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Wrestling with the Word, episode 109: Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year A (April 10, 2011) March 28, 2011

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Fifth Sunday in Lent

I confess. I am fascinated by the discoveries of science that help us understand the development of life and the rich variety of life on earth. I also celebrate the knowledge that every life form is the way it is because it needs to be the way it is! Yet I find the biblical understandings of life and death to be even more fascinating. Frankly, I do not see the two approaches – science and Bible — to be mutually exclusive. Celebrating human life as the Bible defines it enables me to consider the values and ethics and meaning of human living within this great biological, botanical, and bacterial diversity. The faith-inspired lessons for today can help us discern what life and death mean. Let us see whether together we can discover in the lessons some biblical under-standings about death and some values of life with God and with one another.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 109: Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year A.


Psalm 130
The psalm is that of an individual prayer. More specifically, it is a penitential prayer (like Psalm 51 and others). The psalmist begins with a cry to God from “the depths.” The depths represent darkness, isolation from God and others, even death. Death indeed is separation from God, and whatever led this petitioner to “the depths,” one thing is clear: The only way out is God’s forgiveness of iniquities. Apart from divine forgiveness, no one could possibly survive. God’s forgiveness has a purpose, however: “that you (God) may be revered” (v. 4). The psalmist confesses to God that this separation from God is unbearable and that the cry from the depths is the worshiper’s way of waiting for the Lord’s forgiveness. It is God’s “word” in which the God-forsaken one places “hope.” The final two verses change the flow dramatically from an individual prayer to an announcement to all Israel. The words call the people of Israel to “hope in the Lord” because in the Lord are covenant loyalty (steadfast love) and the power to redeem the people from their iniquities (vss. 7-8). This transition can be interpreted in one of two ways. On the one hand, they might be the words of a priest announcing publicly in the temple the need to “hope in the Lord,” in which case the individual making confession in verses 1-6 would find comfort and response from God. On the other hand, the final words might represent the psalmist’s announcement to others in the temple that the Lord has heard his cry and that they also should place their hope in God who forgives. In either case, the psalm makes abundantly clear that the loyalty of God gives us hope because the Lord does not allow us to remain in the clutches of death.


Ezekiel 37:1-14
Although the people lost hope in God and knew only death, God, through the prophetic word, gives new life and reunites the hopeless and forsaken to himself.

The people of Israel had been exiled to the land of Babylon in 597 B.C. and again in 587 B.C.  In the fifth year of the first exile, that is, in 593 B.C., God called Ezekiel, a priest, to prophesy to the exiles.  Much of his prophecy was directed to a false optimism as he preached to the exiles the destruction of their city back home.  Finally, according to 33:21, a messenger came with the word that Jerusalem had fallen.  Thereafter, the word from Ezekiel was one of promise of restoration to the land.

Key Words
V. 1.  hāyetâ ’ēlay yad-YHWH = “the hand of the Lord was upon me”:  See 3:22 where the “hand of the Lord” is the means by which God introduces a vision to the prophet, instructing him to go into the plain; there the spirit entered him and stood him up.  See also 8:1 where “the hand of the Lord” falls on the prophet, again introducing him to a vision.

V. 1.  wayyôtsî’ēnî berûach YHWH = “and the spirit of the Lord brought me out”:  Note the connection of the Spirit with the hand of the Lord in the two passages cited previously, 3:22 and 8:1.  More specifically, the movement by the spirit is attested at 3:12, 14.  habbiq‘â = “the plain”:  it is also in “the plain” that the vision of Ezekiel 3:22ff. occurs.  There the plain is the space where judgment must be suffered, and that judgment falls upon Ezekiel to suffer vicariously for the sins of Israel and Judah.  This plain is the one mentioned at Gen. 11:1 where the people built a tower with its top in the heavens, and thus experienced God’s judgment.

V. 3.  ben-’ādām = “son of man”:  God addresses Ezekiel with this title more than 80 times in the book, thereby contrasting the holy God and the mortal man (see also Ps. 8:4).  YHWH ’attâ yādā‘tā_ = “Lord, you know”:  For God’s power of life over death, see 1 Kings 17:17ff where the prophet Elijah was the vehicle by which God restored to life the only son of the widow of Zarephath; also 2 Kings 4:31ff. where Elisha raised from the dead the only son of the Shunamite woman.

V. 5.  anî mēbî’ bākem rûach wihyîtem = “I will keep bringing among you spirit/breath/wind, that you may live”:  The word “spirit” is used is various ways in the prophecy; at v. 1 it seems to be God’s spirit; here it is the animating spirit for humans; at v. 9 it is the wind.  That the rûach of God creates and restores life can be see also at Gen. 6:3; 6:17; 7:22 (all P); also Job 12:10; Ps. 104:30.  Note the contrast with Gen. 2:7 where the force that God breathes into Adam’s nostrils is not rûach but neshāmâ = “breath.”

V. 6.  wîda‘tem kî-’anî YHWH = “and you shall know that I am YHWH”:  The expression occurs eighty-six times in the Book of Ezekiel; note the priestly emphasis (P) in the story of the exodus (Exod. 14:18).

V. 11.  yābešû ‘atsmôtênû = “our bones are dried up”:  The statement of the people indicates the meaning of death. Recall the warning of God to Adam and Eve regarding the consequence of eating the forbidden fruit: “on the day that you eat of it, you shall die” (Gen 2:17) yet they did not expire on that day; they died. Note Prov. 22:17 where “a downcast spirit” is what “dries up the bones.”  we’ābedâ tiqwātēnû = “and our hope is perishing”:  The object of Israel’s hope is exclusively YHWH (see Ps. 130:5; also 39:7); at times “hope” is even used as an epithet for YHWH (see Ps. 130:7; Jer. 14:8;17:13).  nigzarnû lānû = “we are cut off”:  for the impact of such exclusion see the use of nigzar at 2 Chron. 26:21; Ps. 88:6; Isa. 53:8.

V. 12.  weha‘alêtî ’etkem miqqibrôtêkem = “and I will raise you from your graves”:  The image is now changed, for here the corpses are buried in graves rather than scattered on the ground, as in v. 1.

