judgement. There is a clear OT tradition when fire is as an image of purification in Zech. 13:9; Isa. 6:6,7; 1 Pet. 1:7, and the “spirit of burning,” taking away filth in Isa. 4:4. - Clearest of all, Pentecost, the fulfilment of John’s prophecy, has the two combined: the Spirit and cloven tongues of fire as the visible manifestation of the Spirit.
Come as the fire and purge our hearts Like sacrificial flame.” Reede.
“Come, Holy Spirit, from above With thy celestial fire; Come and with flames of zeal and love Our hearts and tongues inspire.” Cotterill.
“And each believing soul inspire With thine own pure and holy fire.” Luther, translated by Massie.
- The idea is that in connection with the baptism of all the people Jesus was baptized. - None of the evangelists drops even a hint as to the mode of these baptisms, including that of Jesus. - Mark has the finite verb ἐβαπτίσθη, “was baptized by John in the Jordan” - The mode is not vital: A search through the New Testament reveals that the Holy Spirit seems purposely to have withheld a mention of the mode. - It is surprising that in the face of this situation so many are sure that Jesus was immersed. The one point which the Scripture evidence yields on the mode of Jesus’ baptism and on that of all others is that immersion was not the mode.
· In his baptism, Jesus is not simply accepting the old Law; yet he is also not accepting grace and pardon in this baptism although this was its gospel purpose for all others, for Jesus is sinless.
· What Jesus does by accepting baptism by John is to enter his Messianic office by means of this act. He, the sinless One, the very Son of God, in and by his baptism places himself alongside of all the sinful ones for whom this sacrament of John was ordained. He thus connects himself with all John’s baptisms, for it is his mediation that makes these baptisms truly efficacious for sinners. In thus by his own baptism joining himself to all these baptisms of John he signifies that he is now ready to take upon himself the load of all these sinners, i.e., to assume his redemptive office. - No wonder that John presently calls him the Lamb of God (John 1:29, 36).
· Also, Jesus intended to sanctify the water for this sacrament which he would afterward send out to all the world. · Luke repeatedly notes the praying of Jesus. His prayer, we may say, dealt with his entering upon his great ministry, for which he was now offering himself. · The heavens were open! It is not a subjective vision or optical illusion. This was not a mere vision and certainly not a mere impression (Eindruck) in the mind of Jesus (John 1:30–34) - “Heaven opens itself, which hitherto was closed, and becomes now at Christ’s baptism a door and window so that one can see into it; and henceforth there is no difference any more between God and us, for God the Father himself is present and says, This is my beloved Son.”
· The moment the heaven was opened the Holy Spirit came down upon Jesus in a bodily form. Matthew says that Jesus saw him come down, John 1:32, 33 makes it certain that the Baptist, too, saw the Spirit’s descent; in fact, this was the divinely appointed proof for him that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.
· Why did the Spirit chose the form of a dove? Luther thinks this was done because of its friendliness, because it is without wrath and bitterness, because the Spirit desires to show that he has no anger toward us but is ready to help us to become godly and to be saved. Others point to purity, innocence, and meekness as being symbolized by the dove. We content ourselves by saying that the dove-like form intended to convey the idea of the graciousness of the Spirit.
· Part of the meaning of the bodily form of the manifestation of the Spirit is that human senses were to perceive what was happening. He who was conceived “of the Spirit” now receives that Spirit as a permanent gift for the Messianic work he is now assuming.
· The coming down of the Spirit upon Jesus is the anointing that had been prophesied in Ps. 45:7: “God, thy God hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.” Isa. 61:1: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach,” etc. (Luke 4:18). See also Acts 10:38: “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power.”
· The prophets received some of the gifts of the Spirit; Jesus, who is lifted far above them, received the Spirit as such.
· The revelation of the Trinity. It is most noteworthy that all three persons are revealed at Jesus’ baptism so that we here have one of the clearest proofs for the Holy Trinity. - it is unwarranted to deny that the Old Testament revealed the Trinity to the Jews, or revealed the Trinity only dimly and imperfectly. All the Baptist’s hearers understood him. Later the Jews object only to the fact that the man Jesus should call himself God’s Son; they never raise the issue that God is only one person and cannot have a Son. It is specious to raise the question as to how fully the Baptist and the Jews grasped the reality and the relation of the three divine persons and then to rate their knowledge as low as possible. To this day, and since the New has been added to the Old Testament, the Holy Trinity remains an ineffable mystery and yet a revealed reality.
· ‘You are my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.’ This Son is the second person of the Godhead. - Throughout the Scriptures the Sonship of Jesus is in a class absolutely by itself, on an equality with the Father, and infinitely above all other sonships. - When it is used as it is here with reference to one who is worthy of that love ἀγαπᾶν includes the completest and highest manifestation of this love; - “Thou art my Son,” etc., is a declaration concerning the work on which Jesus is entering. It predicates far more than that the Son ἄσαρκος (unincarnate) is the Son and as such the Beloved from all eternity. This declaration deals with the Son ἔνσαρκος (incarnate, in the flesh), incarnate in Jesus and now entering upon his office and work.
· “You are my beloved Son”: voices the Father’s love for him as he is now proceeding to do the Father’s will in this great work - The eternal Son is the Father’s Elect for the great task. This Son, now incarnate and now presenting himself for the task, is thus “the Beloved.”
SESSION 10 (Luke 3:10-18) – JOHN’S CALL FOR REPENTANCE
v.10 · This is a record of the effect of John’s address when he called for repentance. - ‘What then, shall we do?’, the question rests on John’s request. - What are the fruits that are worthy of repentance…
v.11 · The answer is so simple, and they should have known it. But we see in what a state of ignorance these Jews were despite all their rabbis. - John illustrates the entire conduct of conversion (two concrete examples that deal with clothing and food) – He that has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and he who has portions of food should do likewise, which means to love one’s neighbour as himself/herself. - No new, no strange laws are laid down: nor does John require of others the mode of their life that he led as part of his particular calling: Micah 6:6-8; Jesus’s requirements (10:25-37) are the same Biblical requirements. It is the old law and will of God that are done with a converted heart in the power of God’s grace. - A kiton is the garment that is worn next to the body, and in cool weather several were often put on. - The portions of food also means that not excessive giving is advocated by John or Jesus but a giving that relieves real human need.
· Roman knights and wealthy men at Rome bought the taxes and customs of particular provinces for a fixed sum which was paid into the public treasury (in publicum) and were called publicani. But these are not mentioned in the New Testament.
- Under them were the chief publicans like Zaccheus in the provinces, and under these again the actual collectors of the taxes and customs, the publicans of the New Testament. - The latter class was especially odious to Jews in the highest degree when they themselves were Jews. They were considered traitors to Israel who aided the Roman oppressors. - The Pharisees were the respectable people, publicans belonged to the same class as harlots and the most disreputable. To have a publican in the family was a public disgrace. - Promises need not to be kept to publicans, thieves, and murderers. - The synagogue and the Temple corban did not receive their alms, and their money was considered as having been gotten by rapine.
· The publicans to whom John talks repented and were baptized. - It means that John accepted them, almost as much as Jesus’ treatment of them. - They ask the same questions as others, as a recognition, that they belonged to a different (lower) class and needed additional instruction. - Were they to give up their work as publicans as proof of their repentance? That was the main point. - John does not say so; Jesus, too, did not. - But this he tells them, to prosecute their tax collecting with honesty and never to extract more than the assigned amount. - ‘Stop exacting!’: they need to stop their practice of collecting more!
· v.14. - Luke conveys the idea that these men served voluntarily as soldiers and were thus mercenaries. - They came as penitent men who were baptized by John. - Were they soldiers of Pilate or Herod, Gentiles? And did John speak to them in Greek instead of in Aramaic? - Their question indicates that the are in a very special class. - Will John forbid them military service as a requirement of their conversion? - John asks nothing of this kind but demands that they show their conversion by avoiding the sins of soldiers. - He requires a constant course of action.
· Soldiers have the power in their hands to abuse and terrify civilians. - They often found opportunity for extortion and made us of it. (blackmailing) - Another of their besetting sins was dissatisfaction with their wages. So John forbids that. They should be content with their ‘rations’ (cooked meal)
· Each station in life has its peculiar temptations and sins. Repentance will show amendment specially in avoiding sins. - Falling in this is proof of spuriousness. - It is especially hard in any profession to oppose its common practices, which always elicits ridicule, perhaps persecution by the impenitent. (being counter-cultural! Breaking negative mimesis/imitations) - Hence the avoidance of these sins is a good test of real repentance (conversion) (see ‘conversio morum’)
Session 8 - ADVENT 1 – YEAR C (Luke 21:25-28; 34-36)
v.25. · The ‘Gentile seasons’ shall last until the final cataclysm comes. - What signs shall occur are stated in Matthew 24:29: the sun and the moon shall be extinguished, stars shall fall from their courses. - Who can imagine the consternation that is thus caused on earth? Jesus describes it graphically: ‘distress of nations’, their hearts are held ‘in perplexity’ or utter loss of what to do at the ‘sound of sea and billow’ roaring and raging in the dislocation of the entire world.
· ‘men fainting’ is too weak, ‘expiring’ is better, ‘from fright and expectation (apprehension) of the things coming on the inhabited earth’, té oikoumené. - ‘For the powers of the heavens’ by which God held the universe of the skies plus the earth in place ‘will be shaken’, will rock and totter, everything being dislocated in ruin when God’s omnipotent hand reaches down to wind up the affairs of the earth and of man. - This will be not a succession of events but a simultaneous disruption.
v.27 · All these disintegrations are the heralds that usher tin the Son of man at his Parousia. - ‘They shall see’: means all men who are then living on earth. - If the curious question is asked as to how men who reside on all sides of the globe shall simultaneously see the Son of man at the last day, the answer is that the whole universe and the earth will be completely changed beyond anything that we are able to comprehend with our present notions of time and space. - ‘Coming’ is that significant participle which is so often used regarding Christ’s first coming, that is why it became one of his Messianic names: ‘The Coming One’. - That name is still his in view of his second coming. - But it will then occur ‘in a cloud in company with power and great glory’, he who was once spit upon, scourged bloody, mocked, and crucified. - The clouds are God’s chariots (Daniel 7:13; Acts 1:9,11;) - They express God’s majesty (Psalm 104:3; Isaiah 19:1) - This ‘power’ is Christ’s omnipotence which is manifested already in the cosmic upheaval; and his great glory is the sum of all his attributes. (Tit 2:13; 1 Cor 1:4; 2Thessalonians 1:7; 1 Peter 1:7;4:13)
· ‘These tings’: at every sign and indication of the end of the world the Twelve are to straighten up and to raise their heads like men who are in joyful expectation of a blessed event. - We may apply these words to ourselves, seeing that the signs mentioned in v.8-11 still continue. - Others may lament and become frightened, not they. For their apolytrosis is dawing near: ‘release or liberation from suffering, tribulation.’ - They should feel as the captive does when he hears men coming to unlock his cell and to give him the liberty for which he longs.
· They are not to be weighted down but are to be wide awake in watching and praying. - Here the what is stressed is the load and the weight upon the hearts which prevent them from attending to watching and to prayer.
[· healing ‘silence’/adoration. God’s word (‘healing silence, healing communication’) is liberating…
- kraipalé = is the common term for the nausea and the headache that are caused by heavy drinking and nothing specifically medical. - This crapula (Latin) goes together with ‘drunkenness’ but brings out the vile effects that drag the drunkard down. - In all the turmoils and the convulsions of the world, as already in all common distress, men resort to drink to drown their troubles. - Others love debauchery of all kinds for its own sake. - With these loads Jesus couples the ‘anxieties of life’, distracting worries about the life we live here. Even disciples are liable to make their earthly affairs supreme, especially when the world becomes disturbed.
· The weights Jesus mentions are that drag the hearts down: they lead us to think of all else that might hurt us in the same way. - For those hearts that are wighted down thus that day is bound to come suddenly as a snare. - The Geek adjective is aifüdios , ‘suddenly’. ‘Suddenly’ is not strong enough to indicate the coming of that day upon those who are weighted down. - It will come upon them with sudden, deadly effect as when a bird or an animal is caught in a noose or a net. So the flood came upon those who were living in Noah’s day, and fire and brimstone upon the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Mt 24:36-39) - The coming of that day impends constantly.
· Jesus’ revelation should be read and understood properly. Usually it is translated as that this day shall come upon ‘all them that dwell on the face of the earth’. Katémenoüs = The verb, however, means ‘to sit’. So the sudden judgement come upon all those sitting on the face of the earth. - The point lies in this sitting, resting content here on the face of the earth, caring nothing for anything higher. On all these that day shall come. - And sitting thus, sunk in the things of earth, explains how all these shall be caught in a fatal snare.
36. · We know hear the positivepart of the admonition: constant wakefulness in the sense of alert watching. - And this alertness and watching must take place in ‘every season’, no matter of the external circumstances – whatever happens in our life or in the world. - We are to be strong enough with spiritual strength. We need to do down every temptation and not to grow slack in our watching and to give way to worldly ways. - We should not forget that this is a world of lapsed Christians! - We, the local Christian communities, should be strong enough not to be caught suddenly in the snares of worldly issues (harmful situations and life-styles). - These challenges will occur, indeed, and affect also the disciples but not so as to overwhelm them because they are unprepared.
· Our prayer must be positive: ‘we need to stand before the Son of man’. - To stand before Him means to stand unharmed in his judgement. - The great news is that this is a victorious standing. All others will be caught as in a snare. Those who watch and pray will have their prayers heard, they will escape and stand with joy before the divine judge, the glorious Son of man.
SESSION 7 (Mk 13:24-32)
· When the last days arrive, the tribulations of all the preceding days are concluded, and then shall occur what Jesus now describes. - No interval shall separate the events. All shall happen in quick succession.
· The whole world shall collapse. - All shall happen in quick succession.
v.25. - The world of stars shall collapse. ‘The powers in the heavens shall be shaken’, that is, dislocated. All that bolds the heavenly bodies in their orbits and enables the son, moon, and starts to light the earth, shall give way. - The sun’s light will be extinguished, the moon’s radiance will disappear in the same instant, and the starts will tumbling from their places. Let no one try to imagine this cataclysm. It is utterly beyond human conception.
‘And then’, it is here denotes an almost instantaneous succession. - Mark’s account is simpler than Matthew’s and says only that ‘they shall see the Son of man coming.’ · the subject is all the living inhabitants of the earth. - The world will be plunged in darkness, and then, coming out of heaven, the Son of man will appear in super earthly brilliancy and glory. - He shall come as is promised in Acts 1:9,11: ‘in clouds’, as stated in Daniel 7:13. - The clouds are God’s chariot, Ps 104:3; Isaiah 19:1 = the symbol of God’s heavenly majesty for humans.
· The Son of Man/God’s glory will arrive ‘in company of great power and glory’. This ‘power’ is Christ’s omnipotence, which is manifested already in what is done to the heavenly bodies. - and his ‘glory’ is the sum total of all his divine attributes shining forth for men (Titus 2:13; 1Cor 1:4; Revelations;2Thess 1:7; 1Peter 1:7; 4:13)
· At one time the Son of man appeared on earth in lowliness (as he sat on the Mount of Olives, and later allowed himself to be crucified). But at the end his omnipotence and all his glory will be displayed to all the world.
v.27. ‘And then’ = means immediately. The angels are always represented as the mighty servants through whom Jesus exerts his will at the end of the world. - The angels who came with Jesus in his glory, will be sent to gather all the elect. The resurrection of the dead is, of course, implied, for only a few of the elect will be living at the last day.
· The Biblical conception of the earth’s form is that it has four quarters, the four directions from which the winds blow, hence ‘from the four winds’. - This is still the common conception: north, south, east, west. - Our scientific conception of the form of the earth are no advance on that of the Bible. - ‘from the end of the earth to the end of heaven’ only emphasises that every remote part (akron, the extreme point) of the earth and under heaven.
