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Monday, February 23, 2009

+ LENT ONE + 2009 +

First Sunday in Lent | March 1, 2009
Genesis 9:8-17
Psalm 25:1-10 (10)
1 Peter 3:18-22
Mark 1:9-15

Prayer of the Day

Holy God, heavenly Father, in the waters of the flood you saved the chosen, and in the wilderness of temptation you protected your Son from sin. Renew us in the gift of baptism. May your holy angels be with us, that the wicked foe may have no power over us, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Gospel Acclamation

One does not live by | bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the | mouth of God. (Matt. 4:4)

1a. Context: mark 1:9-15

Before analyzing texts in Mark it should be understood that the majority of scholars consider Mark the first gospel to be written, and date it around 70 A.D., the time of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman army (13:1–23) and that there is always a concern about the parousia and its immediacy. Also, Mark deals a great deal with the human side of our Lord.

The content of this Gospel pericope for Lent I, the "Tempta-tion," is much shorter and less detailed than the accounts in Matthew or Luke. The essentials are there, however...The Spirit lead Jesus; Jesus was tempted by Satan 40 days; Jesus is protected by the angels.

Apparently Mark (who is often used as a source by the other Gospel writers) knew by tradition of the fast and temptation of Jesus in the desert wilderness, and did not feel that it had to be dealt with in great detail. He launches immediately into the beginning of Jesus' ministry.

1b. Text: Mark 1:9-15

Text: Mark 1:9-15 [Common synthesis of two pericopes, 9-13 and 12-15 ]


1:9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.
1:10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.
1:11 And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."
1:12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.
1:13 He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
1:14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God,
1:15 and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news."


9Καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν ἐκείναις ταῖς ἡμέραις ἦλθεν Ἰησοῦς ἀπὸ Ναζαρὲτ τῆς Γαλιλαίας καὶ ἐβαπτίσθη εἰς τὸν Ἰορδάνην ὑπὸ Ἰωάννου. 10καὶ εὐθὺς ἀναβαίνων ἐκ τοῦ ὕδατος εἶδεν σχιζομένους τοὺς οὐρανοὺς καὶ τὸ πνεῦμα ὡς περιστερὰν καταβαῖνον εἰς αὐτόν: 11καὶ φωνὴ ἐγένετο ἐκ τῶν οὐρανῶν, Σὺ εἶ ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἀγαπητός, ἐν σοὶ εὐδόκησα. 12Καὶ εὐθὺς τὸ πνεῦμα αὐτὸν ἐκβάλλει εἰς τὴν ἔρημον. 13καὶ ἦν ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ τεσσεράκοντα ἡμέρας πειραζόμενος ὑπὸ τοῦ Σατανᾶ, καὶ ἦν μετὰ τῶν θηρίων, καὶ οἱ ἄγγελοι διηκόνουν αὐτῷ. 14Μετὰ δὲ τὸ παραδοθῆναι τὸν Ἰωάννην ἦλθεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἰς τὴν Γαλιλαίαν κηρύσσων τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τοῦ θεοῦ 15καὶ λέγων ὅτι Πεπλήρωται ὁ καιρὸς καὶ ἤγγικεν ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ: μετανοεῖτε καὶ πιστεύετε ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ.

2. Analysis: Mark 1:9-15

Mark’s Gospel has a strong sense of immediacy. The word euthus [immediately] is used some 40+ times in his Gospel. In verse 12 it is used to begin give some forcefulness to the Spirit's thrusting Jesus into the desert. The BCP and the Common Lectionary attach, prior to the beginning of this reading, the Baptism of Jesus by John. This attachment has a tendency to disconnect the Baptism, the Temptation, and the Beginning of Ministry, and makes preaching on the total reading more difficult. It sounds to the listener in the parish that Mark is leaving a great deal out. He is not. He is just immediately getting to the point of beginning Jesus work.

Mark is the only Gospel writer to speak of the beasts at the temptation. This only makes the desolation of the desert more mean-ingful.

