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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

+ E A S T E R SEVEN + PENTECOST + Visitation

Lexegete™ | Year B | St. Mark

Seventh Sunday of Easter | May 24, 2009

Acts 1:15-17, 21-26
Psalm 1 (6)
1 John 5:9-13
John 17:6-19

Prayer of the Day
Gracious and glorious God, you have chosen us as your own, and by the powerful name of Christ you protect us from evil. By your Spirit transform us and your beloved world, that we may find our joy in 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
Alleluia. I will not leave you orphaned, | says the Lord.
I am com- | ing to you. Alleluia. (John 14:18)


1a. CONTEXT: John 17:6-19

John 17 is the final section of the farewell discourses of Jesus in John 14-17. The setting for these discourses in the Fourth Gospel is the last supper of Jesus with his disciples (chapter 13), but that setting is largely lost sight of in the discourses themselves. At some point in the literary prehistory of the Fourth Gospel the discourses probably ended at 14:31 ("Rise, let us be on our way."), with chapters 15-17 being inserted at some later time. As the Gospel stands now, however, chapter 17 is an appropriate prelude to the passion narrative which begins in 18:1. At the beginning of the chapter in 17:1 Jesus sums up his whole mission before he enters into the climactic moment of glorification, "Father, the hour has come; glorify your son. . . . "

If chapters 14-17 as a whole represent the genre of a farewell speech of a dying person, chapter 17 is a distinct sub-genre, being a highly elaborated example of the dying person's final prayer or blessing on those who are left behind. The Song of Moses and Blessing of Moses in Deuteronomy 32-33 are similar examples of this type of speech within the whole "farewell discourse" that is the book of Deuteronomy. (See Raymond Brown, The Gospel According to John, volume 2, pp. 744-748.) Paul's farewell speech to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:18-35 contains a similar moment in verse 32, "And now I commend you to God and to the message of his grace. . . ."

John 17 takes the form of a prayer of Jesus to the Father. The vocative "Father" repeatedly punctuates the chapter (verses 1, 5, 11, 21, 24, 25). Jesus takes the posture of prayer, he "lifts up his eyes" (verse 1; see also John 11:41; Matthew 14:19; Mark 7:34). John 17 has often been called Jesus' "high priestly" prayer, in the sense that here Jesus intercedes for his disciples with God. This idea is mentioned also by Paul in Rom 8:34 and by Hebrews 7:25 and 9:25 (see also 1 John 2:1). In fact, however, this prayer functions in the Gospel much more as proclamation (Ernst Käsemann, The Testament of Jesus, p. 5), for this is a prayer meant to be overheard by the disciples who have been listening to Jesus' discourses and to be pondered by all the readers of the Fourth Gospel. As such it has more the character of a "last testament" of Jesus, a final debriefing to his superior on the success of his nearly completed mission.

Neither in genre nor in specific content is there any real parallel to John 17 in the Synoptic Gospels. One can find a few synoptic parallel sayings embedded in the prayer. For example, the statement in 17:2, "since you have given him authority over all people," finds an echo in Matthew 28:18. "Holy Father, protect them in your name" in 17:11 and "protect them from the evil one" in 17:15 are vaguely reminiscent of phrases of the "Lord's Prayer" in Matthew 6:9, 13. But there is no direct literary relationship between the Fourth Gospel and Matthew in these instances. One can only conclude that John 17 is most likely an original Johannine composition.

Raymond Brown gives one commonly held structural division of the chapter when he divides it into three parts, each marked at the beginning by a different supplication (Raymond Brown, The Gospel According to John, volume 2, pp. 749-750). Verses 1-8 are marked by the supplication for Jesus' own glorification (verse 1). Verses 9-19 are characterized by the supplication for Jesus' disciples (verse 9). The prayer concludes with a section marked by supplication for those who will believe through the word preached by the disciples (verse 20).

Jesus' prayer in John 17 follows a spiraling style in which the thoughts do not advance with straightforward logic. Jesus' words keep circling around central themes. He explores the ramifications of similar relationships by describing them with a variety of language. He broadens understanding of a single concept by placing it in different combinations of relationships with other concepts. The whole train of thought flows from one central tenet--that Jesus is one in glory with the Father. From this Christological datum follows a train of consequent relationships, like a chain reaction.

1b. TEXT: John 17:6-19

17:6 "I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.
17:7 Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 17:8 for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.
17:9 I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 17:10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them.
17:11 And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.
17:12 While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled.
17:13 But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves.
17:14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.
17:15 I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.
17:16 They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.
17:17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
17:18 As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.
17:19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.

6Ἐφανέρωσά σου τὸ ὄνομα τοῖς ἀνθρώποις οὓς ἔδωκάς μοι ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου. σοὶ ἦσαν κἀμοὶ αὐτοὺς ἔδωκας, καὶ τὸν λόγον σου τετήρηκαν. 7νῦν ἔγνωκαν ὅτι πάντα ὅσα δέδωκάς μοι παρὰ σοῦ εἰσιν: 8ὅτι τὰ ῥήματα ἃ ἔδωκάς μοι δέδωκα αὐτοῖς, καὶ αὐτοὶ ἔλαβον καὶ ἔγνωσαν ἀληθῶς ὅτι παρὰ σοῦ ἐξῆλθον, καὶ ἐπίστευσαν ὅτι σύ με ἀπέστειλας. 9ἐγὼ περὶ αὐτῶν ἐρωτῶ: οὐ περὶ τοῦ κόσμου ἐρωτῶ ἀλλὰ περὶ ὧν δέδωκάς μοι, ὅτι σοί εἰσιν, 10καὶ τὰ ἐμὰ πάντα σά ἐστιν καὶ τὰ σὰ ἐμά, καὶ δεδόξασμαι ἐν αὐτοῖς. 11καὶ οὐκέτι εἰμὶ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ, καὶ αὐτοὶ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ εἰσίν, κἀγὼ πρὸς σὲ ἔρχομαι. Πάτερ ἅγιε, τήρησον αὐτοὺς ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί σου ᾧ δέδωκάς μοι, ἵνα ὦσιν ἓν καθὼς ἡμεῖς. 12ὅτε ἤμην μετ∍ αὐτῶν ἐγὼ ἐτήρουν αὐτοὺς ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί σου ᾧ δέδωκάς μοι, καὶ ἐφύλαξα, καὶ οὐδεὶς ἐξ αὐτῶν ἀπώλετο εἰ μὴ ὁ υἱὸς τῆς ἀπωλείας, ἵνα ἡ γραφὴ πληρωθῇ. 13νῦν δὲ πρὸς σὲ ἔρχομαι, καὶ ταῦτα λαλῶ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ ἵνα ἔχωσιν τὴν χαρὰν τὴν ἐμὴν πεπληρωμένην ἐν ἑαυτοῖς. 14ἐγὼ δέδωκα αὐτοῖς τὸν λόγον σου, καὶ ὁ κόσμος ἐμίσησεν αὐτούς, ὅτι οὐκ εἰσὶν ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου καθὼς ἐγὼ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου. 15οὐκ ἐρωτῶ ἵνα ἄρῃς αὐτοὺς ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου ἀλλ∍ ἵνα τηρήσῃς αὐτοὺς ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ. 16ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου οὐκ εἰσὶν καθὼς ἐγὼ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου. 17ἁγίασον αὐτοὺς ἐν τῇ ἀληθείᾳ: ὁ λόγος ὁ σὸς ἀλήθειά ἐστιν. 18καθὼς ἐμὲ ἀπέστειλας εἰς τὸν κόσμον, κἀγὼ ἀπέστειλα αὐτοὺς εἰς τὸν κόσμον: 19καὶ ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν ἐγὼ ἁγιάζω ἐμαυτόν, ἵνα ὦσιν καὶ αὐτοὶ ἡγιασμένοι ἐν ἀληθείᾳ.

Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition
© 1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart;

The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition
© 1975, United Bible Societies, London

2. ANALYSIS : John 17:6-19

One way to analyze John 17 is to organize the ideas expressed in vss. 11 to 19 into four "domains" of concepts. Each domain, of course, is intimately related to the others. These connections serve well to illustrate the theology the the Fourth Gospel as a whole.

The Relationship of Jesus with the Father

Pavter a{gie, thvrhson aujtou;" ejn tw`/ ojnovmati; sou w|/ devdwkav" moi--"Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me (John 17:11b)." The address "Holy Father" calls attention both to the wholeness and perfection of God as well as to the unique and intimate relationship that Jesus has with God his Father. God is known in the world through his name, a name which he has given to Jesus to reveal (17:6, 11, 12, 26). This means that the name of the Father and of his Son are equivalent in glory and power. The Father's name is glorified in Jesus (12:28), and Jesus works in the name of his Father (10:25; 5:43). To believe in Jesus' name is to have eternal life (1:12; 20:31; 3:18). The Father will honor requests made in the name of Jesus (14:13, 14; 15:16; 16:23, 24, 26). This sharing of the name establishes that Jesus and the Father are united (17:11, 21, 23); see also 10:30).

kaqw;" ejgw; oujk eijmi; ejk tou` kovsmou--"just as I do not belong to the world (17:14)." It follows that Jesus comes from God and does not come from or belong to the world (17:8, 14, 16; also 3:13, 31; 8:14, 23, 42; 13:3; 16:28, 30). For the Fourth Gospel this is almost a matter of definition, for the world is defined as that which cannot comprehend the truth of God (1:10). Yet Jesus was sent into the world from God to do God's work (17:3, 4, 8, 18, 21, 23, 25; also 3:16-17; 5:36, 38; 6:29; 7:29; 8:42; 10:36; 11:42; 18:37; 20:21).