V. 14.  kî-’anî YHWH dibbartî we‘āsîtî = “for I, YHWH, have spoken and I have done it”:  The notion that it is the spoken word that accomplishes the great acts of the Lord became particularly prominent and important during the Babylonian Exile; cf. Gen. 1; Isa. 55:10-11.


Romans 8:1-11
Left to our own devices (our sinfulness, our self-centered devotion to worldly success and comfort) that lead to death, God gives us the Spirit of life and peace by acquitting us of our sin through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In the early chapters of Romans, Paul has been contrasting the universality of human sinfulness with God’s gracious declaration of justification through the cross of Christ. He has insisted on the failure of our actions to secure God’s love through the law (even the law of Moses). The law focuses our minds on our selves, our deeds, our innocence. In Christ, however, God discharges us from the law that enslaves us and leads to death (7:6) to give us “the new life in the Spirit” (7:6). In chapter 8 Paul returns to that emphasis on life in and through the Spirit of God.

Key Words
V. 1. ouden ara nun ,,, = “There is therefore now…”: In light of the context of chapter 7, the word “therefore” seems to pick up the thought and imagery of 7:6 rather than the immediately preceding verses of 7:21-25. The reference to “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” flows from “But now we are discharged from the law …” (7:6a), and the second verse regarding “life in the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” picks up the words “so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit” (7:6b). The word “Spirit” does not appear between 7:6 and 8:2, but it appears ten times in 8:2-11.

V. 3. ho theos ton heautou huion pempsas en homoiōmati sarkas hamartias kai peri hamartias = “God … sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin (or “as a sin offering”): The words raise the question whether Paul is taking the docetic view that the Son of God did not really take human flesh but appeared something like a ghost. Paul uses the word homoiōma elsewhere, even in this epistle (1:23 in terms of the idolatrous deeds of the gentiles; at 5:15 in terms of the nature of sin; in 6:5 of the similarity of Christ’s death to our own). In the hymn quoted by Paul at Phil. 2:6-11, the word appears in verse 7:

“But emptied himself, taking the form (morphē) of a slave,
being born in human likeness (en homoiōmati).
And being found in human form (schēmati … hōs anthrōpos),
He humbled himself, and became obedient unto death,
even death on a cross.”

Many scholars argue that Paul added the words “even death on a cross” to the existing hymn in order to make abundantly clear that the Son of God did not merely appear to be human but was human, possessing flesh that nails would penetrate and blood that would emerge from the wounds. At Galatians 4:4, Paul wrote that “God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,” indicating that his birth was like (not appeared to be) our own. Further, at Col. 1:22 appears the expression “And you … he has now reconciled in his fleshly body….”

For the reality of the incarnation in other NT writers, see among many others John 1:14; Heb. 2:17; 4:15.

V. 5. “set their minds on the things of the flesh … on the things of the Spirit”: The effect of the divine gift of the Spirit enables people to look at life differently. Focusing on the “things of the Spirit” is “life and peace” rather than hostility to God (vss. 6-8). The Spirit, therefore, is the only source of life and peace.

V. 8. hoi de en sarki ontes theō aresai ou dynantai = “and those who are in the flesh cannot please God”: The way of Christ is not to please oneself but to please others by edifying them (Rom. 15:1-3; 1 Cor. 10:33). By contrast, those who minds focus on the flesh (selfish worldly gain) will not know the life and peace that comes from God.

V. 9-11. Being “in the Spirit” rather than “in the flesh,” Christians belong to Christ. If indeed Christ is within (among) us, while our bodies attest to our mortality, the Spirit makes us alive because of God’s righteousness (acquitting us in spite of our sinfulness). The same Spirit of God that raised Jesus from the dead already works in and among us to give us life that has no end.


John 11:1-45
Revealing himself as “the resurrection and the life,” Jesus makes possible the gift of faith so that others, too, might join him in the life to come and so that he and God might be glorified.

During the Feast of the Dedication in Jerusalem, Jesus taught about his relationship with the Father that caused some Jews to want to stone him (10:31) and arrest him (10:39).  Jesus crossed the Jordan to the point where John had been baptizing, and there many came to believe in him (10:40-42).

Key Words
V. 2.  “Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair”:  The incident about Mary reported here actually appears in the next chapter (12:1-6). The story about such an act by a woman “who was a sinner” is reported at Luke 7:36-50 (see esp. v. 38), but in the Lukan story she is not named.  At Mark 14:3-9 an unnamed woman who enters the house of Simon the leper at Bethany; her act involves pouring ointment on his head but nothing is said about anointing his feet or drying them with her hair.

V. 4.  all’ hyper tēs doxēs tou theou, hina doxasthē ho huios tou theou di’ autēs = “but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God might be glorified through it”:  See John 9:3 where Jesus describes for the disciples the role the man’s blindness will play: “that the works of God might be revealed in him.”  At v. 27 Martha confesses to Jesus, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God.” In v. 40 Jesus reminds Martha that he promised she would see “the glory of God” if she believed.

V. 25.  egō eimi hē anastasis kai hē zōē = “I am the resurrection and the life”:  At 14:6 Jesus announces to the disciples that he is “the way, the truth, and the life.”  To say here that he is “the resurrection” means he must act in order to prove the point in advance of his own resurrection, and so he raises Lazarus from the grave by uttering his effective word.

V. 45.  “Many of the Jews, therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him”:  Faith in who Jesus is seems once again to be the point of the story see vv. 27, 40; see also 2:23; 4:53; 9:35-38; 20:30-31. The result of such faith here, as in 20:30-31, is the gift of life.

Wrestling with the Word, episode 108: Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year A (April 3, 2011) March 22, 2011

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Fourth Sunday in Lent

No wonder we mortals have difficulty grasping the word of God and applying the divine address to our lives here and now. God does not fit any of the categories by which we manage our lives and the affairs of the world. The Bible makes no qualms about the differences between God and us. In the words of God,

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8).

Even the future Davidic ruler that God promises to send will exercise justice and judgment not by what his eyes and ears detect (the ways a human judge would act), but—as a result of the Spirit of the Lord—righteousness, equity, and faithfulness will serve as the foundations of his reign (Isaiah 11:3b-5).

As we discuss the lessons for the day, we necessarily use our human eyes and ears. These and our other senses are the ways we perceive the world. Yet they are insufficient to grasp the vision and word of God.  Maybe it’s just because “My light is not your light, says the Lord.”

