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Wrestling with the Word, episode 71: Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year C (May 2, 2010) April 22, 2010

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Fifth Sunday of Easter

Some people are big picture folks. Others focus on details. When we speak of God as a person (or three persons), how do we imagine God? Big picture? Details? The lessons for today enable us to see that God is both. God is so big that the whole universe owes its origin and its praise to God. God is so detailed that God wipes away tears from the cheeks of those who weep and mourn. Nothing demonstrates the universal and personal nature of God better than the love God gave in the death and resurrection of Christ.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 71: Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year C.

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Psalm 148
The psalm is a hymn of praise.  It calls for the whole creation to join in a hymn to glorify the name of God.  It begins with a call to the heavens (vv. 1-6), then moves to earth to summon natural phenomena and animals (vv. 7-10), addresses humanity from royalty to children (vv. 11-12), and focuses finally on the people of Israel for whom the Lord has given strength (a horn) and who “are close to him.”

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Acts 11:1-18
On the basis of the commission to baptize with the Holy Spirit and persuaded in a dream of the inclusive nature of that commission, Peter explained why he had brought Gentiles to faith by baptizing them.

Context
The pericope actually summarizes events of the previous chapter, culminating in the baptism of Cornelius and his family.  The sermon Peter preached on that occasion (10:34-43) about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ led to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Gentiles who heard the word.

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Revelation 21:1-6
Against the present reality of chaos, death, and mourning, God will make a new creation in which God’s presence with humanity will end all the horrors of the present.

Context
John the Seer had just reported the vision of the demise of Satan and of the judgment before the great white throne.  Now the Seer begins his report of the final vision.

Key Words
V. 1.  “a new heaven and a new earth”:  Note the similarity to the vision reported in Isa. 65:17-22, along with Genesis 1:1.  The new represents the opposite of what is experienced in the present universe.

V. 1.  hē thalassa = “the sea”:  The sea is an image of the chaotic force which is opposed to God’s Reign.  In OT often portrayed as a sea monster (sometimes called Leviathan or Rahab); see Job 9:8; Psalm 74:12-14; Isaiah 27:1; 50:2; 51:9-10; Nahum 1:4; and often.  In NT see Mark 4:35-41 and parallels; also Mark 6:45-52 and parallels.  (For a discussion of the theme throughout the Bible and in ancient Near Eastern stories, see my book Ancient Myths and Biblical Faith [Phila.:  Fortress, 1983] 11-71.)

V. 2.  “the holy city,… Jerusalem”:  An eschatological reference with the same words occurs at Isa. 52:1 where Zion is commanded to put on power and glory; the context there is the coming salvation of the exiles from Babylon.  See also Neh. 11:1, 18.

V. 2. katabainousan ek tou ouranou apo tou theou = “coming down out of heaven from God”: The expression seems to imply the collapse of the three-storeyed universe (recall 5:13; Phil. 2:11) in order to remove the barriers between God and people.

V. 2.  “a bride adorned for her husband”:  See 19:7.  Cf. Isa. 61:10 where an individual represents the community redeemed by the Lord and dressed for the occasion.  On the image of marriage between Yahweh and Israel, see Hos. 1:1-3; 2:15; 3:1ff.; also Ezek. 20; Isa. 54:5-8.  On marriage as an image for Christ and the church, see 2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:31-32, and here.

V. 3.  hē skēnē  tou theou … kai skēnōsei met’ autōn = “the dwelling/tent of God … and he will dwell with them”:  skēnē appears in the LXX for the tabernacle that God instructed Moses to build in order to be present with the people (Exod. 26–27); for similarity of this whole expression, see Exod. 29:45 (although a different verb used in LXX).  On God’s presence among the people, see also Lev. 26:11-12; Jer. 31:33; Ezek. 37:27.  On God’s dwelling place in heaven, see Deut. 26:15; 1 Kings 8:30, 39, 43, 49.

V. 4.  “wipe away every tear from their eyes”:  See Isa. 25:8, a vision of the Day of the Lord. The same sentence appeared at Revelation 7:17.

V. 4.  “mourning … crying … pain”:  See the prophecies about the eschaton at Isa. 35:10 = 51:11; esp. 65:17, 19 in the new creation.

Vv. 4-5.  “former things … things new”:  For the contrast elsewhere, see Isa. 43:18-19. In Second Isaiah, the “former things” are the acts of divine judgment that will disappear in order for the act of salvation to occur.