Nu`n de; pro;" se; e[rcomai--But now I am coming to you (17:13)." That Jesus belongs with God and is not from the world is confirmed by the fact that Jesus returns to the Father (17:11, 13; see also 6:62; 8:21; 13:1, 3, 33; 14:3, 28; 16:28; 20:17).

This intimate relationship of Jesus with his Father is the main emphasis at the beginning of the prayer in 17:1-5. There mutual glorification of Father and Son is placed as the dominant request of the prayer. Jesus glorified the Father by completing his work and revealing his name (verse 6). The Father glorified the Son by accepting Jesus' work and giving eternal life to those who believed in his name. What belongs to one also belongs to the other (17:6, 10). Everything follows from this central proclamation of the unity of Father and Son. It is the basis and model for Jesus' work in the world, for his relationship with his disciples and of their relationship with one another, and for the relationship of the disciples and the world.

Jesus Reveals the Father's Word to the Community

ejgw; devdwka aujtoi`" to;n lovgon sou--"I have given them your word (17:14)." Jesus acts according to his Father's will to reveal his name to the world. This idea is stated in a number of ways in John 17:11b-19. In verse 13 Jesus says, "I speak these things in the world." In verse 17 we learn that God's word is "truth." Jesus also is said to have given his disciples "glory" (verse 22). The truth of God's word is simply that God loves the world and has sent his Son in the person of Jesus. Those who believe this truth receive God's glory and belong to God's name (17:6).

o{te h[mhn met jjJ aujtw`n ejgw; ejthvroun aujtou;" ejn tw`/ ojnovmativ sou--"While I was with them I protected them in your name (17:12)." Jesus does more than speak to his disciples. He is with them and protects or keeps them under God's name. He guards them so that none is lost for God (except the one who betrayed him, and that is so that Scripture might be fulfilled; 17:12). Further, Jesus "sanctifies" (aJgiavzw) himself for them (17:19). The precise sense of this word is unclear. Jesus would seem to refer to a willing setting apart of himself for a special purpose, a holy purpose of God. Thus the word can be translated here as "consecrate." In John 10:36 there is a similar thought, that God sanctified Jesus to send him into the world. It is sometimes thought that in 17:19 Jesus uses the word in an extended sense to refer to his sacrificial purpose, an emphasis that is otherwise not found explicitly in John 17.

kajgw; ajpevsteila aujtou;" eij" to;n kovsmon--"so I have sent them into the world (17:18)." Finally, Jesus does with his disciples as God the Father has done with him--he sends them into the world with the task of speaking God's word as they have received it (17:20). This motif occurs again at a climactic point of the Fourth Gospel, when after his resurrection Jesus commissions his disciples to be sent into the world and empowers them with the gift of the Holy Spirit (20:21).

The Community Gathered Under the Word

The main specific focus of John 17:11b-19 is the community. It's situation is the result of the Father's relationship with the Son and the Son's mission of revealing God's name and speaking God's word of truth. Jesus prays that they be protected in God's name (verse 11), as Jesus has guarded them during his mission in the world (verse 12). To be in the name means to belong to God (verses 6, 10) and to be the recipients of God's love (verses 23, 26). It also means to be kept from destruction (17:12; 11:50; 12:25; 18:9) and to have eternal life (3:16; 6:39; 10:28). Above all, the believing community is protected from the power of the evil one (17:15; see also Matthew 6:13; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; 1 John 5:18); this is the power of the world (John 7:7).

aJgivason aujtou;" ejn th`/ ajlhqeiva/--"Sanctify them in the truth (17:17)." To be kept in the name and from the powers of evil in the world is to be sanctified, made holy and separate from the profane world which does not know God (see also verse 19). So they are not of the world (17:14, 16). What makes and keeps them in this special state of holiness is the knowledge of the truth of God (17:3; see also 8:32 and 15:3), received in the word spoken to them by Jesus (17:17). What sets apart both Jesus and Jesus' disciples is that they know God and the truth that God sent Jesus his Son (17:25; see also 14:6; 15:26; 16:13; 18:37). So they are set apart for their task, just as Jesus was set apart and made holy for his (17:19). The concept of sanctification is often associated with baptism in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 6:11; Romans 6:4, 22; Ephesians 5:26; see also Hebrews 13:12). In the Fourth Gospel, characteristically, sanctification is more directly a result of relationship with Jesus.

Because the community is formed as a reflection of the intimate relationship between the Father and Son, it also is characterized by unity (17:11, 21, 22, 23; see also 10:16; 11:52). Finally, perfected joy is the gift received by the believing community on the basis of God's word (17:13; see also 3:29; 15:11; 16:20, 21, 22, 24; 20:20).

The Community in the World

oJ kovsmo" ejmivshsen aujtouv", o{ti oujk eijsi;n ejk tou` kovsmou--"The world has hated them because they do not belong to the world (17:14)." A final domain of ideas found in various ways in 17:11b-19 is that the relationship of Jesus to the world is also that of his disciples to the world. They do not belong to the world, even though they are still in it (17:14, 15, 16). This is in contrast to unbelievers, who belong to the world (8:23; 1 John 4:5). Consequently the world hates the believers (17:14; 15:18-19; 1 John 3:13). In fact, they are sent into the world, just as Jesus was sent (17:18; 20:21). The community of the Fourth Gospel grounds its profound alienation from the world in its intimate relationship with Jesus, who as the Son of God was also hated and rejected by the unbelieving world of darkness.

3. STRATEGY: John 17: 6-19

The "high priestly" prayer of Jesus is characterized by abstract rather than concrete language. This fact, together with a style that keeps circling around a few core concepts, makes preaching on this text a difficult challenge.

One way of bringing the Johannine language into more concrete experience would be to think of the boundaries that separate the community of faith from the world. How do those boundaries carry over to the individual as he or she moves out away from proximity to the community and into daily life in the world? There is no science-fiction force-field to surround the believer, no plastic bubble to keep out the infection of the world.

The key word is "sanctify." Jesus sanctified himself, so that the believers could be sanctified in the midst of the world. In the Johannine way of thinking this means that separation from the evil of the world is a matter of knowing to whom one belongs, what realm of power one is a part of. It involves a knowledge of where one comes from and one's ultimate destination. Such a knowledge is gained in communion with Jesus in the community of faith. But it is carried by the individual out into the world. In that realm the individual is preserved in holiness by the power of God's name and by the word of truth that Jesus revealed.

We can compare this with Paul's counsel to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 7:29-31. There, because of the believer's awareness of the temporary nature of the world, he or she can live in it, use it, live as husband and wife in it, weep and rejoice over worldly things, do business with it--all "as if not." That is, with the realization that such things do not have any real power over us. We are not slaves to them (see 1 Corinthians 7:23).

For the Fourth Gospel the emphasis is slightly different. There is a more profound experience of alienation from the world, that is, the believers' former religious and social realm. The believer has a superior inner sense of the truth of belonging to the realm above, not to the world. The believer is like a superior actress in a grade B movie--going through the motions but all the time knowing that she is destined for better things.

It is easy to caricature this Johannine attitude as sectarian and smug. But the Johannine view of the individual believer in the world is powerful. It captures well one side of the tension we live with. It provides the believer with a marvelous array of inner resources to live a consecrated life--the power of God's name, the knowledge of a heavenly destiny, the sanctification of belonging to the realm of Jesus, the word of truth, the joy, peace and unity of the community. This way of thinking may need to be tempered with a Pauline openness to the world as the field for mission and service. But it remains a valid starting point for the Christian who struggles with the difficulty of maintaining any sense of distinctiveness from the world in which he or she lives daily.

4. REFERENCES: John 17:6-19

Raymond Brown, The Gospel According to John, volume 2. Anchor Bible. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1970.

Ernst Käsemann, The Testament of Jesus: A Study of the Gospel of John in the Light of Chapter 17. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1968.

Exegete - David Kuck, Ph.D. Deputy President & Lutheran Warden,
United Theological College of the West Indies, Kingston, Jamaica, W.I.
The Rev. Dr. Kuck has degrees from Concordia College (BA), Christ Seminary (STM), and Yale Divinity School (PhD).

Vigil of Pentecost | May 30, 2009

Exodus 19:1-9 or Acts 2:1-11
Psalm 33:12-22 (20) or Psalm 130 (4)
Romans 8:14-17, 22-27
John 7:37-39

Prayer of the Day

Almighty and ever-living God, you fulfilled the promise of Easter by sending the gift of your Holy Spirit. Look upon your people gathered in prayer, open to receive the Spirit's flame. May it come to rest in our hearts and heal the divisions of word and tongue, that with one voice and one song we may praise your name in joy and thanksgiving; 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. Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts | of your faithful,
and kindle in us the fire | of your love. Alleluia.


1a. Context: John 7:37-39

There is a good bit of plausibility to Raymond Brown's suggestion that the third part of the Book of Signs (chapters 5-10) in the Fourth Gospel is constructed around the major feasts of the Jews: Sabbath, Passover, Tabernacles, and the Dedication (The Gospel According to John ["The Anchor Bible"; Garden City: Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1966], I, 201-04). In that scheme, this Tabernacles portion (chapters 7 and 8) is devoted to two purposes: it is a collecting ground for most of the Jewish arguments against Jesus' messianic identity and it depicts Jesus as figuratively replacing the feast's ceremonies of water and light. Our pericope is occupied with the water ceremony replacement and, therfore, it is necessary to look at that ceremony.