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 108: Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year A.


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 and 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 (perhaps a thanksgiving meal that seems to celebrate divine rescue from a lamentable situation). The exhilaration even includes the worshiper’s awareness that the Lord has anointed his head with oil. Through it all, the psalmist 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.


Psalm 142
The psalm is a lament in which the psalmist is suffering persecution from enemies who lie in wait along pathways. The cries for help to YHWH result from the psalmist’s confidence in the Lord as “my refuge” (v. 5) and his promise to give thanks to the name of the Lord. The psalm concludes with the hope that “the righteous will surround me” on the basis on the Lord’s bountiful action (v. 7).


1 Samuel 16:1-13
Having sent Samuel to the family of Jesse in order to anoint a king to succeed Saul, God selects the anointed one not on the basis of what people see, even the prophet, but on the basis of God sees in the heart.

In the latter part of chapter 9 the Lord commanded the prophet Samuel to anoint Saul to become king over the people of Israel.  In the following chapter the anointing took place in private, and Samuel assured Saul of his new role by giving him a sign.  By the time we reach our pericope, the ability of Saul to reign faithfully has been brought into question. The Lord regretted the selection of Saul, and so the Lord sends Samuel to Bethlehem in order to anoint a new king, one of the sons of Jesse.

Key Words
V. 3.  ûmāšaktî lî = “you shall anoint for me”:  At 10:1 Samuel anointed Saul to be ruler of the people, and that man was so identified as “the Lord’s anointed” on several occasions, even by David.  Following the anointing of David in our pericope, only Davidic kings were anointed and called “the Lord’s Messiah.”  The concept changed drastically in the preaching of Second Isaiah who used the title of Cyrus, king of Persia (Isa. 45:1).  The title is not used in the OT prophecies about a future ideal Davidic king.

V. 7.  kî lō’ ’ašer yir’eh hā’ādām kî hā’ādām yir’eh la‘ênayim waYHWH yir’eh lallēbāb = “for not as a human sees, because a human sees with (lit. “to”) the eyes, but Yahweh sees with (lit. “to”) the heart”:  In the immediate context the reference is to the selection of which son of Jesse is to be anointed:  Samuel would have picked on the basis of appearance.  Yahweh, however, makes the selection on the basis of something humans cannot discern.  Similar differences between the Lord and humans can be seen at Isa. 55:8-9 in terms of thoughts, and differences between the future ideal Davidic king and other humans appear at Isa. 11:3 in terms of judgment on the basis of sight or hearsay.  The issue of divine sight appears to be the reason for the selection of this passage in connection with John 9.

V. 13.  wattitslach rûach-YHWH ’el-dāwid mēhayyôm wāmā‘lâ = “and the Spirit of the Lord rushed to/upon David from that day and onward”:  The Spirit rushes similarly on Samson, giving him strength to kill an onrushing lion (Judg. 14:6), anger to slay 30 men of Ashkelon (14:19), and power to break his bonds to kill a thousand men with the jawbone of an ass (15:14).  In a lighter vein, when the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon Saul he prophesied along with a band of prophets (1 Sam. 10:6, 10), but on another occasion such a rush aroused Saul’s anger to the point of killing a yoke of oxen.  At 1 Sam. 18:10 “an evil spirit from God” rushed upon Saul and he raved like a lunatic over the music David played.  All of these references sound like an adrenalin rush rather than divine inspiration. Strikingly, in the Gospels, Mark writes that “The Spirit immediately drove him (Jesus) out into the wilderness” (Mark 1:12). The Temptation story in Matthew and Luke, quite different from Mark’s, talks about the role of the Spirit but not with such urgency.


Isaiah 42:14-21
Confirming the lament of the people in exile, the Lord announces that the time has come for him to turn darkness into light and to make glorious his torah.

In the preaching of the prophet in Isaiah 40—55, the context of lamentation looms large. The people express their exilic suffering at 40:27: “My way is hid from the Lord, and my justice is disregarded by my God.” The theme is repeated in different words at 49:14: “The Lord has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me.”  In our passage the Lord admits to silence and inactivity, but now is prepared to end the silence with a shout of transformation.


Ephesians 5:8-14
Having been called to imitate God, Christians are called also to be and act what we are:  light in the Lord who is and who gives light.


John 9:1-41
Against the notion that people who suffer are being punished for their sin, Jesus heals the man born blind so that his identity as the light of the world and God’s eschatological works accomplished in him might be known.

In many cultures of the ancient world people believed that one suffered according to one’s misdeeds.  So automatic was the sentence that often the same word was used for the crime and its punishment.  This philosophy was particularly popular among the wisdom teachers and can be gleaned from the Book of Proverbs and especially from the friends of Job.

As for the context in the Gospel, Jesus had been teaching in the precincts of the Temple.  He had been present in Jerusalem for the Feast of the Tabernacles (7:2, 10, 37).  Having placed himself in jeopardy by his “I am” speech, Jesus left the Temple as the Jews picked up stones.

Key Words
V. 3.  all’ hina phanerōthē ta erga tou theou en autō = “but that the works of God might be manifest in him”:  while the disciples asked the cause of the man’s blindness, Jesus answers in terms of what good can come out of it.  That good, the glorification of God, is a well-known theme throughout the Bible:  it is the reason for the plagues against the Egyptians in the days of Moses (Exod. 9:16; 10:2) and for the Reed Sea event itself (Exod. 14:17-18).  The glory of God is also the reason for the new exodus, the return from Babylonian exile (Isa. 43:21; Ezek. 37:14 and often in Ezekiel).  In the NT see the conclusion of the hymn at Phil. 2:6-11; Rom. 9:17.

V. 5.  hotan en tō kosmō ō, phōs eimi tou kosmou = “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world”:  That Jesus is the light of the world is seen by the quotation of Isa. 9:2 at Matt. 4:16 and at John 1:4, 7, 9.  Beginning already at Gen. 1, God is the light of the world, and at Isa. 10:17, YHWH is the light of Israel.  In Rev. 21:23 and 22:5 God will be the light of the new Jerusalem and Christ will be the lamp.  Jesus’ condition stated here, “as long as I am in the world,” paves the way for his disciples to be the light after he has gone (see Isa. 49:6; Matt. 5:14; Eph. 5:8-14; and cf. 1 John 1:5-7).

