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Monday, October 29, 2007

Lexegete™ - November, 2007

Lexegete™ | Year C | Luke

All Saints
November 1, 2007
Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18
Psalm 149 (Ps. 149:1)
Ephesians 1:11-23
Luke 6:20-31

All Saints may be transferred to Sunday, November 4.

November 4, 2007 (Lectionary 31)

Complementary Series
Isaiah 1:10-18
Psalm 32:1-7 (Ps. 32:6)
2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12
Luke 19:1-10

Semicontinuous Series
Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4
Psalm 119:137-144 (Ps. 119:144)
2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12
Luke 19:1-10

1a. TEXT: Luke 19:1-10
1και εισελθων διηρχετο την ιεριχω. 2και ιδου ανηρ ονοματι καλουμενος ζακχαιος, και αυτος ην αρχιτελωνης και αυτος πλουσιος. 3και εζητει ιδειν τον ιησουν τις εστιν, και ουκ ηδυνατο απο του οχλου οτι τη ηλικια μικρος ην. 4και προδραμων εις το εμπροσθεν ανεβη επι συκομορεαν ινα ιδη αυτον, οτι εκεινης ημελλεν διερχεσθαι. 5και ως ηλθεν επι τον τοπον, αναβλεψας ο ιησους ειπεν προς αυτον, ζακχαιε, σπευσας καταβηθι, σημερον γαρ εν τω οικω σου δει με μειναι. 6και σπευσας κατεβη, και υπεδεξατο αυτον χαιρων. 7και ιδοντες παντες διεγογγυζον λεγοντες οτι παρα αμαρτωλω ανδρι εισηλθεν καταλυσαι. 8σταθεις δε ζακχαιος ειπεν προς τον κυριον, ιδου τα ημισια μου των υπαρχοντων, κυριε, τοις πτωχοις διδωμι, και ει τινος τι εσυκοφαντησα αποδιδωμι τετραπλουν. 9ειπεν δε προς αυτον ο ιησους οτι σημερον σωτηρια τω οικω τουτω εγενετο, καθοτι και αυτος υιος αβρααμ εστιν: 10ηλθεν γαρ ο υιος του ανθρωπου ζητησαι και σωσαι το απολωλος.

Lk. 19:1 He entered Jericho and was passing through it.
Lk. 19:2 A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich.

Lk. 19:3 He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature.

Lk. 19:4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way.

Lk. 19:5 When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today."

Lk. 19:6 So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him.

Lk. 19:7 All who saw it began to grumble and said, "He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner."

Lk. 19:8 Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, "Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much."

Lk. 19:9 Then Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham.

Lk. 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost."

2. CONTEXT: Luke 19:1-10

Recently a Pastor I know told me that he was (since he will be leaving his patish around Christmas) going to preach on Zacchaeus next Sunday., Pentecost XXIII. But, for a twist, he plans to connect the Luke 19 text to Dr. Seuss’s “Grinch Who Stole Christmas.” Hmmm.....go figure.

I replied to him, though not in these exact words:

The story of Zacchaeus' discovery by Jesus is one of the most beloved of traditional gospel stories, and perhaps for that very reason one that is somewhat clouded by familiarity. There is little debate over the question of Zacchaeus' stature. He was small. Moreover, he was a tax collector.
And he was rich.

But beyond this the Third Evangelist has very little to say to us about his character. The implication is that the story is really not so much about Zacchaeus as it is about us, and that the little man in the sycamore tree offers Jesus an unusual opportunity to reach out to the world in a unusual way.

Apparently starting with material from Mark, Luke develops the notion that Jesus not only conversed with sinners and those ostracized by society, but he actually had dinner with them!