· We can often hear the standard ‘objections’ against the resurrection: the earth is a globe, the one hemisphere being opposite to and hidden from the other. How both hemispheres shall at the same time see the Son of man in clouds? Or, how shall all the millions that have lived shall find room to stand, and how long it will take till the last name is reached for the purpose of judgement? The answer to all these qustions is the fact that after the events recorded in v.25 none of these present limitations of ours will exist.
· Now we are entering the admonitory sections. First we had the objective facts (v.24-27) - Although the prophecy unrolls a picture of dread, it is, bright with hope for the elect! - So Jesus bids the disciples learn from the fig tree ‘the parable’. When its branch becomes soft with swelling sap and then goes on producing leaves, the disciples realize that summer, beautiful summer, is at hand, and that makes them glad.
·The fig tree is observed by all, but what it means even the disciples need to be told: ‘Realise’ what these things mean! - The form is present indicative: ‘go on realising’! (R/eflect/ on it as a present, progressive task…) - the verb means actual seeing… - the disciples need to see a false Christ, a false prophet, a war, and persecution only once to see them all and thus to be impressed by what ‘these things’ really signify. · What Jesus means is that every sign advertises the end as being ‘near’. From the days of the apostles to our own time these advertisements read to the same effect. Just when the end will arrive no one knows. We are always to be ready for its coming since all the signs have already occurred again and again.
· ‘At the doors’ is in apposition to ‘near’ and states jut whow near: ready to step in at any moment!
v.30 · Jesus speaks with great solemnity, and using his well-known seal for verity (‘amen’) and authority (‘I say to you’). - He declares that ‘this generation’ shall not pass away ‘until these things all shall occur.’ - e genea refers only to the contemporary generation, those living at the time when Jesus spoke: this needs to be explained carefully. - - The use of dor in the Old Testament and its regular translation by genea in the LXX reveals that ‘generation’ means a kind of men, the evil kind that reproduces and succeeds itself in many physical generations. ® Look at Psalm 12:7: ‘Thou shalt preserve them from this generation forever.’ Ps 14:5: ‘the generation of the righteous’. The New Testament preserves this distinction.
· ‘This generation’ = it does not refer to the human race or even only to the Christians. But those who are on the right track and think of a moral class of men that continues to the very end….
· ‘This generation’ is the type of Jews that Jesus contended with (12:27-40). He foretells the destruction of their nation, and one might easily conclude that would end the generation of Jews that is like these Sadducees and these Pharisees. But no: we are solemnly assured that this type of Jews will continue to the very Parousia. It has not ‘passed away’ to this very day. The voice of Jewish rejection of Jesus as the Christ is as loud and as vicious as every: he is not the Messiah, not the Son of God! Here, therefore, is Jesus’ own answer to those who expect a final national conversion of the Jews either with or without a millennium.
‘The heaven and the earth shall pass away, but my words shall in no wise pass away’: tells us the fact that the contemporaneous generation of Jews will not have disappeared before all things foretold by Jesus shall have reached an end.
- The prophecy needs to be understood correctly. Verse 30 is only one of Jesus’ words. Not one of his words will perish away. This is the strongest possible negation. The physical heaven and earth, Jesus says, despite all their seeming durability ‘shall pass away’.
· The question as to whether this means annihiliation, sinking back into nothingness, or transformation to a different form of existence cannot be answered by paraleüntai. The most decisive passage is Rom 8:19-23 together with 1 Cor 7:31 and Rev 21:1-5: the divine heaven and earth shall be united. So the physical heaven and earth shall change completely. When they are changed at the Parousia, we shall not recognise them. BUT THE WORDS OF JESUS WILL NEVER UNDERGO EVEN THE SLIGHTEST CHANGE IN MEANING OR IN FORM.
· Jesus told his disciples when the end will come, namely by pointing them to the signs. But this is after all not specific. The Father knows the exact date. - Day is understood in the narrow sense, the precise day and date… Yet, we do not know the exact date. - The angels, though they are in heaven, do not know the date and period, is no special surprise for us. But the fact that ‘the Son’ should not know the day and the hour des cause surprise.
· In their essential oneness, the Three Persons know all things. But in his humiliation the second person did not use his divine attributes save as he he needed them in his mediatorial work. So the divine omniscience was used by Jesus only in this restricted way. That is why he does not know the date of the end.
· How the incarnate Son could during his humiliation thus restrict himself in the use of the divine omniscience is one of the mysteries of his person. · Many tried to set the date and time, end yet when it arrived, the world went on, and no end came.
Session 6 CHRIST THE KING – 34 YEAR B (JOHN 18:33-37)
· The altercation between Pilate and the Sanhedrists, which led up to the presentation of the charges against Jesus, is recorded only by John. - They were compelled to make charges. Luke 23:2: ‘We found this fellow perverting the nation, forbidding to give tribute to Ceasar, saying that he himself is Christ, a King.’ - It is thus that John proceeds: Accordingly, Pilate entered again into the Praetorium and called Jesus and said to him, Thou, art thou the king of the Jews? - Pilate takes up the case and proceeds with the actual trial. - This means that the Sanhedrists yielded and presented specific charges: 1/ that by his activity Jesus had perverted the Jewish nation 2/ that he had forbidden to pay the taxes levied on the Jews by Ceasar 3/ That he was proclaiming himself as the King of the Jewish nation.
· We are astounded to hear that the Sanhedrists declare that they ‘have found’ these charges to be facts, that is, their own trial had proved these charges against Jesus. - Every word is an absolute lie. R(eflect on): in the heat of the conflict, individuals and groups don’t think rationally and objectively. - These charges are inventions of the moment in order to force a hearing from the Roman governor. They knew well that he would most certainly refuse the charge that Jesus declared himself to be the Son of God. Pagan Rome let the religion of its conquered nations alone.
· yet were need not at all be astounded at these accusers. They were men who plot murder who will not scruple about employing lying witnesses at their own trial and lies of their own at the trial under another judge. - Those who seek a criminal end are ready to use the necessary criminal means. ‘Such was the moral state of this Jewish leadership.’
· Pilate accepts these charges, and indeed, he must. - He takes the most direct means to investigate them. He reenters the Praetorium, orders Jesus inside, and questions him. Efonese = the verb should not be understood that Pilate called Jesus as one who was already inside the building. Not until Pilate had accepted the charges against the prisoner would he accept the prisoner himself. - The officers of the Jews did not lead Jesus into the building. Pilate’s soldiers took him from their hands. - Jesus passed over to the jurisdiction of Pilate and the Romans. - The idea that Pilate questioned Jesus in total privacy is without evidence. The Roman manner of conducting trials avoided secrecy. Those who cared to hear were free to hear. - The judgement seat was outside of the Praetorium, so Pilate had to go inside, and that was this move has the prisoner turned over to him.
· Of the charges preferred against Jesus Pilate selects the main one. He rightly judges that with this one the other two will stand or fall. The Jewish charge against him was that Jesus claims to be Christ, ‘a king’. Cunningly they add the latter terms, for Pilate’s mind must understand this in a political sense. What is implied is that he is a king claiming secular power, and thus wanting to be the head of a Jewish rebellion against the authority of the Roman emperor. This is the very kingship Jesus had repudiated (6:15) - When Jesus entered Jerusalem he allowed himself to be acclaimed as ‘the King of Israel’ (12:13), yet, the entire proceeding was without the least political tinge. - The Sanhedrists put into Jesus’ own mouth the words ‘that he himself is Christ, a King’, they established it as a fact at their trial (Luke 23.2). - They make it appear that they are wonderfully loyal to Ceasar, quick to render a verdict of death against this Jewish king, only asking of Pilate that he carry out this verdict.
· We cannot say that Pilate is impressed. He has never before know these Jews to be so loyal; quite the contrary, they submit to Caesar’s taxation only because of the Caesar’s power. · Pilate has kept a watchful eye on every moment in the land under his jurisdiction. He has never heard of earthly royal pretensions on the part of Jesus. No reports have come to him that this man was gathering a force to oust the Romans. - He must have know something about Jesus, but it was of an entirely different nature. - yet, the accusation of the Sanhedrin is positive: they have even heard Jesus say that he is a king. Thus Pilate is compelled to find out the truth of this charge.
· It is thus that Pilate asks: ‘Thou, art thou the king of the Jews,’ - Pilate understands the term ‘king’ in a common political sense. - The Jews themselves expect their Messiah to be a grand earthly king. The notion of a spiritual King, the opposite of a secular King, is foreign to their minds. They should have expected such a king but they did not. Pilate could have no conception of this kind. · Pilate’s question is tinged strongly with incredulity. He cannot bring himself to think that this man, humbly clad as he is, arrested alone without followers, can be making pretensions of earthly power.
- The question also seem to have a touch of mockery. Pilate despised the people over whom he ruled. - The personal dignity of Jesus does not seem to have registered with Pilate thus early. - Pilate had quite a different picture of what earthly kings looked like.
· The only chance to condemn Jesus to death is the charge of being ‘a political king’.
· By answering as he does Jesus acknowledges Pilate’s authority in general and his right to question him in particular. - Here, too, he renders unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, thereby also rendering unto God what is God’s. - Pilate probably expected Jesus to say ‘I am not!’. In the synoptic Gospels he says: ‘Thou sayest it!’ = meaning ‘I am, indeed, a King!’… - What is the meaning of his answer? He is not merely dodging the charge of the Jews in order to escape; nor is he admitting the charge, which , is false. - From John we learn that Jesus, like a true witness (814) put Pilate off with no half-truth and left his judge under no misunderstanding. The lying Jews have no scruples in leaving Pilate under the impression that Jesus claims to be a secular king. - If Jesus denied the allegation this would be only half of the truth. In a very real sense Jesus is indeed a king. If he had replied that he is a king, he would leave Pilate under the impression tht Jesus admits the allegation of his secular kingship. - The synoptic Gospels at once report that Pilate pronounces the charge false, and thus they reveal that Pilate had learned the full truth concerning Jesus’ kingship
· Jesus’ question to Pilate. ‘Dost thou say this of thyself, or did others say it to thee concerning me?’ - What Jesus actually does by his question is that he makes Pilate say that he is asking his question only in the sense intended by his accusers and is adding nothing beyond that sense. - This appears from Pilate’s reply.
v.35 ‘Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the high priests did deliver thee up to me. What dids thou do?’
· = ‘You certainly does not suppose that I am a Jew!’ - Egó is spoken with full Roman pride and with scorn for the predicate ‘Jew’. - Pilate implies that nobody but a Jew would dream of charging Jesus with wanting to be a king. - A Roman like Pilate would not ‘from himself’ investigate any kingship that anyone might attribute to Jesus. - Etnos = is used by Pilate in the secular sense. He mentions ‘high priests’, the one mentioned n v.15, following is Annas. Caiaphas and Annas are the heads of his nation. - Pilate bothers with the present business only because this action of the Jews compels him to do so. - And this action, it seems to him, could have been precipitated only by something that Jesus had done. Hence the question, ‘What didst thou do?’
· Jesus now gives Pilate for understanding the answer: ‘The kingship of mine is not of this world. IF the kingship that is mine were of this world, my own underlings would fight that I be not delivered up to the Jews¸ but now the kingship that is mine is not from hence.
- This answer is full and complete on the negative side. This negative provokes Pilate to ask for the positive, which Jesus gives. - For Pilate anything like a kingship of Jesus seems incredible. Jesus speaks of his kingship as something that is self-evident. - The term basileia = may refer to either ‘kingdom’, the territory or the subjects ruled by a king. - Here the issue is not as to any subjects or any domain that accept Jesus as king, but as to Jesus’ own person, who and what he really is. - Moreover, Jesus is the opposite of all earthly kings. - They are actual kings because their subjects make them kings. Jesus is king with a kingship that is independent of any subjects. - His is a kingship that inevitably creates its subject. - E Basilei e emé = ‘the kingship that is mine’: Jesus says three times in succession, over against the kingship that belongs to all other kings! - The kingship of Jesus is in a class by itself, in its very nature is infinitely superior to that of all merely secular kings. The repetition of this compels Pilate to pay attention to the claim of Jesus.
· The origin of Jesus’ kingship explains its unique character: it is ‘not of this world.’ - Our world has produced many earthly kings and rulers. They all sprang out of this world (ek). - Jesus as king came out of heaven as the Son of God and thus holds a kingship of an entirely different type. - It is totally foolish to rank his kingship with secular kings. Pilate was right when he saw nothing resembling earthly kingship in Jesus. He was wrong in concluding that therefore Jesus had no kingship and was in no sense king. - If the kingship of Jesus were of this world, the üperetai = a host of men who would uphold him as a king, who would fight with earthly weapons to prevent his dethronement.
· Indeed, where are these ‘fighters’ that rallied around him, who fought or are now fighting on his behalf? Pilate sees none. The proof is utterly pain: Jesus is not a king of this kind. - Jesus concludes: ‘but now the kingship that is mine is not from hence.’
· In the positive part of Jesus’ answer, we see that Jesus does not speak of his kingdom, namely his subjects, but of himself as king, describing just what his kingship is.
· What Jesus says is that earthly kings have earthly defenders, as Caesar has his Praetorian guards in Rome, as the Sanhedrin has its police force, as even Pilate has his soldier cohort. /kouhót/ - Jesus does not have in mind angels or the disciples. These man were attached to him spiritually as their spiritual king. - In the conditional sentence Jesus speaks only of what would be the case if he were a common earthly king. - He is speaking here hypothetically: if he were an earthly king (but he is not) he would have earthly defenders. - When the disciples and Peter tried to assume that, they were promptly rebuked and corrected.
v.37. ‘So then art thou a king?’ · In John, Pilate’s question results from Jesus’ reply. - The question shows that Pilate understands what Jesus has said and also that he is satisfied that the Jewish charge of political leadership is false. - Yet the kingship that Jesus is claming is one that is entirely new to this Roman pagan. - Pilate is satisfied with the negative feature of this kingship, namely that it is ‘not of this world.’
- Pilate asks for a positive explanation. The question of Pilate contains a note of surprise. So after all there is something in the Jewish charge which denominates this prisoner as ‘a king.’ - Pilate sees through the machinations of the accusers to make him in this trial a secular king. But this leaves him curious to know what kind of a king he really is, or rather what this claim of Jesus to kingship signifies. - There is a touch of incredulity in his question, for a kingship ‘not of this world’ is a total novelty to Pilate. - For him, Jesus is ‘a king’, some kind of king, wondering what this may be.
· Some commentators say that Pilate, being superstitious, is afraid of the revenge of this unknown divinity… That is why he is hesitant, and makes an attempt to release Jesus…
· I for my part have been born to this end and have come into the world to this end that I testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice
- Jesus was born a king, he has not usurped his kingship, he is most legitimately the king that he is. ® He speaks of his incarnation. - ‘I have come’ goes back to ‘I have been born’: it declares the pre-existence of Jesus. From another world he came into this world, from heaven to this earth (16:28) - ‘I have come’ by will and act of my own as a supreme king (who is the son of God). - He has come and has entered this world by having been born a man (® his human nature). He is king for us, not merely according to his divine nature, but according to both natures, which are joined in his person. ‘King’ I always used in the soteriological sense, ‘for our salvation.’
· Jesus does not refer to truth in general. He has not come only in a general way to declare true things. His work is to bring to us that specific truth which he saw and heard with his Father, the truth we need for oursalvation.
· Jesus Word is truth and this Word is always power (17:17)
· Jesus opened an entirely new world to Pilate. Would Pilate be drawn into that wondrous world? - It is worth meditating on that Jesus lays hold of Pilate’s heart. The hour of grace has come for Pilate, the blessed hour when the King of grace draws his heart, yet a fatal hour if the King’s grace is spurned.
· ‘Everyone who is of the truth’. This is perfect psychology. When unbelievers are to be won, an address in the second person often calls forth resentment. But who can resent a statement in the third person which simply holds up to the heart the picture of blessedness revealed in the believer?