Wrestling with the Word, episode 107: Third Sunday in Lent, Year A (March 27, 2011) March 20, 2011

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Third Sunday in Lent
We can all understand, I think, that when people of faith experience hardships in their own lives and observe the sufferings of others, they often lose their faith in the God they worshiped. Such a response is quite common among people during grief and trauma. It is more difficult to understand why people reject God even after God reveals himself as the protector of the oppressed, as Savior of the underdog, and as the loving Creator of all life. Precisely because God announces divine identity through such actions, our turning away from God is an affront to God’s honor. Our passages for this day demonstrate a variety of dishonorable actions from respected people and some quite commendable actions on the part of the despised. Watch how God responds as we move through the lessons.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 107: Third Sunday in Lent, Year A.


Psalm 95
Because the Lord is a great God, even the greatest among the nations’ gods, the people of Israel enter the Lord’s presence with song and joyful noise. Such praise and adoration are due the Lord because he is the Creator of the universe and the Shepherd of his people. Now switching to the direct address, the Lord surprisingly reminds the people of their rebellion in the wilderness (at Massah). God’s displeasure with their testing him means such rebels will not enter God’s “rest.”


Exodus 17:1-7
In spite of the people’s rejection of the Lord’s salvation accomplished through Moses, God responds to their faultfinding and testing by providing water in the desert.

Beginning at 15:22 the people of Israel, under the leadership of Moses, entered the wilderness.  They began complaining about the wilderness already at 15:24, then about food in 16:2-3.  In the first instance God sweetened the bitter water to make it drinkable; in the second, God provided manna as food in the desert (16:13-36).  Now they murmur for another necessity of life, and God responds favorably once more.


Romans 5:1-11
By justifying us through faith in Christ Jesus, God gives us that peace which enables us to honor to God through the tribulations of life here and now and to confidently wait for salvation on the Judgment Day to come.

In 4:1-8 Paul had explained that Abraham was justified by faith, and in 4:13-25 he writes that as with Abraham, the promise of God comes only to and through faith.  Now he begins a section which runs through 8:39 about the reality of the righteousness of faith as Christian freedom.

Key Words
V. 1.  oun = “therefore”:  The results of the previous argument follow.  At the end of chap.4, Paul spoke of God’s giving to us righteousness (declaring us innocent) on the basis of faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus.

V. 1.  eirēnēn … pros ton theon = “peace with God”:  Paul uses “peace” many times in Romans prior to this verse:  1:7 (“peace from God” as a Christian greeting); 2:10 (along with glory and honor is given to those who do good); 3:17 (in OT quote); after this verse:  8:6 (along with life is the result of setting one’s mind on the Spirit); 14:17 (along with righteousness and joy constitutes the reign of God); 14:19 (along with mutual upbuilding is a goal of the Christian community); 15:13 (along with joy is the gift of God which enables the Christian to abound in hope through the power of the Holy Spirit); 15:33; 16:20 (a characteristic which defines God).

Vv. 2-3.  kauchōmetha = “we boast”:  The word appears negatively in Romans at 2:17, 23; 3:27 (noun); postively here and v. 11; 15:17 (noun).

V. 3.  thlipsis = “affliction”:  The word appears in connection with evildoers at 2:9; at 8:35 it is that which has no power to separate us from the love of God; here and at 12:12 it appears for the New Day suffering of those who follow Christ.

V. 4.  dokimē = “confirmation”:  The word appears only in Paul’s writings in the NT (see elsewhere at 2 Cor. 2:9; 8:2; 9:13; 13:3; Phil. 2:22).  In all cases it is that which is determined through testing.

V. 5.  ou kataischynei = “not put to shame”:  The expression derives from Ps. 22:6 (Eng. v. 5) and 25:20 where the loyalty and love of God protect the believer from hostile forces.  It appears also in Romans also at 9:33 and 10:11 in quoting Isa. 28:16 where it promises the same protection for anyone who believes in the Lord.

V. 6.  kata kairon = “at the appointed time”:  kairos is not primarily measurable time but the time at which something significant occurs. It often appears with reference to the arrival of the “reign of God”:  see Mark 1:15 and Romans 13:11-14.

V. 9.  dikaiōthentes nun en tō haimati autou sōthē_sometha = “we are now justified by his blood, we shall be saved”:  The tenses dramatize the contrast between the present gift of justification and the future promise of salvation. The passive voice serves as a theological passive, that is, the actor is God.

V. 11.  kauchōmenoi = “we rejoice/boast”:  The present tense indicates the result of the present gift and the future promise.


John 4:5-42
In his conversation with the Samaritan woman in Sychar, Jesus desacralizes the water in Jacob’s well in addition to Mounts Gerizim and Zion, in order to point to the worship of God in spirit and in truth, that is, in himself; through the woman’s testimony in the community, others come to know him and confess he is the Savior of the world.

The previous chapter reports the discussion between Jesus and Nicodemus and then moves on to describe the relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus.  Both men had been baptizing in the same area (actually the author corrects himself by indicating only the disciples were baptizing, not Jesus).  When John’s disciples report the activity of Jesus, the Gospel writer responds with a speech that is reminiscent of those made by him in chapter 1.  Realizing, though, that the Pharisees learned of the numbers of people he (or his disciples) was baptizing, Jesus left Judea and headed toward Galilee.  While Jesus normally made this journey by traveling around the territory of Samaria (Matt. 19:1; Luke 17:11), on this trip he passed through Samaria, specifically through one of its major cities, Sychar.  This city is the Shechem of the OT and today is called Nablus.

Key Words
V. 5-42. Samaria … Samaritans: Samaria was the region named for the city of Samaria that served at one point as the capital of the northern kingdom called Israel. Its territory comprised what had once been the tribal land of Ephraim and Manasseh. The Samaritans family tree is rooted, it seems, both in the Israelite ancestors on the one hand and in the foreign deportees that the Assyrians imported into the land. In either case, the population did not worship in Jerusalem, establishing their own sanctuaries first in Dan and Bethel, then on Mount Gerizim outside Shechem = Nablus. As a result, the Judeans despised the Samaritans, denying their Israelite ancestry and accusing them all of being pagans.

