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Wrestling with the Word, episode 31: Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B (July 26, 2009) July 12, 2009

Posted by fostermccurley in Wrestling With The Word podcast.
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Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

In spite of popular opinion, frequent jokes, and accusations of super egos, Jesus did not walk on water. Maybe he did know where the stones were. Maybe he could not swim. Water, however, has nothing to do with the stories about his stroll. He walked on the Sea. New Testament Greek had a word for “water.” The word for “sea” is quite different. That he walked on the Sea rather than water tells us much more about the identity of Jesus than his ability to defy liquidity and gravity. That his well-known trick follows his miraculous feeding of the multitudes pushes that story far above the tradition about a well-known prophet.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 31: Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B.


Psalm 145:10-19
This ancient hymn begins with the assertion that God is the king of the whole world as well as of the individual worshipper who is offering here the praises due a king. The verses selected for the psalmody here focus on the thanksgiving of the whole creation and of the faithful community, as they acknowledge all the works of God the king. God’s kingdom is both universal (“all your works,” “to all people”) and eternal (“generation to generation,” “everlasting kingdom”). Verses 14 and 19 speak of God’s reign as one in which God protects the poor and rescues those who cry for help. Verses 15-16 point to the gift of food to the hungry and satisfaction to those who call upon God in truth. Verse 17 lauds the Lord for reigning with justice and kindness over the kingdom. The miracle of the psalm is that the king of the universe comes near even to those individuals who call out for help.


2 Kings 4:42-44
In response to a famine in the land, the Lord enabled Elisha to feed miraculously many people with a little bit of food.

The Elijah and Elisha stories beginning in 1 Kings 17 relate many parallels between the two miracle-working prophets. At times, it appears that stories originating with one were transferred to the other. The raising from the dead of the son of the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17) which Elijah performed is paralleled with the story in which Elisha raised from the dead the son of the Shunammite woman (2 Kings 4:8-37). The famine in the land at the time of Elijah’s call led that prophet to feed miraculously the widow of Zarephath and her son, just as during another famine Elisha made bad soup edible (2 Kings 4:38-41) and here fed the multitudes.

Key Words
V. 42.  Baal-shalisha:  While not mentioned per se anywhere else, the “land of Shalisha” occurs at 1 Samuel 9:4 in the story about Saul’s search for the straying donkeys. In that context, the land seems to be near or part of the hill country of Ephraim.

V. 42.  lechem bikkûrîm = “bread of the firstfruits”:  according to Lev. 23:20, the firstfruits are to be brought to the priest as an offering to the Lord. Likewise, the ceremonial recital of the salvation history accompanies the offering of firstfruits at the temple of the Lord (Deuteronomy 26:1-11). It is not clear whether Elisha’s reputation as a “man of God” entitled him to such offerings or this occasion was prompted by a specific instruction from the Lord.

Vv. 43-44.  “for thus says the Lord … according to the word of the Lord”:  the expressions indicate the miracle was God’s and not Elisha’s. The expressions are common in prophetic books, especially among the preaching prophets. Further, the fulfillment of a deed based upon a promise or threat of God is quite common in the Deuteronomistic history and in prophetic preaching.


Ephesians 3:14-21
Humbled before the Creator of the universe, the author prays for the strength of his readers’ innermost being, for the indwelling of Christ, and for power to comprehend the wideness of God’s love in Christ.

Having blatantly assumed the role of Paul as author of the epistle, the writer has acknowledged that he is a steward of the mysteries of God which have been revealed in Christ. His ministry to the Gentiles and the role of the church as the bearer of the wisdom of God leads him to the prayer and doxology that comprise our lesson.

Key Words
V. 14.  Toutou charin = “This is the reason”:  The same words begin the chapter, implying that the author began his prayer for the people at verse 1, then interrupted himself with verses 2-13, and now resumes his prayer.