In verse 14 Mark uses the term euaggelion, "gospel." Generally it is understood that its derivation meaning is from the Hebrew concept and means "something wrought by God, good." The etymology of "gospel" can be delineated considerably and is in "The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible." But for our understanding it is well translated in the meaning the Church understands it today...the good news of salvation by God. For Mark, and for us, it is the message of Jesus himself, preached by the early church.

In verse 15, the term "The time has come" or "The time is ful-filled" [pepleirotai o kairos kai heingiken] is an expression of something that Jesus listeners would understand. It was a season for things to get done. It also refers to an on–going 'drawing near' and not neces-sarily 'has arrived' concept.

Verse 15 brings forth the "reign of God" [h Basileia tou Theou]. It is best, as many scholars agree, to translate this as the "reign" rather than the "kingdom" of God. It is not a geographical position, but a relationship, and "reign" of God really means God ruling in a positive and active manner, God's will, with his people.

Verse 15 then represents the traditional prophetic beseeching, "Repent and believe in the gospel." [metanoeite kai pisteuete] This is a turning to the Lord from old ways and allegiances. It was under-stood by Jesus' hearers as a change of heart which always led to a new way of living. This leads one to belief or faith, and that demands at least two responses...obedience to God's message, the Gospel, and total commitment to following Christ.

1:10 - skizoo - split, separate, divide; peristera - dove

1:11 - eudokeoo - take delight or pleasure in

1:13 - tessarakonta - forty;

1:13 - peirazoo - tempt, test;

1:13 - theirion - wild beast;

1:13 - dikoneoo - serve

1:15 - engizoo - draw near to;

1:15 - metanoeoo - repent, turn around

3. Strategy: Mark 1:9-15

It is not as difficult to tie the temptation to the beginning of ministry if one understands that the temptation like the Baptism (and for Lutherans and Episcopalians who celebrate the Transfiguration on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday) is a declaration of the authority of Jesus over every thing, and is true representation of God the Father.

The traditional approach to the Matthew–Luke three temptations should not be the agenda for a sermon on Mark. A possibility instead is to take the four elements..."Time fulfilled," "reign of God is at hand," "Repent," and "Believe in the gospel" could be the points from which to preach. Any one could also be taken individually, tying in the others in a unitive manner.

4. References: Mark 1:9-15

THE INTERPRETER'S BIBLE, Vol. 7, Abingdon Press

LITURGY PLUS, Lent, Pastoral Planning Software, Resource Publica-tions, Inc.

PROCLAMATION, 1–4, Lent, Series B, Augsburg


5. Music Suggestions: Mark 1:9-15

"A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" LBW 227/228 HB 687\688 is an excellent entrance hymn, and it is a good idea for Lutherans especially to sing this at some other time than Reformation so that the faithful understand it as something other than a militant marching battle hymn of the Reformation.

Also for the entrance HB #143 "The Glory of These Forty Days"
LBW # 99 "O Lord, Throughout These Forty Days" could be used.

Other suggested hymns might be:

HB #448–449 "O Love, How Deep, How Broad,"
LBW #450 "Who Trusts in God, A Strong Abode."

Exegete: The Reverend C. Marcus Engdahl is retired from Gloria Dei Lutheran in South Bend, IN, and now lives in Virginia Beach, VA.


Tischrede Software

Dartmouth, MA 02747

+ ASH WEDNESDAY + Lent, 2009 +

Lexegete ™ | Years A/B/C

Ash Wednesday | February 25, 2009

Joel 2:1-2, 12-17 or Isaiah 58:1-12
Psalm 51:1-17 (1)
2 Corinthians 5:20b—6:10
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Prayer of the Day

Almighty and ever-living God, you hate nothing you have made, and you forgive the sins of all who are penitent. Create in us new and honest hearts, so that, truly repenting of our sins, we may receive from you, the God of all mercy, full pardon and forgiveness through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


Gracious God, out of your love and mercy you breathed into dust the breath of life, creating us to serve you and our neighbors. Call forth our prayers and acts of kindness, and strengthen us to face our mortality with confidence in the mercy of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Gospel Acclamation

Return to the | LORD, your God,
who is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in | steadfast love. (Joel 2:13)