V. 6. egō  tō dipsōnti dōsō ek tēs pēgēs tou hydatos tēs zōēs dōrean = To the thirsty I will give from the fountain of the water of life without payment”:  See the background in Isaiah 55:1-2 and Jeremiah 2:13. Then see the use  of the same imagery at John 4:13-14; 7:37-38; and then surprisingly 19:28.

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John 13:31-35
Even though Jesus Christ departed physically from the world, his presence continues through Christians loving one another.

Context
At supper Jesus spoke of a disciple who would betray him (v. 21).  When Satan entered Judas (v. 27), that disciple went out into the night (v. 30).

Key Words
Vv. 31-32.  edoxasthē = “glorified”:  While the word “glory” has many ramifications, it can be, as apparently here, a visible form of God’s power.  Cf. 7:39; 8:54; 11:4; 12:16, 23, 28; 14:13; 15:8; 16:14; 17:1, 4, 5, 10; 21:19. While the passage does not say directly, the context of Jesus’ teaching seems to focus the glory of God in Jesus’ imminent crucifixion.

V. 33.  eti mikron = “yet a little while”: For the same sense in John’s Gospel, namely, the limited time left for Jesus’ earthly life, see also 7:33; 12:35; 14:19.  In LXX the expression signifies that God’s wrath against Israel will come to an end (Isa. 10:25) and that God’s judgment against Babylon will occur (Jer. 51:33; LXX 28:33).

V. 34.  hina agapate allēlous, kathōs ēgapēsa hymas hina kai hymeis agapate allēlous =”so that you love one another; just as I have loved you so that you also love one another”:  The love of Christ appears in the aorist (ēgapēsa), thus the single act of passion and crucifixion, while the love for one another is the continuing present (cf. also 15:12). At 17:26, Jesus attributes his love for the disciples to be from God and prays that divine love may be in them.

Wrestling with the Word, episode 70: Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year C (April 25, 2010) April 16, 2010

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Fourth Sunday of Easter

We have finished the Lenten season four weeks ago. The suffering of Christ has ended, and since then we are still enjoying the celebration of his resurrection. But for us, suffering continues, as it did for the early disciples of Jesus. We still get ill and suffer accidents. We still know the pain of rejection by friends and family. We still get traumatized over what people do to one another—individually or collectively. We still die, and so do our loved ones. The Resurrection of Jesus gives us all hope even in our tough times. It announces victory over the death that would keep us from one another and from God. It promises a future with hope that contrasts sharply with what we see and experience everyday. The Resurrection faith points to a party—a big party open to many people of different nationalities and races and agendas. It seems that the only ticket necessary is what names we call Jesus.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 70: Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year C.

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Psalm 23
This psalm of trust is based on the development of the image of YHWH as the Shepherd of Israel (Psalm 80; Ezekiel 34) to the intimate relationship of YHWH to the individual worshiper.  The imagery speaks of the Lord’s guidance, presence, and protection through the valley of darkness.  (The traditional translation “the valley of the shadow of death” was based on reading Hebrew tsalmût = “darkness” as tsalmāwet = “valley of death”; however, there are no compound nouns in biblical Hebrew.)  The scene switches in verses 5-6 to a festive meal in the temple where the worshiper exults in the ongoing joy at participating in this different kind of intimacy with the Lord.  The worshiper has confidence for the future because of the constancy of God’s care past and present.

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Acts 9:36-43
Continuing the healing ministry of Jesus and endowed with the Holy Spirit, Peter raised Tabitha from the dead and restored her to her community, an act that inspired others to the faith.

Context
After reporting the conversion of Saul on the Damascus road earlier in the chapter, the author of Luke-Acts brings that section to a conclusion by announcing that the church in Judea and Galilee and Samaria walked in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.  Although in our liturgical calendar, we still wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, this chapter in the Book of Acts occurs nine chapters after that event.  It is important to realize that the church and its apostles have already been endowed with the Spirit as they go about their ministry.

Key Words
V. 36.  Joppa:  Jaffa, the modern name, is a city on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, only a couple of miles from the modern-day city of Tel Aviv.  The city is known in the OT as the place where Jonah tried to flee from the Lord’s command to preach to the city of Nineveh.

V. 38.  Lydda, also known as Lod, is located about 11 miles southeast of Joppa.  It plays an important role in the previous paragraph as the home of Aeneas, a man bedridden for 8 years, whom Peter healed.  The miracle brought many of the residents of Lydda and nearby Sharon to faith.