The main thing that can be said about the figure Zacchaeus is that, whatever his personal qualities of character, he was by definition alienated from his own people because as a tax collector he was collaborating with the oppressors--and was paid handsomely for doing so.
It seems odd that such a person would climb a tree just to see Jesus, and yet in the light of his smallness of stature, perhaps this is not really so far-fetched. The most striking and unusual note comes when Jesus
recognizes in this behavior a degree of receptivity to him and to his message of salvation. The only real reference to Zacchaeus' "character" comes in Lk. 19:6, where it says that he received Jesus "joyfully"
[chairo]. Thus as we explore this passage it would be a mistake to portray Zacchaeus either too much as a "saint" or too much the "sinner," but rather with a sense of simul justus et peccator like the rest of us.

Commentator: Dave Buehler
Editor: Lexegete, 1987-2007

© 2007 Tischrede Software


November 11, 2007(Lectionary 32)

Complementary Series
Job 19:23-27a
Psalm 17:1-9 (Ps. 17:8)
2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17
Luke 20:27-38
Semicontinuous Series
Haggai 1:15b—2:9
Psalm 145:1-5, 17-21 (Ps. 145:3) or Psalm 98 (Ps. 98:9)
2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17
Luke 20:27-38

1a. TEXT: Luke 20:27-38

Lk. 20:27 Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him

Lk. 20:28 and asked him a question, "Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother.

Lk. 20:29 Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless;

Lk. 20:30 then the second

Lk. 20:31 and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless.

Lk. 20:32 Finally the woman also died.

Lk. 20:33 In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her."

Lk. 20:34 Jesus said to them, "Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage;

Lk. 20:35 but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.

Lk. 20:36 Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection.

Lk. 20:37 And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.

Lk. 20:38 Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive."

1b. CONTEXT: Luke 20:27-38

Luke 20 : 27-39 consists of some Sadducees asking Jesus a mocking question about resurrection (vs. 27-33), followed by Jesus' response (vs. 34-39). The scene takes place in Jerusalem soon after Jesus' triumphal entry on Palm Sunday. Although the pericope is found in Mark (12: 18-27) and Matthew (22: 23-33), the Lukan version contains many more Hebraisms and recasts the opening statement of Jesus' response (v. 34).

The "Holy Week" setting of the passage is, of course, significant. For some 10 chapters (and throughout most of our Pentecost lections), Jesus has been preparing for his fateful arrival in Jerusalem. Immediately prior to chapter 20, Jesus triumphantly enters the city, weeps over its fate, and angrily drives out merchants from the Temple. Political and religious authorities respond by plotting to destroy Jesus. In chapter 20, the authorities approach Jesus four times to ask (or be asked) challenging and controversial questions.

Our passage is the third of these scenes. Daube suggests that the grouping and form of these scenes originates from a common rabbinic teaching device with liturgical roots (1). As such, our passage is of the type called a "mocking question," the purpose of which is to belittle the teaching of the rabbi. Sadducees approach Jesus and, after posing a hypothetical (and rather absurd) situation involving seven brothers in turn marrying one wife, ask Jesus, "In the resurrection...whose wife will she be?" Jesus refutes the mocking question by destroying its premises and re-asserting the legitimacy of belief in the resurrection.

2. ANALYSIS: Luke 20: 27-39

Luke 20: 27. The pericope identifies [Saddoukaios] as [hoi antilegontes anastasin me einai.] Although information about the Sadducees comes only from groups hostile to them, it seems that this group indeed did not believe in resurrection (as Pharisees and Christians did: see Acts 23: 6ff), insisting on a more conservative, literal reading of the Torah.

Luke 20: 28-33. The "mocking question" is about resurrection (v. 33). The subject is introduced in v. 28 by a reference to the Mosaic law in Deut. 25: 5-10 concerning "levirite marriage." As v. 28 indicates, levirite marriage specifies that when a husband dies childless, it is his brothers' duty to take the widow as wife and father children. According to INTERPRETER'S DICTIONARY OF THE BIBLE, "The purpose of the law is clear--to prevent marriage of the Israelite girl to an outsider and to continue the name of the dead husband in Israel." (2) This point will become important in Jesus' response to the Sadducees.

Luke 20: 33. After the parable of the seven brothers, the "mocking question" is asked: "In the resurrection, ... whose wife will [the woman] be?" Clearly, the question is intended to establish the absurdity of resurrection. Resurrection would force law-abiding Jews into illegal and ridiculous polygamy.