1a. CONTEXT: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

After his Baptism, according to the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness, fasting and being tempted by Satan (Mt. 4:1-11, Mk1:12f., Lk. 4:1-13). Our Lord's fast was not, however, originally associated with the Lenten season, which has its roots in the fasting and other ascetical disciplines undertaken by catechumens in preparation for Baptism at Easter. These pre-Easter exercises can be traced at least to the second century; at first they lasted only one or two days, and only in the fourth century Festal Letters of St. Athanasius do we first hear of a forty-day period of fasting. Even so, the reckoning of Lent as a forty-day period has never been established throughout the whole church: the Eastern Churches spread the season over eight or nine weeks.

A penitential season of exactly forty days was made the rule at Rome in the sixth century (before the time of Gregory the Great); this was accomplished by including in the Lenten fast the four days before the first Sunday in Lent. (The Sundays in Lent do not count as fast- days; all Sundays, being commemorations of Easter, are feast-days.)

The name "Ash Wednesday" derives from the medieval custom of blessing ashes which were used to mark the foreheads of the faithful as a symbol of penitence. The reformed churches have generally discontinued this ceremony, which they felt did not accord well with the Gospel command (in the Roman and Sarum Missals the Gospel appointed is Mt. 6:16-18).

1b. TEXT: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21


Giving to the Needy

6:1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

2 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

The Lord's Prayer

5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you…..

16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Lay Up Treasures in Heaven

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust [1] destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

[1] 6:19 Or worm; also verse 20


1Προσέχετε [δὲ] τὴν δικαιοσύνην ὑμῶν μὴ ποιεῖν ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων πρὸς τὸ θεαθῆναι αὐτοῖς: εἰ δὲ μή γε, μισθὸν οὐκ ἔχετε παρὰ τῷ πατρὶ ὑμῶν τῷ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς. 2Οταν οὖν ποιῇς ἐλεημοσύνην, μὴ σαλπίσῃς ἔμπροσθέν σου, ὥσπερ οἱ ὑποκριταὶ ποιοῦσιν ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς καὶ ἐν ταῖς ῥύμαις, ὅπως δοξασθῶσιν ὑπὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων: ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀπέχουσιν τὸν μισθὸν αὐτῶν. 3σοῦ δὲ ποιοῦντος ἐλεημοσύνην μὴ γνώτω ἡ ἀριστερά σου τί ποιεῖ ἡ δεξιά σου, 4ὅπως ᾖ σου ἡ ἐλεημοσύνη ἐν τῷ κρυπτῷ: καὶ ὁ πατήρ σου ὁ βλέπων ἐν τῷ κρυπτῷ ἀποδώσει σοι. 5Καὶ ὅταν προσεύχησθε, οὐκ ἔσεσθε ὡς οἱ ὑποκριταί: ὅτι φιλοῦσιν ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς καὶ ἐν ταῖς γωνίαις τῶν πλατειῶν ἑστῶτες προσεύχεσθαι, ὅπως φανῶσιν τοῖς ἀνθρώποις: ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀπέχουσιν τὸν μισθὸν αὐτῶν. 6σὺ δὲ ὅταν προσεύχῃ, εἴσελθε εἰς τὸ ταμεῖόν σου καὶ κλείσας τὴν θύραν σου πρόσευξαι τῷ πατρί σου τῷ ἐν τῷ κρυπτῷ: καὶ ὁ πατήρ σου ὁ βλέπων ἐν τῷ κρυπτῷ ἀποδώσει σοι.….

