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Wrestling with the Word, episode 64: Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year C (March 14, 2010) February 28, 2010

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Fourth Sunday in Lent

Let’s talk about God. What kind of God do we worship? That question is by no means frivolous. In fact, it is a matter of life and death, because the kind of God that we worship determines how we live our lives, how we face our deaths, and how we laugh with God through it all. As Jesus told the Parable of the Prodigal Son, he raised our sights above the standards of religion to envision a waiting Father ready to throw a party.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 64: Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year C.


Psalm 32
The psalm is a combination of two different genres. The first eight verses make up a song of thanksgiving. That expression of gratitude results from the psalmist’s personal reflections on his own sinfulness and his ultimate confession of guilt, after which the Lord forgave him. The second part focuses on Wisdom themes. The personal experience expressed at the beginning leads the psalmist to instruct others so that they too might relinquish their autonomy and submit their wills to the Lord. The conclusion exhorts others to be joyful that the Lord is a God who shows covenant loyalty (chesed) to the people.


Joshua 5:9-12
Having fed the people with manna during their long sojourn in the wilderness, the Lord brought them into the land of Canaan where they could celebrate the Passover with produce from the land of promise.

Having assumed leadership of the people upon the death of Moses, Joshua led the people across the Jordan River by the same means Moses had used to cross the Red Sea: drying up the river so that the people could pass over on dry ground. Now into the land of Canaan, Joshua circumcised all the males who had not been circumcised during the long journey. That necessity for the ritual seems to be the reason for the “reproach of Egypt” which YHWH rolled away.

Key Words
V. 9.  hayyôm gallôtî ’et-cherpat-mitsrayim mē‘aêkem = “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you”:  In light of the context, the reproach here is not the bondage that Egypt imposed upon the people of Israel but the fact that since the departure from Egypt, the children of the Israelites had not been circumcised.  The only other case in which uncircumcision itself is a reproach, i.e., shameful, occurs in the story about Dinah and Shechem in Genesis 34:14.

V. 11.  matstsôt = “unleavened bread/cakes”:  according to the rite for Passover, Israel was to eat such unleavened cakes for the seven days of Passover (see Exod. 12:15, 18, 20; 23:15; 13:6,7; Lev. 23:6, etc.


2 Corinthians 5:16-21
On the basis of God’s reconciliation of the world and of ourselves to him, we are a new creation entrusted with the message of reconciliation to others.

The apostle has finished his argument setting forth the idea that as fragile human beings we are bearers of the treasure of the gospel. He then proceeded to encourage the readers to live with the assurance of resurrection. Immediately prior to our pericope occurs the basis of the “therefore” that occurs in v. 16:  the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Key Words
V. 16.  apo tou nun = “from now on”:  The same expression at Luke 22:18, 69; 1 Cor. 7:29. Paul uses the expression nuni = “now” to indicate the difference between the former time and the new time. See Rom. 3:21; 5:9, 10, 11; 6:22; 7:6; 8:1, 22; 11:30; 13:11; 16:26; 1 Cor. 2:12; 4:5; 13:12; 2 Cor. 6:2; Gal. 3:25; 4:9. Here the transition from one time to the next is marked by the death and resurrection of Jesus.

V. 18.  tēn diakonian tēs katallagēs = “the ministry of reconciliation”:  At Rom. 5:11 reconciliation is, along with justification, our present gift while we wait for salvation from the wrath to come. At Rom. 11:15 the “reconciliation of the world” refers to the divine gift of going out to the Gentile world.


Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
Far beyond the human concern for fairness is the joy of God over the return of the lost.

The beginning of the pericope cites the problem the Pharisees and the scribes had with Jesus over his dining with sinners. The reference thus links directly to the previous chapter where Jesus, invited to dinner in the home of a Pharisee, took advantage of the opportunity to instruct the other guests in how to pick their seats and to reconstruct the host’s invitation list to include the poor. That discussion led to the parable about the man who invited many guests to a banquet and none of them came.

Scheme of LOST: FOUND: JOY

15:4-7:  Parable of the Lost Sheep

15:8-10: Parable of the Lost Coin

15:11-32 Parable of the Prodigal Son

Key Words
V. 2.  diagogguzein = “murmur, complain”:  The word appears in Luke here and at 19:7.  On the other hand, it occurs often in LXX for Israel’s “murmuring” against God and against Moses in the wilderness (Exod. 15:24; 16:2, 7, 8; 17:3; Num. 14:2, 36; 16:11; Deut. 1:27)..