Luke 20: 34-36. Jesus' response falls into two parts. In this first part, Jesus destroys the premises of the Sadducees' argument. There is no comparison between life in "this age" and "that age" (i.e., the age of the resurrection). Levirite marriage (with its goal of "name" preservation) applies only to the children of this age. In "that age" such laws are unnecessary. Life is preserved with and in God.

[Hoi huios tou aionos toutou.] This phrase is best understood inclusively as "children of this age." This is made clear in the following phrase where [gamousin kai gamizontai] clearly refers to men "marrying" and women being "given in marriage."

The argument in this first part is rather laborious. The reason why those in "that age" neither marry nor are given in marriage is because they can no longer die. Presumably this means they need no longer marry in order to perpetuate their name; they cannot die and so their name lives with them. The reason why they cannot die is then said to be because they are equal to angels and children of God as a result of being children of the resurrection.

Luke 20: 37-38. In the second part of his response, Jesus refers to Torah and asserts the legitimacy of belief in the resurrection. "The argument runs thus: God has revealed himself to Moses as the Lord of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, which proves that these patriarchs are still alive, since such a relationship presupposes living partners: ERGO, there is a resurrection of the dead." (3)

3. STRATEGY: Luke 20: 27-38

This is not one of the most transparent pericopes in the New Testament. Beneath the strange (to modern ears) law of levirite marriage and such Hebraisms as "this age" and "those accounted worthy to attain to that age," is, however, a passage of tremendous power. Although the Sadducees only seem to be interested in ridiculing Jesus, Jesus seizes the opportunity to proclaim where true permanence and security are found. Levirite marriage attempted to legislate immortality by perpetuating a dead husband's name through children fathered by his brothers. Such solutions are unnecessary in the resurrection. As the example of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob makes plain, all live to God! True security and permanence are truly found in God, not law.

Given this understanding of the passage (an understanding which requires careful explanation of the underlying meaning of levirite marriage), preachers can proclaim the good news of the resurrection in ever new ways. What are modern equivalents to levirite marriage? What "laws" do people construct to guarantee permanence and security? Wealth? Status? A "guaranteed" religious experience, such as being "born again"? The trend toward multiple marriages called "progressive monogamy"? Whatever it is, the good news is that life in "that age" is radically discontinuous with life in this age. All those whom God accounts worthy to attain to resurrection (which is everyone!) live to God and so are promised life. Given this assurance now, we are free to let go of our security blankets and live to God.

4. NOTES & REFERENCES: Luke 20: 27-38

(1) Daube, THE NEW TESTAMENT AND RABBINIC JUDAISM, pp. 158-169. The device, found in the Passover liturgy, consists of a question of wisdom
concerning a point of law, a question of conduct, a mocking question, and an exegetical question.

(2) IDB, Vol. 4, p. 162.

(3) Reiling and Swellengrebel, A TRANSLATOR'S HANDBOOK ON THE GOSPEL OF LUKE, p. 655.

REFERENCES: Luke 20: 27-38

pp. 158-169.

Reiling, J. and J. L. Swellengrebel, A TRANSLATOR'S HANDBOOK ON THE GOSPEL OF LUKE, Leiden, 1971.

BIBLE, Volume 4, pp. 160-163, Abingdon, 1962.

Exegete: Michael J. Carlson

November 18, 2007 (Lectionary 33)
Complementary Series
Malachi 4:1-2a
Psalm 98 (Ps. 98:9)
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
Luke 21:5-19

Semicontinuous Series
Isaiah 65:17-25
Isaiah 12 (Isa. 12:6)
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
Luke 21:5-19

1a. TEXT: Luke 21:5-19

Lk. 21:5 When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said,

Lk. 21:6 "As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down."

Lk. 21:7 They asked him, "Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?"

Lk. 21:8 And he said, "Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, `I am he!' and, `The time is near!' Do not go after them.