16Οταν δὲ νηστεύητε, μὴ γίνεσθε ὡς οἱ ὑποκριταὶ σκυθρωποί, ἀφανίζουσιν γὰρ τὰ πρόσωπα αὐτῶν ὅπως φανῶσιν τοῖς ἀνθρώποις νηστεύοντες: ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀπέχουσιν τὸν μισθὸν αὐτῶν. 17σὺ δὲ νηστεύων ἄλειψαί σου τὴν κεφαλὴν καὶ τὸ πρόσωπόν σου νίψαι, 18ὅπως μὴ φανῇς τοῖς ἀνθρώποις νηστεύων ἀλλὰ τῷ πατρί σου τῷ ἐν τῷ κρυφαίῳ: καὶ ὁ πατήρ σου ὁ βλέπων ἐν τῷ κρυφαίῳ ἀποδώσει σοι. 19Μὴ θησαυρίζετε ὑμῖν θησαυροὺς ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, ὅπου σὴς καὶ βρῶσις ἀφανίζει, καὶ ὅπου κλέπται διορύσσουσιν καὶ κλέπτουσιν: 20θησαυρίζετε δὲ ὑμῖν θησαυροὺς ἐν οὐρανῷ, ὅπου οὔτε σὴς οὔτε βρῶσις ἀφανίζει, καὶ ὅπου κλέπται οὐ διορύσσουσιν οὐδὲ κλέπτουσιν: 21ὅπου γάρ ἐστιν ὁ θησαυρός σου, ἐκεῖ ἔσται καὶ ἡ καρδία σου.

Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition © 1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart;
The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition © 1975, United Bible Societies, London

2. ANALYSIS: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

The Gospel for Ash Wednesday, a section of the Sermon on the Mount, is a short catena of what Bultmann calls "Rules of Piety" (cf.5:23f., 23:16-22; Mk. 11:25; Lk. 17:3f.) They contain very little that is foreign to the best in contemporary Judaism. The section may be outlined as follows:

Introduction: Mt. 6:1 - Ostentatious piety is condemned.
l. On Almsgiving: 6:2-4.
2. On Prayer: 6:5-6.
3. On Fasting: 6:16-18.
4. On Treasures: 6:19-21.

Verses 1-6,16-18 are peculiar to Matthew's Gospel. The content of the sixth logion of the Coptic Gospel of Thomas is similar to that of 1-6,16-18: "His disciples asked him and said to him: do you wish us to fast? And in what way shall we pray (and) give alms? And what observances shall we keep with respect to eating? Jesus said: Do not speak a lie and do not do what you hate, because everything is manifest before Heaven. For there is nothing hidden which shall no be made manifest, and there is nothing covered that shall remain without being revealed" [cf. Mt. 10:26, Lk. 12:2].

The content of these "rules" may well derive from Jesus himself, but their formulation is due to the early Church. The striking parallelism exhibited by the "rules" is clear evidence of redactorial activity, either of Matthew or of some earlier collector of Jesus' sayings.

To Matthew himself are doubtless due the introduction (6:1)
and the insertion of the Lord's Prayer (6:7-15).

Each of the first three "rules" consists of two brief commands, one negative and one positive. The negative commands enjoin the disciples not to imitate the ostentatious behavior of the hypocrites who perform their religious duties in public in order to gain a reputation for piety (hopos phanosin tois anthropois [ doxasthosin hupo ton anthropon]); solemn assurance is given after each injunction that there is no further reward for hypocritical behavior: amen lego humin , apechousin ton misthon auton . The negative commands are couched in the plural, but the positive ones are in the singular, as if in them the Lord is addressing each individual disciple. Unlike hypocrites, Jesus' followers are to perform their religious duties with due modesty; their reward will be God's approval.

Mt. 6:1 - prosechete [de] tein dikaiosunen humon mei poiein emprosthen ton anthropon pros to theathenai autois - "Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them" (AILL) - Dikaiosune is a very important word in the NT. In the Pauline Epistles it is used of God's righteousness, but here (and in Mt. 5:10,20) the meaning is quite concrete: right conduct before God.

It thus serves as a simple shorthand for the acts of piety mentioned in the following verses. - - The root of theathenai appears in English "theater"; the meaning of the Greek verb is to look over, to regard (with attention and surprise), rather than simply to see.

6:2 - hotan oun poies 'eleeimosunein - "Thus, when you give alms..." (AILL) - Almsgiving had an important place in Jewish piety. Tobit 12:8 runs, "It is better to give alms than to treasure up gold. For almsgiving delivers from death, and it will purge away every sin."