· ‘Everyone who is of the truth’ does not mean a special class of people, those who bynature are better than others, who by a better use of their own natural powers have a love, desire, or affinity for truth, truth in general. These are often termed ‘truth-seekers’. But the malefactor on Calvary, the publicans, the harlots, and the sinners were no ‘truth-seekers’ but the very opposite: and yet Jesus won them! - ‘The Truth’ is not shaped and fashioned by God to grip only a certain class of people but is designed for all people. All of us need the same healing… - Our king can ennoble the ‘spiritually dead’
· ‘he hears my voice’ = to hear is to believe. To hear and to believe is to be of the Truth.
Our Bible Study Group resumes on Tuesday, 9th October 7 pm
13 June - Session 5 - EXODUS Source: www.kingschurchlondon.org
· we identify with Israel, and the world is Egypt… It is more complex, maybe I am an Egyptian? · Exodus 12:33-51 - it was the night of watching by the Lord… to bring all them out
· they leave in the middle of the night, they take 3 things with them 1 money 2 meal 3 multitude - with silver cold, possession, wealth: represents the favour of God after slavery - a multitude: a multi-ethnic group
· When God liberates, the favour of God comes to us, transforms the curse into blessing - they turn their gold and silver into the Tabernacle… what is my wealth for? - Apostles, NT speaks of the flavour of God spiritually - in the Exodus story: the people start with nothing they take everything - in New Testament: people start with lots and the end with selling all around them… - financial prosperity cannot be taken to be centre of the Gospel… - the nature of blessing can change with age
· Meal: speaks of the freedom of God - represents the will and freedom of God - v.39, v.46, meals tell stories… - lamb – the substitution of your family - salad – reminds us of the bitterness of slavery - The Lord’s Supper is so central to us… - The meal tells the story: this is who you are…
· Multitude – we are invited to form a family of God - a mixed multitude, represents the family of God - it is not just Israelites, a whole bunch of people… that’s me! I had been able to join the family of God, even ‘if I am/was an oppressor’ - the Egyptians could join them if they circumcised…
· instinctively, we read as we are Israel…. YET: I need forgiveness as well, as an ‘Egyptians’, I am one of the baddies… - a ways of relief and gratitude we feel: oppressed and former oppressors, we are a mixed multitude. - If I repent, I am invited to join the family of God. We share life simply on the base of faith. - all you need is faith. Everyone is invited! = The Eucharist unites us! - Exodus is a short theology of the CHURCH…. - 1 2 3 happens through the PASSOVER MEAL - you shall not break any of its bones : John’s Gospel: they did not break his legs…
· We are adopted into the family of God
29 May - SESSION 3 - LET MY PEOPLE GO by Steve Tibbert Source: www.kingschurchlondon.org/sermons/item/313/
· Moses’ life-story = was a ‘mini-Exodus’ story · we are too familiar with the Exodus story… · Exodus ch 11 - our prayer: ‘let us not be too familiar’ · 3 different angles over the Passover: - 1 The Passover is a Victory (11:1): victory for Moses and defeat for Pharaoh (Judgement) - the sovereign hand of God knowing that Pharaoh will disobey… he is actually helping fulfil God’s salvation plan that will come in Jesus. - God is showing his power to ALL NATIONS! He alone can control life and death. He is the Creator, we are created! - We must acknowledge God as the all-powerful victorious one if we want to experience freedom - our salvation is in his hand
2 The Passover is the Gift of God - clear distinction between God and evil (in films like Star Wars, Cinderella) - it is a free gift of his grace to his chosen people: the Israelites were not ‘good people’ - in fact, they themselves should have suffered and perished… GOD ALONE IS GOOD - it is a gift that extends to us now
3 The Passover is a Remembrance - we remember the soldiers who died for their country - Kipling, ‘Lord, God of Hosts, be with us, Lest we forget – lest we forget!’ - God remembers that he acts that he redeems! ‘What I have done for you!’. When your generation dies you will not die out… - We must remember that God alone is our Redeemer.
· Sin, and Death, and Devil = are the slave masters today - the Exodus story points to a GREATER LIBERATION - On the Cross, Jesus delivers the ultimate victory - this is a gift of grace of God, social status does not save us, all of us deserve punishment for sin - God provides us with the Lamb of God, and sacrifices his own Son - This cup is the new covenant in my blood… Only by the blood of the Lamb that we are saved.
1 how the Exodus story informs my life 2 How can we see the Exodus story in our Sunday Eucharist/Communion?
SESSION 2 - GOD'S NAMES
EXODUS 2 – THE NAMES OF GOD
· EXODUS Ch 3: How God draws his people out of captivity into freedom (‘it happens to us as well’) - about the nature of God, who He is … the most important question. - Who we are ® we know it in the light of who God is - which God do you believe? ‘which God don’t you believe?’ - Robert Jenson: God raised Israel out of Egypt… Before Jesus was raised by Him - Exodus 3: ‘I am the God of your fathers…’ ‘Now the their cry comes to me.’ ‘I am who I am… I am has sent me to you.’
· Names in the Bible tell a lot about people (‘Jesus means the Lord saves’) - In British culture the meaning of names lost their meaning. We move quickly from name to function… - in the Bible = names tell a lot of the person’s character - 3 names of God, 7000 times used in the Old Testament - v.6 ‘I am the God of your fathers’, v.14 ‘I am who am’, v.15 ‘The Lord’ = reveal the character of God
· The God of Abraham, Isac and Jacob - a bush on fire that is not burning up… ‘I am the God of your fathers….’ Then Moses is in fear and hides his face. That’s the moment, the name of God brings fear – even the phenomenon of fire not - The God of the Covenant = we fear Him! The God of the covenant has adopted me§!
· v13: ‘I am who I am’ - this name alone can be spoken of God and God only, this name is entirely bound up with God only! - You are dependent, I am self existent!
· v.15 ‘The Lord’ - 6800 times, God is called, ‘the Lord’, Yahweh, - YHWH – the holy tetra-grammaton (4 letters) - The I am who I am is contracted into this small 4 letters - YHWH – LORD………………..yhwh – Adonai, it refers to God’s office…. - an important application: when we approach God do you approach God as a person or as an office - a person or an office/function to you? (The Eucharist – is a person or a function to you?)
· ENCOURAGEMENT: When we feel insufficient , we just need to know WHO he is (and not what he is) - God changes the focus! ‘Who am I’ (people are obsessed with themselves) ® Who AM I? (God is in the focus) - sometimes we are in situations when we lose sight of God (‘His giant presence’) - Please, don’t worry, who you are – I AM! I am the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isac and Jacob.
· HOW CAN WE PRAISE AND RECOGNISE GOD’S NAME – in our personal lives? (signs, actions) - and in the life of Saint Augsutine’s.
Biblical Reflections on Discipleship - Saint Paul's letter to the Philippians
'What makes a follower of Jesus? How do we learn to be like Him? We want to imitate Jesus, and obey what He commanded, but how does that actually happen? How do we grow in different areas of life? That’s where Paul’s letter to the Philippians can help us.
Philippians is a wonderful letter from which to learn about discipleship. It isn’t written to correct behaviour or doctrine (like many of Paul’s letters), but simply to express friendship, thank the church in Philippi for a gift, and talk about how Jesus shapes the ordinary Christian life. This makes it a happy letter, and a very practical one. It also includes a wide range of experiences – success and failure, hardship and victory, past and future, abundance and poverty – and considers how to find joy in Jesus in each of them.' (www.kingschurchlondon.org/disciple)
· Question: discuss – what is the difference between Christian belief and in what post-Christian British society believes?
- I do this… they do that ? not easy to tell - How Philippians engages with the issue… · Phil 1:27-2:13 - humility, servant, obedience to death, exalted by the Father: Jesus is Lord - work out your salvation with fear and trembling
· Discipleship is about Lordship: every knee must bend in front of the Lord - Jesus Christ crucified and risen is the unrivalled Master: Jesus is Lord! - a disciple joyfully submits to the Lord - He is in charge of our life
· = this is the difference! - secular message: ‘I am Lord’, I am free, I don’t have to be governed ®¬ Christian Gospel: ‘I am His!’ Jesus is Master and Lord
· Christianity is not a private issue. It is embodied in public action for the common good. - reason for clash with secularism: ‘I am mine’ ® ¬ obey the Lord - What is your only comfort in life and in death: 1 I am His! I have another master who is not me.
· The Lord is at the centre of the Philippians
· The signs of Jesus’ Lordship over us: - Unity (vs.1-2), the joy of having the same life together - Humility (vs. 3-4), we become like Him, regarding others important - Obedience (v.12); related to repentance/conversion
· We realise these over time (‘process’) - it is an instant decision + a process - discipleship is a path (gradual) = growth in sanctity, sacramental life
· the different areas of our life need to be brought under His Lordship - God gives time, it is a life-journey = the Kingdom of God is among us! - becoming Christ-like persons
· How? - 1 Participation in the Spirit (v.1) / participation in the life of the local Christian community - Holy Spirit, change me! Spirit of Jesus, transform me! - 2 Power of God (v.13) working in you: - ‘you work because God works in you’, the voice of God leads you - the Spirit of God conforms me to the likeness of Jesus - 3 Pattern of Christ (v.4-11): have the mind of Jesus Christ in you, it is yours! Imitation of Christ - Pattern of Christ, the riches theological summary in the Gospel: ‘He had everything and became nothing…God has highly exulted him!’ · Question: How we do look like Christ? · Applying it to our sacramental tradition = In the Eucharist, Christ Lordship is fully present/ with our mission
6 December (Mk 13:333-37)
• All the gospels give an account of this speech by Jesus. Jesus spoke at greater length than is recorded by any one evangelist, and each evangelist made his selection from the abundance of what Jesus said.
v.32 Now concerning that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven nor the Son, save the Father. See to it, be wakeful and be praying; for you do not know when the season is.
'‘Be on your guard, stay awake, because you never know when the time will come. '
• βλέπετε = “see to it”. What is revealed to the disciples is made plain by the next two present imperatives: 'be wakeful and praying.' The disciples are to keep their eyes open constantly to observe what is happening and how it agrees with what Jesus foretold. Constant praying is to be combined with this alertness. The contents of these prayers are to be appeals to God to keep the disciples true in faith and ready for Christ’s coming. The reason for this conduct is the fact that the disciples ('we') do not know “when the season is,” ὁ καιρός, that special, fitting period selected for Christ’s coming. Καιρός / kairos is more than just “time.” It is a smaller section of time that is marked by what is to occur in it, hence this word is generally translated “season.” 'Sacred time', the time of a good opportunity, a time of producing fruit.... 'a season for fruitful prayer', we might translate it. the uncertainty of the time of the Lord’s coming is to keep us wide awake, to call on God, and thus to be ever ready. (To 'cry to God', only a friend cries for a friend help.)
v.34: 34) Like a man gone abroad, having left his house, also having given to his slaves the authority, to each his work, commanded also the doorkeeper to watch.
• a man gone abroad = his man pictures Jesus. In Matthew 25:14: we have the participle 'in the act of going abroad' Here the picture is different in the sense that the man is described as already having 'gone abroad' This describes Jesus as having left earth and having ascended to heaven. This man has arranged his household so that he could leave for an indefinite time. But one thing he did in particular, he left strict orders for the doorkeeper to be constantly on the watch. The fact that Jesus on ascending to heaven arranged the household of his church so as to leave to each believer his special task is quite a natural thing, no one would leave without doing that. • But this command to watch for his return is a special feature, the very one that Jesus is emphasizing! this is one of the most important hallmarks of being a Christian! (We can reflect on what it means... Faithfulness, working on the unity and fellowship in our community?)
v.35 '35) Be watching therefore, for you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether at evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrowing, or in the morning; lest having come suddenly, he find you sleeping. Moreover, what I say to you, I say to all, be watching!'
• While other slaves who have other tasks appear in the illustration, Jesus wants us all to be like this doorkeeper, on the watch. The imperative, γρηγορεῖτε, is properly the present tense, for the watching is to be continuous
• The καιρός or “season”; it is now specific: the disciples do not know the time of the night in which the lord of the house will return. Which night? The night, 'darkness/stupor of the world in its continuous night?'
He speaks of himself as 'the lord of the house'
v.36 • He still retains the imagery of the night time, when a careless doorkeeper would be inclined to sleep. Come suddenly means unexpectedly, the sleeping door keeper is not ready to receive his master. The reality would be that we cease watching for Jesus, grow dull and unresponsive spiritually. This behaviour would call forth the wrath of the Lord instead of his good pleasure. Woe to those who sleep thus when the Lord of glory suddenly appears!
v.37. • As he sits on the Mount of Olives Jesus has the Twelve as his auditors. What he tells them about watching and being constantly ready is not intended for them alone but for all his followers. This shuts out the interpretation of v. 34 that the common Christians are to devote themselves to their several tasks in thechurch, and that the watching is to be done only by the leaders and pastors of the church. • But the bidding: “Be watching!” is directed to every one of us. 'faith', the quality of the community's faith, depends on all of us!
• All that is mentioned in this chapter did not, as a matter of fact, take place during the lifetime of the Twelve. This fact puts us into contact with the Resurrected Lord, so we have to take his warning, and our Advent seriously!
28 November (Christ the King) - Mt 25:31-46
v.31 • “The Son of man” who is more than man, the incarnate Second Person of the Godhead, shall come, but not in his humiliation as he once came for our redemption but “in his glory,” in the sum of the divine attributes (δόξα), in their unrestricted exercise, use, and display also by his human nature.
• Now we learnt hat “all the angels” shall be “with him,” accompanying him (μετά) at his coming. What a grandiose coming that will be! Here we see who this “Son of man” really is!
v.32 • The formalities of a court are fully observed. The word “throne” conveys the thought that this is a King come to judgment “there shall be brought before him” the angels are undoubtedly the agents The Parousia will not come until the gospel has been proclaimed as a testimony to all nations; The two group of the Gentiles: those who showed kindness to Christians (Christ's elect), and those who did not... The whole human race will be assembled for the final judgment. Through the agency of the angels the whole human race will be divided into two groups, one being placed on the right and the other on the left of the heavenly Judge. This division and this placing are already a judgment and a verdict. No human court can thus determine pardon or guilt in advance. During all these centuries sheep and goats (wheat and tares) have been intermingled, and no man could really separate them; but now at last the separation is made and shall stand forever. In Palestine the sheep and the goats are often pastured together and then divided into separate folds at night.
v.33. • The sheep are here those who do the works of faith which Jesus will recognize as having been done unto him; the goats are those who fail to produce the works of faith, whose works, whatever they are, Jesus cannot recognize as having been done unto him. Jesus makes the whole matter plain: not a single sin of the believers is mentioned in the judgment, examined, probed, and judged, only the good works of believers are named; so they are, indeed, not brought into judgment, and yet they are judged. All the sins of the unbelievers are brought forward, and on the basis of these sins they are damned forever.
v.34. • Then shall the King say to those on his right: Hither, you that have been blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom that has been made ready for you from the world’s foundation. Here is judgment, indeed, but the royal judgment of our heavenly King, which is, on the one hand, a dispensing of royal grace and favour, and on the other hand, a dispensing of justice. The address, “you that have been blessed by my Father,” is highly significant.