Lk. 21:9 "When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately."

Lk. 21:10 Then he said to them, "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom;

Lk. 21:11 there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.

Lk. 21:12 "But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name.

Lk. 21:13 This will give you an opportunity to testify.

Lk. 21:14 So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance;
Lk. 21:15 for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict.

Lk. 21:16 You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death.

Lk. 21:17 You will be hated by all because of my name.

Lk. 21:18 But not a hair of your head will perish.

Lk. 21:19 By your endurance you will gain your souls.

1b. CONTEXT: Luke 21:5-19

This pericope is framed by the story of the Widow's mite and Satan entering Judas. The setting is the Temple where Jesus continues his daily teaching. He is speaking to the disciples while all the people about them listen. Jesus had the support of the populace, which was enthusiastic about his teaching.

Verses 5-7 may be one of the hardest parts of the gospel tradition to interpret. There are many interpretations to choose from, so many that it tends to bewilder the serious student. Part of the problem is that these texts are often called Jesus' "eschatological discourse," for it is concerned with the eschata, "last things," of the world and Jerusalem. Others refer to this pericope as the Synoptic "apocalyptic discourse" as it presents the aforementioned eschata in apocalyptic garb. These words, "apocalyptic" and "eschatological", are problematic in themselves. We can say that "eschatological" describes a body of teachings about the last times which for the Lucan writer meant the end of Jerusalem, whereas "apocalyptic" is a form of writing about these end times. This Lucan discourse can be called "eschatalogical" in that it seeks to encourage its readers, as well as urge them to vigilance and prayer during times of persecution. Thus it can be regarded as apocalyptic writing.

This Lucan material has its parallels in Mark 13:5-37 and Matt. 24:1-36 and echoes material already used in chapter 17 (vv. 23-24, 26-27, 33, 34-35, 37).

In his Gospel Luke appears to have two primary aims. He has a special interest in ordering his story geographically, and he presents Jesus as bringing God's salvation to the publicans, sinners, Gentiles, and Samaritans, those whose need for the "Good News" is greatest. Also the Lucan Jesus deals gently with the outcast and the poor. Jesus is portrayed as a man of prayer and women have a special role in his ministry.

Although tradition holds for the authorship of Luke, the traveling companion of Paul and the "beloved physician," there is room for doubt. We find inconsistencies with the Pauline Letters and wonder whether his traveling companion would have been guilty of such monumental errors. There is, however, much support for a common author of Luke and Acts.

But in no case can the author be an eyewitness to events, rather he depends upon others who "were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word." (1:2) Nonetheless the writer of this gospel was an able and learned historian with a profound faith. The political situation during the reign of the Emperor Domitian (81-96) fits neatly into the situation of the church reflected in Luke's gospel; hence a date of AD 85 to 95 is likely. Since the evangelist's gospel contains such a highly developed style of Greek and where readers such as Theophilus (Acts 1-1) would have been at home_a locale where cultured Greek was the primary language_is about as much as we can ascertain about the church's locus. Persecution was a major problem for the disciples and would increase after Jesus' departure. The city of Jerusalem and the magnificent Temple would be totally destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. The Lucan church suffered greatly under Domitian. Hence, one would do well to study these terrible times before attempting to preach on this pericope.

It should be noted that Luke does not introduce the word parousia ; it is not a Lucan word. In any event, it should not enter into a discussion of the Lucan pericope. Luke has his own way of referring to future events, and to use the Holy Spirit in this case would not be respecting Luke's gospel. This is problematic when this text is assigned to Pentecost.

2. ANALYSIS: Luke 21:5-19

Luke 21: 5-7 - These verses constitute the first pericope of this text. It is concerned with the fate of Jerusalem's glorious temple. Because of Luke's concern to keep Jesus in the temple, he doesn't go to the Mount of Olives and speak only to his disciples as he does in Mark 13:1-3. Jesus' reply to those commenting on the Herodian temple is not a warning, but a prophetic pronouncement, a terrifying prediction. The clarity of his words saw their fulfillment in late August and early September A.D. 70 when the Temple was utterly destroyed.