- - me salpiseis emprosthen sou... - "sound no trumpet before you" (AILL) - There is no evidence for supposing that the rich were accustomed to blow horns to summon the poor in order to give them alms. The blowing of horns did play a part in fasts, but this was a ceremonial matter. Jesus is merely telling his disciples not to call attention to themselves when giving alms to the poor; we might paraphrase this saying as "Don't ring the church bells every time you put a dollar in the collection plate." -- hupokritai - found in vss. 2,5, and 16; the basic meaning is "one who explains or interprets," hence actor. The word had originally a neutral connotation, but in the NT only the sense "one who acts insincerely" is found.

6:3 - me gnoto he aristera sou ti poiei he dexia sou - "do not let your left hand know what your right is doing" (AILL) - In the Bible, as in many ancient cultures, the right hand is regarded as the hand of strength and of blessing (cf. Job 40:14;,Gen. 48:14), while the left hand is considered unlucky,unclean, even deadly (Judges 3:15,21; II Sam. 20:9f.). This being so, it is at least conceivable that this saying means "Don't let your left hand, which is accustomed to doing evil, prevent your right hand from doing good." However, it is more likely that we have here a simple exhortation to secrecy. The saying also occurs in logion 62 of the Coptic Gospel of Thomas.

6:4,6,18 - en to krypto kai ho pater sou ho blepon en to krypto apodosei soi (vs. 18 has kryphaio for krypto). - "(so that your alms may be) in secret; and God who sees in secret will reward you." (AILL) - The phrase 'en to phanero is absent from the best ancient manuscripts; it was no doubt added by pious scribes wishing to make the antithetical parallelism with the preceding en to krupto more explicit. The point of all the "Rules of Piety," however, is not the public nature of the Father's reward but its superiority to mere human approbation.

6:5 - hoti philousin 'en tais synagogais kai 'en tais goniais ton plateion estotes proseuchesthai - "for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners" (AILL) - Standing was the usual attitude of prayer among both Jews and Greeks. 'Estotes may represent a Hebrew word meaning continue or persist; if so, Jesus is referring to the length of the hypocrites' prayers. It seems more likely, in view of the context, that Jesus is condemning their love of publicity, although there is in fact no Jewish evidence for the practice of praying in the streets except during public fasts.

6:6 - su de hotan proseuchei, eiselthe eis to tameion sou kai kleisas ten thuran sou proseuxai to patri sou - "But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to God (who is in secret)" (AILL) - This is a reminiscence of Isaiah 26:20 - "come, my people, enter your rooms, shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a while until the wrath has passed by" - with "pray" in place of "hide." Jesus takes public worship for granted (Mt. 5:24, Lk.18:9-14) but those who engage in public worship should be as free of all pretense as one who prays in the secrecy of a closet.

6:16 - hotan de nesteueite - "And when you fast"(AILL) - Jesus took it for granted that his hearers practiced fasting as an act of piety, though he made an exception for his personal followers during his lifetime (9:14f. = Mk. 2:18-20; cf. also ll:18f. = Lk. 7:33f.). Pious Jews fasted on Mondays and Thursdays; to distinguish themselves from these "hypocrites," Christians were urged to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays (Didache 8:1). --- me ginesthe hos oi hypokritai skuthropoi, aphanizousin gar ta prosopa auton -"do not look dismal, like the hypocrites,for they disfigure their faces"(AILL) - Lack of proper nourishment can result in one's appearing skuthropos, gloomy, sad, sullen, and it is to avoid this that the Arch-eunuch urged Daniel and his friends to abandon their vegetarian diet (Dan. 1:10 [Theod.]). The hypocrites in vs. 16 tried to imitate this appearance by disfiguring their faces with ashes or cosmetics.

6:17 - su de nesteuon aleipsai sou tein kefalein kai to prosopon sou nipsai - " But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face" (AILL) - Jesus commands his disciples to take the opposite course, and by anointing their heads and washing their faces to imitate the happy appearance of those who are celebrating a feast.

6:19,21 - These verses have parallels in Luke 12:33f. and hence may derive from Q. There seems to be an allusion to them in Jas. 5:2f. In logion 76 of the Coptic Gospel of Thomas the saying in vs. 20 is conflated with the Parable of the Pearl of Great Price (Mt. 13:45f.).