• Here our text is stating the agent who blessed them; their blessed state is due, not to themselves, but to the Father. The King names the ultimate source of their blessing, “my Father,” and the possessive “my” implies that the Father has blessed them through the Son. This is the work of also the Holy Spirit, the blessing comes from the Three Persons of the Godhead. The blessing has its usual meaning, an act of blessing that occurred in the past, whose effects continue to the present. When God blesses he does more than to pronounce words of blessing and praise, as we poor creatures do when we bless him; he bestows his grace with all its gifts upon us and thus makes us persons that were and still are blessed. This perfect participle refers to all that God’s grace wrought upon these people during their earthly lives. They died in this grace, and thus after they have been raised from the dead (or suddenly transformed), they are “those that have been blessed.” And their inheritance is “the kingdom.” They have thus far been crown princes, they are now to be actual, reigning kings. “The kingdom” is evidently what we call the kingdom of glory, namely heaven and its rule of glory and blessedness as distinguished from the kingdom of grace here on earth. But none of us shall be subjects in heaven, all of us shall be actual, reigning kings, reigning conjointly with Christ in heaven. Heaven will be a kingdom that is composed entirely of kings
v.35. ' For I did hunger, and you did give me to eat; I did thirst, and you did give me drink; a stranger I was, and you did take me in; naked, and you clothed me; I was sick, and you did look in upon me; in prison was I, and you did come to me. '
• This King’s judgment is one that is rendered in public, before the whole universe of angels and of men. This is different from the secret judgment that is pronounced upon each man at the moment of death. The significant point in the six works here named is that all six refer to the King himself: “I did hunger ,”“I did thirst,” etc. Each work is thus made personal as having been done to and for the King. That makes plain most clearly the inner motive that prompted these works, love for this King, the love that springs from faith in this King.
Not one grand work is listed. All these are works which even the smallest faith can easily produce. For even the smallest faith saves.
14 November (Matthew 25:13)
· v.1 'Then the kingdom of heavens shall be made like to ten virgins...'
- This 'then' places us prior to the Lord's parousia ('second return'). This parable applies to all of us during this entire time. - At the Parousia each of us will meet the Lord in the very condition in which we were when death removed us from this world. Foolish or wise, with or without oil, we shall appear when Jesus returns. - The imagery is that of a grand Jewish wedding. Groom and bride have been bethroded by the parents. This has made them man and wife. - This arrangement was unlike our engagements today in which two persons only promise to enter marriage, to become man and wife, at some future day. - on a certain evening the groom, accompanied by his friends, proceeded in a festive procession from his own or his father’s house to the home of his bride to bring her and her maiden companions to the groom’s home for the consummation of the marriage with its days of wedding festivities. - This home bringing was not connected with a marriage ceremony. The husband merely took his wife unto himself.
· In the Parousia the heavenly Bridegroom takes his bride, the true church, to his heavenly home, and the feast is held there although heaven and earth shall then be united, Rev. 21:1–5. - This explains the action of the ten virgins who took their lamps and went forth to meet the bridegroom. These were friends of the bride who went out from their homes with the necessary lamps, not to the bride’s home, but to a place that was conveniently near. - When the groom brought the bride out of her home, these virgins came forward and joined the procession with their lighted lamps and had their part in the feasting and the joy of the wedding in the groom’s house. - These λαμπάδες were vessels that contained oil. There was aplace for a round wick at one end of the vessel. They were somewhat like a torch.
· The number ten is not accidental but symbolical. It denotes completeness. Thus we have TenCommandments, ten talents (25:28), ten pieces of silver (Luke 15:8), ten servants, ten pounds, ten cities(Luke 19:13–17), an instrument of ten strings (Ps. 33:2), at least ten families needed to establish a synagogue,and ten persons for a funeral procession. These ten virgins represent all the followers of Christ during all theages. All of them “shall be made like to” these ten virgins when the Parousia of Christ occurs. - here it is the passive future, the agent being God. 'The kingdom of heaven shall be made like this'
· There is no point in finding a mystical meaning to the 'virgins' ('purity'), this is purely the image of a fine Jewish wedding.
v.5 'Now, the bridegroom delaying, they all nodded and were sleeping' - Jesus clearly intimates that he will delay his Parousia. He does not, however, indicate how long he will delay. - we should never speak as did the slave in 24:48 - the wise as well as the foolish virgins nodded. - The fathers interpreted the sleep as death, which is unavoidable because of the Lord’s delay. - The true preparation and the absence of such preparation lie farther back, in the fact that the one group has oil and the other disregards the oil. - When the call came, “Lo, the bridegroom!” the wise virgins were perfectly ready. So this sleeping pictures the security and the assurance with which the virgins awaited the bridegroom’s coming; they felt that they were perfectly ready, that they could add nothing more to their preparation. - In the case of the wise virgins this security was justified. They had lamps and oil; but in the case of the foolish virgins this security was unjustified: they had only lamps and by sleeping securely they allowed the precious time to elapse during which they might have remedied their mistake.
· it is thought that the virgins kept their lamps burning during the entire time that they were waiting for the groom, the foolish merely running out of oil at the critical moment at midnight. No; the lamps were not lighted until the bridegroom came. If they had burned from the start, the lamps of some of the foolish would have gone out quite soon, and their lack of oil would have been discovered.
v.6 Now at midnight a cry has come: Lo, the bridegroom! Be going out to meet him! Then all those virgins arose and arranged their lamps. But the foolish said to the sensible, Give us some of your oil, because our lamps are going out. But the sensible answered, saying: Nevermore! In no wise will it suffice for us and for you. Be going rather to those that sell and buy for yourselves. And while they were going away to buy, the bridegroom came; and those ready went in with him to the wedding, and the door was shut. - The signs of the Parusia will trigger out the cry: Jesus uses the dramatical historical present perfect γέγονεν which brings out the suddenness of the cry (R. 897): “a cry has come”
v.7. - Now all the virgins arise in great haste. All of them think they are ready. - The verb ἐκόσμησαν means sie schmueckten, they made beautiful their lamps by lighting them so that they would burn with a clear, bright flame. Jesus does not need to say what trouble the foolish virgins had with their lamps.
v.8. - We hear this from these virgins themselves. They are without oil. They beg oil from the wise “because our lamps are going out.” They earnestly tried to light them, but the dry wicks caught only for a moment andthen went out
v.9. - The answer the wise give to the foolish virgins is parabolic language for the fact that it is now too late. 'Nevermore!' - “In no wise will it suffice for us and for you” is the exact truth. Every believer has no more of spiritual grace and power than he needs for himself. It is impossible to divide this grace. - Romanists interpret the oil as being good works but then get into difficulty because of this passage, for it declares that no person has enough good works to turn some of them over to others as works of supererogation. Thus the foolish virgins are caught by this impossibility. When it is too late, we resort to impossible appeals in vain.
· 'Go and buy': Those that sell are Moses and the prophets in the Scriptures, the only source of saving grace and power (Luke 16:29). This advice to go and to buy is sound and good, but it is too late to act on it now when the bridegroom is actually coming.
v. 10) The parable shows how true this is. The foolish virgins make a frantic effort to buy after it is too late. - After the wedding procession had entered the house, “the door was shut.”
v. 11· · Now, afterward the rest of the virgins come, saying, Lord, lord, open for us! But he, answering, said, Amen, I say to you, I do not know you! - These foolish virgins disregard the oil to the last. They are the people who have despised grace and have thought that they could enter glory without grace. Even when they ran after grace too late they had no appreciation of grace. “Open to us!” to us who come without the grace that admitted the others! v.12: Many carelessly let the day of grace pass by until it is too late. · v.13 The final word is not a summary of the parable. Be watching, therefore ,because you do not know the day or the hour. -The pivotal words of the parable are “foolish” and “sensible,” and these two center in the “oil”(grace). This verse is really an epilog. It emphasizes our utter ignorance of the day and of the hour of Christ’sfinal coming (24:36). This is why we must constantly be watching. Our watching means that we mustconstantly look to ourselves, to be ever ready, to be ever rich in grace so that, when the day and the hourarrive, there may be no question as to our being received.
17 October (Matthew 22:1-22)
29 A (Matthew 22:1-14)
· We have the same story both in Matthew and Luke’s Gospel - In Matthew the story is considerably less lifelike, whereas Luke’s story seems to spring straight from Palestinian daily life.
· The setting is a royal wedding feast. Invitations had been sent out to the notables among the city-dwellers, and when the day came the king, following the courteous custom of the time, sent his servants to inform the guests that all was ready and conduct them to the palace. - But they wold not come! No reason is given for the disloyal and rude behaviour. At this point the story becomes frankly implausible. - Why should the king, after receiving the first affront, have demeaned himself still further by sending a second set of servants with a renewed invitation? - And why should the invited guests then attacked them brutally, and killed them? - As a story, the sequence of events is fantastic. But as an allegory, it has a logic of its own.
·The wedding feast was a familiar image for the kingdom of glory promised to the elect people of God. ‘Servants’, the prophets, had been repeatedly sent to invite the guests to prepare themselves, but had been ignored, or maltreated, or killed. - As a result, Jerusalem (as the prophets had foretold) had been taken and destroyed (once by the Assyrians centuries before, and now, shortly before Matthew’s Gospel was written, by the Romans.) - The story is far clearly is the allegory of these things.
· But what of the wedding-feast? Was God’s purpose now frustrated, and his promise void? The story continues as if only an hour had passed. ‘The guests I invited did not deserve the honour’, but there are others to whom it can be offered instead!
- ‘Go to the byroads’ = the Greek means literally the places where the narrow city streets debouch into public sauares and open country places, that is, the place where people congregate. (‘King’s Cross, Euston, Victoria….’)
· It was a fact, both of Jesus’ own practice and of the missionary experience of the church, that the gospel, after its rejection by the Jewish leaders, was offered to a much wider public, good and bad alike!
· V.11. ‘When the king came in to see the company at table….’ - The story goes on, but the sequel is again quite implausible. - How could those who had just been ‘collected’ from the streets have been expected to provide themselves with wedding clothes?
·The Kingdom of Heaven is like a royal wedding-feast: and woe to him who does not properly prepared (with repentance? with righteous deeds?). - The penalty will be exclusion: and on the last day the consequence will be hell, and all its traditional horror. - The essential thing is to be among the few who are chosen.
26th September (Matthew 20:1-16) - In this session we talked a lot about why we Christians should take more seriously the observances of our faith.
· The ‘kingdom is the rule’ and operation of God’s grace - The story reflects what occurs in God’s rule of grace.
· This lord, as the lord of household develops his vineyard with a special care. - Here the point is the dealing of the owner with his laborers. - The owner is grand and wealthy - He (The Heavenly Father) does not do the work himself, it is wholly turned over to Christ, the work is done by Christians, who are called and appointed to this work.
- Although he has his steward he calls and hires the laborers himself and has so great a personal interest in his vineyard that he goes out ‘at once’ at early morning to hire laborers.
· The first laborers manifest a mercenary spirit. The offered wage, a denarius, constituted the regular wage of a day laborer, also the day’s pay of a Roman soldier. - They want to receive more pay than the rest. Jesus lets this group alone work the entire day.
· What does the denarius mean in the parable? 1 Jesus? 2 The image of God? We should not really focus on this… - No person who enters the church and accepts the call to work in this church shall be left without their due pay.
· The laborers who were hired from the third to the eleventh hour. None of them murmurs. - The hours can be interpreted as ‘the hours in salvation history’, beginning with the era of the kingdom beginning with Adam and extending to the apostles, or the conversion of the Gentiles. - All the ages of the Christian church are placed into this one day.
· The call of God is always the same. -Even the first will be the last if they work in the kingdom with the spirit voiced by Peter, ‘Whet shall we get for what we do’. What is ‘right’… - The owner does not stay in the market place all day. We are called when God is ready not when we decide to be called. · Why are you standing idle? Eleven hours out of twelve wasted… Through a fault of theirs they will be able to do so little for the kingdom! If God had not gone out at this late hour… these laborers would never had accomplished anything.
19th September (Mt 18:21-35) In today's session, we learned that forgiving is also about learning from our past mistakes. We don't want the past to repeat itself either by us, or by those who hurt us.
· The old Jewish teaching was that that three times of forgiving was enough. Peter more than doubles this limit and thus reveals that he has progressed under his Master’s teaching.
· ‘Not, I say to thee, up to seven times, but seventy seven times’. · He takes Peter’s breath away by calling for no less than 70x70 remissions, a number that is so great that keeping such a count would be almost impossible. His meaning evidently is that we are to forgive all wrongs done to us, no matter how many they are.
· Jesus makes things clear by one of his finest parables. - wherever God exercises his grace through Christ, there this heavenly kingdom is found in all its blessed power. - Under an Oriental king, great lords though they were in their own right, they would be subject to his absolute authority and would thus be nothing but the king’s servants. So the parable does not refer to ordinary slaves….
· It is an incredible huge amount of money. This was a revenue for a whole region. - The debtor immediately breaks down completely when he realizes its enormity. These good effects of humbling himself were produced in him not by himself but by the king and the king’s just reckoning. Before the king drew him to account, he had no conscience, does not feel the debt, and would have gone right along, making more debt. So it is with us…
· Jesus/the King gives time to the sinner to realise the enormity of his guilt/debt.
Tuesday, 5th September (Mt 16:21-27). In today's session, in our personal reflections, we understood that following Christ is not running ahead of him, nor being legged behind. Following him is progressing with him side-by-side! It was also great to pray it through that regardless of the ups and downs in our lives, Christ has completed his journey and is waiting for us at the end of our shared Cross-Road.
One great task had been accomplished: the disciples had been brought to the full realization of the divine person of Jesus as Peter voiced this conviction for the Twelve in his great confession (v. 16). Another task had to be finished: the disciples had to be made to understand the redemptive work Jesus was about to complete.
· ow he speaks of it in the plainest terms
· v.21. ‘From then on Jesus began to show to his disciples that he must go away to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and high priests and scribes and be killed and on the third day be raised up.’ The ‘must’ follows from the divine purpose revealed in Scripture, especially in Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53.
- Both passages speak of victory only won through agony, and the latter of a work of atonement.
- A Christ who could not deal with sin would not be a Christ who could really save. As far as we know the identification of the Christ with the Suffering Servant of God was first definitely made by our Lord Himself, though it was already implied by the divine voice at His baptism.
- These things “must” take place, and Jesus himself wills that they shall, for without them he could not redeem the world. - He himself will again go away to Jerusalem, to the very capital itself, where the real center of hostility against him had been formed. The Jews would not need to follow him, to arrest him in some distant locality, he himself would place himself into their hands. Jerusalem would be the place of his sacrifice. - Jesus knew what these “many things” were. The prophets had foretold them in all their terribleness, and Jesus knew even more fully just what they included. Despite their number their severity would in no way be softened. In the many things Jesus was to suffer we may well see the reflection of the many sins he bore, which in his great Passion hymn on the thorn-crowned head of Christ Paul Gerhardt likens to the grains of sand upon the seashore. - Jesus exactly names who will inflict his sufferings upon him. The Sanhedrin was the highest judicial body of the Jewish nation, more representative than the high priest alone. -“The elders” were the old, experienced men of the nation who had served as judges in the local courts and, due to their prominence, had risen to membership in the highest court. - It was not justice on the part of the Jewish tribunal but the gravest kind of injustice: judicial murder ® R:
· The ‘rise again’, when the disciples heard it, was not immediately understood in the sense of his bodily resurrection. For them, when they heard it, it implied other forms or recovery besides bodily resurrection. When they heard it, the apostles did not have any expectation of our Lord’s bodily resurrection. - However, Jesus knows things clearly. “On the third day” is so important because it foretells the exact time. Jesus would be raised up, not at some indefinite future time, but already on the third day. Jesus sees the future with a direct vision; for none of the prophets had foretold this third day.
· In later rabbinical thought, there is an interesting ‘parallel’: God does not allow the righteous man to remain in distress for more than three days (a rabbinical saying.)
v.23 · Peter, who is to speak for the Lord, may speak for Satan. ‘Satan’ may be found in him as well as Christ. ® This is a great symbol of our personality, when it is in maturation towards a fuller recognition of truth. - Here the Lord recognizes the old temptation to seek to attain His Messianic destiny without the Cross. His words recall his message to Satan when he was first tempted…when he met the suggestions of evil. - What lay in the little word δεῖ, “must,” namely the necessity of the atoning, cleansing blood of the Messiah, Peter did not at all grasp. His mind brushed that aside and thought of the Messiah as God’s Son who needed only to stretch out the hand of his power in order to achieve his great rule and kingdom among men. - To this day, all who fail to see the damning power of sin are blind to the true necessity of the cross. - ‘Get behind me, Satan’: get behind me = get out of my sight! - Unwittingly Peter had made himself an agent of Satan. What a warning to watch our love, our good intentions, our best acts, lest, perhaps after all, they agree with Satan and not with Christ!
v.24. · To deny oneself is much more than to deny particular pleasures to oneself. - it is to treat oneself as Peter treated Christ, to renounce all allegiance to oneself. - Self-denial is self-renunciation, not a seeking for the Cross but an acceptance of it in whatever form it may be given.