V. 16.  dia tou pneumatos autou eis ton esō anthrōpon = “through his Spirit in the inner being”:  The expression implies that the entire person of the believer is involved in the work of the Spirit, and in the process the person becomes new. At Romans 7:22 Paul indicates that deep within himself he delights in the law but that his external nature does not act accordingly.

V. 21. “to all generations”: Like the psalm for the day, this call to give God glory goes beyond the present time to include eternity.


John 6:1-21
At Passover time, Jesus fed the multitudes with a little food, causing some to consider him a candidate as king, a position he rejected in favor of the cosmic battle he came to fight.

Within the Book of Signs (Chaps. 1–12) the word “sign” is mentioned in connection with various miracles which Jesus performed:  the wedding at Cana (2:1-11), the healing of the official’s son (4:46-54), here at v. 14, the raising of Lazarus (11:47; 12:18).

Parallel Passages
Matthew 14:13-27; Mark 6:30-52; Luke 9:10-17

Key Words
V. 3. anēlthen de eis to oros ’Iēsous kai ekei ekathēto meta tōn mathētōn autou = And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there sat down with his disciples”: While the wording is not identical to Matthew 5:1, it is quite similar, including the context of the crowds who were following him. The words “the mountain” often indicate in the NT not a specific geographical location but a location where divine actions occur. This theological topography is more focused in Mark and in Luke, but even here the use of the definite article seems to call attention to a legendary mountain.

V. 11. elaben oun tous artous ho ’Iēsous kai eucharistēsas diedōken … = “Then Jesus took the bread and having given thanks, he gave …” The words are quite similar to those at the Last Supper, according to Luke 22:19, and to those used at the meal by the sea following Jesus’ resurrection in John 21:13.

V. 14. hoi oun anthrōpoi idontes ho epoiēsen sēmeion = “When the people saw the sign that he had done”: This miracle ranks as one of the signs in John’s “Book of Signs” that was written so that you may believe…” (20:31).

V. 14.  houtos estin alēthōs ho prophētēs ho erchomenos eis ton kosmon = “This is truly the prophet who is coming into the world”:  “the prophet” who fed the multitudes with a little bit of food and had some left over was Elisha (2 Kings 4:42-44; but see Mal. 4:5-6).

V. 15. While the parallels in Matthew and Mark indicate that Jesus dismissed the crowds following the feeding miracle, only John reports that Jesus himself withdrew and gives a reason why: apparently, the Zealots wanted Jesus to be the charismatic leader who would lead the rebellion against Rome.

V. 19. theōrousin ton ’Iēsoun peripatounta epi tēs thalassēs = “they saw Jesus walking about on the sea”: Matthew 14:25 reads peripatōn epi tēn thalassan = “walking on the sea,” and Mark 6:48 describes Jesus’ action as peripatōn epi tēs thalassēs = “walking on the sea.” The expression derives from Job 9:8 where God, the Creator of the universe, is the one “who trampled the waves of the Sea” (footnote in many translations: Or “trampled the back of the sea dragon”), translating peripatōn hōs ep’ edaphous epi thalassēs. The mythological Sea (Canaanite god Yamm) must be vanquished in order for the victor to become king (see Ps. 74:12-14; 89:5-18; Isa. 27:1; cf. Ps. 18:15; Isa. 50:2; Nah. 1:3b-5). That the story follows Jesus’ rebuking the Sea in Matthew and Mark provides a double whammy over the chaotic Sea (Matthew 8:18, 23-27; Mark 4:35-41). “The kingdom of God has come near” (Mark 1:15).

V. 20. egō eimi mē phobeisthe = “I AM; do not be afraid”: The translation “It is I” fail to do justice to Jesus’ divine claim by citing the formula used for God in the LXX (Isa. 43:10, 25; 51:12; 52:6). The title I AM  on Jesus’ lips appears in John’ Gospel elsewhere at 4:26; 8:24, 28, 58; 13:13, 19; 18:5-6 (except for 8:58, always translated differently).


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