21:7 when will this happen? Here and later in the verse, "these things"
(tauta) refers clearly to the destruction of the Temple.

There is no mention of "the last things" for there is no mention of such in the Lucan gospel. Luke is concerned directly with events in history and shows Jesus as one who prophesies about coming events. This "when" question launches the reader into the monologue of terrible events to come.

21:8-11 - These verses are a collection of prophetic, threatening, terrifying sayings of Jesus. He uses apocalyptic language of wars, revolts and of natural disasters, yet they are not to be understood as referring to anything other than the devastation of the Temple and Jerusalem. This is a negative episode replete with horrifying images meant to warn the reader-hearer to remain true despite earth- shattering events. Jesus uses OT allusions in his discourse.(Isa 19:2, 2 Chr 15:6, Ezek. 38:19-22). The Jewish historian, Josephus, describes the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem with many horrifying details. Included in his story are references to charlatans and would-be messengers of god, as well as strange stars and the appearance of a comet. When considering such details as these, which accompanied the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, it is not implausible to conclude that this was the destruction or "the end" to which Luke was referring. Thus importing references to the end of the world at this point, although tempting, seems inappropriate, for this would be importing a Marcan or Matthean nuance into the context of Luke.

21:8 - Make sure that you are not led astray. The verb planao "led astray" is found only here; it connotes a departure from truth or fidelity. Such false prophets are not to be trusted. do not run after them, i.e. do not be taken in by their rhetoric and flair.

21:9 - The use of first of all (proton) and at once (eutheos) lead the way to the next pericope where Jesus warns his disciples that they will face persecutions before the "end" of Jerusalem.

21:12-19 - As background for this pericope it might be helpful to read Acts 4:16-18, 8:1b-3, 12:1-5, where actual persecutions are described. (Cf. I Thess 2:14, Gal 1:13). This part of the discourse describes the church under stressful conditions. Jesus recounts the coming persecutions which will come from all sorts of Jewish and Gentile sources. Families and friends, all will turn against them because they bear his name.

In addition, persecutions will consist not only of imprisonment but even death. And the reason will always be hatred because of "my name". Yet the evangelist's Jesus encourages his followers, "not a hair of your head will be lost" (an echo of Luke 12:7). By their endurance they will gain life, for they can never lose their souls even if their lives are lost. Here we see Luke at his finest, giving hope to the persecuted, truly Good News.

21:12 - will persecute you. The verb "pursue" (dioko) has a religious connotation here. Harassment takes place because of religious affiliation. hand you over to synagogues and prisons...kings and prefects. Luke alone adds "prisons" (phulakas). Synagogues and prisons refer to Jewish persecutions and kings and prefects refers to Gentile persecutions. because of my name
(eneken tou onomatos nou). Here Luke rewords Mark 13:9 in accordance with the Lucan emphasis on the name of Jesus in Acts.

21:13 - It will lead to your having to testify - you will be called on to act in a way that testifies to your fidelity, to what you truly are.

21:14 - not to rehearse your defense in advance. The verb (promeletao) is a technical expression for memorizing a speech in advance.

21:15 - I myself shall supply you with lips and with a wisdom. Literally this means "I shall give you a mouth and wisdom." Luke places the "I" (ego) at the beginning of the sentence as he substitutes Jesus as the giver of the needed gifts to his persecuted followers for the "holy Spirit" of the Markan gospel. In Acts 2:33 the Lucan writer has the risen Jesus saying that he will supply the wisdom and dispense the Father's promise.

21:16 - be handed over by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends. Conflict in families is part of the situation of persecution.
The disciples are not merely being given information but Jesus' words require difficult decisions for they conflict with loyalties both for the disciples in Luke's gospel as well as for its readers. The disciples are portrayed as persons who desire and expect the promise of salvation without suffering and rejection. This is Jesus' direct attack upon false expectations.

they will put some of you to death. A prophecy fulfilled in the deaths of Stephen (Acts 7:54-60) and James, son of Zebedee(Acts 12:1-2).