V. 20.  esplagchvisthē = “had compassion”:  The word describes the feeling of the Good Samaritan in that parable (10:33), of the Lord in the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matt. 18:27), of Jesus at seeing the grieving widow of Nain (Luke 13).  Like the corresponding Hebrew words, the verb derives from a noun meaning “inward parts,” i.e., the seat of the emotions

V. 32.  dei = it is necessary”:  The word of necessity is common in Luke:  2:49; 4:43; 9:22; 13:16, 33; 17:25; 19:5; 22:37; 24:7, 26, 44. All the passages tell of the necessity of fulfilling the mission of God.

Wrestling with the Word, episode 63: Third Sunday in Lent, Year C (March 7, 2010) February 27, 2010

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Third Sunday in Lent

Like a loving parent, God is not only patient but unconditionally loyal to the children. Throughout the Bible, God teaches the people from infancy about love and kindness and faithfulness. God extends arms of welcome and showers forgiveness, even through teenage rebellions. The point comes, however, when God expects the kids to grow up, take responsibility, call home daily, and live lives among the rest of the siblings that honor this loving parent. The Bible calls that summons “repentance,” turning around not only to face the music but to make the music a parent loves to hear from the family chorus.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 63: Third Sunday in Lent, Year C.


Psalm 63:1-8
The psalm is a prayer song. The psalmist seems to be spending the night in the temple, “in the shadow of your wings” to “seek” the Lord and the Lord’s protection form enemies (vss. 9-11). The poet expresses a powerful longing for the Lord’s presence as a person longs for water during a drought (v. 1), and in the sanctuary he has envisioned the Lord’s power and glory (v. 2). The poet offers praise, blessing, and prayer because the chesed (covenant loyalty, steadfast love) of the Lord is more important than life itself (vss. 3-4). During this night of sanctuary in the Lord’s presence, the poet reflects on the abundance of peace and comfort (like a sumptuous banquet) that the Lord had given and will again provide (vss. 6-8). The whole image of the Lord’s help causes the poet to “sing for joy” (v. 7).


Isaiah 55:1-9
To a people in exile, apparently lost and forsaken by God, the Lord extends to them the covenant promise God once made to David and with his unfathomable ways invites sinners to turn to him so that he might have mercy.

Throughout Second Isaiah, the theological context of the Babylonian Exile looms large. According to Isaiah 40:27 and 49:14, the problem which this prophet encounters is people’s feeling of being forgotten or forsaken by God, even deprived of the Lord’s justice. Out of this experience grew psalms of community lament. One of those was Psalm 89. The psalm extols the Davidic covenant as everlasting and based on the chesed of God (vv. 1-4). The psalm goes on to acclaim the power of Yahweh in the heavenly court (vv. 5-18) and then announces that Yahweh transferred his power to the anointed king of the Davidic line (vv. 19-37). Then follows the lament in which the people accuse Yahweh of forsaking that promise and leaving them in a precarious situation. Specifically, the psalm lament concludes with the question:  “Lord, where is your chesed (covenant loyalty, steadfast love) of old, which by your faithfulness you swore to David?”

Key Words
V. 1.  lekû šibrû we’ekōlû lekû šibrû belō’ kesep = “Come, buy, and eat!  Come, buy without money…”:   The invitation sounds like the invitation to a banquet offered by Wisdom at Prov. 9:5 and at Sirach 24:19. Furthermore, the invitation to eat and drink “without money” is identical to the invitation of Wisdom at Sirach 51:25. Note Jesus’ words at John 7:37:  “If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink.”

V. 3.  ûlekû ’ēlay šim‘û ûtechî naphšekem = “and come to me; hear that you(r soul) may live”:  Note the connection between “come to me” and “life” in the words of Jesus at John 5:40. “That you may live” appears throughout Deuteronomy (e.g., 4:1; 5:33; 8:1; 11:9; 16:20; 22:7; 30:6; see also 2 Kings 18:32; Jer. 35:7; Amos 5:14).

V. 3.  we’ekretā lekem berît ‘ôlām chasdê  dāwid hanne’emānîm = “I will make for you a covenant of eternity (an everlasting covenant), my faithful acts of chesed for David”:  God promises here to the people what God had promised to David in an earlier time. For everlasting covenants God made, see Gen. 17:7, 13, 19; 1 Chron. 16:17 = Ps. 105:10 (with Abraham); 2 Sam. 23:5 (with David); Isa. 61:8; Jer. 32:40; 50:5; Ezek. 16:60; 37:26 (future time). According to Psalm 89:2, the covenant with David grew out of the Lord’s chesed and faithfulness.