With Passover and Weeks, Tabernacles (or Booths; Heb. Sukkoth) was one of the three great pilgrim feasts of the year. Beginning with the fifteenth day of Tishri (late September or early October), the pilgrims who had gathered to celebrate the Ingathering (another name for the feast) of the threshed wheat after the autumn harvest would live in booths for eight days in memory of God's loving protection during the wanderings of the Exodus. Regarded as the highest of the feasts, Tabernacles had associations with the dedication of Solomon's Temple, the giving of the Torah, and the eschatological ingathering of all nations of the world into the people of God. Zechariah 9-14 is devoted to a vision of the coming king described in the setting of Tabernacles. This involves God's pouring out a spirit of compassion on Israel, a fountain to cleanse Israel, and living waters flowing from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea and the Mediterranean. The feast also fell at the time of the autumn rains, and rain during the festival was taken as a sign that God would bless the next year's crops. This association of the feast with water is the basis of Zechariah's symbolism and the source of some of the ceremonies connected with Tabernacles. Each morning there was a procession down to the spring of Gihon where a priest would fill a golden pitcher with water while the choir sang the words of Isaiah 12:3: "With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation." Then the procession went up to the temple with the people carrying lulabs of myrtle and willow twigs and a lemon or citron as an ethrog, singing the pilgrim Psalms as they went. When they arrived at the altar of whole burnt sacrifice in front of the Temple building, they processed around it while the priest went up and poured the water into a silver funnel through which it flowed onto the ground. On the seventh day of the feast, the last on which this ceremony took place, the procession went around the altar seven times.

1b. Text: John 7:37-39


Rivers of Living Water

37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as [1] the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
[1] 7:38 Or let him come to me, and let him who believes in me drink…

37 Ἐν δὲ τῇ ἐσχάτῃ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ μεγάλῃ τῆς ἑορτῆς εἱστήκει ὁ Ἰησοῦς καὶ ἔκραξεν λέγων, Ἐάν τις διψᾷ ἐρχέσθω πρός με καὶ πινέτω.
38 ὁ πιστεύων εἰς ἐμέ, καθὼς εἶπεν ἡ γραφή, ποταμοὶ ἐκ τῆς κοιλίας αὐτοῦ ῥεύσουσιν ὕδατος ζῶντος.
39τοῦτο δὲ εἶπεν περὶ τοῦ πνεύματος ὃ ἔμελλον λαμβάνειν οἱ πιστεύσαντες εἰς αὐτόν: οὔπω γὰρ ἦν πνεῦμα, ὅτι Ἰησοῦς οὐδέπω ἐδοξάσθη.

Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition © 1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart;

The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition © 1975, United Bible Societies, London

2. Analysis: John 7:37-39

Verse 37. En de te eschate hemera te megale tes heortes Since the eighth day of the feast was a later addition and no processions occurred on that day, this "last great day" has to refer to the seventh day when there was the sevenfold circum-ambulation of the altar. Ekraksen refers to a solemn proclama-tion about Jesus' identity and office; cf. 1:15, 7:28; and 12:44. Ean tis dipsa erchestho pros me kai pineto. As wonderful as these words are, they cannot be interpreted without solving a couple of problems involved in the understanding of the entire saying.

Verse 38. ho pisteuon eis eme . . . potamoi ek tes koilias autou rheusousin hudatos zontos. The first problem has to do with the antecedent of autou: is it ho pisteuon or eme, the believer or Jesus? The Revised English Bible translates the two options as follows:

If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me; whoever believes in me, let him drink. As scripture says, "Streams of living water shall flow from within him."
or If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whosever believes in me, as scripture says, "Streams of living water shall flow from within him."

While there is considerable precedent among the Greek fathers for thinking that it is the believer from whom the living water will flow, that interpretation must rest in part with an Eastern unwillingness to have any suggestion of the double procession of the Spirit. (It is anachronistic to speak of this as the Filioque controversy since that word had not yet been added to the creed in the West, but the issue is the same.) Although most modern translations go with the Eastern "believer" interpreta-tion, the "christological" must be right, as Schnackenburg has argued so cogently. If the believer interpretation is correct, "the image is disjointed: the believer drinks and becomes in turn a source for others. That is not impossible, but unlikely" (The Gospel According to St. John (New York: Crossroad, 1987), II, 154. The other problem of this verse has to do with where the quotation appears in the Hebrew Bible. Stated simply, it does not. Schnackenburg is also probably correct about this question: it is possible that there is "an underlying haggadic tradition, involving midrashic interpretation of certain passages" rather than any single verse that the evangelist has in mind.

Verse 39. touto de eipen peri tou pneumatos ho emellon lambanein oi pisteusantes eis auto; oupo gar en penuma, hoti Iesous oudepo edoksasthe. Here Jesus identifies the "streams of living water" flowing out of himself as the Spirit that will be given to all who believe in him after he is glorified by being lifted up on the cross.

It is well known that John also calls the Spirit ho parakletos. In his appendix on the Paraclete, Brown says that "John presents the Paraclete as the Holy Spirit in a special role, namely, as the personal presence of Jesus in the Christian while Jesus is with the Father" (II, 1139). Thus the Spirit is to be experienced by Christians as streams of living water flowing out of Christ.

Any sermon based on this passage as a lectionary text will be about what the Holy Spirt means to Christians today first and will deal with exegetical issues only secondarily as they offer a basis for this contemporary appropriation of the meaning of Pentecost. I am not familiar with the Lutheran custom of an early vigil for Pentecost and do not know whether the occasion would call for a shorter, more meditative homily rather than a longer, more theological one. If it does, one could begin with the experience of springs. Since I grew up on a farm in north Louisiana in the days before utilities, one of my earliest memories is of going to the spring where we got our drinking water. Other preachers must have experiences that would do as well. One could also think of the importance of water in a desert country and how monastic exegesis always interpreted Psalm 42:1, "Like as the hart desireth the water-brooks, so longeth my soul after thee, O God" (BCP), in terms of the motivation for their calling. Such reflections could lead into a description of the water rites of the feast of Tabernacles and then the claim of Jesus in our gospel that all of that yearning is fulfilled in him. The grace that our God gives us, gushes up, sparkling and clear, refreshing us and slaking our yearing so that we need never thirst again (John 4:14).

If one wished to go a more theological route and address some of the excesses that can occur in enthusiasm over the contemporary renewal movement, it would be possible to say something about a tenedency sometimes to speak as though one had an exclusive relation with one Person of the Holy Trinity or another, as when some tell of their personal relation with Jesus or say that a particular idea was given to them by the Holy Ghost. This tendency to fragment the Trinity ignores a basic principle of Trinitarian theology enunciated by St. Augustine and reiterated by St. Thomas: the only differences between the Persons of the Trinity are differences of relation of origin. Thus their work and mission cannot be distinguished or separated. Any work of one Person is a work of the triune God. John's understanding of the Paraclete as "the presence of Jesus when Jesus is absent" (Brown) is a scriptural base for dealing with that problem that does not, on the other hand, lead into Modal Monarchianism. (We would not wish you to find yourself in the position where there could be applied to you the words of a legendary theologian who, in preaching to the college servants in Cambridge, said: "But stay, you say! This smacks of Sabel-lianism!" )

Exegete: O.C. Edwards, Jr.

Prof. O.C. Edwards, formerly of Nashotah House, is on the faculty of Seabury-Western Theological Seminary. He was Professor of Homiletics from 1983-1993. He holds degrees from Centenary College (AB), General Theol. Seminary (STB), Southern Methodist University (STM), University of Chicago (PhD), and Doctor of Divinity degrees from Nashotah House and the University of the South (2006). Dr. Edwards is
author of A History of Preaching (Nashville: Abingdon, 2004), and a frequent contributor to Lexegete™ and yourobdtsvt.


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Day of Pentecost | May 31, 2009

Acts 2:1-21 or Ezekiel 37:1-14
Psalm 104:24-34, 35b (30)
Romans 8:22-27 or Acts 2:1-21
John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

Prayer of the Day

Mighty God, you breathe life into our bones, and your Spirit brings truth to the world. Send us this Spirit, transform us by your truth, and give us language to proclaim your gospel, 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. Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts | of your faithful,
and kindle in us the fire | of your love. Alleluia.


1. CONTEXT: John 20:19-23

The lectionary traditionally has assigned three different passages from the Gospel of John concerning the Spirit or Paraclete ("Counselor," RSV) as the Gospel for the
Day of Pentecost for all three yearls (A,B and C). But Acts 2:1-21 is
assigned as the second lesson for all three years. That is not surprising of
course, for it relates Luke's account of the first Pentecost.

The texts from John's Gospel assigned for years B and C (from chapters
7 and 15-16) seem at first sight to "fit" nicely with the Lucan account,
for they anticipate the coming gift of the Spirit. That which Jesus
promises (Gospel of John) is fulfilled on Pentecost (Acts).

But the Gospel for the present year (A) shows that John and Acts do not
"fit" so neatly after all. In the Johannine perspective the giving of the
Spirit occurred in the evening on the day of the Lord's resurrection
(Easter). Our lesson from John 20:19-23 is the "Johannine Pentecost"
account. While in John's Gospel Jesus gives the promise of the Spirit
during his earthly ministry, and it is fulfilled on Easter evening, in the
Lucan account Jesus gives the promise after his resurrection (Acts 1:8),
sometime during the forty days of his appearances to this disciples (1:3),
and this promise is fulfilled on the day of Pentecost in the Jewish
calendar (50 days after the Passover). The church calendar, based roughly
on Luke's chronology, places (the Christian) Pentecost 50 days (actually
49) after Easter. But our Gospel for the day knows nothing of such a

Our text is the second of three post-resurrection appearances in the
Gospel of John (20:1-18 and 20:26-29 making up the first and third).
These stories fulfill the promise of 14:18 in which Jesus declares that he
will not leave his disciples desolate but will come to them. Distinctive to
our story is that it portrays the fulfillment of the promises to send them
the Spirit (7:39; 14:16,26;15:26;16:13k). But there is more to it than this
Pentecost theme.