21:18 - not a hair of your head will be lost. The inference is that God will be protecting his own during the times of persecution. This is a doublet with Luke 12:7 "Even the hairs of your head are all numbered". Therefore, the disciples need not fear. Since this follows the statement that "they will put some of you to death," it refers metaphorically to a preservation beyond death. The Lucan narrator is suggesting that Jesus is dealing with weighty matters of lasting importance.

21:19 - by your will make your lives secure. Literally this means "in your persistence win your souls." The condition for salvation is not simply patience (hyptomoei) but persistent endurance. So one will acquire, "procure," (chtaomai) "inner life" (psyche).

3. STRATEGY: Luke 21:5-19

Although this text is difficult, due to verse 15, "For I will give you words and wisdom..." with no mention of the Holy Spirit and with Pentecost being the celebration of the coming of the Spirit, there are ways that one can handle this. One should stay true to the Lucan emphasis and not mention the Holy Spirit directly but place emphasis upon how Jesus Christ is with us as he promised, "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." (John 14:18) Jesus was honest with his hearers, he told them they could expect hard times, even death. We who preach his Gospel must also be honest. Although such persecutions are not afflicting us in our land, this is not true in all of Christendom. One way to address this might be to use a first person account of persecution in the sermon. This could be done by recounting an incident from the time of the Emperor Domitian. These are readily available in Tacitus, Josephus, and other histories of Christianity. For example: "I was five years old when they tied pig skins to my parents backs and set the dogs upon them...6,000 people starved to death in one week, my baby sister was one of those who died" etc.

Something along these lines can be an effective start for a sermon and give modern people a sense of the persecution suffered in the early church. Many parishioners have little sense of their Christian history. Although this may appear extreme, extreme measures are often required to bring the Bible to life. The Lucan church suffered severely. That is why his Jesus spoke so eloquently and gave such reassurance.

In addition, there are false teachers in America who beguile us with their rhetoric and flair. They preach false expectations, promise their hearers riches, and breed Christians who desire and expect the promise of salvation without suffering and rejection. Hence when people don't prosper, or when illness, drought, family problems, etc. befall them, they blame God or lose faith, and spend time in endless questioning. Either way life is lost, the inner life of zest which ends our text for today.

This text easily lends itself to this theme. Although our people are not starving, who knows what may come. Certainly we all struggle in one way or another. When Jesus spoke of a safety that went beyond the threats of this earth, "Not a hair of your head will be harmed," he assured us that although lives may be lost, our souls can never be lost. This makes an excellent message for today's blais_ generation, which so desperately needs something of substance.

It has been said that Jesus afflicted the comfortable and comforted the afflicted. This text certainly lends itself well to this concept. Most of our pews are full of the comfortable and we all know the afflicted. This text speaks a powerful word of hope, as well as warning those who glory in their tidy and comfortable little niche.

Ole Borgen, a Bishop of the Northern Europe Area since 1970 and a Norwegian by birth, residing in Sweden, is responsible for United Methodists in these two countries as well as those in Denmark, Finnland and Estonia. His leadership became especially important in recent years during the gradual decline and fall of communism in Eastern Europe. He has warned the European church against being complacent in the face of a critical lack of growth. Ironically, h is European churches fit the profile of many of our American churches.

Borgen believes they die because their small communities with one-industry economies have died; because materialism and hedonism are the principles guiding people's lives; and because the laity have a tendency to be consumers of faith rather than producers of faith. "A comfortable church will never grow," says this Bishop. "Life must never follow a set pattern. We must never be afraid of the Holy Spirit." How about a sermon on church growth to our very "set" congregations?

4.REFERENCES: Luke 21:5-19

A book that is very helpful when studying Luke is:


Volume one: The Gospel According to Luke,

by Robert C. Tannehill. Philadelphia,Pa. Fortress Press, 1986.

Exegete: Rev. Saundra Craig, United Methodist Church


Day of Thanksgiving (U.S.A.)