V. 5. kî pē’arāk = “for he has glorified you”:  Elsewhere the expression appears only at 60:9 where it is preceded immediately, as here, by “the Holy One of Israel.” In both cases, the glorification of the people connects to the coming of the nations.

V. 6.  diršû YHWH = “seek the Lord”:  The expression appears also at 51:1 where seeking the Lord is parallel to pursuing deliverance. In the psalms (like Psalm 63), the expression is used for entering the Lord’s presence (probably cultic), but in prophets prior to Second Isaiah the expression seems to be tied to salvation (see Hos. 10:12; Amos 5:6; also Zeph. 2:3) or at least to his favor (Jer. 50:4; also Zech. 8:21-22).

V. 7.  wayyāšōb ’el-YHWH = “and let him return to the Lord”:  This call, a repeated emphasis in Deuteronomy, received its final form during the exilic period (see 4:30; 30:2; also see Lamentations 3:40). In pre-exilic prophets, see the plea at Hos. 14:2; also see Isa. 19:22. In post-exilic writings, see Joel 2:13; 2 Chron. 30:2, 6, 9. The same word šûb is often translated “repent.”


1 Corinthians 10:1-13
God uses the history of the people of God in the past to instruct and warn the people of God in the present, always acting out of faithfulness to carry us through.

Old Testament Allusions and Quotations
V. 1.  “cloud”:  Exod. 13:21; 14:18, 22; Ps. 78:13; 79:14; 105:39; 106:9.

V. 3.  “spiritual food”:  Exod. 16; Deut. 8:3, 16; Ps. 105:40.

V. 4.  “spiritual drink … spiritual rock”:  Exod. 17:1-7; Num. 20:2-11; Ps. 78:15-16; 105:41.

V. 7.  Exod. 32:6.

V. 8.  “fell in a single day”:  Exod. 32:27-28 (3000 people); Num. 16:31-35 (250 people); “twenty-three thousand”:  Num. 26:62:  the census count of the Levites (did not die in a single day).

V. 9.  “put the Lord to the test”:  Exod. 17:7; Deut. 6:16; “destroyed by serpents”:  Num. 21:4-9.

V. 10.  “grumble”:  Exod. 15:24; 16:2; 17:2, 3; Num. 11:4ff.; 14:2, 29; 16:11; 17:5, 10.

V. 13.  “temptation” (peirasmos):  cf. Deut. 8:2;  “God … faithful”:  see Deut. 7:9.


Luke 13:1-9
Jesus indicates that because those who suffer tragedy are not worse sinners than others, God gives to all the guilty another opportunity to reform their lives and to bear fruit.

According to the end of chap. 11, the Pharisees are now putting on the pressure to catch Jesus in some saying that would give them an excuse to report him. As Jesus goes his way toward Jerusalem, he teaches both the multitudes (12:1-21, 54-59) and his disciples (12:22-53).

Key Words
Vv. 1-9.  Unique to Luke; on image of fig tree see Matt. 21:18-20; Mark 11:12-14, 20-21.

V. 2.  Jesus discusses the correlation between guilt and suffering also at John 9:1-3.

Vv. 6-9. For OT imagery of vineyard, see Isa. 5:1-7; Jer.12:10; Ezek. 15; 19:10-14; Hos. 9:10, 16-17; Ps. 80:8-16.

V. 7. Compare the imagery in 3:9.

Wrestling with the Word, episode 62: Second Sunday in Lent, Year C (February 28, 2010) February 20, 2010

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Second Sunday in Lent

It might seem to us that God’s promises are simply an illusion. The daily experience of life often stands in stark contrast to what God has promised. This Second Sunday in Lent announces in several different ways that the promises of God are sure, unconditional, and often delivered in surprising ways. Faith in such a God requires our trust in spite of our experiences and our prayer of submission to let God be God.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 62: Second Sunday in Lent, Year C.


Psalm 27
The psalm is both a song of trust and a lament. The two parts change so abruptly between verses 6 and 7 that some scholars think they are two different psalms written in different circumstances by different people. Whether or not they were originally separate, the two parts express a powerful dynamic of faith. Even the person of faith, the one who expresses confident trust in the Lord and who desires nothing more than living in the temple forever, will face trials in life. Here, even in the face of persecution and desertion, the psalmist finds solace in the Lord’s invitation to “seek my face” (v. 7). The verse is similar to the experience of Jeremiah. The Lord invites that prophet who lamented his circumstances repeatedly to “seek me and find me” and promises him, “I will be found by you” (Jer. 29:10-14). The trust in that promise enables the psalmist here confess, “I believe I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (v. 13).


Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18
In spite of what seemed to be endless waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promise, the Lord appeared to Abraham to assure him unconditionally of the promises of progeny and of the land of Canaan.

The first paragraph is usually considered to be the first instance of the Elohist source in the Tetrateuch, while verses 7-12 and 17-18 seem to be from the Yahwist. The placing of the first E material at this point connects with the promise of “a great nation” at 12:2 and points forward to the Hagar story in chapter 16 and to the repeated promise in chapters 17–18, and the birth of Isaac in chapter 21. The promise of the land of Canaan (vss. 7-18) to Abraham  first appears at 12:7.

Key Words
V. 1.  māgēn = “shield”:  The word appears as an epithet for YHWH about 15 times in the Psalms (e.g., 3:3; 7:10; 18:2, 30) but especially significant is Proverbs 30:5 where the epithet is parallel to “every word of God proves true.”

V. 1.  sekāre = “reward”:  While the word often has to do with “wages” (e.g., Num. 18:31; Deut. 15:18, 24:15), it sometimes has to do with an unmerited gift from God (return from exile at Jer. 31:16; Isa. 40:10 and salvation at Isa. 62:11).

Vv. 3-4.  The practice of a slave inheriting a man’s estate seems to have parallels in other ancient Semitic cultures, especially in Nuzi (ANET, 219).  Apparently, contracts were made by which a slave would take care of persons in their old age in exchange for the right to inherit the estate upon their death.

V. 6. wehe’emin baYHWH wayyachsebehā lô tsedāqâ = “And he believed in the Lord, and he (YHWH) reckoned it to him as righteousness”: Abraham’s faith is the recognition and acceptance that the Lord’s promise of progeny would come to fulfillment only by surrendering his own plans to achieve an heir. The faith would provide for the Apostle Paul a key to understanding and explaining how God reckons righteousness to people apart from their obedience to the law (Romans 4:3-25). At Galatians 3:6, Paul indicates that people of faith are “the children of Abraham,” and as recipients of the promise of God, baptized Christians are “Abraham’s offspring” (Gal. 3:29). The words “count as righteousness” appear at Deuteronomy 24:13 for a person who restores to a debtor before nightfall a coat that the debtor offered as a pledge. Further, at Psalm 106:31, the same expression describes Phinehas who stopped a God-sent plague among the people who had rebelled against YHWH in the wilderness. Perhaps, more important is the similar expression “declared righteous (or innocent)” as a result of the Suffering Servant’s righteousness at Isaiah 53:11.

Vv. 9-10.  See a similar rite at Jeremiah 34:18-19.

V. 17.  tannûr ‘āšān welappîd ’ēš = “a stove of smoke and a torch of fire”:  The combination indicates a theophany, i.e., a God-appearance (see the use of fire at Exod. 3:1-6; and of smoke and fire at Exod. 14:24; 19:16ff.) and specifically the “stove” as a symbol for YHWH’s presence at Isaiah 31:9.

V. 18. bayyôm hahû’ kārat YHWH ’et-’abrām berît lē’mōr = “On that day YHWH made a covenant with Abram, saying”: The expression “cut a covenant” (here) is one of several ways to mean “make a covenant.” The expression might have originated in the practice of cutting up an animal (or more) as described in verses 9-10). The content of the covenant here is a promise of God in which God laid no obligation on Abram (see also Gen. 9:11-17; 17:2; 2 Sam. 23:5).


Philippians 3:17–4:1
Since God calls Christians to be in but not of the world, we are called to stand firm in the Lord even in the midst of worldly values.

Date and Place of Composition
According to 1:12-18 the letter is written from a prison cell, either in Rome about 61-62 (the traditional view), in Corinth about 54-55, or most likely in Ephesus about A.D. 55. Paul faced charges which could have resulted in his execution, and so this situation accounts for the “last will and testament” tone here.

Key Words
V. 20.  politeuma = “homeland, commonwealth”:  The word appears only here in the NT.  For Christians as citizens of the new age, the reign of God, see 1 Pet. 1:1; 2:11 (cf. 1:3, 17, 23); Gal. 4:26; Heb. 11:13, 16.

V. 20.  sōtēra = “Savior”:  This is the only time Paul uses this word, and it is used for a future hope. For Paul’s view of “salvation” as eschatological deliverance versus “justification” as a present gift, see Romans 5:1, 9-10.