1b. TEXT: John 20:19-23


19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’
20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
21Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’

22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.

23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’

The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized Edition), copyright 1989, 1995 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America


19ουσης ουν οψιας τη ημερα εκεινη τη μια σαββατων, και των θυρων κεκλεισμενων οπου ησαν οι μαθηται δια τον φοβον των ιουδαιων, ηλθεν ο ιησους και εστη εις το μεσον και λεγει αυτοις, ειρηνη υμιν. 20και τουτο ειπων εδειξεν τας χειρας και την πλευραν αυτοις. εχαρησαν ουν οι μαθηται ιδοντες τον κυριον. 21ειπεν ουν αυτοις [ο ιησους] παλιν, ειρηνη υμιν: καθως απεσταλκεν με ο πατηρ, καγω πεμπω υμας. 22και τουτο ειπων ενεφυσησεν και λεγει αυτοις, λαβετε πνευμα αγιον: 23αν τινων αφητε τας αμαρτιας αφεωνται αυτοις, αν τινων κρατητε κεκρατηνται.

Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition© 1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart;

The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition © 1975, United Bible Societies, London

2. ANALYSIS: John 20: 19-23

John 20:19 - The time reference links with 20:1, Easter. The clause "the
doors being shut...for fear of the Jews" is the only place reference. But at
20:16 there is a reference to their being "again in the house" eight days
later and that "the doors were shut."

We are to think then of the disciples as being present in a certain house at
20:19 too, located in Jerusalem. It is probable that in 20:19 (as at 20:26)

the point John is making is that the risen, glorified Christ appears
miraculously; his resurrected body could pass through closed doors. (The
phrase "for fear of the Jews" is John's way of explaining why the doors
were shut, or locked, and to certify the security of the building from
normal human intrusion.) Jesus came (cf. 14:18), stood among his
disciples , and greeted them in customary fashion, "Shalom" ("Peace be
with you"), which is repeated in 20:21.

20:20 - Jesus authenticates his presence and "proves his identity with the
man crucified two days earlier through showing his hands...and his pierced
side" (R. Bultmann, Gospel of John, p. 69l). The disciples' reaction is to
"rejoice" (echaresan; RSV "were glad" is too bland). This is a fulfillment
of the promise, "Your sorrow will turn into joy" (16:20).

20:21 - The disciples are commissioned. Jesus had been "sent" into the
world by the Father, a prominent theme in Johannine christology,
mentioned some 41 times in this gospel (cf. 3:34; 5:38; 8:42;; 17:3,etc.).

Likewise, through his death and resurrection Jesus "returns" to the Father,
a concept appearing ;some 20 times (cf. 7:33; 13:3; 16:5,etc.). In his
absence, he asks the Father to slend the Spirit (14:16) and commissions
his disciples: "even so I send you." Cf. 17:18 in the prayer of Jesus: "As
thou didst send me into the world, so I have sent them into the world."

20:22-23 - Jesus bestows on his disciples the Holy Spirit and the
authority to forgive and retain sins. Major interpreters are agreeda that
John envisions the authority over sin to be granted to the Christian
community, not simply to office holders in it(R. Bultmann, Gospel of John,
p. 693; R.E. Brown, Gospel According to John, pp. 1044-45). The "disciples"
represent the community. The Spirit is bestowed upon them collectively,
and it is given to all believers. So it will be with authority over sinl. Of
course this does not preclude specific ways of carrying out this ministry;
it is appropriate that the church has regularized and ordered it in its
ordained ministry.

3. STRATEGY: John 20: 19-23

As the lessons are read, the passage from Acts will be attended to by
members of the congregation more than the other lessons. After all, it's
Pentecost, and on that day we like to hear the "old, old story."

Pentecost is often called the "birthday of the Christian church."
Birthdays can be celebrated, but not repeated. The same is true with
Pentecost. It marks (like Christmas and Easter) a particular point in
salvation history. It is wrong to think that it can be repeated, to say that
the church of today should experience it all over again, or to claim that the
church should be more like that congregation in Jerusalem.

The value of the "Johannine Pentecost" can be seen here. While the Lucan
account relates an experience that affected the earliest Jerusalem
community, the Johannine text provides some directions for the church in
every age. The disciples (=church) are commissioned by the risen Christ
to be witnesses of the one sent by the Father, and they receive authority
to forgive and retain sins.

The sermon will strike the note of celebration, referring to the account
in Acts. But then it can move into Johannine themes. It will not be
necessary to do comparisons (as above) between Acts and John. Rather,
one can simply pick up the Johannine themes concerning Christ, the Spirit
and the church. The good news of the day is that the crucified Jesus
appeared alive again to his disciples, and that in consequence of his
resurrection a people has been created by the Spirit, which "calls, gathers,
and enlightens" that people to the present day and "preserves it in union
with Jesus Christ" to the end of time.

Jesus sent his disciples into the world. As the community of Jesus
Christ, we are the ones whom he sends. We are not sent aimlessly,
however. It is our joyous privilege and duty to represent Christ.

I don't think it is wise strategy to give the impression that each person
ought to be a "junior cleric" in everyday life, preaching the gospel. The
corporate emphasis of John can be retained. Going this way, the preacher
can speak of the mission of the congregation in the community. Something
like this might work: As a Christian community, we are commissioned to
bear witness to Christ, and we do that as we work together as a body of
believers who tend to worship, parish education, opening our doors to
serve the community, calling on the unchurched, and seeking to restore
those members who do not come--in other words, being the church of
Jesus Christ, the community of the Spirit.

The matter of forgiving and retaining sins is more difficult to speak about.
But the occasion presents itself to explore confession and absolution and
church discipline. The commissioned community carries on Jesus'
ministry of forgiveness.

But what about retaining the sins of anyone? Jesus does not demand that
we do this (any more than to forgive sins), but the saying points at least
to the seriousness of sin and the need for repentance. What we can rejoice
in is the promise of the Risen Christ that absolution is effectivel. That is
possible belcause the church has been born, created, by the Spirit (the
Pentecost theme) and sent to carry out Christ's missionl.


Brown, Raymond E. THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. JOHN. Anchor Bible,
vols. 29, 29a. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1966, l970.

Bultmann, Rudolf. THE GOSPEL OF JOHN. Philadelphia: Westminster Press,


Even congregations which celebrate Holy Communion only on the first
Sunday of the month will celebrate it today, and a festive procession is
desirable. In some parts of the country June 7 will be the transition
intolsummer (end or near end of the school and Sunday Church School year
and activities). Perhaps Confirmation will be held this day or on the next
Sunday. Because of the emphasis in the Gospel lesson on being "sent," the
day might provide an opportunity to include during announcements before
the general prayer some specific ways the congregation has carried out its
mission the past year, and the prayer could ask God's blessing on these and
other works.

In addition to Pentecost hymns (LBW 160-164, HB 222-230) , O HOLY
are fine opening hymns, and ; WE KNOW THAT CHRIST IS RAISED (LBW
189, HB 296 ) would be excellent as the Hymn of the Day.

Exegete: Arland J. Hultgren is the Asher O. and Carrie Nasby Professor of New Testament at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN.
< >

Visit of Mary to Elizabeth

June 1, 2009 (transferred from May 31)

1 Samuel 2:1-10
Psalm 113 (2)
Romans 12:9-16b
Luke 1:39-57

Prayer of the Day

Mighty God, by whose grace Elizabeth rejoiced with Mary and greeted her as the mother of the Lord: look with favor on your lowly servants that, with Mary, we may magnify your holy name and rejoice to acclaim her Son as our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Gospel Acclamation

Alleluia. My soul magni- | fies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in | God my Savior. Alleluia. (Luke 1:47)


1a. CONTEXT: Luke 1:39-57

Mary's visit to Elizabeth follows the account of the annunciation of
Jesus' birth and artistically links the John the Baptist and Jesus cycles

The MAGNIFICAT is a free composition modelled on Hannah's song (1
Samuel 2:1-10) and contains similar themes. There are many
reminiscences of the Old Testament, but unlike Zechariah's song, the
BENEDICTUS (1:68-79) it does not use LXX phrases. Hymnody of this sort
was written in the 1st century B.C., of which the Psalms of Solomon (circa
65-55 B.C.) are the examples most similar to the canticles in Luke. The
Qumran Hymns of Thanksgiving belong to the same genre but have the
peculiarities of the other Dead Sea Scrolls.

The sentiments of the MAGNIFICAT are revolutionary, although the
revolution is brought about by God alone. In Longfellow's poem, "King
Robert of Sicily," the king remarks, "'Tis well that such seditious words
were sung / only by priests and in the Latin tongue."

Luke thinks typologically; thus Hannah is the type of Mary--and John the
Baptist partly parallels Jesus. No one knows what sources Luke may have
used in writing chapters 1-2 but he composed them in a style imitating
the Septuagint. His picture of simple Jewish people who expected a
Davidic Messiah may partly describe actual non-Pharisaic Jews, but it is
an ideal, nostalgic portrait of the best of the piety of simple people. The
pericope is followed by the birth of John and by Zechariah's canticle.