· The one to be denied is hereἑαυτός, SELF, self altogether and not merely some portion, some fault, some special habit or desire, some outward practice. The natural, sinful self is referred to as it centers in the things of men and has no desire for the things of God.
- Jesus will bear his cross, one which he alone could bear. In regard to his disciples he says that each is to bear his cross, i.e., the particular one allotted to him. - Let no one think of changing the course of Jesus which leads to the cross but only of following him with our cross.
Tuesday, 29th August (Mt 16:13-20) - 'You are the Christ, Son of the Living God' - 'You are Peter!'
This session was very thought provoking. Our text's ending, 'You are Peter, and upon this rock I will erect my Church', prompted us to reflect on 'the holding centres' of the Church. We realised that a Creed, and its contents, are necessary to have a distinct Christian identity. We also reflected on that verbal confession needs to be in balance with our deeds!
21 OT (Mt 16:13-20)
· John the Baptist is murdered · ‘You are the Christ, the Son of God the living’: Jesus is asking for a confession on the part of his disciples. He asks for a true confession of heart. Any other confession is falsehood. - Deeds and practice is the trues confession, our confession by life must harmonize by the confession of lips. v.16 · Peter speaks on behalf of the Twelve. Matthew uses his full name, ‘Simon Peter’. Jesus addresses his community, ‘the Church’… - You are the Christ: the, the only one. ‘Christ’, the Anointed = denotes ceremonial or sacred anointing, he is the Messiah, the One Anointed. This refers to the great office which God commissioned Jesus. · Peter confesses Jesus to be the Son of God. Not a human Messiah. All that the disciples saw in the life, words, and deeds of Jesus revealed to them the Second Person of the Godhead in the man Jesus. v.17: ‘Blessed are you, Simon, son of John, because flesh and blood did not reveal it to you myt my Father in the Heavens.’ - This response is filled with the divine spiritual blessing, the possession of the essential soul treasure which produces eternal happiness and joy. Truly to know, believe, and confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God the living, makes a man ‘blessed’. - This does not apply to Peter alone but equally to the Twelve. - The name ‘Simon, son of John’, Bar-Jonah, significantly points to what Peter was by nature. Over against his natural powers and abilities Jesus intends to place his new spiritual gifts. His original name is his natural state of being a disciple, like the others. By the grace of God he avoided natural thinking, ‘flesh and blood’, and hence his blessedness. - Peter’s confession is in no way the product of his reason, his intellect. The Hebrew expression basar wadam describes man in his mortal state of weakness and fallibility. Here Jesus has in mind Peter’s onw flesh and blood. To make a confession as this requires far more. - What Peter revealed was an impenetrable mystery to human reason. Actually, to realise in the man Jesus the presence of Christ and Son of God requires more than sinful flesh and blood… This realization is produced by revelation.
· v.18. ‘I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock will I build my church, and hades, gates shall not prevail against it.’ - Jesus also makes a mighty statement, which goes far further. ‘I, too, say to you that you are Peter’. You shale be called Cephaes, the rockman. - By his confession, Peter is qualified for that name. It is essential to note that the masculine petros denotes a detached rock or boulder, and that the feminine petra signifies a rocky cliff. Petros, the person of Peter, is ‘this rock’ · Debate: is Peter the rock? Is his faith, shared by others, is the rock?
Tuesday, 22 August (Matthew 15:21-28)
We found this session particularly useful. As a practical outcome, we learned, that our faith time and again needs this genuine conversation with Jesus. These are moments when we request the increase of our faith, and with honesty, we bring to Him our most pressing needs and thoughts. We acknowledge, who He is, as Son of God, we glorify Him... We know that our issues will be sorted out in due time, and in the ways, which is God's vision, yet, we need to articulate our needs. This honesty to God, and to one's needs, is what we can learn from the Canaanite woman.
· And lo, a Canaanite woman, having come out from those borders, cried out, saying: Show me mercy, Lord, son of David! My daughter is badly demon-possessed.
- ‘Lo’ pictures the scene as being remarkable. Even here in this distant section Jesus and his miraculous power are known! - Matthew writes to readers of Jewish descent, and uses ‘Canaanite’ recalling the Old Testament account that the Jews had not completely exterminated the Canaanites as God had commanded. This women was a descendant of that old pagan race.
- Jesus and his disciples had probably just dined in the house. He was not doing anything publicly, he retired into the house. - The woman cried out. She begs for an act of mercy, and always means pity for the suffering, for the sad and painful consequences resulting from sin and our sinful state. - She begs for the act of mercy for herself, hut her sad state is due to the terrible state of her little daughter who is demon possessed. - When the woman combines ‘Lord’ with ‘Son of David’, she understand ‘Lord’ in the higher sense as being in fact the Messianic title. She plainly reveals that she has knowledge of the Messianic hopes of Israel and had heard that they were being connected with Jesus as the promised descendant of King David. - She was Greek in terms of religion (see Mark’s Gospel). It is not necessary to regard her as a convert to Juddaism, simply knowledge come to her about the work of Jesus. - She surely had tried the remedies offered in her neighborhood for her daughter’s recovery, all of which had proved ineffective. Then she heard of Jesus how he expelled demons with a mere word from poor sufferers like her daughter.
v.23. But he did not answer her a word.And his disciples, having come forward, kept requesting him, saying, Dismiss her, for she is yelling from behind us.
- The picture presents Jesus walking on in silence, the woman following him with frantic cries. - The verb denotes respectful asking. One after the other the disciples come up to Jesus and joins in this request. - The disciples had never seen Jesus deny anyone pleading for help… Jesus did not want his presence to become know, but the outcries of this woman were bound to attract public attention. It was quite a scene for thirteen man to walk along with a woman shouting ‘from behind them’.
v.24 He, however, answering said, I was not commissioned save to the sheepthat have been lost of Israel’s house. - Since Jesus is about to cross the boundary of the Holy Land and to go into Gentile territory, he did not want to give the impression that his ministry is transferred from the Jews to the Gentiles. - The divine plan was to work out the miracles of life among and redemption in the Jewish nation. - That is why Jesus delays and explains them in advance in the most impressive way and does not postpone the explanation until after the woman has gone.
- When he calls the Jews ‘sheep’, all his love and kindness toward this nation is revealed. He thus also denominates himself as their true shepherd.
v.25. But she, having come, was worshiping him, saying, Lord, be helping me!
- While Jesus was answering the disciples, the woman found her way to the feet of Jesus, prostrated herself in utter humility and deepest appeal, and begged for his help.
v.26. But he, answering, said, It is not an excellent thing to take the bread of the children and to throw it to the little pet dogs. - Jesus does not say ‘dogs’, as many translations do, but ‘little dogs’, pet-dogs. Such dogs as are kept in the house as pets. This difference is vital. In the Orient dogs have no owners but run wild and act as scavengers for all garbage and offal. Such ‘dogs’ the Jews called all Gentiles. They were unclean in every way, always to be avoided. No Oriental dogs were ever allowed to be in the house. - Jesus refers as little pet dogs to the Gentiles! His work and blessing is for the children of Israel, not ‘for the pet dogs’. This is for the children of the chosen nation! - The pet dog is given its food in a different way. The word thus is not nearly as hard … Jesus must work out his mission among the Jews!
v.27. But she said, Yea, Lord; for the little pet dogs, too, eat some of the little crumbs that keep falling from the table of their lords. - The woman’s answer is wonderful in every way. He wholeheartedly accepts that Jesus is sent only to the Jews in his Messianic mission. She consents to it very profoundly.
v.28. Then, answeringJesus said to her, O woman, great is thy faith! Let it be to thee as thou wilt. And healed was her daughter from that very hour
- Now Jesus grants her prayer. The greatness of this woman’s faith is praised by Jesus. It lies not in its strength and its intensity which overcome obstacles set up by Jesus… The greatness lies in submissively accepting the Divine Plan.
Tuesday, 23 May. (John 14:15-21)
Jesus’ departure invites the disciples to reflect on the love with which they love their Master. He expects our love. And this is the love of intelligent comprehension and purposeful devotion, not mere liking and personal preference. The Bible uses a special word for this love, agape.
Jesus expects our love. Jesus expects this specific love, agapé. This is the precondition of being a Christian. This is the precondition of being a disciple. ‘If you love me’: this if bids the disciples to question themselves whether they have it and show it as they should. ‘If you love me’ means ‘if you are loving’ in constancy!
· The love between us and Jesus is indeed not a mere emotion. It is a covenant, a commitment. ‘If you love me, my precepts will you guard.’ That is, ‘if you faithfully preach concerning me, have my Word and Sacrament laid upon you, keep love and unity among yourselves for my sake, and suffer with patience whatever on this account comes upon you…’ Jesus expects from us a watchful care, to cherish our relationship with him, and to hold our love as a treasure.
An extra dimension of this love: the Holy Spirit as our Advocate
Jesus calls the Spirit ‘another Paraclete’. He was the first ‘Paraclete’ of the disciples when he walked in their midst. The word is often used in the sense of ‘advocate’ in a court of justice. Saint John’s Gospel in this sense speaks of Jesus as our Advocate when we sin. In the ancient world (Roman and Greek world) the word ‘Advocate’ was used with reference to a friends of the accused, who personally urge the judge to decide in his favour. · The Spirit, as the Paraclete takes the place of Jesus at the side of the disciples. He brings all things to their remembrance which Jesus said to them. - It is plain that the disciples do not call this Paraclete (Advocate, Comforter) to their side. The Father and Jesus call him to the disciple’s side. They send him. · The Holy Spirit is not simply one who represents our case before God. Rather, he is attending to God’s case before us. Our love needs a ‘heart’, which pumps faith into our lives. Thus, the Holy Spirit is one like Jesus who revealed God to the disciples, who showed them the Father, and who led them to the Father. With the departure of Jesus the Spirit will assume and continue this work. - This Spirit tells us the truth, whom the world cannot perceive. The Holy Spirit is the bearer of divine and saving truth… the knowledge that is necessary to salvation.
· In this way, Jesus reveals us the mystery of the Trinity. This is the greatest mystery of faith… Even if it is impossible to exhaust its meaning, yet we know God whom we worship as Trinity, as Three Persons in one God, has to do something with this depth of Christian love. There is an extra-dimension to love which only we, Christians can know.
‘You yourselves know him’: Jesus himself had planted the Spirit in the hearts of his disciples: their experience of the Spirit had begun. And yet all their contact with the Spirit had been only through Jesus. ® This is where the great change would come in the departure eof jesus and in the coming of the Spirit.
· v.18: ‘I will not leave you orphans…I am coming to you.’ - Jesus will not leave them orphans because after his leaving he himself will come back to them. Only a little while will they be orphaned. - What coming does Jesus refer to? = The death of Jesus means his return, a return for a higher and richer union than before his death and union. This return is connected with the Spirit. - After his resurrection, the appearances of Jesus to his disciples after his resurrection, take place in the power of the Holy Spirit. These appearances are not the real fulfilment of ‘I am coming to you’. Yet, the intimate relationship between Jesus and the Holy Spirit is already revealed in this ‘transitory period’. - ‘I am coming to you’ also means that the disciples that after his death they will have and will enjoy more than they had before. They will have the Spirit with all that the Spirit is able to do on the strength of the completed redemptive work of Jesus. Moreover they will also have Jesus in a far higher manner, using all his divine attributes, in a spiritual presence.
v.18. - And this will occur very soon. ‘Yet a little while and the world no longer beholds me, but you do behold me.’ - The world is capable only of physical sight. Over against the world Jesus places the disciples: but you do behold me! - There is a strong contrast between the physical sight and seeing with spiritual eyes.
‘Because I myself live you, too, shall live’: Jesus says that because he lives the disciples, too, shall live. - With both Jesus and the disciples living, they will have no difficulty in beholding him. - Their relationship to Jesus is far more than ‘beholding’. This is why Jesus can send them the Paraclete, why he does not leave them orphans, why he comes to them.
· ‘I myself am the life’: Jesus lives though he dies: he is the very Life itself, which even swallows up death. And this is the absolute guarantee that the disciples ‘shall live’. - Jesus speaks of this life of his as made a fountain of life through his incarnation and his redemptive death for all who become his disciples by faith!
·v.20 ‘In that day you shall know that I myself am in my Father, and you yourselves in me, and I myself in you. ’
- In that day refers to Pentecost. The Father gives Pentecost, and the Paraclete, when when Jesus ‘comes’. - The disciples will realise when the Spirit descends upon them that with whom they had walked in his humiliation, whom they had seen risen in the power from the dead, is indeed true God, one with the Father. - and the disciples themselves will be cleansed, purified, filled with new life and power, joined to Jesus with spiritual bonds in the blessed unio mystica.
Tuesday, 9 May 2017. Jesus' Testimony Concerning His Flock, John 10:1-21
The Pharisees posed themselves as men who ‘see’ and who ‘know’ over against the common people who ‘do not know’ the Law, and whom they thus look down upon as accursed. - Among them we find the despised beggar: ‘and dost thou teach us’ (9:34) - In reality, they were pseudo-teachers and pseudo-leaders.
· And Jesus continued teaching in a parable (mashal)…It was a mode of teaching deviating from the usual way; a teaching containing a hidden sense. - A paroimia describes actions as they are known regularly to occur (the shepherds always uses the door; the robber always avoids the door and climbs over the wall)
· ‘We see!’. This is the claim of the Pharisees. Jesus puts them to the test. He presents a simple, lucid mashal. Do they see? Not in the least. - To tell them that they are blind makes no impression on them. - He does not expect them to see. Yet by the very strangeness of the parable it remains in the memory and long after challenges the mind to penetrate to the true meaning. [· Receiving the Sacraments, particularly, the Eucharist has a similar ‘healing function’. In them, the whole story of the Bible is packed in a condense way, like a hologram-image.
v.1. · This brief mashal is perfect in every respect. Its obvious sense is quite axiomatic, so also is the higher reality which it describes. - The picture is that of a sheepfold, a walled or fenced enclosure, wherethe sheep are kept at night, while during the day they are led out to pasture. - The vital point is the action of the two persons in regard to the door of the fold. - He who shuns the door and gets in some other way, such as by climbing over the wall, that man (eikos) is a thief who means to steal what does not belong to him, or a robber who would obtain by violence what belongs to another. ® ¬ In contrast to a man of this kind he who uses the door to get to the sheep is a shepherd of the sheep. His action shows that he stands in the relation of a shepherd to the sheep.
v.3. · At this point the parable already might be regarded as being complete. ® But Jesus extends the picture to make still clearer the great difference between the true shepherd and the man who is anything but that. - ‘To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and he leads them out.’ - From the night we move to the morning. The door is naturally guarded by a keeper. We now see why the thieving robber, who comes at night, avoids the door. - One who is a shepherd not only uses the door as a matter of course, he is also admitted there, known as a shepherd by the doorkeeper. [·There is such an emphasis on knowing. A synonym for understanding our faith and our God.
- The sheep know him, they ‘hear’ or recognise his voice. - In the early morning, when it is still perhaps dark, a shepherd, coming to get his sheep, calls to them as he enters, and they know him by his voice. [· Such a parable of our ‘foggy age’, when in a culture of post-truth and alternative facts it is difficult discern TRUTH.