Luke 13:31-35
Even in the midst of royal threats, Jesus laments for those who are bringing God’s judgment on themselves and simultaneously points to his own arrival in Jerusalem, at first glorious then tragic and then glorious again.

Parallel at Matthew 23:37-39 with vv. 34-35 although vv. 31-33 are unique to Luke.

This narrative occurs as Jesus is journeying through towns and villages to Jerusalem (13:22).  Jesus had just finished teaching about the inclusion of many and the exclusion of some in the coming kingdom of God, concluding with the familiar “some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last” (v. 30).

Key Words
V. 32.  “that fox”: The word is a reference to Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great and tetrarch of Galilee and Perea from 4 B.C. until A.D. 39.  Luke mentions him by title in connection with the introduction to John the Baptist and the ensuing baptism of Jesus ((3:1). His evil hand has already been at work by his beheading John the Baptist, a hint of his contemptuous role in Jesus’ trial (23:6-16, especially vss. 10-11; Acts 4:27).

V. 34.  “Jerusalem, killing the prophets”:  Because of a tradition about the invincibility of Jerusalem, the city could not tolerate challenges or threats to its security (see Jer. 26). The prophet whose death is recorded in the OT is Uriah, the son of Shemaiah from Kiriath-jearim.  Because he prophesied “against this city and against this land in words like those of Jeremiah” (Jer. 26:20-23), he was executed by King Jehoiakim. Jeremiah escaped the same fate because of the intervention of the people and the princes who reminded the priests and the prophets that when Micah prophesied against the city a hundred years earlier, King Hezekiah did not kill him.

V. 35.  aphiemi = “leave”; Here the word means “is abandoned”:  For imagery see 1 Kings 9:7-8; Jer. 12:7; 22:5; Micah 3:12; and differently, Psalm 69:25.

V. 35.  “Blessed …”:  The OT quotation is Psalm 118:26 where reference is to the righteous ones who enter Jerusalem in the name of the Lord and where a festal procession proceeds through bound branches leading to the altar. The verse appears again at Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem at Luke 19:38 and parallels, but there Luke changes “the one” to “the King.” While the psalm here and at 19:38 points toward Palm Sunday, we will use Psalm 118 on Easter Sunday and the Second Sunday of Easter.

Wrestling with the Word, episode 61: First Sunday in Lent, Year C (February 21, 2010) February 16, 2010

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First Sunday in Lent

The Lenten season begins with the story of Jesus’ temptations by the devil. The story sets a certain stage for what is to happen in Jesus’ life, but it also gives us some keys to understanding the promises of God. The Temptation story and its aftermath challenge us in our presumptions of faith. Lent even questions the conviction that “God is on our side” in the struggles we face in the world. It teaches us instead that “God is at our side.” That lesson began when Jesus put his feet into our sandals and began walking with us though our pains, our griefs, our fears, our deaths, and through all the temptations we face as we try to meet them in faith.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 61: First Sunday in Lent, Year C.


Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16
The psalm appears to belong to the ritual for seeking refuge in the temple. At someone else’s invitation, the person who is hiding from danger “in the shelter of the Most High” will confess to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust” (vss. 1-2). Like Psalm 34, the priest or some other “wise” teacher will then instruct the refugee about the rewards of God’s deliverance for those who make such confession (vss. 3-13). Above all, the Lord will send guardian angels to guard such a person from all danger. Finally, God announces the promise of deliverance because of the person’s love for God and who call on God’s name (v. 14). True to his name, the Lord will answer those who call upon him (v. 15) and will reward them with long life and salvation (v. 16).


Deuteronomy 26:1-11
Because God responded to the cries for help from the Israelites in bondage, God receives the offering of the harvest from those who acknowledge the Lord’s gifts of land, of salvation, and of crops.

For similar recitals of Israel’s salvation history, see Deut. 6:20-23; Joshua 24:2-13; 1 Samuel 12:8-13; Psalms 105, 106, 135, 136. This recital stands toward the conclusion of the so-called Code of Deuteronomy that encompasses chapters 12—26.

Key Words
V. 1. “the land that the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance”: The concept of land as an inheritance from the Lord appears frequently in Deuteronomy (see 4:21; 12:9; 15:4; 19:10; 20:16; 21:28; 24:4; 25:19). The notion of inheritance indicates that the Lord is the owner of the land and that Israel receives it without earning or deserving it.