1b. TEXT: Luke 1:39-57


Mary Visits Elizabeth

39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be [1] a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
Mary's Song of Praise: The Magnificat

46 And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

56 And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.

The Birth of John the Baptist

57 Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son.


39Ἀναστᾶσα δὲ Μαριὰμ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ταύταις ἐπορεύθη εἰς τὴν ὀρεινὴν μετὰ σπουδῆς εἰς πόλιν Ἰούδα, 40καὶ εἰσῆλθεν εἰς τὸν οἶκον Ζαχαρίου καὶ ἠσπάσατο τὴν Ἐλισάβετ. 41καὶ ἐγένετο ὡς ἤκουσεν τὸν ἀσπασμὸν τῆς Μαρίας ἡ Ἐλισάβετ, ἐσκίρτησεν τὸ βρέφος ἐν τῇ κοιλίᾳ αὐτῆς, καὶ ἐπλήσθη πνεύματος ἁγίου ἡ Ἐλισάβετ, 42καὶ ἀνεφώνησεν κραυγῇ μεγάλῃ καὶ εἶπεν, Εὐλογημένη σὺ ἐν γυναιξίν, καὶ εὐλογημένος ὁ καρπὸς τῆς κοιλίας σου. 43καὶ πόθεν μοι τοῦτο ἵνα ἔλθῃ ἡ μήτηρ τοῦ κυρίου μου πρὸς ἐμέ; 44ἰδοὺ γὰρ ὡς ἐγένετο ἡ φωνὴ τοῦ ἀσπασμοῦ σου εἰς τὰ ὦτά μου, ἐσκίρτησεν ἐν ἀγαλλιάσει τὸ βρέφος ἐν τῇ κοιλίᾳ μου. 45καὶ μακαρία ἡ πιστεύσασα ὅτι ἔσται τελείωσις τοῖς λελαλημένοις αὐτῇ παρὰ κυρίου. 46Καὶ εἶπεν Μαριάμ, Μεγαλύνει ἡ ψυχή μου τὸν κύριον, 47καὶ ἠγαλλίασεν τὸ πνεῦμά μου ἐπὶ τῷ θεῷ τῷ σωτῆρί μου, 48ὅτι ἐπέβλεψεν ἐπὶ τὴν ταπείνωσιν τῆς δούλης αὐτοῦ. ἰδοὺ γὰρ ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν μακαριοῦσίν με πᾶσαι αἱ γενεαί: 49ὅτι ἐποίησέν μοι μεγάλα ὁ δυνατός, καὶ ἅγιον τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ, 50καὶ τὸ ἔλεος αὐτοῦ εἰς γενεὰς καὶ γενεὰς τοῖς φοβουμένοις αὐτόν. 51Ἐποίησεν κράτος ἐν βραχίονι αὐτοῦ, διεσκόρπισεν ὑπερηφάνους διανοίᾳ καρδίας αὐτῶν: 52καθεῖλεν δυνάστας ἀπὸ θρόνων καὶ ὕψωσεν ταπεινούς, 53πεινῶντας ἐνέπλησεν ἀγαθῶν καὶ πλουτοῦντας ἐξαπέστειλεν κενούς. 54ἀντελάβετο Ἰσραὴλ παιδὸς αὐτοῦ, μνησθῆναι ἐλέους, 55καθὼς ἐλάλησεν πρὸς τοὺς πατέρας ἡμῶν, τῷ Ἀβραὰμ καὶ τῷ σπέρματι αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα. 56Ἔμεινεν δὲ Μαριὰμ σὺν αὐτῇ ὡς μῆνας τρεῖς, καὶ ὑπέστρεψεν εἰς τὸν οἶκον αὐτῆς. 57Τῇ δὲ Ἐλισάβετ ἐπλήσθη ὁ χρόνος τοῦ τεκεῖν αὐτήν, καὶ ἐγέννησεν υἱόν.

Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition© 1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart;

The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition © 1975, United Bible Societies, London

2. ANALYSIS: Luke 1:39-57

Luke 1:39 - oreinein - the hill country...Mary came from Nazareth and went
up into the central range. The traditional home of Zechariah and Elizabeth
is at Ein Karem, just west of Jerusalem.

Lk. 1:41 - kai epleisthe pneumatos hagiou - - Luke John the Baptist and
Jesus, Elizabeth is impelled by the Spirit.

Lk. 1:42 - Eulogeimenein - blessed; is almost synonomous with makaria in
verse 45, but the latter, here and in the Beatitudes, can perhaps better be
rendered as "happy;" it corresponds to the word in Psalm 1:1. This is,
however, a special kind of happiness such as the Greeks ascribed to their

Lk. 1:46 - Mariam - The variant Elisabet (see critical apparatus) is
interesting but not well attested, and verse 48f. applies better to Mary.

Lk. 1:47 - eigalliasen - "glad " - 1 Samuel 2:1-10 uses aorists also.

Lk. 1:48 - makariousin - cf. note on verse 42 - Here almost meaning

Lk. 1:51-54 - The aorists epoieisen etc. suggest the Hebrew perfect tense.
These are prophecies of the future, but the thought is that if God has
decided on an action, it is as good as done already.

3. STRATEGY - Luke 1:39-57

The newer lectionaries, which read pericopes of the annunciation to
Joseph on Year A in Advent and to Mary in Year B, give the homilist
an opportunity to prepare for the Nativity in a more thorough fashion than
is possible on Christmas, particularly at Christmas Eve.

The visit to Elizabeth is charming in that it reminds one that the
Nativity is also a human story involving two happy women. Luke is
always sensitive to the interests of women; in chapters 1-2, Zechariah
and Joseph are only on the periphery.

The Magnificat inevitably recalls Hannah and the birth of Samuel who
was a little boy prophet and later became a king-maker and the judge of
kings. Jesus is born into a family which had messianic expectations. The
might will be put down and the humble exalted. Humanly speaking, it is
significant that he grew to maturity in such a household. The passage
from Micah 5:2-4 fits well with this, because it expects a Messiah from
Bethlehem who would shepherd the people of Israel.

Hebrews 10:5-10 is well chosen for this Sunday. The sacrificial
system in which Zechariah served with such awe and joy, and which was
good as far as it went, has been superseded by a better system in which
Jesus the high priest comes simply to do the will of God. In this he is like
his mother Mary (1:38) who, as Raymond Brown points out in his masterful
study THE BIRTH OF THE MESSIAH, is the model of Christian discipleship.

The gospel reading is another example of the reversal of roles which
runs throughout the gospel story. The mighty are put down and the gentle
and humble are exalted. The bad priesthood of the sons of Eli resulted in
disaster for Israel, but Samuel was instrumental in restoring the nation's
fortunes. The potentates of Jesus' time, mentioned on Advent 2, came to
bad ends or at least to an evil historical reputation. There were no more
obscure women than Hannah, Elizabeth and Mary, but they were the mothers
of sons whom all generations have glorified!

4. REFERENCES: Luke 1:39-57

Brown, Raymond E. THE BIRTH OF THE MESSIAH. Garden City: Doubleday,
1977, pp. 330-366.

5. MUSIC SUGGESTIONS: Luke 1:39-57

Hymn tunes that would be well suited for this celebration day are:

WAKE, AWAKE (Wachet Auf, LBW 31, HB 61/2); THE KING SHALL COME (LBW 33, HB 73); I the sermon is on Mary, LO,HOW A ROSE E'ER BLOOMING (LBW 58, HB 81). Why not?

Exegete - Sherman E. Johnson, ThD,PhD †
Dean Emeritus, Visiting Professor of New Testament
Church Divinity School of the Pacific , Episcopal Church in America


Lexegete ™

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Dartmouth,MA 02747


Monday, May 11, 2009

+ E A S T E R SIX + A S C E N S I O N DAY +

Lexegete ™ | Year B | St. Mark

Sixth Sunday of Easter • May 17, 2009
Acts 10:44-48
Psalm 98 (4)
1 John 5:1-6
John 15:9-17

Prayer of the Day
O God, you have prepared for those who love you joys beyond understanding. Pour into our hearts such love for you that, loving you above all things, we may obtain your promises, which exceed all we can desire; through Jesus Christ, your Son and our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Gospel Acclamation
Alleluia. Those who love me will keep my word, and my Fa- | ther will love them,
and we will come to them and make our | home with them. Alleluia. (John 14:23)


1a. CONTEXT: JOHN 15:9-17

For the context of this pericope in the discourse in the upper room, see the Lexegete “Easter5.YrB” document.

Interpreters divide 15:1-17 at different points. Donald G. Miller in The New Oxford Annotated Bible RSV follows the division made by the RSV editors (also found in the NRSV). He finds in vv. 1-11 "The believer's relation to Christ--abide," and in vv. 12-17 "The relation of believers to one another--love." Brown sees in vv. 1-6 the mashal of the Vine and the Branches and in vv. 7-17 development of the mashal in the context of the Last Discourse. Bultmann gives much the same rubrics to the two parts of 15:1-17 as does Miller (meinate en emoi -- meinate en te agape ), but divides the passage as do the two pericopes of 5 and 6 Easter. He finds vv. 9-17 running parallel to vv. 1-8. There is reference to the Father in both vv. 1 and 9. "You have already been cleansed by the word" of v. 3 corresponds to "You are my friends" of v. 14 (cf. v. 15, "I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything"). The motif "apart from me you can do nothing" of vv. 4-5 is paralleled in v. 16, "You did not choose me but I chose you." Finally, in both vv. 7 and 16b there is the assurance that the disciple's prayer will be heard. The difference to be noted in vv. 9-17 is that, though there is one reference to bearing fruit, the imagery of abiding in the vine has been replaced by abiding in love.