· The parable’s explanation gets really interesting here. Several shepherds use the fold for the night. So each one calls his own sheep in his own way. A beautiful touch is added: ‘by name’, one name after the other. For he has a name for each of his sheep to which it trustfully responds. So at early down he leads his own little flock forth… [· In the image there is an important spiritual and moral task for the local community: to pay prime attention to each other’s story.
v.4. · When he has pushed all his own out he goes before them and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. - As each sheep responds to its name, the shepherd takes hold of it, sees that it is his own, and pushes it out. When all are out, he walks ahead, and the little flock follows at his heels. This is how the shepherd uses the door (respecting the animals’ trust) - The relationship is mutual: he knows every one of them.
· More than this: they know ‘his voice’ ® See how this word ‘voice’ is repeated in v.3,4, and 5. How do we believers know Jesus?By his voice as we hear it in his Word, and in receiving the Sacraments, particularly the Eucharist.
·v5. - The contrast with any other man who is not the shepherd is now brought out. - But a stranger they will not follow. On the contrary they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers. - The stranger is like the thief or the robber. - The picture is now that of the sheep grazing, some being scattered at a distance from the shepherd. The moment a stranger approaches and tries to reassure them with his voice, the sheep not only will not follow him, they will even turn and flee from him. - It is more than a reference to the future. The tense of the word is not merely futuristic but volitive: they will not follow, they will flee. - There are many who seek to steal the sheep. There is only one shepherd. [· Orthodoxy = which heals, nourishes, shelters.
v.6. · they did not realize what the things were which he was telling them. - the contrast is: ‘Jesus - they’ - The Pharisees who declared to ‘see’ they completely fail to comprehend.
v.7. · Jesus used this parable to show all present that the Pharisees were indeed utterly blind. - This teaching is so shocking and powerful that there is a chance that it may eventually penetrate and enlighten. - If they do not see, this is a judgement upon them.
· For those who see, the parable reveals the truth still more and opens the eyes of the heart more fully. [· Again: the ‘restorative’ and healing function of our Sacraments. - The purpose of grace is thus combined with judgement. Which is to prevail in the end is decided by the heart of those upon whom the truth is bought to act with its power.
· Jesus repeats his message: Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. - This is an authoritative statement, his whole divine being is behind his words.
v.8. · Jesus brings the history down to the present Jewish leaders: All, as many as came before me, are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. - Moses, the prophets, and other godly leaders used ‘the door’, the promised Messiah. - He points to those who control the second Temple at present. Only self-seeking leaders appeared.
v.9. By me if anyone shall enter, he shall be safe and shall go in and go out and shall find pasture. - ‘By me’: by Him. Whereas Jesus before speaks of the past as it extends to the present, he now starts with the present and looks into the future (‘shall enter’.) The past is done with and cannot be changed. What happens from now on is a delightful promise: ‘Use the door, use the door! Then all will be well!’ - ‘By me if anyone shall enter’: all shall be saved, rescued from sin and damnation.
· This promise also includes the condition that results to be safe. - ‘They shall find pasture’ =it marks Jesus as a shepherd whose concern is the welfare of the sheep. The thief and robber act far otherwise.
v.10 · Jesus paints the black picture of the thief. The thief does not come except to steal and to slaughter and to destroy. - The last verb is added to bring out the disastrous effect upon the poor sheep: it is destroyed.
· Now Jesus completes his interpretation of the parable. The coming of the thief for his nefarious purpose is contrasted with the coming of Jesus and his blessed purpose. ‘I came, in order that they may have life and may have abundance.’ - This statement is literal. - ‘I came’ means: from heaven into this world (9:39, 8:23; 3:17) - Others keep coming to destroy. The purpose of Jesus is to bestow life.
· In this last statement, Jesus tells us literally what he means by calling himself ‘the door’ in relation to the sheep. He is the mediator of life with all its abundant blessings. - All who approach the sheep by the door and remain in proper relation to the door are true shepherds, because they employ the mediation of Jesus. All others who reject this mediation are branded as thieves and robbers.
[· We can apply the metaphor of the ‘door’ as synonym for the Sacraments. Sacraments are visible signs of God’s invisible grace (life). The ‘Sacramental Tradition’ can be very proud to have such a firm Biblical grounding of Jesus’ presence and voice.
Tuesday, 2 May· 2017: On the Road to Emmaus (Lk 24,13-30) Resource: R.C.H. Lenski, Commentary on the New Testament
v.13. ‘And lo, two of them on that day were going to a village’: ‘lo’ pertains to the entire account which is so astonishing. - The distance: to go to and to return to this place, which is difficult to locate today, was four hours…
v.14 - The subject of the conversation that occupied these two was not merely the report of th resurrection but all that had occurred in these days. - They are deeply lost in this conversation. - Then, from a few paces to the rear of them, Jesus himself drew up and began to walk together with them in the most natural way as one traveller joins a pair of others on the road. - This is the first appearances of the risen Saviour that Luke records. - During these forty days after the resurrection Jesus came and went as he desired. So he was here on the road where he wished to be.
v.16 - The disciples eyes ‘were held’ so that they did not recognise Jesus. The passive word connotes God as agent, just as when ‘their eyes were completely opened.’ - In Mark’s Gospel we read that Jesus appeared ‘in a different form’ (morphe), which means different from the form in which he appeared to Mary Magdalane in the garden of the tomb (Mark 16:9) - Jesus’ each appearance was naturally made in such a way as to fit the time, the place, and the persons concerned. Here Jesus appears as a fellow traveller.
v.17. - The question Jesus raised was put after he had for a while listened to the animated discussion. - They were ‘questioning’ each other, and ‘exchanging’. It implies that each disciple was putting questions to the other which neither could answer. - We should not regard Jesus’ inquiry as a pretence on his part. This was simply that the disciples state their problem to him as directly as possible that he might solve it for them in a perfectly objective way.
- But the disciples were quite taken aback and looked at Jesus with displeased surprise and astonishment. The words of the Scripture here means that they looked at him with ‘darkened faces’, hence ‘sullen’. ‘Sad’ is not enough, and ‘perplexed’ is incorrect. It is better say thay had ‘a gloomy countenance.’ - It is better to translate that they ‘stopped’, actually, they ‘stood’ in their surprise.
v.18 - Jesus is described by them as an ‘outsider’, an outsider living in Jerusalem so entirely off to himself and ‘all alone’, without contact with anybody. [as if telling to a Londoner, ‘what is Buckingham Palace for?’]
· ‘What things?’ - Jesus wanted that these two disciples should express themselves fully and thus enable Jesus to clear up the perplexing things for them, regarding his death and Resurrection. - They call Jesus the Nazarene, to distinguish him. - They regarded him as a prophet, powerful in work and word in the presence of God and of all the people (Israel) ® They thought that God himself approved of this powerful prophet, ust as the people as a whole did so.
v.20 - The Sanheddrin crucified him, and human betrayal ‘delivered him up’ ® The agents are humans!
v.21 - ‘We however’ ® They were very close to Jesus. He was the hope of the whole of Israel!
v.22. - The verb never means merely to ‘save’ or ‘to deliver’. - Interesting interpretation: these disciples thought that Jesus would ransom Israel in spite of his death and perhaps through his death! When they say this, Jesus was already dead for four days… - How this ransoming would take place, it was not entirely clear for the disciples.
- The very tone with which Jesus begins, one of pained surprise and plain rebuke, shows that the same great person is speaking with authority and convincing power although he is unrecognised at the time. ‘O dullards’ reproves their intelligence and intelligence. - Unbelief often lays claim to great intellectual powers andpenetration…. These two should have known their Scriptures better…
- ‘Slow of heart’ = slow to believe what the OT prophesized. They believe only some of the things about the Messiah who would come and establish his kingdom. But they did not believe all that had been written. This slowness is the lack of intelligence… - Moreover, the real trouble is the heart, of which the intelligence is only one faculty, and thus of is the seat of the personality, of the thinking, the feeling, and especially also the willing. ® The full rebuke falls on their ‘slow heart’. ‘Slow’ means sluggish, unresponsive to the prophetic words that ought to awaken faith. (See how Jerusalem resisted to the last of fully embracing the coming Messiah.)
v.26. - The Jews believed in the fulfilment of OT prophecies, Jesus lets this programme run through their minds fully… He lets the power of the truth of these prophecies fall on their hearts in order finally to produce faith.
v.27 · ‘to suffer and enter into his glory’ constitute a unit! A misunderstanding arises when one is made subordinate to the others.
‘Abide together with us’, in our company! - It is easy to see why. This is already the desire, voice, and feeling of all sincere disciples toward Jesus to this day. - We also feel the need of Jesus, of his invisible yet no less real presence (also, this is the dynamic of his ‘sacramental presence’)
v.30 - The table was set for an evening meal, and Jesus had reclined for dining in the Jewish fashion. - The strange fact is that Jesus did not act as a guest but as a host! Jesus acted as a teacher, and the disciples as his pupils. - Jesus breaks the bread: it was always divided by braking and not by cutting - But in the act of giving it over to them, they were taking it from his hands… in that moment their eyes were opened. - This is the nature of the Sacrament: it is broken off in the very first act of it and never completed.
- A veil has fallen from their eyes. Now in this wonderful moment they recognised him fully.
· The place where he lay a moment ago was empty. This too was highly necessary for the disciples. They must realize that while Jesus was alive after his soul and his body had been reunited he was not to enter and to continue the old, earthly life in which they had known him so long. He had entered a news state. This ‘new state’ is worth contemplating. Is it the ‘state of mission’ for us… always drawing, always attracting, always sending, always inspiring us?
Tuesday, 4th April. The miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead. PART ONE (Jn 11,20-27)
· Christ’s present visit to Bethany occurred shortly before his Passion and his miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead hastened the conspiracy which brought about his own death.
· We can recall the first visit to the house of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. There the scene was serene and beautiful. Many artists depicted the scene. Here the shadow has fallen…, death has left a great void and sadness behind. - A familiar scene from our lives, when suddenly the sad news of a relative’s death breaks… If we recall these moments of pain, we are right at the very heart of today’s Gospel. - There, at the first visit, something needful was spoken of by Christ, needful of course, for all time: ‘One thing is needed for the soul, and Mary has chosen the better part…’ - Here a special hour of need has arrived, and the very thing Jesus then offered now appears as the only thing that can stay and support the soul.
· Our attention in this text is focused upon Christ himself. There is a shadow in Bethany, and shadow is deepening around Christ himself. But in the midst of it he stands forth before our eyes in heavenly light. In all this world of sin and death, and with tall the mower of death emanating from sin directed against him… He is the Victor over death for ever. - Today it is confirmed that the Christ, the Son of God, is the Resurrection and the Life. - In the face of death and eternity, he is the one upon whom our hearts must be uwvaveringly fixed, for he that believes in him shall never die.
· We are not to dwell on the miracle (the raising of Lazarus from the dead), but on the word of Jesus which he speaks concerning himself. - Approaching the end of the Lenten season, the Gospel aims to bring us face to face with Jesus who tells us, as he told Martha, ‘I am the Resurrection and the life.’ - The same heart-searching question comes to us, as to her, ‘Do you believe this?’ - Let us answer in true faith, as she did, and in fuller knowledge than she at that moment could have.
· When Lazarus fell sick the sisters sent a pathetic message to Jesus in Perea, ‘Lord, he whom you love is sick.’ Jesus purposely delayed until Lazarus was dead and buried. The body lay in the tomb four days already when finally, entirely too late according to human thinking, Jesus arrived. - The house was still full of mourning… That there was danger for himself in this coming goes without saying, but Jesus had his work to do against all foes and danger.
· When Martha heard of Jesus’ coming, as it was entirely natural for her hyperactive nature, went to meet him… While Mary remained in the house. - For seven days, according to Jewish custom, friends would come and condole with the mourning family. - In John’s Gospel, the word, Jews designates Jesus’ enemies, who refused him. ‘Many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them’. This meaning in the Gospel is significant… Jesus does not go the house at once…. - This explains the pain in Mary’s voice when they meet him ‘Lord, if thou had been here, my brother had not died.’ It is not an accusation, it is an expression of sorrow. - There is a confession of faith in these words, faith in Christ’s power to heal… ‘And even now I know that, whatever you shall ask of God, God will give you.’ - It simply means: I still believe in you! It recalls Psalm 73: ‘My flesh and my heart fails, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever.’ · This ‘I know that…’ by Martha sums up all past meetings with Jesus, all that she has heard from his lips, all that she has seen of his works.And this all in spite of what has happened, so dark to her and so hard to accept. - Martha is firmly convinced that the Son of God can do things fully in harmony with divine power. Death and grave have not set a limit across which he cannot reach. - She expects Jesus to ask this miracle from God, and states positively what then will happen. - And Jesus did ask of God… Jesus said: ‘This sickness was for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified thereby.’
· This ‘whatsoever’, whatsoever Jesus asks, is significant. Jesus himself encouraged his disciples to pray for ‘whatsoever they need’….
· The first word of Jesus to Martha is a promise: Thy brother shall rise again. But what does it mean? - Is it the resurrection at the last day, as Martha thought, or is it the resurrection of that very day? - Which seemed greater to Martha, and which would seem the greater to us, the resurrection at the last day, into life eternal, or the resurrection today into life temporal? - Many of us would say that the resurrection unto the eternal life of the body would be greater… whereas resurrection to this life is infinitely less…
· But Jesus’ answer includes the lesser as well as the greater resurrection… - Jesus wanted to educate Martha’s faith, and our faith. For Martha lacked the very thing so many ofus lack today, namely the full understanding and conviction that all resurrection is comprehended in Christ alone! - There is a great and important teaching about LIFE itself here! - For some reason, we still regard temporal life and the joy of living it together with our loved ones more precious compared with the eternal life which shall reach its climax on the last great day of the Resurrection.
· Purposely, the text of the Gospel does not contain the miracle of Lazarus’ resurrection. Jesus did indeed called Lazarus back into his former life. - But this was like a small gift added to an infinitely greater one. · The greater one, the essential one is that Christ himself is the resurrection and the life, and t that we are to have him as our possession now and evermore. - Martha’s anwer was natural enough, there is hardly one of us who would have made a better answer. - But Jesus showed how much Martha still lacked… hope and joy that fills the heart when the resurrection in Christ will happen.
·‘I am the Resurrection and the life. He that believes in me, though he dies, yet shall live again.
· For the rest of Lent, we are left with this challenge to our faith. - Let us accept the lesson Jesus gives to Martha’s faith… Let us deepen our faith, let us sensitise ourselves till we perceive the full weight of Jesus’ promise. He is the resurrection and the life: He is our resurrection and life. - Jesus wants us as individuals, and as a community, to arrive to the Holy Week with this openness.
v.34. ‘Jesus wept’ − the words used is means that silent tears trickle from his eyes as he walks towards the tomb with the company. − John’s Gospel answers the criticism that there is nothing human about Jesus in the Gospel except his outward appearance, being all Logos, all deity < He is so truly man that he weeps with those that weep. − Throughout John’s Gospel the human and the divine are combined. − He wept because his heart was full with deepest sympathy (‘he could control himself’)
v.36. − These are noble, manly tears. The Jews therefore, said, Behold, how he loved him! − The speak of filein, the love of friendship and affection
v.37. − Could not he, the one who opened the eyes of the blind man, have caused this man also not to die? − Instead of hostility their question expresses perplexity. How could Jesus have such affection for Lazarus and yet somehow fail to be at hand and heal him before he died? − A degree of faith in Jesus is manifested in this question…
v.38. − Jesus, therefore, again filled with indignation in himself, comes to the tomb − The sight of this stronghold of death causes the former feeling of indignation ‘again’ to arise −Jesus does not put his feeling into words but promptly proceeds to action.
• It was a chamber hewn into a rise of rock. In some of these tombs, the floor is level with the outside, in others it is lower, a step or two leading down toit. − The size of the hewn-out chamber would be in accord with the owner’s wealth. − • v.39 − Take the stone away! − Martha, the sister of him that was dead, says to him, Lord, by this time he stinks, for he is dead four days. − a sister would dread to look upon the already decomposing body of her brother. − No doubt, Lazarus, was buried as well-to-do Jews were buried, his anouinted body being swathed in linen strips with powdered spices sprinkled in the folds. − = we cry with Martha… Our natural thinking is never swift enough to rise to the height of our faith.