V. 2. ûbā’tā ’el-hammāqōm ’ašer yibqar YHWH ’elōheykā lešākēn šemô šām =  “and you shall enter the place that the Lord your God will choose to make his name dwell there”: The expression, common in Deuteronomy and in the Deuteronomistic history, clarifies that God does not live in the Jerusalem temple but in heaven (26:15; cf. Solomon’s prayer of dedication at 1 Kings 8:27-30, 32, 34, 36, 39, 43, 45). God does provide divine presence for the people through the gift of the “name.”

V. 7.  wannitsts‘aq ’el-YHWH … wayišma‘ YHWH ’et-qôlēnû = “And we cried out for help to YHWH, and WHWH heard our voice”: The expression is so common it became technical as Israel’s way of understanding the nature of God when they needed help under injustice or oppression; cf. Exodus 3:7; Judges 3:9, 15; 1 Samuel 9:16; Isaiah 30:18-19. The confidence in YHWH’s hearing and responding lies at the root of all the psalms of lament.

Vv. 8-9.  wayôtsî’ēnû YHWH…  wayhêbî’ēnû = “And YHWH brought us out  … and YHWH brought us in”:  The “bring out—bring in” formula is common in the other recitals listed in the Context.

V. 11. wešāmachtā bekol-hattôb = “and you shall rejoice in all the good(ness)”: The concluding sentence of this liturgical instruction commands joy at the thanksgiving offering. The inclusiveness of the community to which God gives the goodness is exemplary.


Romans 10:8b-13
God gives freely to all people the word/gospel so that we might confess who Jesus is and believe that God raised him from the dead.

Old Testament Allusions
V. 8.  “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart”:  Deuteronomy 30:14 where it refers to the Code of Deuteronomy.

V. 11.  “No one who believes in him will be put to shame”: Isaiah 28:16 where the context is the saving from the coming judgment.

V. 13.  “every one who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”: Joel 2:32 where an apocalyptic judgment will bring devastation to all except those who serve the Lord.


Luke 4:1-13
Having resisted the devil’s temptations to prove he was the Son of God by demonstrative miracles, Jesus drove the devil away until the opportune time.

Parallels at Mark 1:12-13//Matthew 4:1-11

Comparison of Lukan and Matthean Accounts

(1) Sequence of temptations
Matthew:  wilderness—temple—a very high mountain
Luke:     wilderness—”up”—Jerusalem’s temple

(2) V. 1:  adds “full of the Holy Spirit”

(3) V. 3:  changes “stones” (pl.) to “stone” (s.)

(4) V. 4:  deletes “but by every word … the mouth of God.”

(4) V. 5:  adds “in a moment of time”

(5) V. 6:  adds “all this authority and their glory; for it has been delivered to me, and I will give it to whom I will.”

(6) V. 13:  adds  achri kairou = “for a time” or perhaps “until an opportune time.” That time will occur when returns to enter Judas at 22:3, and “the power of darkness” inhabits those who came to arrest Jesus at 22:53; note that this expression also at Acts 13:11 in the words of Paul to the “son of the devil” who was Elymas the magician.)

Old Testament Allusions and Quotations
V. 2. “forty … in the wilderness” recalls Israel’s forty years in the wilderness (Deut. 8:2;  Moses “forty days and forty nights” were spent on Mount Sinai/Horeb (Exodus 24:18).

V. 4.  Jesus cites Deuteronomy 8:3, a passage about God’s testing Israel with hunger in the wilderness to teach the lesson cited here.

V. 8.  Jesus cites Deuteronomy 6:13 and 10:20 exhorting Israel to avoid the worship of any god except the Lord. Both Matthew and Luke use the verb proskonēseis = “fall down before” rather than the LXX phobothēse = “fear, be in awe of,” and both add mono = “only” although the exclusivity is obviously intended in the OT passage.

V. 9.  Narrative is similar to Ezekiel 8:3 where the Spirit takes the prophet (in vision) to Jerusalem’s temple.

Vv. 10-11. Psalm 91:11-12 promises protection of one who dwells in the shelter of the Most High and makes YHWH a refuge. While the devil makes inappropriate use of the passage, Jesus uses it himself as he promises protection to the seventy he had commissioned  to announce the kingdom of God (Luke 10:19).

V. 12:  Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:16 which forbids Israel from testing God, as Israel did at Massah (cf. Exodus 17:1-7; Psalm 95:8-10).

Signs of the End
“If you are the Son of God”: The words of the devil will appear on the lips of those who put Jesus on trial: “If you are the Christ, tell us” (Luke 22:67). They also occur by those who mock Jesus on the cross: “If he is the Christ, his Chosen one” (Luke 23:35) and “If you are the King of the Jews,…” (23:37).