V. 40. Tabitha, anastēthi = “Tabitha, arise”: When Jesus performed a similar miracle for the daughter of Jairus, he said to the dead girl, “Talitha, cumi” (Aramaic) which means in Greek “Little girl, … arise” (Mark 5:41; however, the Greek word in Mark is egeire). The presentation of live Tabitha to others is similar to that of the little girl in Mark. The story recalls the miracles of the prophets Elijah (1 Kings 17) and Elisha (2 Kings 4).

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Revelation 7:9-17
Gathered around the throne of God and comprised of people from every nation, the community of the faithful singing the “hymn of all creation” learn the blessings to come in the kingdom.

Context
The vision of John the Seer throughout the entire book is written to provide people with hope in the midst of the persecution under Emperor Domitian in the year A.D. 95.  This particular piece is part of the vision that resulted from the Lamb opening the sixth seal.

V. 9. kai enōpion tou arniou = and before the Lamb”: Using a different Greek word (amnos), other NT writers speak of Jesus “as a lamb” (Acts 8:32) or “like a lamb without blemish” (1 Peter 1:19), although the author of John’s Gospel puts the title into the mouth of John the Baptist: “Behold the lamb of God” (John 1:29, 36).(This word amnos appears frequently in the LXX for the lamb in the sacrificial system.) As for the word arnios used here, John the Seer uses the word as a designation of Christ 28 times. Elsewhere in the NT, the word appears only of Jesus’ “flock” at John 21:15.

V. 14. en tō aimati tou arniou = “in the blood of the Lamb”: Clearly the sacrificial use of the lamb is clear here, especially as the title appears in v. 10 in regard to “salvation.”

V. 16. A quotation of Isaiah 49:10 where God’s word of salvation is addressed to the exiles in Babylon.

V. 17. hoti to arnion to ana meson tou thronou poimanei autous = “For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd”: The change from “lamb” to “shepherd” of the flock is striking, but with the title “shepherd” comes a rich OT image of God and of the Messiah (see Psalm 23:1: Ezek. 34:15, 23; note God’s naming Cyrus, king of Persia, as “my shepherd” at Isa. 44:28). In the ancient world, the title “shepherd” was common for royalty, used by such leaders as Hammurabi, king of Babylon, and Sennacherib, king of Assyria.

V. 17. kai exaleipsei ho theos pan dakryon ek tōn ophthalmōn autōn = “and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes”: The quotation of Isaiah 25:8 enhances the image of the eschatological blessings for those who in faith endure tribulations.

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John 10:22-30
More powerful than all others, Jesus and the Father can assure the sheep of the flock that no one can snatch them away and deprive them of eternal life.

Context
Jesus had just finished the saying about himself as the Good Shepherd (see Psalm 23; Ezekiel 34; Psalm 80) and as one who had the power to lay down his life and to take it up again.  These words caused division among the Judeans in the temple, some saying he has a demon and others claiming that no one with a demon could have performed such miracles as healing the blind. The conclusion of the dissenters was: “Why listen to him?”

Key Words
V. 22.  “the feast of the Dedication“:  The feast is Chanukkah, the celebration of the purification of the temple (164 B.C.) after it had been desolated by Antiochus IV Epiphanes (167 B.C.).

V. 24.  heōs pote tēn psychēn hēmōn aireis = “How long will you take away our breath/life”:  In vv. 11, 15-18 Jesus speaks of giving his psychē for the sheep and having the power to give it and take it again.

V. 24.  “If you are the Christ, tell us plainly”:  See the question of the Sanhedrin at Luke 22:67, as well as Jesus response there. Here the question comes from the Judeans who had gathered around him in the temple’s portico of Solomon.

V. 27-28. ta probata ta ema tēs phōnēs mou akouousin, kagō ginōskō auta kai akolouthousin moi, kagō didōmi autois zōēn aiōnion = “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me, and I give them eternal life”: The connection among hearing, being known, following is essential for discipleship and for the reward of eternal life. Voice recognition becomes critical for distinguishing those who hear and those who do not. For the result of life, see John 3:15-16.