November 22, 2007

Deuteronomy 26:1-11 | Psalm 100 (Ps. 100:4) | Philippians 4:4-9 | John 6:25-35


Last Sunday after Pentecost
November 25, 2007 (Lectionary 34)

Complementary Series
Jeremiah 23:1-6
Psalm 46 (Ps. 46:10)
Colossians 1:11-20
Luke 23:33-43

Semicontinuous Series
Jeremiah 23:1-6
Luke 1:68-79 (Luke 1:69)
Colossians 1:11-20
Luke 23:33-43

Andrew, Apostle | November 30, 2007

Ezekiel 3:16-21 | Psalm 19:1-6 (Ps. 19:4)
Romans 10:10-18
John 1:35-42

1a. TEXT: Luke 23:35-43

Lk. 23:35 And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, "He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!"

Lk. 23:36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine,

Lk. 23:37 and saying, "If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!"

Lk. 23:38 There was also an inscription over him, "This is the King of the Jews."

Lk. 23:39 One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!"

Lk. 23:40 But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?

Lk. 23:41 And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong."

Lk. 23:42 Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."

Lk. 23:43 He replied, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise."

1. CONTEXT: Luke 23:35-43

Pope Pius XI instituted the Feast of Christ the King in 1925 in order to celebrate the authority of Christ which shall lead all humanity into the peace of Christ in the kingdom of Christ. It is now celebrated on the last Sunday before Advent. Lutherans now celebrate the feast and, while it is not referred to by name, the 1979 Episcopal BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER provides propers for it.

The gospel appointed for the day displays the paradox of Christian worship of Christ as king. The one place in the gospels where Christ is clearly depicted as king is on the cross, where he is crucified as a pretender to Messiahship. At the moment of degradation, suffering, and death, a caption above him reads, in Luke's words "This is the King of the Jews." The earliest Christian depictions of the crucifixion displayed this paradox by presenting a crowned Christ reigning from the cross, the so-called "Christus victor" iconography.

The cross has scandalized non-Christians. Celsus, an informed and perceptive second-century philosopher echoed the Luke's mockers when he wrote of Jesus: "If he really was so great he ought, in order to display his divinity, to have disappeared from the cross." [CONTRA CELSUM 2.68, tr. Henry Chadwick, p. 118]. One also thinks of a near disaster which befell Matteo Ricci, the sixteenth-century Jesuit missionary to China. The discovery of a highly realistic crucifix among his personal effects deeply

shocked the Chinese and gave rise to suspicion that he secretly engaged in malignant magical practices. Ricci, in the words of Jonathan Spence, "found it hard to marshall adequate explanation of the significance of Christ crucified. 'On the one hand,' as he wrote later (speaking of himself in the third person as he often did), 'he didn't want to say that that was our God, it seeming difficult to him among these ignorant people, and at such a time, to talk of these high mysteries, ...on the other, because he saw all the people turned against him, full of disgust for the cruelty which, it seemed to them, he had done to that man' --that is, to Christ."[Jonathan Spence, THE MEMORY PALACE OF MATTEO RICCI, pp. 246.]

Luke, departing from traditions otherwise attested, dramatically intensifies the paradox of Christ's reigning from the cross by including in his narrative Jesus' forgiveness of a penitent criminal crucified beside him. This is the crowning touch in a ministry consistently directed toward society's outcasts. It is also theologically appropriate. Forgiving the penitent thief is, as Joseph Fitzmyer points out, the way Luke makes clear the salvific character of Jesus' death [THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO LUKE I-IX, p. 23]. It is precisely that ministry of reconciliation and forgiveness which brought Jesus to the cross. In the words of Jurgen Moltmann [THE CRUCIFIED GOD, p. 130.]:

Anyone who proclaimed the coming of the kingdom and the
closeness of God as prevenient and unconditional grace to those
who according to the law were rightly rejected and could have
no hope, and who demonstrated this coming grace by giving
himself to those outside the law and the transgressors of the law,
who placed himself above the authority of Moses, and who was
all the time no more than 'a carpenter's son from Nazareth', was
inevitably bound to come into conflict with the devout and the
ruling class and their laws, and from the human point of view was
bound to lose this conflict. The conflict was provoked not by his
incomprehensible claim to authority as such, but by the discrepancy
between a claim which arrogated to itself the righteousness of
God and his unprotected and therefore vulnerable humanity.