•v.40 If you shall believe, you shall see the glory of God − The emphasis is on faith. Jesus encourages the faith that is already in Martha’s heart. − This glory wil impel those not yet believing unto faith, and so, these, too, will see that glory.
v.41. • Jesus’ prayer − The lifting of the eyes is a natural gesture in prayer, since for us God is always above. − It is the Son who here says, ‘Father’, the Son whom the Father ‘did send’ on his great redemptive mission. − It is God’s own Son who gives thanks to the Father… − ‘Thou didst hear me, you always hear me’ − Both the Son and the Father are always at one, a shadow of divergence between the two can never occur! − Jesus is not asking for power to raise Lazarus from the dead. He would be only a prophet or an apostle in this case… − The absolute unity of the two is emphasised here!
v.43. − The very essence of prayer is to say to God what is in our hearts. Genuine prayers, uttered aloud, always have a corresponding effect!
• Come forth! Literally, ‘hither, out!’ − It is Jesus who raises Lazarus from the dead not the Fatehr in answer to the prayers of Jesus. − The loudness of the command expresses the mighty power put forth, penetrating the wall that divides the dead from the living. − also, it is for the sake of the effect upon the assembled people.
v.44. − The dead man came forth − Without a struggle death gives its prey. Here is the gloryh of the Father and the glorification fo the Son whom he did send. − ‘bound hand and foot’
− Loose him, let him go away. Lazarus is not to stand as a spectacle for the wonder of the crowd. Let him go away also dismisses the crowd. ‘Mission?’ to continue their life according to their Faith.
14 March: the Transfiguration of Jesus (Matthew 17:1-9)
v.1. · Jesus is preparing his apostles for the close of his earthly life and work. - So after the great confession of his divinity, the announcement of his passion, and the words regarding the coming judgement (16:16, 16:21, 16:27) ® Jesus reveals his divine glory. - Jesus asks these three disciples to go with him and takes them up into a high mountain, away from everybody else. - Peter, John, and James are selected as special witnesses. ® 2 or 3 witnesses were sufficient when something important was revealed. They are now to see Jesus in the glory of the son of God. In addition to all the evidence of his divine Sonship, which the disciples had already received, Jesus will now reveal himself to them in actual heavenly glory. - Not Mount Tabor, it is too far in the North. It is the mountainous region not far from Ceasarea Philippi.
v.2. ‘And he was transformed before them. And his countenance shone like the sun; moreover, his garments became white like the light’
· Luke adds the detail that it happened while Jesus was praying. Indeed, many of the great moments of Jesus’ life was marked by prayer. - The transfiguration was a transaction between the Father and his beloved Son incarnate, who always received everything from the Father. Jesus did not ask to be transfigured just as he did not ask the Spirit to have descend upon him as a dove. - But knowing the Father’s intention, Jesus ascended the mountain and brought the needed witnesses with him. - The passive verb expresses that the Father was the agent. (metamorphose) - The noun from which the verb is derived (morphe), always denotes the essential form, not a mask or a transient appearance but the form that expresses the very nature. So here the actual form of Jesus was changed. He underwent a metamorphosis. - Luke records that the disciples were heavy with sleep yet carefull adds that, having been aroused and being wide-awake, they saw his glory and Moses and Elijah standing with him. - This was astounding. The body and the human nature of Jesus were glorified.
· It is Matthew who reports that ‘it shone like the sun’. This is often overpassed by commentators. ® The garment is described as part of the actual changes in Jesus himself, and not something subjective only that appeared to the eyes and the minds of the three disciples. - The explanation of the rationalists, that the rays of the sun lighted up the face and the cloth of Jesus while he was standing higher than the disciples, are efforts to evade the acceptance f another miracle. - The garments had the translucent whiteness of pure light (® reference to the Ressurrection!) - Instead of thinking of the radiance that shone on the face of Moses (Exod 34:29; 2 Cor 3:13), we have far more reason to think of John’s vision of Jesus in Revelation (1:13-15)
· Peter writes: ‘We were eyewitnesses of his majesty’ (2 Peter 1:16), John: ‘we beheld his glory, glory as of the Only-begotten from the Father’ (John 1.14) - It was the same body and human nature that the Virgin bore but joined by that birth to the nature and the person of the Second Person of the godhead. - During Jesus’ earthly life, by virtue of this union the human nature shared in the divine attributes but, during the days of the humiliation, used these attributes only on exceptional occasions, for instance, in the performance of miracles. ® Of the holy city (heaven) it is said: ‘The Lamb is the light thereof’ (Revelation 21:23)
v.3. ‘And lo, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah in company with him, speaking together’ · the verb is the same which is used with reference to the appearance of angels. - It is not a subjective vision, Moses and Elijah stood there objectively! - They were sent in ‘glory’ just as the saints appear in heaven.
· The question is inevitable: why just these two, Moses and Elijah? - Moses was the great representative of Law, Elijah the great representative of prophecy. - Both are outstanding figures in the OT. Moses stands as the head of Israel’s history. Elijah appeared when Israel had declined so that only 7000 Jews were left who had not bowed to idolatry… - The days of Elijah were like those which Jesus found when all the rulers and the great mass of the people departed from God. - The appearance of these two with Jesus intended to assure the disciples that the death of Jesus was in perfect accord with the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah. - Why? Because the disciples had other ideals and found the death of Jesus a great skandalon.
· The saints in heaven need not be introduced or named to us but are at once know through heavenly intuition. (explanation how they recognised Moses and Elijah) - The topic of their conversation was which Jesus was about to fulfil in Jerusalem. (‘the decease’/death)
· Peter merely responds to the situation. Peter words are rather foolish, he does not know what he is talking about. Peter receives no answer. - However, his experience is ‘excellent’, something very positive. They were very near to heaven.
8 March - THE TEMPTATION (Mt 4:1-14)
- ‘then’ shows a close connection with the anointing of Jesus at his Baptism, which took place immediately before the temptation. - By the Spirit: by the Holy Spirit - Jesus was led to the wilderness: the passive verb shows Jesus’ willingness. Jesus was willing to do the divine will. - contrast: we often rashly subject ourselves to temptation. Jesus was led into his ordeal by his Father’s Spirit. It was God’s own will that this mighty battle should be fought now. - Contrast 2: The Holy Spirit bestows all his power upon the human nature of Jesus ®¬ Satan at once puts this power to a supreme test. In a strange way God’s will and the devil’s will meet in a tremendous clash. - We may take it that Satan knew all about this man Jesus, miraculously conceived and born by Mary and then living so quietly in Nazareth. - So it was God’s Messiah, come to crush Satan, destroy his works, and to erect the kingdom of God among men. - At once the devil resolved to break this divine champion. He had conquered the first Adam… - The text of the Gospel denotes purpose and completeness: to be tested to the finish. The devil was to exert the full extent of his power, God offering no restraint.
· v.2. - By fasting for so long a time Jesus did not waken himself for the final battle.. it would have been useless. - Since the body of Jesus was wholly unaffected by sin, its power of enduring abstinence from food by far exceeds ours. - We read that Jesus fasted and prayed. - This withdrawal is different from his other retirements when he enjoyed the communion with the Father. Here, Jesus did not spend these forty days in the happy enjoyment of the good pleasure of his Father. ® He was lead to the wilderness for a different purpose, ‘to be tempted by the devil.’ - During the entire forty days Jesus endured the temptation of the devil, and this experience caused him to forget about food… What we know that this temptation was so severe. - Satan alone caused this long temptation. None of it arose from the thoughts and the desires in Jesus’ heart.
·v.3: ‘say that these stones shall become bread’ - The fact that Satan now appeared in some tangible form is generally admitted. - He came as Satan, and Jesus knew with whom he was dealing.
- The ‘if’ is very important. Satan questions the very word of the Father spoken from the opened heavens. When doing so, he cunningly modifies the Father’s word. He does not say, ‘the Son of God’, the one and only eternal Son, but ‘a Son of God.’ - One of a class, related to God only by the divine favour and chosen only thus to be the Messiah. ® Only such a son art thou… he insinuates. ® Note that all who today deny the deity of Jesus or his eternal Sonship agree with the devil in calling Jesus only ‘a son of God’. - Satan would not have converted to God if Jesus provides this proof…
- How is Jesus to prove that he is ‘a son of God’? ‘Say that these stones shall become bread’ - The temptation lies in this bidding on the part of Satan. The tempter did not really doubt that a word spoken by Jesus could turn the stones lying there into bread. Satan knew that the Messiah Jesus could perform this and other miracles, for even the Jews expected miracles from the Messiah. · Satan, just like the Jews, asked for particular miracles, which if they had ben wrought by Jesus, would have plunged him into sin. !!! - In this respect, the tempters were simply tools of the devil, continuing the temptations here advanced by Satan in person. - Ordinary Christians have the right idea when they say: ‘If Jesus would have done what Satan said he would have obeyed Satan instead of God.’ He would have done their wicked will – and not that of the Father.
- But why should he on these occasions have remained hungry when all the rest were fully fed? Most likely Jesus himself ate of the bread gathered after the feeding of the 5000, the bread he had himself miraculously produced. Here it is different. - By the very act of miraculously transforming these stones into bread to prove himself ‘a son of God’ Jesus would prove himself a false ‘son’. - The fact would imply distrust of his Father. - The Father’s own will brought him into this hunger…For forty days the Father had supported the body of Jesus. - ‘He would not look up to his Father with a true son’s turs but is to look down to these stone, to use them for evading this hunger’ - The heart of the temptation is to cast doubt on the Messianic sonship of Jesus.
v.4 · Jesus conquers the tempter by acting as a true son should act. The devil’s suggestion is not for one moment entertained by Jesus’ mind. - The implied distrust the evil wants Jesus to show toward his Father is at once met by the most perfect trust and reliance on the Father. ‘It has been written, Not on bread alone shall a man live, but on every utterance going forth through God’s mouth.’ - The sum and substance of this reply is trust: the trust of the incarnate Son. ‘It is written’: Jesus smote the devil with ‘the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.’ - Deut 8:3: ‘It is written’ is used only with reference to the divine Word.
· What God wanted Israel to learn during the forty years in the desert when he humbled Israel, suffered it to hunger, and fed it with manna, that Jesus did not need to learn, that he knew perfectly even now hen he was distressed with hunger. - Israel often murmured and sinned when it was hungry or thirsty, not so Jesus, God’s true Son.
· Jesus does not reply: ‘I am the Son’. He is not debating with the devil and has no call to enlighten the fiend of darkness. He is here to conquer Satan. - he meets the insult, which questions even his sonship, by a reply which actual makes the devil ridiculous. - Did he himself really imagine that it was bread that kept a man alive.. or did he really think that Jesus could be fooled by such a false notion? -That is true about all lies and lying assumptions: when they are exposed by the light of truth they appear as what they actually are, ridiculous, preposterous, the notions of fools.
- TRUTH: human existence cannot be seen separately from the Creator. God is the Creator of both the person and the bread.
· None of the utterances of God are just words and thus mere sounds. What goes forth through God’s mouth, on that human life rests. What goes through God’s mouth is what God orders. - This first temptation resembles the one that occurred in Eden. It deals with food and uses food to awaken distrust of God and of God’s Word. What succeeded in Eden, in the land of plenty, failed in the destitute wilderness. What succeeded in the case of Adam and Even who were well-fed, failed in the case of Jesus who was in great hunger. - Jesus resisted not by means of his divinity, but as a man, with his trust in God and in God’s Word. - By doing it in this way he enables us today to follow his example. All true sons may follow this ‘son’
17 January, Tuesday 7-8.00 pm: "JESUS, THE LAMB OF GOD" (John 1:29-34)
· We may picture the Baptist somewhere in the neighbourhood of the village in the midst of his work. - John ‘sees’ and ‘declares’, the verbs the Bible uses express deep personal interest - Jesus was Baptised on the previous day, now he is just coming. John’s understanding of who Jesus is was based on the Revelation followed Jesus’ baptism. ® Now he comes to win disciples. He gradually comes closer to John the Baptist. - While he is busy with his work, Jesus is approaching, he looks up and sees Jesus coming. - His outreached arms indicate the coming of Jesus - The imperative, ‘behold!’ is dramatic, riveting all eyes upon him, opening all ears for what the speaker will say of Jesus. - The Holy Spirit impressed these words on John’s memory…. - ‘The Lamb of God’ points out Jesus as the one particular lamb of God: he is the lamb which belongs to God, his Lamb, which he ordained as a sacrifice for Himself. - ® The word ‘Lamb’ connotes sacrifice, the Lamb whose blood is to be shed. - The ‘Lamb of God’ is his full title, gives the idea of being without blemish, that is, sinfulness. With this is joined the aim of substitution, expiation, and redemption. - A truer and more expressive title could hardly have been found for the Saviour. ® This title for Jesus does not refer back this or that particular ‘lamb’ mentioned in the OT rituals, but rather all of them.
· This Lamb ‘takes away the sins of the world’. - This is the kind of person, the kind of Lamb who Jesus is. - the verb means either ‘to take up and bear’ or ‘take away’, ‘to remove’. ® Theological meaning: He ‘is taking up’, ‘bearing’ the sins of the world = right now, in the act of taking up. - This Lamb will not again lay down its burden, will not carry its burden indefinitely, but will take it completely away. Here Jesus at this very moment is engaged in removing the sin of the world! ® He had just assumed this burden by assuming the office of mediation at his baptism. And his baptism signifies that, though he is sinless himself, he ranges himself alongside of sinners to take on himself and bear away the load they never could bear!
· The thing to be taken away is named ‘the sin of the world’ = ‘world of men’ - He takes away the supermass of sin (all generations’) - individual sins accumulated… - he removes both ‘sin’ and its consequences, ‘guilt’, the pain of sin, too. - The world means the ‘universe of men from Adam onward to the last babe born just before the Last Judgement breaks.’ - This ‘taking away of the sins of the world’ includes the entire work of Christ, his sacerdotal work.
· John the Baptist spoke by revelation. He was aware of the meaning of this glorious truth…
· John’s witness is no part of the Church’s confession and Creed and liturgy
v.30: · Jesus is now present in person - v.31-34 form one single answer to the question as to how he could be so sure of the great things he was saying about Jesus. - In his answer, John tells us what Jesus’ baptism meant for him. - ‘I knew him not’: he did not know him previously in his Divine Greatness… John the Baptist had known him personally since their childhood. ® The prophet’s certainty comes from a higher source.
· John the Baptist could not be left in uncertainty, for God had sent him as the Messiah’s forerunner in order to make the Messiah known to Israel. - Now he is given an absolute certainty. It is through him that this certainty was communicated to Israel.
· The Gospels continue that communication. We are invited to join in the Gospels’ testimony and witness it ourselves.
· John’s task was to manifest who Jesus was as the Lamb of God – to Israel only. - God had his own ways to manifest it to all nations…
· v.32. - John shares with us his vison of the Spirit descending upon Jesus
· V.32-34: was said at the same time.
- ‘And John bore witness, saying, I have beheld the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven and he remained upon him’. ® The verb used here denotes a beholding filled with wonder and astonishment.
- Here is one the OT high-point of revelation: God revealed himself to the Jews as Trinity… ® The Jews objected only to the fact that the insignificant looking Jesus calls himself God’s Son. They never raised the issue that God is but one person and not three. John the Baptist ‘has beheld the Spirit. ’
· Why this form of the Holy Spirit? - God comes in a friendly form…as an innocent dove, which of all birds is the most friendly and has no wrath and bitterness in it.
- The dovelike form intended to convey the idea of the graciousness of God’s Spirit. - They saw descending, and he abode upon him. / Emphasis: and he did remain upon him. - The shepherds actually heard and saw the angels ®, so the Baptist and Jesus saw and heard what here occurred when the Spirit came down and he Father spoke from above.
