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Monday, April 26, 2010

+ E A S T E R Five + 2 0 1 0 +

Lexegete | Year C | St. Luke

Fifth Sunday of Easter | May 2, 2010

Acts 11:1-18

Psalm 148 (13)

Revelation 21:1-6

John 13:31-35
Prayer of the Day

O Lord God, you teach us that without love, our actions gain nothing.  Pour into our hearts your most excellent gift of love, that, made alive by your Spirit, we may know goodness and peace, through 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. Everyone will know that you are | my disciples
if you have love for | one another. Alleluia. (John 13:35)


1a. CONTEXT: JOHN 13:31-35

THE LAST DISCOURSE: Division One (Introduction) These verses are preceded by the Foot Washing, which is performed by Jesus as the revelation of the God who serves, to the disciples within the context of The Last Supper. The public ministry has been concluded, and now, just before the feast of the Passover, Jesus retires with his disciples to an intimate setting, for his final teaching to them. What we have received is the final shape given to their witness over time, by the community of faith known as the Johannine Community.

In their self-reflexive theology, the Johannine Community presents material that differs markedly in content and style from the Synoptic Gospels. Here, the extended private discourse provides the occasion for a confluence of Jesus' teachings. Some of these are taken from the public ministry and given voice within a new context, which is largely presented as a monologue by Jesus. The Jesus who speaks here to the disciples is remembered by the community as the glorified Christ. The introductory verses of the discourse present three main foci concerning Jesus: his glorification "now"; his imminent departure; and his new commandment to the disciples. His glorification comes from God; his imminent departure is necessary to his glorification and will result from Judas' betrayal; his new commandment is constitutive to the community.

1a. TEXT: John 13:31-35 --

 When he had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, “Where I am going, you cannot come.” I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’

31Οτε οὖν ἐξῆλθεν λέγει Ἰησοῦς, Νῦν ἐδοξάσθη ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, καὶ ὁ θεὸς ἐδοξάσθη ἐν αὐτῷ:

32[εἰ ὁ θεὸς ἐδοξάσθη ἐν αὐτῷ] καὶ ὁ θεὸς δοξάσει αὐτὸν ἐν αὐτῷ, καὶ εὐθὺς δοξάσει αὐτόν.

33τεκνία, ἔτι μικρὸν μεθ' ὑμῶν εἰμι: ζητήσετέ με, καὶ καθὼς εἶπον τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις ὅτι Οπου ἐγὼ ὑπάγω ὑμεῖς οὐ δύνασθε ἐλθεῖν, καὶ ὑμῖν λέγω ἄρτι.

34ἐντολὴν καινὴν δίδωμι ὑμῖν, ἵνα ἀγαπᾶτε ἀλλήλους: καθὼς ἠγάπησα ὑμᾶς ἵνα καὶ ὑμεῖς ἀγαπᾶτε ἀλλήλους.

35ἐν τούτῳ γνώσονται πάντες ὅτι ἐμοὶ μαθηταί ἐστε, ἐὰν ἀγάπην ἔχητε ἐν ἀλλήλοις.

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 13: 31-35

THE LAST DISCOURSE: Division One (Introduction)
The Last Discourse opens by proclaiming the glorification of the Son of the Human One. After the Greeks appeared on the scene in 12: 20-22, Jesus announced that the hour of glorification has come (12:23). The coming of the Greeks heralds the beginning of the glorification, for they foreshadow all who will be drawn to Jesus once he has been lifted on the cross.
This interpretation of Jesus' glorification through his suffering and death on the cross is foreshadowed in Isa. 52: 13, and the same relationship of glory and death also appears in the Synoptic tradition, in Mark 10: 35. There James and John are told figuratively, that sharing Jesus' glory is possible only through suffering unto death. The shift from a past tense in v. 31, [edoxasthei] - to a future tense in v. 32, [doxasei] - is illustrative of the way that the theme of glory dominates the second half of the Gospel.
The process of glorification may be described in grammatical expressions that include past, present [nun], and future because the whole process is being viewed from an eternal perspective. The same mixture of past and future that we encounter in 13: 31-32, was already seen in 12: 28: "I have glorified it and will glorify it again." Perhaps the past tense, (aorist in 31), is complexive, referring to the whole passion, death, resurrection, and ascension that takes place in "this hour"[ten horan]; the future in 32 may refer to the glory that will follow when Jesus returns to God.
The treachery of Judas initiates the process of Jesus' passing from this world, to return to God. Judas' departure from the Last Supper, accepted by Jesus, brings the police and soldiers who will arrest Jesus and put him to death. Thus, Judas actually participates in the glorification. If the Last Supper is indeed thought of as a Passover Meal, Jesus' endearing salutation [teknia], v. 33, is particularly appropriate, for the small groups that gathered together to eat the paschal meal patterned themselves on family life.