3. STRATEGY: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

"All the world's a stage,/ and all the men and women merely players"
--AS YOU LIKE IT , II,7. Shakespeare's famous line has been echoed by many writers, as any dictionary of quotations will prove. This is hardly surprising, since all human beings are obviously "actors" playing different "roles." But they are not merely actors: two 19th-Century English clerics, A.W. and J.C. Hare, point out that "Everybody has his own theater, in which he is manager, actor, prompter, playwright, sceneshifter, boxkeeper, doorkeeper, and audience" (Guesses at Truth, 1827). We like, so far as we are able, to manage our own lives, to be in control of the "action" in which we are the "actors." In the language of the New Testament we are hypocrites, "putting on an act" so that we will be thought well of by others and, as the Hare brothers say, by ourselves--for we are our own most important audience. Or are we? God is also watching, even when we are not consciously "on stage." Since Lent is a time for self-examination, we might profitably ask ourselves such questions as: Where is our "theater"? How are we "managing" it? What audience are we usually performing for? What audiences should we pay more attention to? What are the "box-office receipts"? What sort of applause do we seek? From other people? From ourselves? From God?

What is the value of this "applause" in each case?

4. REFERENCES: Matthew 6:1-6,16-21

Bultmann, Rudolf. The History of the Synoptic Tradition, transl. by John Marsh.2nd ed. Oxford: Blackwell,1968.

M'Neile,A.H. The Gospel According to Matthew. London: MacMillan,1952.

Johnson, S.H. "The Gospel of Matthew," in the Interpreter's Bible, vol. 7. NY: Abingdon, 1951.

M.H. Shepherd. The Oxford American Prayer Book Commentary. NY: Oxford University Press, 1950.

G. Kittel, ed. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, transl. by Geoffrey W. Bromiley. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1963. Articles on: dikaiosune, theaomai, eleemosune, nesteuo, proseuchomai, salpingo, and hypokrites


The 1982 Episcopalian Hymnal has two settings (EH 140,141) of John Donne's poem, "Wilt thou forgive that sin where I begun"; the second of these,harmonized by J.S. Bach, may be easier for congregational singing. LORD JESUS, SUN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS (EH 144) and NOW QUIT YOUR CARE AND ANXIOUS FEAR AND WORRY (EH 145) both look forward from the penitential season to the goal of Easter. Also traditional are O LORD, THROUGHOUT THESE FORTY DAYS (LBW 99) and SAVIOR WHEN IN DUST TO YOU (LBW 91), and MY SONG IS LOVE UNKNOWN (EH 458, LBW 94).

Exegete: Eugene V.N. Goetchius, Ph.D., Th.D. was Professor Emeritus of the New Testament and Biblical Languages, and Lecturer in Greek at Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His publications include: The Language of the New Testament. New York: Charles Schribner's Sons, 1965.


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Dartmouth, MA 02747

Monday, February 16, 2009

Transfiguration, 2009

Lexegete ™ / Year B / Mark

Transfiguration of Our Lord

Last Sunday after Epiphany | February 22, 2009

2 Kings 2:1-12

Psalm 50:1-6

2 Corinthians 4:3-6

Mark 9:2-9

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, the resplendent light of your
truth shines from the mountaintop into our
hearts. Transfigure us by your beloved
Son, and illumine the world with your image,
through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who
lives and reigns with you and the
Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Gospel Acclamation:

Alleluia. This is my | Son, my Chosen,
lis- | ten to him! Alleluia. (Luke 9:35)

1a. CONTEXT: Mark 9:2-9

The Transfiguration has traditionally been celebrated on August 6
(which became, with ghastly irony, the day of another transfiguring
light at Hiroshima). The Lutheran calendar, however, now celebrates the
feast as the final Sunday of the Epiphany Season, on the verge of Lent. This
placement is appropriate, not just in filling out the pattern which
ends each season with a Christological feast, but also as a liturgical
enactment of the way in which this incident actually functions in the gospel
narratives. From this mountaintop, we gain a glimpse of Easter's glory
across the dark valley ahead.