Wrestling with the Word, episode 69: Third Sunday of Easter, Year C (April 18, 2010) April 9, 2010

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Third Sunday of Easter

The proverbial “they” say that misery loves company. “They” also say that you cannot keep good news to yourself. The Bible is filled with the latter. The good news of what God has done and is doing for us cries out for sharing with others. Our lessons for today take that sharing a giant step further. They announce that the good news of God’s love is not simply yours or mine to communicate to others. The Resurrection faith calls us to witness that the miracle of hope and the promise of life belong to everyone.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 69: Third Sunday of Easter, Year C.

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Psalm 30
The psalm is one of praise and thanksgiving following a lament which is described in verses 8-10.  The witness to the Lord’s constant favor and joy following only brief periods of judgment and absence is stated simply and profoundly in v. 5. Above all, the psalmist calls on others to join in giving the Lord thanks and praise.

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Acts 9:1-6 [7-20]
God calls unlikely persons to reach out to the world with the name of Christ and to suffer for the sake of that Name.

Context
Saul had been introduced to the reader at the end of chapter 7, the story of the stoning of Stephen: “And Saul was consenting to his death.”  At 8:3 he is reported to have devastated the church and entered house after house, committing men and women to prison.  Such persecution caused the Christians in Jerusalem to be scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.  This scattering paved the way for the preaching of Philip, first in Samaria, then on the road between Jerusalem and Gaza, and finally in Caesarea. That leads us to our story about the Lord’s call of the man named Saul. In the Book of Acts the same story will occur again at 22:4-16 and 26:9-18 where Paul himself tells the story in the first person. In briefer form, Paul will relate the outline of this call at Galatians 1:13016.

Key Words
V. 2.  tēs hodou = “the Way”:  The term defines the Christian movement also at 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22; cf. also 16:17; 18:25f. Jesus identified himself as “the Way” (also the Truth and the Life) at John 14:6.

V. 4.  “a light from heaven … and he heard a voice”:  The sequence is similar to Stephen’s description of Moses’ experience at 7:31.  See also the vision and speech that came to Peter at 10:13. The experience is like that of Jesus at his baptism (Luke 3:22 and parallels) and of the disciples at the Transfiguration (Luke 9:35 and parallels). The audience present when the Greeks came to see Jesus also heard a voice from heaven at John 12:28.

VV. 11-12.  “praying … he has seen”:  For relationship of prayer and vision, see also Peter’s experience at 10:9f. and Paul’s at 22:17. In his Gospel, Luke also connects prayer and vision at Luke 1:10f. (Zechariah); 3:21 (Jesus); 9:28-29 (Jesus); 22:43 (Jesus in Gethsemane).

V. 15.  skeuos eklogēs = “instrument of choice”:  The Apostle Paul speaks of his own calling to the nations at Gal. 1:15f. and at Rom. 1:1f. His call is as shocking as God’s naming Nebuchadrezzar, king of Babylon, to be “my servant” (Jer. 24:8) and Cyrus, king of Persia, to be “my shepherd” and “my anointed” (Isa. 44:28; 45:1).

V. 20.  ho huios tou theou = “the Son of God”:  The Sanhedrin’s trial of  Jesus included a question about his claim to be the Son of God (Luke 22:70). Luke dealt with the issue early, for the title was part of the announcement of the angel Gabriel to Mary (Luke 1:35). The title appeared in the OT as a messianic designation (Ps. 2:7; 89:27; 2 Sam. 7:14). That it occurred on the lips of a Gentile at the foot of the cross supports Paul’s mission to the Gentiles (Mark 15:39; see the first lesson from Acts 9).

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Revelation 5:11-14
The vision of the throne of God, around which the hymn of all creatures is sung, gives people hope in time of suffering and calls people to join in the song of praise here and now.

Context
The visions of John the Seer occurred about A.D. 95 when Christians were being persecuted by the Roman Emperor Domitian.  On the island of Patmos, John received the revelations which portrayed in apocalyptic style the fate of the wicked and the bliss of the righteous.  In some sense, the future side of apocalyptic is underplayed in the book, because the decisive eschatological events, the outpouring of the Lamb’s blood and his resurrection, have already occurred.

Key Words
V. 11. Kai eidon, kai ēkousa phōnēn = “And I looked and I heard a sound”: The connection of seeing and hearing continues the biblical theme discussed above (Acts 9:4).

V. 13.  en tō ouranō kai epi tēs gēs kai hupokatō  tēs gēs kai epi tēs thalassēs kai ta en autois panta = “in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea and all therein”:  The phrases describing the three-storeyed universe sound quite similar to the hymn quoted by Paul at Phil. 2:5-11, although here are added “and in the sea and all therein.” The point is to announce the universality, even the cosmic, scope of the praise to God. That universality even includes the “sea” and its monsters.