· V.33: ‘And I knew him not; but he that sent me to baptize with water, he said to me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and remaining upon him, this is he that baptizes with the Holy Ghost’ - This is John’s testimony. He was interested in the wonderful event he witnessed, because his great Sender made this interest vital for him. - It is enough for him that this bestowal of the Spirit points out Jesus to him as the Messiah, shows the divine greatness of Jesus. - Before this revelation John the Baptist did not know that Jesus was the Son of God. - John describes God as ‘he that sent me to baptize with water’: we learn that God is sender! - To baptize with water means that through this means of grace John is preparing Israel for the coming of the Saviour. [the precious moment of recognition]
· Baptizing with water and baptizing with the Holy Spirit forms a kind of contrast - John states the humbler form of his mission. He is called to administer that means of grace which employs water. Jesus will eventually miraculously pour out the Holy Spirit to carry on his saving work in all the world. The Baptist can only begin the great work and do only part of it. - Jesus will perform the mighty work, and when redemption has been won, he will make this redemption accessible to all men by sending the Spirit to make this redemption their own. [The Catholicity of the Church is revealed] - The crucifixion and the resurrection, and the Spirit’s outpouring, because of their very nature, cannot be repeated.
· The Spirit’s work was significant in the OT but its work was limited. < With the day of Pentecost, the Spirit’s work was extended to the whole world. - In Pentecost, the miraculous Baptism with the Holy Ghost and the fire of the Spirit removed all restrictions. The Spirit now works among all nations and all languages. - This Holy Spirit is present and works with all his power wherever the Word is truly preached, wherever the Sacraments are administered according to Christ’s institution. [be proud, sacramental tradition!]
v.34 · is the completion of John’s testimony. - We must test for ourselves this witness… - He saw the Son of God!
1 JANUARY, MARY MOTHER OF GOD (Reflection on the Gospel text)
• v.15: − The angels did not merely disappear, they went into heaven, the abode of God, the angels and the saints, whence they had come. − ‘Let us go and see this ting that has come to pass’: We have no English word for the urgent need which indicates that the shepherds could not wait. They went at once.. → ‘This thing’: revelation!
•v.16. − The shepherds left their sheep and hurried away. Actually, ‘They went hastening’. − They found ‘the babe lying in the manger’. This was only the sign which verified the truth of all that the angels said about this child, that he is the Redeemer!
• The Shepherds told the whole story about the angels. The people wondered at every word they heard. − Do not forget, these shepherds were marked by Revelation! Their hearts was radiant!!!!, shining forth this remarkable insight into the course of human history! Thus many besides Mary and Joseph heard about the angel’s message.
v.19. • ‘Mary, however, continued guarding all these tings closely, continuing to ponder them in her heart.’ − • The rest just wondered, not so Mary who had heard Gabriel’s annunciation. − The matter went far deeper with her. Some are surprised that we hear nothing of Joseph’s reaction. We may be sure that his was much like Mary’s. → Last week, we say Joseph’s example, who said yes to God’s ‘sign’, that a child shall be born from a Virgin (unlike Ahaz, who did not believe God.). Now the Holy Family, Mary and Joseph, the two together show something remarkable. We, humans, can interpret the Scriptures, we can have new insights, and the Angels would like to gather to hear these new understandings… − ‘Mary continued to ponder them in her heart.’ He guarded closely, she continued guarding and understanding this message! − She said nothing. It was all too sacred, too miraculous to her! − But in addition to holding them closely, she ‘continued pondering them in her heart’. − This activity and its fruits are at the heart of today’s celebration! − What we can understand with Mary, is truly remarkable. It summons the angels again! It highlights our unique vocation to contemplate the mystery of Christmas, this beautiful diamond! − Mary’s active ty (‘spiritual life’) is a continuous, a progressive task. − She was throwing things together, comparing, and adding what she understands together. − We catch a glimpse of the depth of Mary’s character. It was calm and deep, spiritually receptive and strong, steady and persevering in grace. − It is not accidental that she is called the ‘Queen of Heaven’. Angels are indeed listening to her!
• The heart is not merely the seat of the emotions but of the entire personality, will, mind, and emotions. Mary’s entire personality was involved.
• Divine sparks to be elevated…. And liberated from Evil… − At Christmas, we were dazzled by light… − The teaching of today’s feast, as the teaching of Christmas, bestows on us an important message. − The divine sparks of God’s Presence should be ‘libearated’. That is, our world should be transformed more and more into God’s love and compassion. All of us has a spark, a specific part of God’s kingdom which we has to work on…
• V.20: ‘And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they heard and saw even as it was spoken to them.’
− They went back to their flocks but did so with deep, new emotions. And convictions! − Like the Angel host, they continued glorifying and praising God! What they began has continued ever since!
•.v21. − Our whole story has its ultimate frame. We focus on Jesus, who is the source of this renewal and transformation. − The child was circumcised and his name was called Jesus, the one called by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. − The emphasis on the bestowal of the name is evident. − The act of circumcision made Jesus a member of the covenant people and thereby placed him under the Law. − It was done on the eight day. So Jesus was formally obliged to fulfil the divine Law.
• We see here the Lawgiver make himself subject to law. − Jesus receives the sign chosen by God, not as one who needed that covenant, but as the one who was to fulfil, and dispense that covenant. − The circumcision is thus on a par with the baptism of Jesus.
• It is an invitation to contemplate God’s Love made visible in the Sacraments of our Tradition. • Most of all, it is a compelling example, to be observant and worship God in the way the Church teaches us, thorugh our Sunday Eucharists. − If one remains faithful in this toiling work, in this joyful work, she or he /we can ‘bring to realisation’ that part of the Kingdom for which we, individually, are responsible. − You are given a particular part of Divine Revelation, which only you can here, share, and witness!!! − You are given a particular love, which only you can bring to realisation…
BIBLE STUDY GROUP (14 November, Mt 11:2-12) THE DILEMMA OF JOHN THE BAPTIST
· v.2. - In his prison, John heard all about the activity of Jesus, whom Matthew calls ‘the Christ’ in order to state that these ‘works’ revealed who he was, the Messiah. - John longed for more news about Jesus. - The fact that he continued to have disciples after his imprisonment shows that he continued his work of preparing the way for Jesus. He lead his disciples and his new followers to Jesus…
v.3. - It is intriguing: why did he sent disciples to make this enquiry? Was John doubting? - The fact that John sends to Jesus for an answer proves John’s faith in Jesus! - Why? It is not enough to pay attention only to the first part of the question: ‘Art thou the Coming?’ (or shall we be expecting someone else?) ® The first has lots of Biblical references as a background. The Coming One was both understood and used by the Jews (Luke 3:16, Psalm 40:7). - The coming characterises this person, the Messiah, that is why they are asking about his coming. · ‘Or shall we be expecting someone else?’ ® The question means, ‘someone like you.’
· If John had had doubt, he would not have sent his disciples to Jesus. He would not have directed this question to Him.
- He wanted to clarify an important thing. Namely, to answer the difficulty that his faith encountered. God had pointed out to him that Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus, then, was to do all the great Messianic works, both those of grace and those of judgement. Thus John believed, preached, expected. ® But as Jesus carried on his work, it seemed to be nothing but grace without one single act of judgement! - This is what perplexed the Baptist ‘when he heard in the prison the works of the Christ.’ - Where were the works of judgement, the swinging of the fan, the crashing blows of the axe? - There were not being done! How, then, was this to be explained? Would another One follow, another who would perform these works of judgement? J
· For we must remember that throughout the prophecies, just as in the Baptist’s proclamation concerning Jesus, one feature is not revealed by God. The interval of time between the first coming with grace and mercy and the second coming with judgement. - The prophetic picture is without perspective as to time: grace and judgement are simply predicated, and the point of time when they will occur is left with God.
- The answer is typical of Jesus: decisive in substance yet not direct as far as the form of the question is concerned - ‘Report to John’: it shows that John had no doubts. It was not on his account but on the disciple’s account that he sent the disciples to Jesus. John sent them to Jesus. The question was asked by his disciples. Only the disciples were in doubt.
v.5 · It is a masterful answer because it takes John back into the very Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah.
® While the Gospel is preached to all, only those who realise their need of it receive it. The poor are being evangelized! - In his answer Jesus says nothing about the ‘vengeance’ (Isa 35:4) and the Judgement. This omission is significant. John is to leave that in the hands of him who is so gloriously fulfilling the prophecies regarding the Messianic works of grace.
v.6. That is why the gentle touch of warning is added at the end. It is a beatitude, ‘Blessed is’…. Jesus does not want John to lose the treasures and the joy that make up this blessedness. - Blessed is the one ‘who is not trapped in connection with me’. ‘Happy is the man who does not lose faith in me.’ ® Trust that in due time the other works (judgement) will follow just as these are now being done.
v.7. · At once, after John’s disciples have left, Jesus addresses the multitudes concerning John. - Despite John’s perplexity in his understanding of the Messiah’s work, Jesus highly esteems John. - It is a comforting thought for us who today may have perplexity in understanding of the Scriptures… - What do you really want to see?
· A ‘reed swayed by wind’ is symbolic of a man who yields to popular opinion, and has no solid convictions of his own. - He is rebuking the people who having had John and now having Jesus himself, found fault with both and gained nothing from ether.
· The shores of Galilee had plenty reeds… which were swaying hither and thither in the wind. - The fact that Jesus is referring to John is evident. What drew the people out to him was the fact that he was the very opposite of such a reed. The entire Jewish land was filled with men who were unstable, were like reeds swaying with the wind of the opinions of the day. But here in the wilderness there was a man of a different type. - At this very moment he was in prison because he would not compromise regarding one of God’s commandments. Herod’s sin was passed by in silence by all the Jewish authorities and the whole Jewish nation but never for a moment by John.
v.8 · Irony, it goes further: they reward a man who yields to popular opinion, who bends to the will and the world of the influential and the mighty. · You went out to see a man who dared to rebuke even a king, who could be bought by no royal favours, who showed absolute fidelity to God and to his Word. Yet Jesus asks, ‘Did you really go out to see such a man?’ Again, he leaves the answer to them/us.
· Did they really to see a prophet?... - Genuine call for decision: Did they really intend to regard John as a prophet of God?
v.12. · Jesus points to the events now being in progress.
6 December 2016 - A FRAMEWORK FOR PERSONAL REFLECTION (Mt 3:1-12)
· Matthew presents Jesus to Jewish readers as the Messiah
v.1. - Jesus is 29 years old. - ‘John’ = Yahweh has been gracious, is the ‘Baptist’, ‘John the Baptiser’ - While baptizing was distinctive of John and thus gave him the added name, his work in general was that of a prophet. More specifically, a herald sent to the Jewish nation. - When we translate the word ‘preaching’, the original meaning of the word must be retained. Preaching, in the Biblical sense, is merely to announce clearly and distinctly exactly what God orders us to announce his Word. - We dare not change that message by alteration, by omission, by addition. - The preacher is not to utter his own eloquent wisdom but is to confine himself to the foolishness and the scandal of the Gospel.
· He acts in the valley of Jordan. The most probable site is the northern ford near Succoth, the same by which Jacob crossed over from Mahanaim. - The region is called a desert as it has never been inhabited, except later by ascetics like the Essenes and the hermits who sought seclusion here. - John worked in obedience to an immediate call from God. - Moreover, John was born as a member of the Jewish tribe to whom priestly functions belonged, and thus no Jew questioned his authority to perform such actions.
- Matthew presents us only with the essentials which the Baptist announced. - “be repenting” ® is one of the most important word of the NT, the Hebrew nicham, ‘repent by changing the mind’, and schub, ‘to turn’ or to be converted. - The Greek word, metanoia originally means ‘to perceive or see afterward’, i.e, when I is too late: ‘to change one’s mind’ and thus to ‘regret’ and ‘to repent’. - The Scriptural use of the term added a spiritual depth that is far beyond the thought of secular writers. ® it signifies the religious change of the heart which turns from sin and guilt to cleansing and forgiveness by God’s grace. [! the damaging and burdening feeling of guilt, if it is exaggerated, we should turn away from!] - Metanioia = looks both backward toward the regretted sin and forward to the accepted pardon - ‘be repenting’ = the present tense indicates a state or condition, one befitting the day of the Messiah, thus a life lived in repentance. - John’s call for conversion required faith in the Messiah, just as the apostles proclaimed conversion to Jesus. ® Jn 1:18: ‘The same came for a witness to the Light, that all men through him might believe’ - John is not simply an OT prophet < his work is part of the life of the Gospel, Luke calls his message as ‘preaching the Gospel’ (Lk 3:18) - Luther calls the Baptist ‘the fiery angel of St John, the true preacher of repentance.’
· The reason for repentance is: ‘for the Kingdom of Heavens has come near’. - It is a kingdom whose very nature is that of heaven. It is the kingdom that God rules. - Heavens, schamayim (Hebrew)
- Earthly kingdoms have only subjects < In God’s kingdom we are also partakers! - Even more, we are not simply partakers and subjects in this kingdom, but in God’s Kingdom we already now bear the title ‘kings unto God’, and eventually the kingdom shall consist of nothing but kings in glorious array, each with his crown, and Christ thus ‘the Kings of kings’, a kingdom made up entirely of kings with no subjects at all! - All that is in the world, even every hostile force, is subservient to the plans of God. However, the children and sons of God, as heirs of the kingdom, in whom God’s grace is displayed, constitute kingdom in its specific sense. - This kingdom is divided by the coming of Christ. Hence we have the kingdom before Christ, looking toward his coming, and the kingdom after Christ, looking back to his coming the kingdom as it was in Israel, as it now is in the Christian church, the Una Sancta in all the world.
· The Baptist says “the kingdom has come near” = Jesus was approaching, and by the revelation of himself with power and grace as the Messiah and by the completion of his redemptive work he would stand forth as the King of Salvation from heaven. He would by faith enter into the hearts of men, making them partakers of the Kingdom. - Since the kingdom is so near in Christ, the King, all men should long to receive this kingdom. The one and only way to do this is to repent, to turn from sin, self-righteousness, and worldly security by the power of grace in the Baptist’s Word and Sacrament. This is a turning to the king and his kingdom with pardon, peace, and joy.
v.3. · The ‘wilderness’ in Isaiah, originally it meant two things. The Lord came to Egypt through the Arabian (southern) desert to bring his people into Canaan; or it meant the great desert between Babylon, where Israel was held in exile. This wilderness was necessary. < This desert, however is used figuratively. It denotes the hindrances and obstacles which separate the people from God. · The wilderness with its obstructions in Isaiah is found in the hearts of the people: here the Lord’s way is to be prepared. - In Isaiah 40:3, mountains and hills are to be levelled. To make a way through them is a task that is utterly beyond human power. That is exactly the impression to be made on the readers and on hearers. Strictly speaking, only the Lord himself can construct a way through such obstacles. When he orders us to build this way, the obvious sense is that we can do it only by the grace which the Lord himself bestows. That is why the Baptist cried: ‘Repent!’ Impenitence raises the mountains of obstruction. Repentance opens the way for the Lord. And true repentance is wrought by the Lord’s own law and gospel in which his power and grace are active. - Luther writes: ‘Such preparation is spiritual, it consists in the deep conviction and confession that you are unfit, a sinner, a poor, damned and miserable with all the works that you are able to do. Where this conviction is wrought, the heart will be opened for the Lord’s entrance with his forgiveness and gifts.’
v.4. · Living and working in the wilderness, he dressed and ate accordingly. - His appearance was a stern sermon… ® It was a call to all those who made food and drink, house and raiment their chief concern in life to turn from such vanity. - He was a living illustration of how little man really needs here below - something we are prone to forget! - And by drawing people out into the wilderness John made them share a bit of his own austere life. Men left their mansions, offices, shops…. And for a time at least gave their thoughts to higher things.
Extra meditation for the week: (Source: JTS meditation, www.jtsa.edu/torah)