1b. TEXT: JOHN 15:9-17


9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, [1] for the servant [2] does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

[1] 15:15 Greek bondservants
[2] 15:15 Greek bondservant; also verse 20

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version t © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers


9καθὼς ἠγάπησέν με ὁ πατήρ, κἀγὼ ὑμᾶς ἠγάπησα: μείνατε ἐν τῇ ἀγάπῃ τῇ ἐμῇ. 10ἐὰν τὰς ἐντολάς μου τηρήσητε, μενεῖτε ἐν τῇ ἀγάπῃ μου, καθὼς ἐγὼ τὰς ἐντολὰς τοῦ πατρός μου τετήρηκα καὶ μένω αὐτοῦ ἐν τῇ ἀγάπῃ. 11Ταῦτα λελάληκα ὑμῖν ἵνα ἡ χαρὰ ἡ ἐμὴ ἐν ὑμῖν ᾖ καὶ ἡ χαρὰ ὑμῶν πληρωθῇ. 12αὕτη ἐστὶν ἡ ἐντολὴ ἡ ἐμή, ἵνα ἀγαπᾶτε ἀλλήλους καθὼς ἠγάπησα ὑμᾶς: 13μείζονα ταύτης ἀγάπην οὐδεὶς ἔχει, ἵνα τις τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ θῇ ὑπὲρ τῶν φίλων αὐτοῦ. 14ὑμεῖς φίλοι μού ἐστε ἐὰν ποιῆτε ἃ ἐγὼ ἐντέλλομαι ὑμῖν. 15οὐκέτι λέγω ὑμᾶς δούλους, ὅτι ὁ δοῦλος οὐκ οἶδεν τί ποιεῖ αὐτοῦ ὁ κύριος: ὑμᾶς δὲ εἴρηκα φίλους, ὅτι πάντα ἃ ἤκουσα παρὰ τοῦ πατρός μου ἐγνώρισα ὑμῖν. 16οὐχ ὑμεῖς με ἐξελέξασθε, ἀλλ' ἐγὼ ἐξελεξάμην ὑμᾶς καὶ ἔθηκα ὑμᾶς ἵνα ὑμεῖς ὑπάγητε καὶ καρπὸν φέρητε καὶ ὁ καρπὸς ὑμῶν μένῃ, ἵνα ὅ τι ἂν αἰτήσητε τὸν πατέρα ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί μου δῷ ὑμῖν. 17ταῦτα ἐντέλλομαι ὑμῖν, ἵνα ἀγαπᾶτε ἀλλήλους.
Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition © 1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart;

The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition © 1975, United Bible Societies, London

2. ANALYSIS: JOHN 15:9-17

15:9-10. Kathos egapesen . . . kago . . . egapesa. Ean tas entolas mou teresete, meneite en te agape mou. Jesus has loved the disciples in the manner that he has been loved by the Father. To remain in this love the disciples are exhorted to keep Jesus' commandments.

15:11. Chara . . . plerothe. Jesus' joy springs out of his obedience to the Father. If for the disciples keeping Jesus' commandments follows from abiding in love, Jesus' exhortation need not cause anxiety but can be an occasion for joy (Bultmann).. See the following other references to joy being fulfilled/complete: 3:29, 16:24, 17:13.

15:12. Haute estin he entole he eme, hina agapate allelous. The commandments become in the last analysis the one love commandment, in 13:34 called a new commandment. Macgregor states that it is old in the letter (Lev. 19:18), though new because it calls for a special love of Christian to Christian (philadelphia ) in distinction to universal agape. Tertullian observed, "The heathen are wont to exclaim with wonder, 'See how these Christians love one another!'" In vv. 9-12 there is a chain of love. The Father loves Jesus; Jesus loves the disciples; they are to love each other as Jesus has loved them (Brown).

15:13. Meizona tautes agapen oudeis echei . . . The high water mark of love is self-sacrifice. Since the example of such sacrifice is to be found in Jesus' love, this cannot be simply risking one's life, but willingly yielding it, laying it down. For early Christians vv. 12-13 became one of the great justifications for martyrdom. Jewish teachers, on the other hand, reject such a sweeping demand for self-sacrifice (Brown).

If it is asserted that there is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends, some suggest that Rom. 5:8 ("While we still were sinners Christ died for us") and Matt. 5:44 ("Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you") define a different understanding of Jesus' self-sacrifice and an even greater love. Temple, on the other hand, says that this is to overstress the word friends. "It does not here represent those who love Him but those whom He loves; the saying declares that love has no more complete expression than death on behalf of those to whom it is directed; the distinction between those who return that love and those who do not, does not arise" (267).

15:14-15. Humeis philoi mou este, ean poiete . . . Ouketi lego humas doulous . . . The friends are no esoteric group, for Jesus' death, his act of love, makes possible the giving of the Spirit to all who will believe, and this Spirit begets all believers as children of God (Brown). To be a servant/slave of God is not elsewhere in the Bible considered to be demeaning (cf. Amos 3:7, Luke 17:10, Rom. 1:1). The distinction intended is that, whereas the servant/slave does not understand the master's purpose, the friend does. The love commandment makes such understanding possible. "Friend of the Emperor" was an official Roman title. Abraham was said to be a friend of God, 2 Chron. 20:7, Isa. 41:8, James 2:23.

15:16. Ouch humeis me exelexasthe, all' ego exelexamen humas . . According to the Fourth Evangelist it is not the case that the meaning of the life and death of Jesus was laid bare to the world, while only some few chose to accept him. The truth is the reverse (14:22). The Son selected the few and initiated them into the mystery of his death, in order that they might go forth and declare the truth to the world (Hoskyns).

The command to go implies launching forth from the inner circle of love to the needy world without (Macgregor). The call the disciples received was their power and their fruit bearing consisted in the success of their apostolic labors as well as in the perfecting personal character (Bernard). Hina ho ti an aitesete . . . do humin. The promise that prayer will be answered is repeated. This time it is stated that prayer is to be in Jesus' name, thus a petition that Jesus himself could offer (Bernard).

15:17. Tauta entellomai . . . agapate allelous. The love commandment of v. 12 (and 13:34) is repeated. To translate as does the NRSV, "I am giving you these commands . . ," is to refer not simply to the one love commandment but also to the exhortation in v. 4, "Abide in me as I abide you." Thus faith and love are joined. "In his decision of faith the believer anticipates the concrete decisions called for by the claims of his brother in everyday life. . . . Faith is at once the resolute decision for the word that has been heard, and the resoluteness that embraces all possible future decisions" (Bultmann, 547).

3. STRATEGY: JOHN 15:9-17

As the exegesis has indicated, the two gospel pericopes for 5 and 6 Easter are closely related. 15:1-8 could be said to deal with faith and 15:9-17 with obedience. Faith is often regarded as primarily receptive, whereas it is recognized that obedience requires activity. Yet to abide/remain in the risen Jesus requires endurance. On the other hand, faith and obedience are intimately united. They do not in a temporal sense succeed each other. Those who abide in Christ also by virtue of that fact love.

Nonetheless decision is needed as to how love should express itself. At this point the initiative obedience requires is seen, especially when one is summoned by love to lay down one's life. It is unlikely that the evangelist is thinking of doing this in the course of armed hostilities, though such a sacrifice can be required of some. What are the circumstances today that might require a Christian to lay down his/her life? In situations of persecution, should one seek martyrdom or await a changed situation that will permit a more public witness and practice of one's faith? Does the church need survivors as well as martyrs? How useful is the concept of living sacrifice, to which Paul refers in Rom. 12:1-2?

Another approach to this pericope would be to describe the Christian life as a call to friendship. There can be friendship with God because we who were enemies have been reconciled to God by the death of Jesus (Rom. 5:10). There is the friendship which results from having been chosen by Jesus and appointed to a ministry of fruit bearing. There is also a friendship experienced among those who are chosen in this way, who are called to love each other. The mission with which we have been entrusted does not, however, permit us to stay in this cosy circle of chosen ones, but it draws us out and sends us forth to befriend all sorts and conditions of women, men, and children everywhere. Wider and wider the circle expands!


Barrett, C. K. The Gospel according to St John. London: S.P.C.K., 1958.

Bernard, J. H. Gospel according to St. John, vol. II, ICC. New York:
Charles Scribner's Sons, 1919.

Brown, Raymond E. The Gospel according to John, Anchor Bible, vol. 29A. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1970.

Bultmann, Rudolf. The Gospel of John. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1971.

Hoskyns, Edwyn C. The Fourth Gospel, edited by F. N. Davey, 2nd ed.
London: Faber & Faber, 1947.

Macgregor, G. H. C. The Gospel of John. New York: Harper's, 1928.

The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha RSV. New York: Oxford University Press, 1977.

Temple, William. Readings in St. John's Gospel. London: Macmillan, 1950.

Exegete: Bernhard Erling, PhD, ThD,

Dr. S. Bernhard Erling is Professor Emeritus of Religion at Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, Minnesota. Dr. Erlng holds degrees from Gustavus Adolphus (B.A.), Augustana Theol. Seminary (B.D.), Chicago (M.A.), Yale (Ph.D.), and Lund (Th.D.). He is author of a study of Anders Nygren, Nature and History [Studia theologica lundensia : Skrifter utgivna av Teologiska fakulteten], Lund: C.W.K. Gleerup, 1960; and A Reader’s Guide to Dag Hammarskjold’s Waymarks (St. Peter, MN, 1999.)