One of the group acted as a father explaining to his children the significance of what was being done. The address is also very fitting if the Last Discourse is thought of as a farewell speech, for in this literary genre, the scene is often that of a dying father instructing his children. This is demonstrated in the TESTAMENTS OF THE TWELVE PATRIARCHS, a Jewish work with Christian interpolations, or perhaps a Christian work
dependent on Jewish sources, according to the Johannine scholar, Raymond E. Brown. Since the disciples cannot follow Jesus as he leaves this life, they receive a command that, if obeyed, will keep his spirit alive among them (vv. 34-35). The idea that love is a commandment is interesting. The newness of Jesus' teaching has been credited to his giving the command to love neighbor a status second only to love of God, and defining neighbor in a new and wider sense.

3. STRATEGY: John 13: 31-35


In preaching from this text, the challenge is to be found precisely in []: bringing the Christ-life to more than remembrance, to a present reality in our community of faith. It is a matter of incarnational, sacramental theology being worked out in the midst of God's people, the Church. Living communities remember their beginnings. It is a present recognition: we are this community of faith, living still, begetting new life, sharing life, and consecrating life in the gift of God.

The Paschal Meal and the Easter Feast, taken together, embody the Mystery of Christ. He is the gift poured into our human lives transforming us into the New Life he is: God and people at one. We draw together into this beginning moment of the meal all the meanings we discover in our transformation at the Lord's Table. Who he was and has become, who we are and are becoming, all suggest a new language for our faith. From the very experience of our formation in the womb, we know what it means to love and be loved - all the stuff of life is given - drawn bodily from another. Jesus commands his disciples to love as he loves, and in this they will find his/her glory, as well as their/our identity. Even as he lays down his life in order to become Life, we are called to live in that Love which he reveals is God, and for all who are alive with us, to become the living sign of the transforming Christ dwelling within our human life.

4. REFERENCES: John 13: 31-35
Brown, Raymond E. THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JOHN, XIII - XXI. [Yale Anchor Bible] v. 29B, Doubleday Edition, 1970, pp. 605-613.

SYNOPSIS OF THE FOUR GOSPELS. Kurt Aland, ed., Württembergische Bibelanstalt, Stuttgart/West Germany: United Bible Societies, 1975, pp. 272, 287.

Whitson, Robley Edward. THE CENTER SCRIPTURES. Bristol, Indiana: The United Institute, Wyndham Hall Press, 1987, pp. 21,28,31-32.

Exegete: The Rev. Dr. Carol M. Worthing, D. Min.(ELCA, Ret’d) earned a M.Div. degree in 1982 from the Northwestern Lutheran Theological Seminary in St. Paul. Carol earned a P.h.D in theological studies from the Graduate Theological Foundation in 2002, and in the same year was honored as the John Macquarrie Fellow for the superior quality of her dissertation. She was chosen by the Cathedral Council to serve as preacher at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. in November of 2002. Carol Worthing has returned to Edina, Minn. where she currently resides.

5. Music Suggestions: John 13:31-35

Some appropriate hymns for this day would include the following:

GOD IS LOVE (HB 576/7)
LOVE DIVINE (ELW 631; HB 657;LBW 315)


LEXEGETE ©  2010

Tischrede Software

Dartmouth, Massachusetts 02747


Lexegete is edited by David A. Buehler,
who teaches Ethics at Providence College, R.I.




Wednesday, April 21, 2010

+ Mark, Evangelist + Phillip & James, Apostles +

Mark, Evangelist
April 26, 2010 (transferred from April 25)
Isaiah 52:7-10
Psalm 57 (9)
2 Timothy 4:6-11, 18
Mark 1:1-15

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, you have enriched your church with Mark's proclamation of the gospel. Give us grace to believe firmly in the good news of salvation and to walk daily in accord with it, 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 Jesus | God raised up;
and of that all of | us are witnesses. Alleluia. (Acts 2:32)

1a. Context: Mark 1:1-15

This is the beginning of THE GOOD NEWS. God’s News. The only news worth listening to! Like St. Paul after him, the evangelist Mark uses the name “good news” to refer not only to words OF Christ , or the words ABOUT Christ, but to refer to CHRIST JESUS himself. From the outset this “passion narrative with a preface” strikes us as a compilation designed to convey the central meaning of Jesus and his life, the “old,old story.” Hence there is no “Christmas Story” here for those who want one. This is tough, adult material, and needs to be handled with seriousness.