It may be that this story was once told as a post-resurrection event, and
it may also have had currency among more gnostic Christians as a
christophany more attractive than the messier mystery of Easter. The
special effects may seem weird, but there is something straightforwardly
understandable in the idea that Jesus' secret identity
would be revealed in a vision of glory to a select circle of his

Such spiritual visions and initiations into religious mystery are still
common but powerful phenomena, not only among devotees of "New Age"
cults but for many within the Church. It is easy to imagine a
religiosity which would see this mountaintop revelation, rather than the
Passion and Resurrection, as the soteriological "high point" of the Jesus

For us, however, this day functions not as the high and central feast of our
faith but as a prior vision of encouragement, a readying for the paschal
conflict. The story is related just after Peter has identified Jesus as the
Christ and Jesus has in turn laid out the meaning of that identity in the
terms of the Cross (8:27-9:1). The narrative pivots, and Jesus must now
head for Jerusalem, the capital city and the center of his opposition.

1b. Text: Mark 9:2-9 (NRSV)

9:2 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a
high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them,
9:3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach
9:4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus.
9:5 Then Peter said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three
dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."
9:6 He did not know what to say, for they were terrified.
9:7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, "This
is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!"
9:8 Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but
only Jesus.
9:9 As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about
what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.


2 και μετα ημερας εξ παραλαμβανει ο ιησους τον πετρον και τον ιακωβον και τον ιωαννην, και αναφερει αυτους εις ορος υψηλον κατ ιδιαν μονους. και μετεμορφωθη εμπροσθεν αυτων,
3 και τα ιματια αυτου εγενετο στιλβοντα λευκα λιαν οια γναφευς επι της γης ου δυναται ουτως λευκαναι.
4 και ωφθη αυτοις ηλιας συν μωυσει, και ησαν συλλαλουντες τω ιησου.
5και αποκριθεις ο πετρος λεγει τω ιησου, ραββι, καλον εστιν ημας ωδε ειναι, και ποιησωμεν τρεις σκηνας, σοι μιαν και μωυσει μιαν και ηλια μιαν.
6 ου γαρ ηδει τι αποκριθη, εκφοβοι γαρ εγενοντο.
7 και εγενετο νεφελη επισκιαζουσα αυτοις, και εγενετο φωνη εκ της νεφελης, ουτος εστιν ο υιος μου ο αγαπητος, ακουετε αυτου.
8 και εξαπινα περιβλεψαμενοι ουκετι ουδενα ειδον αλλα τον ιησουν μονον μεθ εαυτων.
9 και καταβαινοντων αυτων εκ του ορους διεστειλατο αυτοις ινα μηδενι α ειδον διηγησωνται, ει μη οταν ο υιος του ανθρωπου εκ νεκρων αναστη.


Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition © 1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart; The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition
© 1975, United Bible Societies, London

2. ANALYSIS: Mark 9:2-9

Mk 9:2 - "After six days" describes an uncharacteristic delay in the
driving (and driven) pace of Mark's story. I would suggest a parallel
here with an earlier pause and time-lapse in the detailed narration, namely
the forty days of tempting in the desert which come between Jesus'
spiritual anointing and the beginning of his ministry. Here again is
preparation for mission. Just as Jesus' wilderness experience is a
probable allusion to Israel's forty years before entering the land,
moreover, the reference here may be to Moses' preparation
before the mountaintop theophany in Ex. 24.
"Peter, James, and John" are named in 1:16-20 as disciples called at the
outset of Jesus' ministry, and they form a kind of inner circle around
him. (Andrew's absence from this circle suggests an interesting
exegetical and meditative tangent.) Here, as in Gethsemane (14:33),
Jesus seems to desire his closest companions to be with him
as he prepares for the suffering ahead. Here also, as is usual in Mark,
those in the inner circle will miss the point.
9:2-3 - This radiant glorification is a transformation which affects both
Jesus' body and his clothing. Such heavenly shining recalls once again
the revelation at Sinai (cf. Paul's use of the same verb in his
discussion of Moses and Christ in II Cor. 3:7-4:6),
but the imagery is also found in apocalyptic language
about the resurrection and glorification of the
elect (e.g. I Enoch 62:15, Phil 3:21, Rev. 7:14, etc.). A white garment will
also be seen on the angelic figure who announces the resurrection in 16:5-7.
9:4 - Moses and Elijah can of course be taken to personify "the Law
and the Prophets," now endorsing their own fulfillment in Christ, but
they are also both figures associated with mountaintop theophanies and
with eschatological hopes. Note that their appearance here doesn't seem
to be for the *gnosis* or edification of the disciples: they have come to
speak (*syllalein*) with Jesus. Though the content of their
conversation is yet another of this gospel's secrets,I think Lk 9:31's
image of the three talking about what will happen in Jerusalem rings true
in a Marcan key as well.