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Ascension of Our Lord • May 21, 2009
Acts 1:1-11
Psalm 47 (5) or Psalm 93 (2)
Ephesians 1:15-23
Luke 24:44-53

Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, your only Son was taken into the heavens and in your presence intercedes for us. Receive us and our prayers for all the world, and in the end bring everything into your glory, through Jesus Christ, our Sovereign and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Almighty God, your blessed Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things. Mercifully give us faith to trust that, as he promised, he abides with us on earth to the end of time, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Gospel Acclamation
Alleluia. Go and make disciples of all nations, | says the Lord;
I am with you always, to the end | of the age. Alleluia. (Matt. 28:19, 20)


1a. Context : Luke 24:44-53

Mark contains no Ascension narrative. The BCP permits parts of
Mark 16:9-20 as a substitute for Luke, but this is not recommended.

24:44-53 follows three quite different accounts of the risen Lord,
a rewriting of Mark's story of the empty tomb (24:1-12);
the recognition scene at Emmaus (24:13-35), which concludes
when the two disciples report to the Eleven and learn that some

others have already seen Jesus and Jesus' appearance to the Eleven
(24:36-43). Jesus eats in their presence and thus shows that
he is no mere phantasm.

The pericope is linked with other parts of Luke-Acts. The Temple
(vs, 53) is the scene of much of Ch. 1-2, all of Jesus' teaching in
Jerusalem is given there, and it is where the apostles preach (in Acts).
The preaching of repentance and forgiveness of sins is a theme of
both the Gospel and Acts .

Luke has the Ascension in mind at least from the Transfiguration ~ scene on. Moses and Elijah speak of Jesus' exodus which he will complete
in Jerusalem (9:31). The cloud (singular, 9:34) corresponds both to the
cloud in Exod. 24 :15-18; 34:5 and to the cloud of the Ascension
(Acts 1:9). When Jesus "sets his face" to go to Jerusalem it is because
the time is ready for his taking up ( analeimpsis, 9:51 ). This obviously
refers to the Ascension. Though the Resurrection is all-important , it is
climaxed in this last event. In Luke's theology this "centre of time," the
era of salvation, will be followed by the next part of sacred history, the
period of the Spirit and the Church.

1b. Text: Luke 24:44-53


44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version t © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers


44 Εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς αὐτούς, Οὗτοι οἱ λόγοι μου οὓς ἐλάλησα πρὸς ὑμᾶς ἔτι ὢν σὺν ὑμῖν, ὅτι δεῖ πληρωθῆναι πάντα τὰ γεγραμμένα ἐν τῷ νόμῳ Μωϋσέως καὶ τοῖς προφήταις καὶ ψαλμοῖς περὶ ἐμοῦ.
45τότε διήνοιξεν αὐτῶν τὸν νοῦν τοῦ συνιέναι τὰς γραφάς.
46καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς ὅτι Οὕτως γέγραπται παθεῖν τὸν Χριστὸν καὶ ἀναστῆναι ἐκ νεκρῶν τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ,
47καὶ κηρυχθῆναι ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματι αὐτοῦ μετάνοιαν εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν εἰς πάντα τὰ ἔθνη ἀρξάμενοι ἀπὸ Ἰερουσαλήμ:
48ὑμεῖς μάρτυρες τούτων.
49καὶ [ἰδοὺ] ἐγὼ ἀποστέλλω τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν τοῦ πατρός μου ἐφ' ὑμᾶς: ὑμεῖς δὲ καθίσατε ἐν τῇ πόλει ἕως οὗ ἐνδύσησθε ἐξ ὕψους δύναμιν.
50Ἐξήγαγεν δὲ αὐτοὺς [ἔξω] ἕως πρὸς Βηθανίαν, καὶ ἐπάρας τὰς χεῖρας αὐτοῦ εὐλόγησεν αὐτούς.
51καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ εὐλογεῖν αὐτὸν αὐτοὺς διέστη ἀπ' αὐτῶν καὶ ἀνεφέρετο εἰς τὸν οὐρανόν.
52καὶ αὐτοὶ προσκυνήσαντες αὐτὸν ὑπέστρεψαν εἰς Ἰερουσαλὴμ μετὰ χαρᾶς μεγάλης,
53καὶ ἦσαν διὰ παντὸς ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ εὐλογοῦντες τὸν θεόν.

Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition © 1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart;

The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition © 1975, United Bible Societies, London

2. ANALYSIS: Luke 24:44-53

vs. 44. "The words that I spoke to you:" see especially
18:31 (third Passion Prediction); but also 12:49-53; 13-34 f.;
17:22-33. The Law, the Prophets and the Psalms are the three
divisions of the Hebrew Bible; the Psalms are the most important
part of the writings .

vs. 45. To understand the Scriptures; cf. 24:27.

vs. 46. The language resembles the first Passion Prediction
(9:22) but is closest to the third (18:31-33).

vs. 47. Repentance and forgiveness of sins is a familiar
theme in Luke (7:47 f.; Chap. 15; 17:4) and in Acts it is offered
not only to Jews(Acts 2:3, 8; 3:19 f.) but also to all nations
(Acts 10:43; 13:38 f.).

vs. 49. Cf. Acts 1:4; 2:1-13.

vs. 51. There is excellent evidence both for including and
omitting the clause "and was carried up into heaven." In any
case, on this occasion (presumably the Sunday evening of the
Resurrection) he was “parted from them” so that for the time
being they no longer saw him.

Luke probably designed his writings from the outset as a
two-volume work, and we have seen that the Ascension, as the
climax of Jesus' earthly ministry, has been foreshadowed more
than once. It would be natural for him to suggest it here.
A copyist may have thought,however, that the clause in
this verse duplicated the account in Acts and disagreed with
the chronology of forty days.

The Ascension: Pharisees and early Christians most often
thought that the blessed future life would begin at the general
resurrection. But they also believed that certain individuals

went immediately after death into the presence of God-- Moses,
Elijah and the martyrs of the Maccabaean Period (cf. especially
4 i.Macc.), This type of eschatology may be reflected in Mark
12:26 f.s Luke 20:37 f.; and certainly in Luke 16:19-31.

The earliest Christians seem to have regarded the Resurrection
and Ascension as not separated in time, and the concept of
Jesus' return to his Father was influenced by Ps. 110:1 and
Dan. 7:13; cf. Phil. 2:9 and especially John 20:17. But Jesus
was seen by various persons for some time afterward. Paul speaks
of his appearance to more than five hundred Christians and the
Apostle himself saw the Lord at a later time (1 Cor. 15:
5, 8). There were other traditions of Christ's appearance, and
these provided an opportunity to compose accounts of his post-
resurrection teaching. The Epistle of the Apostles is more or
less "orthodox," while several Gnostic tractates make fantastic
use of this device.

The effect of Luke-Acts is to confine the authoritative teaching
of the risen Christ to the fairly brief period of forty days.
Acts 1:1-11 closes this classic period of revelation through
Jesus' farewell. This by no means excludes the possibility of
other occasional appearances, as to Saul of Tarsus on the road
to Damascus (Acts 9:3-6).

3. Strategy: Luke 24:44-53

The cosmology that everyone has learned--through television
if in no other way--in which there is no "up" or "down" and the
universe spans millions of light-years, does not seem to have
disturbed most Christians as they celebrate the Ascension.

They feel instinctively that the language is poetic and symbolic,
for "heaven" is where God is. One lesson of the Ascension is
that believers no longer need the physical presence of Jesus;
in a true sense he is always present in the Holy Spirit, who
supplies all that is needful (John 14:18, 26; 16:12 f.).

The pericope has other possibilities:

(l)Luke's distinctive understanding of how Christ fulfills the O.T.,
which is not identical with those of Matthew and Paul. For him it
was sufficient that the Passion was necessary as a stage toward
Jesus' glorification.

(2) Repentance and the forgiveness of sins seems at first only to
repeat the message of the O.T. and Judaism, but it leads to the
promise from Jesus' Father, i.e. endowment with the Holy Spirit,
which brings all the gifts of the new age and is experienced in
community (note Acts 4:23-31 and the prayer contained in it.

(3)The theme of witness in the gospel and Acts.

Exegete: Sherman Johnson, PhD, ThD †
Dean Emeritus, Visiting Professor of New Testament
Church Divinity School of the Pacific , Episcopal Church in America

4. Suggested References: Luke 24:44-53

Stanley, David M. and R.E. Brown. "Aspects of New Testament Thought," ch.
78 of THE JEROME BIBLICAL COMMENTARY , ed. R.E. Brown, J. A. Fitzmyer
and R.O.Murphy. Englewood Cliffs,NJ: Prentice-Hall, l968.

Stuhlmueller, Carrol, O.P. "The Gospel According to St. Luke," ch. 44 of THE
JEROME BIBLICAL COMMENTARY, ed. R.E. Brown, J.A. Fitzmyer and R.O.
Murphy. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, l968.

5. MUSIC SUGGESTIONS: Luke 24:44-53

The way in which modern people might think about the
Ascension is expressed well in Howard Robbins ' hymn,”And have the
bright immensities received our Risen Lord?,” # 459 in the 1982
Episcopal Hymnal. Other suggestions for this day include:

HAIL, THEE, FESTIVAL DAY!, a familiar hymn in the Episcopal tradition also
included in the Lutheran Book of Worship (LBW 142, HB 216).