2. ANALYSIS: Luke 23: 35-43

v. 35-36, 39 [ kai heistekei ho laos theoron. exemukterizon de kai hoi archontes . . . enepaixan de autoi kai hoi stratiotai . . . Heis de ton kremasthenton kakourgon eblasphemei auton.]--Note the dramatic character of the series: the people stood around (pluperfect) looking, the ruler taunted (imperfect), the soldiers mocked (aorist), the thief blasphemed (aorist). While they are only second in order, the use of the imperfect for the rulers, implying continual scoffing proceding from a special malice, singles out them for the greatest blame. The other tenses imply an action that was done once and completed. [Theoron] and [exemukterizon] allude to Ps. 22: 19. The contrast between the relatively innocent role of the people ([theoron] implys gawking at a spectacle) and the role of the rulers is striking.

v. 37 [en de kai epigraphe ep' autoi]--Fitzmyer (THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO LUKE X-XXIV, p. 152) points out that the inscription on the cross constitutes the only thing actually written about Jesus during his lifetime.

vv. 37 & 39 Note the contrast between the question which the Roman soldiers ask, "If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself," and that which the (presumably Jewish) criminal asks, "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us?" The Jewish rulers (v. 35) also refer to Jesus as "the Messiah." "King of the Jews" and "Messiah" are equivalent terms used from different perspectives.

v. 40 [Oude phobei su ton Theon;] -- The first criminal's question expresses shock that his companion would speak in such a way in the face of God's judgment. Note that both criminals ask for salvation.

v. 41 [ouden atopon] -- Not only has Jesus done nothing criminal, he has done nothing "out of place."

v. 42 [Iesou, mnestheti mou hotan eltheis eis ten basileian sou] --The criminal's request is modest, as befits a genuine penitent. Alfred Plummer (ICC 535) quotes Augustine on the faith of the penitent criminal: "The Jews despised as he was raising the dead; the thief did not dispise as he was hanging beside him on a cross. " Both of the criminals, one with bitter sarcasm, the other with humble faith, ask Jesus to save them.

v. 43 [semeron] -- This is strong evidence that Jews of Jesus' time expected some sort of continued existence after death, not simply to await the general resurrection. Luke does not know of Jesus' descent into hell.

3. STRATEGY: Luke 23: 35-43

The discussion of context suggests an over-all strategy for approaching the text. The feast of Christ the King calls for a different approach to the text from that which would be appropriate for Holy Week. Here the emphasis is on the crucifixion as an event in Christ's life or in salvation history. Rather, the emphasis is on the character of Christ's kingship and, in particular, on the way God's power manifests itself, a way summed up in the opening phrase of Proper 21 in the BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER: "O God, who declarest thy almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity."

4. REFERENCES: Luke 23: 35-43

Chadwick, Henry, ed. and tr. ORIGEN: CONTRA CELSUM. Reprinted with
corr., Cambridge: University Press, 1964.
Volumes 28 & 28A.
Viking Penguin, 1985.

5. MUSIC SUGGESTIONS: Luke 23: 35-43

Hymns should connect the kingship of Christ explicitly with the cross. Among those that do are "Hail, thou once despised Jesus" (HYMNAL 1982, 495), "All praise to thee, for thou, O king divine" (HYMNAL 1982 477), and "Lord Christ, when first thou cam'st to earth" (HYMNAL 1982 598).


Exegete: Rev. Dr. Joseph Trigg, Rector of Christ Church, LaPlata, MD
Fr. Trigg is the author of Origen. The Early Church Fathers. NY: Routledge, 1998.



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