God dwells among us when the study of the Bible - we have to make an effort to learn in the Community
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)
• 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)