Also traditional for Ascension Day are LOOK, THE SIGHT IS GLORIOUS
(LBW 156) and ALLELUIA, SING TO JESUS (LBW 158, HB460-1).
[If only one hymn is sung ( at a special brief eucharistic service), the best options are LBW 158, HB 406-1, or LORD, ENTHRONED IN HOLY SPLENDOR (LBW 172, HB 307). ]


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Monday, May 4, 2009

+ E A S T E R + F I V E +

Lexegete | Year B | St. Mark

Fifth Sunday of Easter | May 10, 2009
Acts 8:26-40
Psalm 22:25-31 (27)
1 John 4:7-21
John 15:1-8

Prayer of the Day
O God, you give us your Son as the vine apart from whom we cannot live. Nourish our life in his resurrection, that we may bear the fruit of love and know the fullness of your joy, 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. I am the vine, you | are the branches.
Those who abide in me and I in them | bear much fruit. Alleluia. (John 15:5)


1a. CONTEXT: John 15:1-8

Our text is a parable within the "Farewell Discourse" of chapters 13-17.
A farewell discourse functions to teach about discipleship and has the
following elements: talk of death, prediction of hard times, a listing of
virtues and vices, a legacy and succession of authority. Our texts contains
a virtue and a vice and talk of death. The discourse is aggressive and
challenging and functions to put the best face forward in trying times.

The first two verses give the topic of the parable and may come from the
early stage of the Johannine community when the Temple cult is being
replaced by the new Jesus cult. I date the rest of the parable to the
excommunication period.

The Old Testament background is the metaphor of Israel as the vine and
God as the vinedresser, cf. Is. 5:1ff. God chooses the vine and judges the
vine if it does not produce good grapes, i.e. keep covenant fidelity. This
parable has been reworked by the Johannine community. Jesus is now the
vine, not Israel. The branches are members of the church. The Father will
judge those members who are not faithful to the new covenant.

1b. TEXT: John 15:1-8

John 15:1-8
15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

© The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


1Ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ἄμπελος ἡ ἀληθινή, καὶ ὁ πατήρ μου ὁ γεωργός ἐστιν. 2πᾶν κλῆμα ἐν ἐμοὶ μὴ φέρον καρπόν, αἴρει αὐτό, καὶ πᾶν τὸ καρπὸν φέρον καθαίρει αὐτὸ ἵνα καρπὸν πλείονα φέρῃ. 3ἤδη ὑμεῖς καθαροί ἐστε διὰ τὸν λόγον ὃν λελάληκα ὑμῖν: 4μείνατε ἐν ἐμοί, κἀγὼ ἐν ὑμῖν. καθὼς τὸ κλῆμα οὐ δύναται καρπὸν φέρειν ἀφ∍ ἑαυτοῦ ἐὰν μὴ μένῃ ἐν τῇ ἀμπέλῳ, οὕτως οὐδὲ ὑμεῖς ἐὰν μὴ ἐν ἐμοὶ μένητε. 5ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ἄμπελος, ὑμεῖς τὰ κλήματα. ὁ μένων ἐν ἐμοὶ κἀγὼ ἐν αὐτῷ οὗτος φέρει καρπὸν πολύν, ὅτι χωρὶς ἐμοῦ οὐ δύνασθε ποιεῖν οὐδέν. 6ἐὰν μή τις μένῃ ἐν ἐμοί, ἐβλήθη ἔξω ὡς τὸ κλῆμα καὶ ἐξηράνθη, καὶ συνάγουσιν αὐτὰ καὶ εἰς τὸ πῦρ βάλλουσιν καὶ καίεται. 7ἐὰν μείνητε ἐν ἐμοὶ καὶ τὰ ῥήματά μου ἐν ὑμῖν μείνῃ, ὃ ἐὰν θέλητε αἰτήσασθε καὶ γενήσεται ὑμῖν. 8ἐν τούτῳ ἐδοξάσθη ὁ πατήρ μου, ἵνα καρπὸν πολὺν φέρητε καὶ γένησθε ἐμοὶ μαθηταί.

Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition
© 1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart

The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition © 1975,
United Bible Societies, London

2. ANALYSIS: John 15:1-8

John 15:1 -' Ego eimi 'he ampelos 'he 'alethine, kai ho pater mou ho georgos
'estin - "I am the true vine" does not equal "I am" in the divine sense,
according to most commentators. In viewing this parable from the
excommunication period I read "I am" in the divine sense. The issue
leading up to the expulsion from the synagogues is found in 5:18, "...called
God his own Father, making himself equal to God." Alethos and its
counterpart, alethinos, found here are vintage Johannine words which mean
"genuine" or "dependable."

15:2 - me pheron karpon -- The new virtue in the Johannine community is
"bearing fruit." This is an aggressive and challenging criterion for
membership in the church. "Bearing fruit" means eternal life, (4:36).
karpon pheron means to die (12:24). It means "loving" others in the group,
i.e. laying down one's life for one's friends (15:13).

"Bearing fruit" is to do what Jesus did, keep the Father's commandment…

10:18. This new virtue means the death of members of the church as it
meant for Jesus, (16:2). It functions to help members feel good about
their excommunication from the synagogue. The opposite of this is the
new vice, "not bearing fruit." This may refer to the "crypto-Christians"
who didn't want to express their faith publicly for fear of expulsion from
the synagogues. 12:42-43. (See Brown, THE COMMUNITY OF THE BELOVED
DISCIPLE, pp. 22, 71). It may also refer to other believers who lacked
genuine faith and left the church, (6:60-66).

katharei - is a double meaning word. In the agricultural sense it means to
remove or cut off dead or living parts or branches of a plant to improve its
growth or shape. Yet this is what is going to happen to the members who
don't bear fruit. Vawter (see JEROME BIBLICAL COMMENTARY 63:148) notes
this word-play. To the members of the Johannine community, katharizo
meant purified or cleansed (cf. 13:10,11). They have already been purified
through hearing and receiving Christ's words and abiding with him. "Being
purified" means being bold and risking one's life. Hence ultimate
purification comes from dying, not from Jewish purity rites.
This teaching on discipleship is consistent with the synoptics, cf. Mark
8:34-6, but has a highly sectarian flavor here.

15:6 - kai synagousin auta kai eis to pur ballousin kai kaietai--The
sectarian language continues here and echoes verse 2. In reaction to their
expulsion from the synagogues, the community is tightening group
membership. They are advocating the excommunication of members who
are unwilling to go public with their faith. One has to do what Jesus did or
be expelled from the church.

15:7 - 'ean meinete 'en emoi kai ta remata mou en humin meine, ho ean
thelete aitesasthe kai geneisetai humin -- "Abiding" (meinete) is a key
word in the fourth gospel. In 1:33 the Spirit abided on Jesus which
signified his holiness/purity. The former disciples of the baptizer abided
with Jesus in 1:39 and Jesus abided with the Samaritans in 4:40. The
"abiding" resulted in their belief in Christ and their holiness/purity as
linked to Jesus' holiness. If one abides with Jesus that person is holy and
pure in the covenant community. "Ask whatever you will, and it shall be
done for you." This promise is repeated in 15:16 and 16:23-24. It is the
promise of the Holy Spirit (14:15-17,26) who will be Christ's legacy, and
will guide, comfort, and continue to teach them, 16:13l. The promise
implies peace and joy (15:11, 16:24) and ultimately eternal life (4:36).

15:8 - en touto edoxasthe ho pater mou, hina karpon polun pherete kai
geneisthe 'emoi mathetai -- Death leads to glorification (21:19). Just as
God was glorifieda through Jesus' death (13:31,32), so will God be
glorified through the deaths of the disciples. This functions to make death
acceptable. There are going to be hard times and you will die, but that
will bring about your eternal joy with God.

The parable is written for members of the Johannine community during a
trying time. Earlier sign faith was good enough for membership. Later, cf.
4:4-42, faith based on Jesus' words was the criteria for membership.

Now doing works or "bearing fruit" is the new criteria for membership.
By laying down their lives the Johannine Christians will prove their

3. STRATEGY: John 15:1-8

In keeping with the Easter season and the upcoming Rogation Days, I
want to use the vine metaphor in a sermon on discipleship. I suggest
pointing out the sectarian attitude of the Johannine community during this
stage of development particularly with regard to membership criteria. a I
would contrast this with the other membership model of the Church which
emphasizes building up the body. As an illustration, I would point out that
a gardener prunes and ties back large, leafy, viney plants like cucumbers
or squash, so other plants have an opportunity to grow in the garden.

Staying with the metaphor, it is clearly the case that sometimes in the
church we see some fellow members of the body who are overshadowed or
in some obstructed by others, perhaps even by ourselves. Sometimes we
must learn not only how to lead or point to "the way," but to know when we
are standing in the way of others' growth in grace. As Christ's disciples,
it bodes well for us to be " pruned " by Word and Sacrament, so that other
members have an opportunity to grow in their faith as well. A sermon
along these lines, coming at this time in the calendar year, might link up
easily with the preoccupations of those who are cultivating gardens or
pruning their vines.

4. REFERENCES: John 15:1-8

NY: Paulist Press, 1979.

Vawter, Bruce, C.M. "The Gospel According to St. John," ch. 63 of THE
JEROME BIBLICAL COMMENTARY, ed. R.E. Brown, J.A. Fitzmyer and R.O.
Murphy. Englewood Cliffs,N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1968.


For the imagery of vines and growth, I particularly like the following for
this Sunday:


NOW THE GREEN BLADE RISETH (HB 204, LBW 148), if not used previously
during this Easter Season.


To capture some of the flavor of the Johannine community described
above, a good choice would be:


Some other possible hymns for today are as follows:







Exegete: Father Lance B. Almeida †

Exegete: The late Lance B. Almeida was an Episcopal priest in the Dioceses of Eastern Massachusetts and, later, Maine before his untimely death. We miss him still.