V. 6. ēn de ekei pēgē tou Iakōb = “Jacob’s well was there”: This verse provides the earliest mention of Jacob’s well. There is not mention of the place in the OT or in Intertestamental Literature. From early in the 4th century A.D. the site became beloved and revered by the construction of churches and by pilgrimages. The traditional well lies a little over a mile from the modern town of Nablus.

V. 10. “who it is that is saying to you”: The remark by Jesus focuses the woman’s and the reader’s attention on the identity of Jesus throughout the entire story.

V. 14.  pēgē hydatos hallomenou eis zōēn aiōnion = “a spring of water welling up to eternal life”:  The proposed gift from Jesus sounds much like the description of God at Jer. 2:13:  “the fountain of living waters.” The expression also recalls the prophecy that “on that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem” (Zech. 14:8).  Here, however, the source of such living water is Jesus himself.

V. 19. kyrie, theōrō hoti prophētēs ei su = “I perceive that you are a prophet”: The woman comes to this conclusion because without ever having seen her before this meeting, Jesus is able to speak about her personal life and history. As Jesus continues the conversation, he demonstrates that he acts like a prophet in another sense: he speaks of the coming Day of the Lord and the ensuing kingdom of God.

V, 21. erchetai hōra = “the hour is coming”:  At v. 23 Jesus repeats the expression and adds something else: “the hour is coming and now is” (see also 5:25), indicating the new time is already beginning. In other places in John’s Gospel, Jesus’ hour had “not yet come” (John 2:4; 7:30; 8:20), but at 12:23, Jesus announces that the quest of the Greeks to “see Jesus” marks the time when “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” In verses following this announcement (12:27), Jesus connects the “hour” to his crucifixion. At 13:1 the “hour” refers to his departure from the world, and at 16:2, 4, 21, 25 the “hour” is the time when the disciples of Jesus would also face persecution but through it come to know the glory of discipleship.

V. 21.  “Neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem”:  “this mountain” from the perspective of Sychar was Mount Gerizim, the mountain that was and still is considered by the Samaritans to be the holy mountain. The Jews, of course, believed that the holy mountain was the mount in Jerusalem on which stood the Temple.

V. 25-26. “I know the Messiah is coming” … And Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he”: The identity of Jesus now focuses on the title Messiah, one that Jesus hardly ever uses of himself in the gospel stories (see Mark 14:61-62 for Jesus’ response of “I am” to the high priest’s question: “Are you the Christ…?”).

Vss. 23-24. en pneumati kai alētheia = “in spirit and truth”: The worship of God “in spirit and truth” becomes the reason sacred places can be desacralized. “God is spirit” (v. 24). John’s prologue announces that “the word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth” (1:14). Jesus speaks of himself as “the way, the truth, and the life” at 14:6, and that through him people can know the Father. Before Pilate Jesus says that he came to bear witness to “the truth,” leading Pilate to ask his famous question: “What is truth?” (18:37-38).

V. 42. kai oidamen hoti houtis estin alēthōs ho sōtēr tou kosmou = “and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world”: The title “Savior” appears only here in John’s Gospel, and the word “salvation” in v. 22 is also unique in John. Luke uses the title at 1:47;  2:11; 3:6; Acts 5:31; 13:23 and employs the word “salvation” thirteen times in Luke—Acts. Strikingly, neither “Savior” nor “salvation” appear in Matthew and Mark. The verb “save,” however, appears frequently to describe Jesus’ mission in all four gospels. In John, see 3:17; 5:34; 10:9; 11:12; 12:27, 47. That this expression of faith rolls off the lips of the Samaritans contrasts these people sharply with the religious establishment in Jerusalem. In other stories, individual Samaritans become models for faith and deeds (e.g., the grateful Samaritan leper at Luke 17:11-19 and the generous caregiver at Luke 10:29-37).

Wrestling with the Word, episode 106: Second Sunday in Lent, Year A (March 20, 2011) March 15, 2011

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Second Sunday in Lent
Many stories tell about a journey. The Mesopotamian Gilgamesh Epic is about Gilgamesh’s long journey to attain immortality. Homer’s The Odyssey relates the trials and tribulations of Odysseus as he travels home from the Trojan battlefield. J.R.R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings dramatically relates the journey of Frodo and his friends toward Mount Doom where they will destroy the One Ring that can destroy Middle Earth. Even modern movies like Little Miss Sunshine and Trains, Planes, and Automobiles wind their amusing anecdotes around journeys. The Bible, too, has its stories of journeys to tell. Some of them are regular pilgrimages, as in our psalm for the day. Others are world-changing events like that of Abraham and Sara in our first lesson. And the gospel story about Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus is just out of this world! Strikingly, the journey of all of them is founded upon faith-inspired trust in God, and the destination is blessing, wholeness, and life.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 106: Second Sunday in Lent, Year A.


Psalm 121
While the original purpose of this psalm is not certain, its beauty and comforting expressions give it a place of favor among devout people of all times. The first verses introduce the psalm as a dialogue. Verse 1 comes from the lips of a person about to begin a journey. The speaker looks to the mountains ahead, awesome to behold yet full of potential danger. An imminent journey across and through their heights causes the worshiper to ask about the source of “help” or “strength” on the way. Unlike the answer to a similar question regarding wisdom (Job 28:12, 20), the response here provides the traveler hope and promise: “help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth” (v. 2). Whoever speaks that answer—either the worshiper or a priest—the following verses appear to flow from the lips of a priest. The journey itself is often assumed, therefore, to be the homeward trip from the temple in Jerusalem following a pilgrim’s required visit. It is also possible that the setting takes place outside the home of the pilgrims as they set out for the temple. In that case, the answer might come from a Levite. In any case, the Lord who will be the “help” will remain constantly alert to keep the traveler from harm (vss. 3-4). YHWH will protect and guard the pilgrim, even from the blistering sun and the mysterious moon (vss. 5-6). Even beyond the immediate journey, the Lord will maintain diligence on the worshiper’s behalf in every place and at all times.


Genesis 12:1-4a (1-9)
God calls Abraham and Sarah to relinquish their worldly security (home and family connections) in order to journey to a new land of God’s promise and become a source of blessing to others in their midst and beyond.