9:5 - treis skenas--these tents (tabernacles) may be thought of as shrines
or as dwelling places, and obviously the two meanings shade into each other.

9:6 - The kindness in excusing Peter on the basis of his terror may be
a bit ironic. In Mark we are hardly surprised by the description of Peter as a
man who speaks without knowing what to say.

9:7 - *Now* comes a word from God to the disciples. There is a memory
here again of Ex. 24, but more importantly we have the echo of
Jesus' identification from on high in Mk 1:11. Those words have
shifted from second to third person, serving as a divine confirmation of
Peter's confession in the previous section. But what constitutes a further and
striking change is that these words have taken on a quality of rebuke,
silencing and correcting Peter.

9:8-9 - Of course epiphanies don't last, but this one now seems to end
with particular abruptness. There is no teaching by Jesus on the
mountaintop; he teaches them as he takes them back down. And his
teaching leads back down, beginning with the command to secrecy. After
the resurrection, this event will make sense, but now it would only
prompt misunderstanding and idolatry.

3. STRATEGY: Mark 9:2-9

Some points worth developing:

1) The Preview of Easter theme isn't so bad. We need mountaintop
visions occasionally, need to glimpse the future glory as a hope and
encouragement for the intervening journey.

Welcome and use this this day for that kind of preparation, not just for
Lent but for the work at discipleship Lent represents.
Consider also that in a sense the celebration of Easter
itself functions for us as a kind of mountaintop epiphany, a *glimpse* of
transfiguring glory previewing the fullness of God's future.

2) It's also helpful to note that *Jesus* needs such encouragement and
strengthening for his task. This event takes place for his sake, not
for the disciples. He was heading off to die. Perhaps then his memory
of the voice at the Jordan River was not strong or certain enough.
It was he who chose to withdraw, who sought
the company of his closest friends, and who was, as it were,
also vouchsafed a visit with those friends from back home,
Moses and Elijah, friends who understood what lay ahead. This
is no docetic show for the world: the Transfiguration is first of
all the confirmation of a human being's vocation and destiny at a time
when he sorely needs that reassurance. What then of us? How do we take
care, for ourselves and each other, that we nurture and renew and
confirm our own callings in Christ?

3) If Mark puts this story in the context of the narrative of Jesus' vocation
(and of the disciple's inability to understand) we have the chance here to
say some helpful things about the danger as well as the value of worship.
This text, as we have seen, turns powerfully against those who would
gnosticize or religionize life. The problem with Peter's pious proposal in
v. 5 is only secondarily his idea that Jesus, Moses, and Elijah form a
threesome of equal majesty. It is rather his impulse to stay on the mountain,
to capture the moment, to enshrine it. God's corrective is immediate:

"This is my beloved Son; Listen to him!" *Not* "Worship him!"
Listening, in the sense of heeding as well as hearing,
is the task of the disciple. And that means following
Jesus back down to the valley. We need to spell that out.

Some congregations we have used this day as the time when we burn the palms of the
previous Palm Sunday to make the ashes for Ash Wednesday. Consigning those
symbols of our glad worship, now dried and yellow, to the flames also offers some
strong imagery about the limits of our visions and liturgies, and about the implications of our true vocation and only hope.








OH, LOVE, HOW DEEP (ELW 322; LBW 88; HB 448,449)





Exegete - John Stendahl, Lutheran Church of the Newtons, Newton, MA


Dartmouth, MA 02747-1925