“To you I (the devil) will give all this authority and their glory”: On the cross, Jesus promised Paradise to the thief who has asked to participate in the “kingdom” (Luke 23:42-43; note the absence of “if”).

Wrestling with the Word, episode 60: The Transfiguration of our Lord, Year C (February 14, 2010) February 5, 2010

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The Transfiguration of our Lord

The Sunday of the Transfiguration of Jesus stands in a strategic position in the church year. In one sense, it brings to a conclusion the Epiphany season. In the past six weeks, we have read and studied passages from the New Testament that revealed the person and work of Jesus as the presence and power of God. For the next six weeks, we will focus on Jesus’ path to Golgotha where he will suffer and die at the hands of the religious and political leaders. The story of the Transfiguration connects to the Epiphany season because it tells about God’s direct revelation of Jesus’ identity as God’s Son. It points forward to the cross in precisely the same words that define for the apostles who Jesus is. Looking back and stretching forward, this Sunday announces the person and purpose of Jesus and the majesty of God.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 60: The Transfiguration of our Lord, Year C.


Psalm 99
Like Psalms 47, 93, 95-98 this psalm acclaims the Lord as king and invites worshipers to extol the divine name in the temple. Unlike those psalms that base YHWH’s kingship on the act of creation, this one focuses more on history, even mentioning Moses, Aaron, and Samuel by name. That those heroes of the past cried out to the Lord and the Lord answered their prayer gives hope to all worshipers who cry out in the present. Such hope is confirmed by the description of YHWH as “lover of justice.”


Exodus 34:29-35
Having given for the second time the Ten Words on stone tablets, God manifested the divine presence by the brightness of Moses’ face, so that others might know the source of the commandments.

In chapter 24 God instructed Moses to ascend the mountain to receive the tables of stone upon which God had already written the commandments. When Moses finally descended the mountain and discovered then the golden calf that Aaron and the others had made, Moses smashed the tablets in his hands. In the earlier part of our present chapter, God invited Moses back to the mountain where the Lord announced a new “ten words,” the so-called Ritual Decalogue, and on this occasion, Moses wrote down the words over a forty-day period of fasting.

Key Words
Vv. 29, 30, 35. qāran ‘ôr pānāyw = “the skin of his face sent out rays”: The verb qāran derives from the noun qeren = “horn”; the Vulgate took the word literally and described horns coming out of Moses’ head, thus the portrayal by many medieval artists. The word, however, does appear in the sense of “rays of light” and indicates a theophany at Habakkuk 3:4: “His (God’s) brightness was like the light, rays flashed from his hand.”


2 Corinthians 3:12—4:2
In contrast to the veil that remains over the face of Moses and over those who hear the law of Moses, the Lord removes the veil from believers and reveals to us the glory of the Lord.

At the beginning of chapter 3, Paul sets forth the differences between the old covenant through Moses and the new covenant God established in Jesus Christ that far exceeds the former one in splendor and therefore in permanence.


Luke 9:28-36 (37-43)
In response to the discussion about the identity of Jesus, God announces from a cloud on the mountain that Jesus is his Son, his Chosen, and that the disciples should listen to him.


Having his identity and destiny revealed to the select disciples, Jesus demonstrated the power and reign of God by exorcising an unclean spirit from a boy and restoring him to his father.

Points of similarity with Mark 9:2-9 and Matthew 17:1-8
(1) The context following the questions about the identity of Jesus, beginning at Luke 9:18
(2) The entourage of Jesus, Peter, James, and John
(3) The event on a mountain
(4) The change of Jesus’ appearance
(5) The appearance of Moses and Elijah
(6) Peter’s proposal to build three booths
(7) An overshadowing cloud
(8) The voice of God from the cloud
(9) The announcement “This is my Son…; listen to him”
(10) The silence of the disciples about what they had seen

Points of difference from Mark and Matthew
v. 28 “Now about eight days after these sayings” (perhaps via Lev. 23:33-36) “and went up on the mountain to pray”
v. 29 “And as he was praying”
vv. 31-32 “who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep but kept awake, and they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. And as the men were departing from him,…”
v. 33 “not knowing what he said” (similar in Mark but omitted in Matthew)
v. 35 “my Chosen” rather than “Beloved” (Matt and Mark)
v. 36 Silence commanded by Jesus in Matthew and Mark

Key words
V. 28. to oros = “the mountain”: Consider Luke’s “theological geography” in the following passages: Luke 3:5 (OT quote); 4:29; 6:12; 8:32; 19:29 (Olives), 37 (Olives); 21:21 (plural), 37 (Olives); 22:39 (Olives); 23:30.