The call of Abraham recorded here occurs after the long pre-history of Genesis 3 through 11.  The final chapter of the pre-history tells of the Tower of Babel (vv. 1-9) and the subsequent judgment of God by which resulted in the diversity of languages and in the scattering of the people.

The pericope is assigned to the Yahwist (J). However, verses 4b-5 are clearly P.  The Yahwist addresses Israel in the time of David and Solomon (tenth century B.C.) in order to answer two questions:  (1) How did we get to be the great people we are? (2) What is our function? The priestly school (P) was at work for centuries, but its defining work and editorial hand were especially active in the sixth century B.C.

Key Words
V. 1:  lek-lekā  mē’artsekā … ’el-hā’ārets  ’ašer ’arekkā = “Go from your land … to the land which I will show you”:  The land where Abram resided was somewhere in Mesopotamia:  according to the last two verses of chap. 11 (which is P rather than J) Abram’s father left Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan, but settled for a while in Haran.

V. 2.  wa’agaddelā šemekā = “so that I might make your name great”:  Note the contrast between this verse and the Yahwist’s story of the Tower of Babel where the people tried to make their own name great (11:4).

V. 3.  mebārekêkā ûmeqallelkā = “those who bless you and the one who curses you”:  While some mss. make both participles plural, the contrast between the many who will bless and the exceptional one who will curse is likely intentional.

V. 3.  wenibrekû bekā kōl mišpechôt hā’adāmâ = “and by you all the families of the land will consider themselves blessed (or be blessed”):  The niph‘al of the verb nibrecan be used as a simple passive or as a reflexive, thus the alternate translations; nibrekû mišpechôt hā’adāmâ occurs also at 28:14 as God’s promise to Jacob.  The clause appears elsewhere but in a wider context at Genesis at 18:18 (“nations of the earth”); 22:18 (“nations of the earth”); 26:4 (“nations of the earth”).  Note Gal. 3:8 where Paul cites this promise as “the gospel preached beforehand to Abraham.”  For examples of Abraham and his descendants serving as a source of blessing even when the formula does not appear, see 30:27 (Laban to Jacob), 30 (Jacob to Laban).


Romans 4:1-5 [8], 13-17
The righteousness that comes from God was reckoned to Abraham on the basis of his faith, and the promise given to Abraham–that he and his descendants would inherit the world–is given to everyone through the righteousness of faith.

Having demonstrated that all people–Jews and Gentiles–are guilty before God (chapters 1-2), Paul demonstrated in chapter 3 that all are justified by grace as a gift.  Toward the end of chapter 3, he then raises the issue of works and contrasts them with faith.  Now using Abraham, the ancestor of the Jews himself, as his example, Paul drives home his point.


John 3:1-17
In response to the confession of Nicodemus that Jesus comes from God, Jesus indicates that in order to participate in the kingdom of God and in the salvation he offers, one must be born anew.

According to John, Jesus went up to Jerusalem three times during his life. This encounter with Nicodemus occurred during the first visit at the time of the Passover. Many people had already come to believe in Jesus because of the signs he performed, but Jesus, we are told, did not entrust himself to them … for he himself knew what was in people (2:24-25).

Key Words
V. 3.  ean mē tis gennēthē anōthen = “unless someone is born from above”:  The issue is not simply another birth but an existence based on heavenly origins. The statement is explained further by v. 13 where “the Son of man” is identified as the one who descended from heaven; see John 1:1-14.

V. 3.  tēn basileian tou theou = “the kingdom of God”:  After this initial reference to the kingdom, a synoptic emphasis, John usually talks about “life” rather than the kingdom. The question of kingdom and kingship will occur again in the trial by Pilate (19:36).

V. 5. “unless one of born of water and the Spirit … born of the flesh … born of the Spirit … born of the Spirit”:  As Jesus himself received the Holy Spirit (see John 1:33), proving that Jesus is the Son of God (1:34), so Jesus announces the means by which others can become born from above and see/enter the kingdom of God with him.

V. 14.  kai kathōs Mōysēs hypsōsen ton ophin en tē  erēmō, houtōs hypsōthēnai dei ton huion tou anthrōpou = “and as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up”:  The “lifting up” is an important expression in John’s Gospel. Here, by comparison to the visible raising of the bronze serpent, and at 8:28, the verb appears to refer to the crucifixion. At 12:32, 34 the word refers to the resurrection/ascension. Strikingly, the word dei = “must” is used here, as it is in the synoptic tradition, regarding the necessity of the suffering and resurrection of the Son of Man (see Mark 8:31). The result of looking at the uplifted serpent is “life” in Num. 21:9 and “salvation” at Wisdom of Solomon 16:5-7.

V. 16. houtōs gar ēgapēsen ho theos ton kosmon, ōste ton huion ton monogenē edōken = “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son”: The tense of the verb for “loved” signifies a once for all act. It thus points to the crucifixion rather than to a more general affection for the created world. Appropriating this message to one’s life results in “eternal life.”

V. 17. “For God sent the Son into the world (eis ton kosmon), not to condemn the world (ton kosmon), but that the world (ho kosmos) (Creation) might be saved (sōthē) through him”:  The work of God in Jesus is described here in the third person; at 12:47, Jesus speaks in the first person about his purpose in the same terms: not to condemn but to save the world. At 1 John 4:14 the author writes similarly: “the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world” (sōtēra tou kosmou). Recall that according to the angel’s words to Joseph, the name of the baby Mary will bear will be “Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). Luke’s narrative about the message of the birth of Jesus to the shepherds includes the title “a Savior who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

Wrestling with the Word, episode 105: First Sunday in Lent, Year A (March 13, 2011) March 7, 2011

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First Sunday in Lent

As I was listening over the past few weeks to some lectures on music, I became particularly interested when the teacher waxed eloquently about Pythagoras, the 6th century B.C, philosopher, mathematician, and most everything else. Pythagoras and his disciples (the Pythagoreans) developed a theory of numbers, often in terms of the ratio of objects to one another. In fact, they looked at numbers as a guide to interpret the world. The sought the mathematical harmony of all things. They spoke of the “Musica universalis,” the harmony of the spheres. The planets and stars moved according to mathematical equations, and they showed the same for musical notes.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 105: First Sunday in Lent, Year A.


Psalm 32
The psalm is a combination of two different genres. The first seven 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 (verses 8-9) 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 (verses 10-11) exhorts others to be joyful that the Lord is a God who shows covenant loyalty (chesed) to the people.


Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7 (ELCA)
Genesis 3:1-21 (LCMS)
Against God’s intentions for a faithful and healthy humanity, God held Adam and Eve accountable for choosing to “be like God, knowing good and evil,” setting the stage for a life of discord.

Following the Priestly account of creation in Genesis 1:1–2:4a, the Yahwist’s account in Genesis 2–3 portrays the story of humanity in terms of a local oasis story.  “J” wrote his epic in the reigns of David and/or Solomon, that is, sometime in the tenth century B.C.

Key Words
2:15.  le‘obdāh ûlešomrāh = “to work it and to protect it”:  The expression demonstrates several important points:  (1) fruitful labor is part of the what God wills for humanity, not the result of human sinfulness; (2) that labor is performed for the production of food; (3) it is the responsibility of humans to protect the soil.

2:17. ûmē‘ēts hadda‘at tôb wārā‘ = “tree of the knowledge of good and evil”:  For the meaning of “good and evil” elsewhere, see 2 Sam. 19:35 where it seems to have something to do with pleasant and unpleasant tastes; cf. also 2 Sam. 14 where the “good and evil” of v. 17 seems to be explained as “all things” in v. 20; see also Isa. 7:15, 16.  As for “knowledge” (Heb. da‘at), the word in the Hebrew Bible has to do with intimate experience rather than with intellectual awareness (see Gen. 4:1; Amos 3:2).

3:1.  hannāchāš = “the serpent”:  Why a serpent is selected for the dirty work is not entirely clear.  Perhaps it is because (1) the serpent was a symbol of healing in ancient times, and so here the critter is put in its place, or (2) in the Gilgamesh Epic it is a serpent that takes the plant of life away from the hero, thus depriving him of immortality.

3:3.  pen-temûtûn = “lest you die”:  The question about what is meant by “die” here becomes significant because when they did eat the fruit, they did not expire. Perhaps death means the separation from God. Or perhaps the grace of God overpowered the judgment of God.

3:5.  wihyîtem kē’lōhîm yōde‘ê tôb wārā‘ = “and you will be like gods, knowing good and evil”:  The plural participle yôde‘ê gives the impression that kēlōhîm is plural also: “gods.”

3:7.  wayyēde‘û kî ‘êrummîm = “and they knew that they were naked”:  According to biblical understandings, they had been intellectually aware of their nakedness prior to the disobedience; now they experienced nakedness in terms of guilt and vulnerability.


Romans 5:12-19
In contrast to the devastating effects of sin when “death reigned,” starting with the first couple, the effects of God’s justification in Christ will enable those who receive it to “reign in life through Jesus Christ.”


Matthew 4:1-11
In the face of the devil’s temptations that Jesus prove he is the Son of God and that he can gain glory without suffering, Jesus proved faithful to his identity and mission.

Immediately prior to our pericope is the baptism of Jesus by John in the Jordan (3:13-17).  On that occasion the voice from heaven announced to John (and others?) that Jesus was the “beloved Son (of God) with whom (God) was pleased.” That identity established, the temptation follows immediately.

Key Words
V. 1.  Tote ho Iēsous anēchthē … hypo tou pneumatos = “Then Jesus was led … by the Spirit”:  The Q version of the temptation differs from Mark’s not only in length and in discourse but even in the role of the Spirit who “drove” Jesus into the wilderness according to Mark’s account (1:12).

V. 1.  peirasthēnai hypo tou diabolou = “to be tempted by the devil”:  Matthew uses diabolos here in place of Mark’s Satan.  However, at v. 10, Jesus calls “the devil” Satan. In v. 3 he is called ho peirazōn = “the tempter,” a term used also at 1 Thess. 3:5.  In addition to the synoptic parallels, reference is made to Jesus’ temptation also at Heb. 2:18; 4:15.  For the temptations of the devil on people, see 1 Cor. 7:5; 1 Thess. 3:5; Rev. 2:10. For the temptation by Satan on the people of Israel, see 1 Chron. 21:1.

Vv. 3, 6.  ei huios ei tou theou = “if you are the Son of God”:  Note the same temptation raised by the mockers at his crucifixion (27:40).  As a question at the trial, see 26:63.  At 26:63 the high priest demanded that Jesus “tell us, if you are the Christ, the Son of God,” and Jesus responded with “You said so!” and spoke instead of the Son of Man.

V. 8.  eis oros hypselon lian = “a very high mountain”:  In the LXX the expression refers to “high places” that are sacred places for Canaanites or Israelites (see Matt. 17:1//Mark 9:2).  The impression is that each temptation moves to a higher elevation:  the wilderness hills, the temple pinnacle on Mount Zion/Moriah, and finally the “cosmic” mountain, the only spot from which one could see “all the kingdoms of the world.”

V. 10. hypage, satana = “Go away, Satan”: When Peter tries to prevent Jesus from his prophecy regarding the cross at 16:23, Jesus addresses Peter with the words, hypage…, satana, but adds opisō mou = “behind me.” Jesus explains to Peter his accusation and address: Peter is “not on the side of God but of humans.” Here Jesus explains to Satan that the temptation runs contrary to God’s claim to exclusive devotion expressed in the words of the Shema.

V. 11. kai idou aggeloi prosēlthon kai diēkonooun autō = “and behold angels came and served him”: At 26:53 Jesus calms his disciples when soldiers and Judas came to arrest him in Gethsemane by indicating if he wanted, God would send legions of angels to protect him. Even the prophet Elijah knew of God’s protective angels when an angel served him food in the desert (1 Kings 19:5-8). That incident led to the prophet’s sustenance for “forty days and forty nights,” the length of Jesus’ fasting in the desert (v. 2).

Wrestling with the Word, episode 65: Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year C (March 21, 2010) March 3, 2010

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Fifth Sunday in Lent

The biblical passages burst with God’s promises of salvation. Since such promises are never conditioned on human behavior, we can attribute those promised acts and God’s past acts to God’s amazing grace. The Bible also makes no secret about the praise God expects for such graciousness. The responsibility of the people of God in each generation is to determine what forms that praise should take.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 65; Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year C.