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John 21:1-19
The Resurrected Christ, present as the host for a meal and enabling the hitherto unsuccessful fishermen to catch a multitude of fish, commissions Peter to feed the flock, even though it will mean a death like his own.

Context
Chapter 20 ends with an apparent conclusion which states the purpose for which the gospel was written.  The pericope seems to form an epilogue which in many ways does not flow smoothly from the previous resurrection appearances reported in chapter 20.

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Parallel Story:  Luke 5:1-11

Key Words
V. 1.  ephanerōsen heauton = “he revealed himself”:  The expression “revealed” appears also in v. 14, but it is common in Johannine literature.  Elsewhere in the Gospel for the revealing of Jesus, consider the following:  1:31 (Jesus’ baptism by John was to reveal him to Israel); 2:11 (Jesus’ miracle at Cana revealed his glory).  Elsewhere in the Gospel, Jesus reveals God:   9:3 (the works of God are revealed in the healing of the blind man); 17:6 (Jesus revealed the name of God to the disciples).  In 1 John, “revealed” is the earthly life of Jesus (1:2; 3:5, 8), the Second Coming of Christ (2:28; 3:2), and the love of God in Jesus (4:9).

V. 6.  helkusai = “to haul”:  The word appears elsewhere in John for God’s drawing people to himself or to Jesus (John 6:44; 12:32; see Jer. 31:3 (LXX 38:3).

V. 11.  ouk eschisthē = “not torn”:  The expression adds one more element of the miraculous, even over Luke 5:6:  “the nets were breaking.”

For a comprehensive discussion of the passage, see Raymond Brown, The Gospel According to John XIII-XXI, The Anchor Bible (Garden City, NY:  Doubleday, 1970), pp. 1067-1122.

Wrestling with the Word, episode 68: Second Sunday of Easter, Year C (April 11, 2010) April 1, 2010

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Second Sunday of Easter

Imagine how difficult it would be to go back in time—to Jesus’ time. On the one hand, such time travel would demand that we give up the internet and our MP3 players, to say nothing of our planes, trains, and automobiles. Then, of course, we would also surrender our comfortable beds, our heated homes, and our modern plumbing. On the other hand, going back to walk with Jesus through all the events since Christmas, as well as the events through Epiphany and Lent, would certainly take away any doubts about who Jesus really was. Such confidence would undoubtedly enable us to be brave about going off into the world as his messengers. Or would it? Did Jesus’ original disciples have any advantage over us simply because they could see him in action? Maybe they have joined us in our time, eliminating the need for us to meet them in theirs.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 68: Second Sunday of Easter, Year C.

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Psalm 150
This psalm of praise brings the Psalter to a fitting conclusion, especially as it calls all living things to praise the Creator with instruments and dance.  While the joyful noise takes place in the temple, it is clear that the temple represents the firmament above which God dwells in splendor.

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Acts 5:27-32
In the face of threatening opposition, God gives the Holy Spirit to enable Christians to proclaim the news about Jesus’ death and resurrection along with gifts of repentance and forgiveness.

Context
In the previous chapters, Peter and the other apostles had performed such signs as healing the lame man at the Beautiful Gate (chapter 3) and had been involved in such wonders as the sudden death of Mr. and Mrs. Ananias (5:1-11).  As a result, people brought the sick from Jerusalem and from towns around Jerusalem to be healed by the apostles.  This response led the high priest and the Sadducees to have them arrested, but thanks to an angel, the prison doors were opened and the apostles returned to the temple to teach.  They were apprehended once more.

Key Words
V. 30.  epi xulou = “on a tree”:  Basically xulon means “wood” or “a thing made from wood” including wooden stocks or a pole.  At Deut. 21:22-23 a person killed on a piece of wood is cursed.  See also Paul’s use of the Deut. passage at Gal. 3:13.

V. 30.  ēgeiren = “raised up”:  The obvious reference is to resurrection but perhaps it is also an allusion to God’s raising up the “judges” of ancient Israel to save the people (Judg. 2:16, 18; 3:9, 15); see note on v. 31.