V. 28. proseuchomai = “pray”: Jesus in prayer: 3:21 (at his baptism); 5:16 (in the wilderness); 6:12 (on the mountain); 9:28, 29 (on the mountain); 11:1 (in a certain place); 22:41, 44 (at the Mount of Olives; Jesus instructing his disciples about prayer: 6:28; 11:2; 18:1, 10, 11; 20:47; 22:40, 46.

V. 31. exodos = “departure”: only here in NT; The word appears in LXX of Israel’s salvation from Egypt (Ps. 104:38; 113:1) and euphemistically of death (Wisdom of Solomon 3:2; 7:6).

V. 31. doxa = “glory”: Luke 2:9, 14, 32 (all in reference to the Lord/God); 4:6 (offered by Satan to Jesus); 9:26, 31, 32; 12:27 (of Solomon); 14:10 (honor accorded a guest); 17:18 (praise to God); 19:38 (praise to Jesus at entry into Jerusalem); 21:27 (the splendor of the coming Son of Man); 24:26 (the glory of Christ following suffering).

V. 35. ho eklelegmenos (a verbal adjective of eklego ) = “the chosen”): This form of the word appears only here in the NT. Other forms of verb in Luke: 6:13 (Jesus chooses 12 apostles “on the mountain”); 10:42 (Mary chooses to be taught by Jesus); 14:7 (guests choose the places of honor). In the LXX the verb exelexato refers to the Lord’s choosing the one “who is his, who is holy, and will cause him to come near to him” (Num.16:5: the one so chosen was Moses). At Isaiah 42:1 the Greek has the noun eklektos and the parallel is pais mou rather than huios mou as here; the reference is to the Servant of the Lord. Eklektos is used for the only “Jesus” in the Old Testament, i.e., Joshua, at Numbers 11:28. At Luke 23:35 Jesus is mocked at the cross by those who challenge him to save himself “if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One”; there, too, the noun form eklektos is used. At the baptismal announcement Luke (3:22) follows Mark in using agapētos (“beloved”).

V. 35. akouete autou = “listen to him”: The words are identical to those that describe the one Moses promised at Deut. 18:15. He said that the Lord would “raise up for you a prophet like me from among you … you shall listen to him.”

V. 37. “On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain”: Luke places the miracle of Jesus’ rebuking the unclean spirit on the day following the transfiguration event. That detail is not mentioned in Mark’s version; neither is the discussion between Jesus and the disciples on the way down the mountain (Mark 9:9-13). Here, the descent from “the mountain” leads to the clamor of the crowds to meet their needs. The sequence sounds like that in chapter 6 where after commissioning the twelve “on the mountain,” “Jesus came down with them and stood on a level place,” where the crowds met them (6:12-19). Note the comparison and contrast with the first lesson about Moses’ descent from the mountain.

V. 41. hō genea apistos kai diestrammenē = “O faithless and perverse generation!”: Luke writes several times of Jesus’ teaching about “this generation” (11:30-51), including “this generation’s rejection of Jesus (17:25). The description “faithless generation” appears on Jesus’ lips in the same story at Mark 9:19, but the addition of “perverse” seems to originate from Deuteronomy 32:5 (LXX).

V. 42. epetimēsen de ho ‘Iēsous tō pneumatic tō akathartō = “But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit”: The verb “rebuke” is a technical term in the Bible. The only legitimate subject of the verb is YHWH in the OT and Jesus in the NT. The object of the verb is always some expression of chaos that stands in the way of God’s plans for the orderly rule of the kingdom. In the OT, the representatives of chaos are the sea, monsters of the sea, and Satan. In the synoptic gospels, such representatives of chaos are the sea, demons and unclean spirits, and Satan in the form of Peter.

V. 42. kai iasato ton paida kai apedōken auton tō patri autou = “and he healed the boy and gave him back to his father”: The sequence is similar to Elijah’s raising from the dead the widow of Zarephath’s son (1 Kings 17:23) and to Jesus’ raising from the dead the widow of Nain’s son (Luke 7:15). In each case, as here, the on who worked the miracle “gave him back” to his mother or father. The healings result in the restoration of relationships. Immediately following this scene, Jesus tells his disciples of his impending arrest (vss. 43b-45).

V. 43. epi tē megaleiotēti = “at the majesty of God”: The Greek word appears at 2 Peter 1:16 as a reference to the transfiguration event and the words God spoke on the mountain. The people saw in Jesus’ act of rebuking the work and power of God.