Psalm 126
The psalm presents the dreaming or visioning of those who wait for salvation. Their dream enables them to anticipate the time of their deliverance from adversity; then the nations will recognize the work of God and the people of Israel will join in their praise. The psalm returns to reality, pleading with God to fulfill the dream by turning sorrow into joy and hunger into harvest.


Isaiah 43:16-21
To a people suffering the results of their sinfulness, God promises a new act of salvation that will result in the people’s declaration of divine praise.

The prophet delivered his sermons to a people who had been in exile for some 40 to 50 years. His preaching seems to have occurred close to the end of the exile since he mentions by name Cyrus, King of Persia, who in fact defeated the Babylonians and signed in 538 B.C. an edict allowing the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem.

Lament:  a complaint by the people over the absence of God, often including a reminder of what God had done for the people in the past.

Salvation promise:  a statement from God about what God would do to remedy the situation, that statement in the past tense indicates the promise was as good as done.

Result:  the ultimate outcome of God’s deed was not simply the rescue of the people but their praise of God.

Passages to Compare
41:17-20:  Promise of salvation
42:14-17:  Promise of salvation
51:9-11:   Second exodus
45:5-6:    Result
48:9-11:   Result

Key Words
V. 16.  netîbâ = “path”:  The word appears often in parallelism with “way,” but only here in referring to a new exodus:  usually a moral path.

V. 17.  hammôtsî = “who brings forth”:  The word is a technical term in the exodus traditions to describe the deliverance from Egypt. It is unusual here since it refers to the Egyptians rather than to Israelites.

V. 18.  ‘al tizkerû rišônôt = “Remember not the former things”:  In Second Isaiah “the former things” seems to refer to the acts of judgment which brought them to exile: see 41:22; 42:9; 43:9; 46:9; 48:3.

V. 19.  hinenî ‘ôsê chadāšâ = “Behold I am doing a new thing”:  The new thing is the salvation act which replaces the judgment act; see 42:9; 48:6.

V. 21.  yātsartî = “I formed”:  The word presents the image of a potter at work. It describes God forming Israel at 43:1, 7; 44:2, 21; cf. 45:9.

V. 21. tehillātî yesappērû = “that they declare my praise”: The same goal of God’s salvation work for the people in exile appears also at 48:9-11. In the NT the conclusion of the hymn Paul uses at Phil 2:5-11 describes the purpose of Christ’s humiliation and exaltation to be “to the glory of God the Father.”


Philippians 3:4b-14
Counting as nothing his religious past and accomplishments, and having been made Christ’s by Jesus himself through the righteousness of God, the apostle urges the Christians in Philippi to “forget what lies behind” and press onward toward the goal.

Paul had just finished discussing Timothy and Epaphroditus, confirming the personal aspect of his and their relationship with the congregation at Philippi. He begins chapter 3 with warnings against those who would persuade them to return to such former requirements as circumcision. The true circumcision, he indicates, is the Christian.

Key Words
V. 8.  skubalon = “rubbish, dung, garbage left after a feast.”

V. 9. alla tēn dia pisteōs Christou, tēn ek theou dikaiosynēn epi tē pistei = “but that (righteousness) through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God (based) upon faith”: The statement sums up the essence of Paul’s preaching and teaching and bears strong similarity to his writing at Romans 3:21-26.

V. 10.  summorphizomenos = “investing with the same form”:  The word appears only in Christian writings and only here as a verb; see v. 21; Romans 8:29.

V. 11.  exanastasin tēn ek nekrōn = “resurrection from the dead”:  Usually the word refers to the resurrection of the righteous to a glorified life (see Luke 20:35; Acts 4:2; 1 Peter 1:3). “Resurrection of the dead” (cf. 1 Cor, 15:42) might be more general:  some to life, some to judgment.


John 12:1-8
Faced with his imminent arrest and execution, Jesus appeared in Bethany where he received Mary’s anointing for his burial and left a message for the church to praise him thereafter.

Having raised Lazarus from the dead in the previous chapter, Jesus became the object of contempt among the chief priests and Pharisees. Perhaps unknowingly, Caiaphas, the high priest, prophesied that Jesus would die both for the nation and for all the children of God who were scattered abroad. With awareness of their plans, Jesus went off to the town of Ephraim where he stayed with his disciples. At the time of the Passover, people wondered if Jesus would come; the Pharisees gave orders to reveal his whereabouts so that he might be arrested.

Compare Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; Luke 7:36-50

Key Words
V. 5. dia ti touto to myron ouk triakosiōn dēnariōn kai edothē ptōchois; = Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?”: According to Matt. 20:2, a denarius represented one day of labor in the fields. Therefore, the cost of the ointment was almost an annual wage.

V. 8. tous ptōchous gar pantote echete meth’ heautōn, eme de ou pantote echete = “the poor you always have with you; you do not always have me”: The same words appear at Matthew 26:6-13 and Mark 14:3-9)

A common temptation is to miss the meaning of the story by losing ourselves in the details. Indeed, some of the details result simply from the ways stories developed in the early church. The “woman” in Matthew and Mark becomes identified as Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha, in John. The location of the incident moves from the home of Simon the leper in Matthew and Mark to the home of Mary and Martha in John. The woman anointed Jesus’ head in Matthew and Mark, while in John (and in Luke’s version of the anointing incident) Mary anointed Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair. The indignation arises from “some” in Mark to “the disciples” in Matthew and to “Judas” in John. Mark, the earliest gospel, continues Jesus’ statement about the continuing presence of the poor with the words “and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish” (vs. 7). Both Matthew and John eliminated that part of the saying. In Matthew and Mark, Jesus commends the woman and promises that people throughout the world will hold her in remembrance whenever the gospel is preached.

Luke eliminated the entire quotation from his gospel and moved the anointing event out of the Passion story into the first of a series of reports about a growing cadre of women who became disciples; the anointing of Jesus’ feet by a woman known as “a sinner” became a story of forgiveness (Luke7: 36-50). Did Luke think that Jesus’ saying detracted from his gospel’s focus on the poor?

Jesus is quoting the first part of Deuteronomy 15:11: “Since there will never cease to be some in need, therefore, I command you, You shall open wide your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.” For the practice of citing half of a verse to call to mind the whole verse, see 2 Peter 2:22: “The dog turns back to its own vomit” (Prov. 26:11).

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”).