V. 31.  archēgon kai sōtēra = “Leader and Savior”:  The word archēgos (also at Acts 3:15) can mean “leader, prince” or “originator, founder.”  It describes the judge Jephthah at Judg. 11:6, 11.  The title sōtēr describes God in LXX, but in the NT, Jesus Christ is “savior” at Luke 2:11; Acts 13:23; John 4:42; Phil. 3:20.

V. 32.  kai hēmeis esmen martyres … kai to pneuma to hagion = “we are witnesses … and so is the Holy Spirit”:  The role of the apostles is like that of the Holy Spirit, namely witnessing to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; see John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13-14.

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Revelation 1:4-8
To those in tribulation God provides through John the Seer the vision of hope that Jesus who died to free us from our sins and make us priests to God is alive and will come again.

Context
The Book of Revelation was composed by John the Seer in the year A.D. 95 during his exile by Domitian to the island of Patmos.  The background for his exile was a part of a general persecution of Christians under the Roman Emperor.  Whether this John is the same as the author of the Gospel and/or the author of the epistles is still debated. It must be admitted, however, that the Greek of this work does not compare to that of the other writings of John.  After a brief introduction (vv. 1-3) these verses make up first part of the salutation.

Old Testament Allusions
V. 4.  “who is and who was and who is to come”:  Exod. 3:14 (“I am who I am.”).

V. 4.  “seven spirits”:  Isaiah 11:2-3 (a messianic reference).

V. 5.  “first-born”:  Psalm 89:27 (a Davidic allusion).

V. 5.  “witness”:  Isaiah 55:4 (a Davidic allusion).

V. 6.  “kingdom, priests”:  Exod. 19:6 (cf. 1 Peter 2:9).

V. 7.  “coming with the clouds”:  Dan 7:13 (used of one like “a son of man).

V. 7.  “will see … pierced … wail”:  Zech 12:10-12 (used of Davidic family and the people of Jerusalem).

V. 7.  “all the tribes of the earth”:  Gen. 12:3 (the mission given to Abraham and Sarah).

V. 8.  “the Almighty”:  Amos 3:13 and often (used for Yahweh).

Key Words
V. 5. ho archōn tōn basileōn tēs gēs = “the ruler of the kings of the earth”: The combination of the words “witness” and “ruler/leader” occurs at Isa. 55:4 as a description of the Davidic king. In Isaiah (LXX) the word for “ruler” is archonta (cf. archēgos at Acts 5:31) and the kingdom consists of “the peoples” (that is, a universal rule, as here).

V. 6. kai epoiēsen hēmas basileian, hieris tō theō kai patri autou = “and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father”: The words recall the words of 1 Peter 2:5, 9 which apply to the church the title and responsibility of Israel to be “a kingdom of priests” (Exod 19:6).

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John 20:19-31
On the evening of Jesus’ resurrection, the Risen Christ appeared to the disciples, commissioning them and enabling them with the gift of the Holy Spirit.

OR

In the absence of signs Jesus performed during his ministry, God provides the message called the gospel in order to bring people to faith and thus to life.

Context
Mary Magdalene had reported to Simon, and to the disciple beloved of Jesus, that the stone had been taken away.  Upon the return of all three, the resurrected Jesus appeared to Mary alone, instructing her to report to the disciples that he was about to ascend to God.

Key Words
V. 21.  apestalken me … pempō hymas = “has sent … I send”:  The words are obviously reminiscent of Jesus’ prayer at 17:18 where the verbs are apesteilas … apesteila.

V. 22.  enephusēsen = “he breathed”:  The same verb and form appear at Gen. 2:7 for God breathing into Adam the breath of life. At Ezek. 37:9 the form emphusēson (imperative) describes the action of the four winds/spirits which bring the dry bones to life.

V. 23.  aphēte … apheōntai = “you forgive … they are forgiven”:  The use of aorist aphēte implies a specific act of forgiving, that is, letting go. The passive apheōntai is a theological passive, indicating that the subject of the act of forgiving is God.

V. 23.  kratēte kekratēntai = “you retain, they are retained”:  The use of kratēte (pres. subj.) implies the continuation of the retaining. Note again the passive voice As for the contrast between “let go/forgive” and “retain,” see Mark 7:8. Also compare the contrast of “bless” and “curse” in God’s call to Abraham at Gen. 12:3.

V. 29.  makarioi hoi mē idontes kai pisteusantes = “Blessed are they who have not seen and have believed”:  For the contrast between “seeing” and “believing” see Hebrews 11:1.