The pericope for today from Mark is closely connected to both the Old Testament passage from 2nd Isaiah (40:3) and Malachi 3:1. It is obvious that John the Baptist is understood to be the one who runs ahead of Jesus, preparing the way of the Lord. The prophetic material stresses the importance of forgiveness as an essential in the coming manifestation of the messiah. Thus is it reported at 1:4 that “ John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” John comes proclaiming metanoia, change, even a kind of “revolution” if by that we mean a “turning” not unlike the “turning” which i s described in the American Shaker hymn, “ ‘Tis a Gift to be Simple.” As the new Church Year gains momentum, the texts very quickly become even more challenging and forceful and we are invited to take part in something vastly larger than our little selves. Though Mark is addressing a first century world crying out for mercy and repentance, the need for change and metanoia was never greater than it is today. The context is prophetic proclamation. The context is “NOW!”

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 1:1-15 [ Key Words ]

1:1 - Archei - beginning, the inception not only of the gospel, but of new being
1.1 - evangellion - good news, glad tidings - literally, proclamation, implying
some form of amnesty with the coming to power of new leadership
1.1 - Yesua - Jesus-Messiah - literally, the saving one from YHWH

1.2 - apostelloo - messenger
1:2 - kataskeuazoo - to prepare or make ready - appears once in Mark,
and 11 times in the N.T.

1.3 - Boaoo - to cry out, call or shout
1.3 - euthus - Mark’s “trademark” work - meaning “straightway” or “immediately”
1.3 - tribos - the beaten pathway or track

1.4 - baptisma - baptism
1.4 - metanoia - repentance, turning around, conversion
1.4 - aphesis - forgiveness

1.5 - chora - land, country, region
1.5 - potamos - river
1.5 - eksomologeoo - promise or confession

1.6 - enduoo - clothing, dress, to put on clothing; 1.6 - thrix - hair;
1.6 - kamelos - literally, a camel ; 1.6 - zoonei - girdle or belt;
1.6 - dermatinos - leather ; 1.6 - akris - locust or grasshopper;
1.6 - meli - honey ; 1.6 - agrios - wild

1.7 - ischuros - strong, powerful - often with the implication of evil (cf. 3:27)
but also to describe the Coming One (Mal. 3.1, 4.5, 3.23f.)
1.7 - ikanos - sufficient
1.7 - kuptoo - bowing one’s head
1.7 - luoo - to set loose
1.7 - himas - thong
1.7 - hupodeima - sandal
1.8 ego ebaptisa humas hudati - “ I have baptized you with water”
1.8 pneumati hagioo - Holy Spirit

C.S. Mann of St. Mary’s Seminary, Baltimore, MD, overturned the smug notion that the First Gospel is necessarily the first of the four gospels in its chronological formation. Drawing upon recent linguistic, literary and historical evidence, he suggested that it is at least plausible that Mark’s gospel was written AFTER Matthew and Luke and is in some sense a conflated version of those two in compressed form, with a bias in favor of Matthew. (Mark: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Anchor Bible Commentary, volume 27. Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, 1986. ) Whether or not one agrees with this provocative theory, the fact is it challenges us in much the same way that Mark’s gospel itself is issued like a challenge to our smug sensibilities. Mann notes the “clamorous note of urgency” of Mark’s gospel (p. 81), suggesting that it is this very urgency (epitomized by the term “euthus” or “straightway” which sets the tone for our entire understanding of Jesus’
life and ministry. Mann clearly understands this gospel to be addressed to people
experiencing a “worsening and darkening political situation” (p. 84) and he shows the passion account as one designed to speak in a direct, immediate way to the concerns of his audience.

For Mann, “the conflict is joined” at once at the very inception of the “good news” and it is clearly a conflict between good and evil, in a sense between “darkness” and “light” though these are not mentioned. Indeed there is much left unsaid: we are note told the origin of John the Baptizer, nor is there any explanation of his baptism. It is all presented like a “given” which the hearer is expected to understand or know. Nevertheless there is a crucial distinction being made in the passage between the baptism of John and the Baptism of the One who is to Come: “ I have baptized you with water; but the Coming One will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." In short, John’s baptism is only a glimpse of what is yet to come. This in no sense means to suggest there are “two baptisms” required for salvation, only that John’s understands himself to be the forerunner for a still more “powerful” Lord.

3. Strategy: Mark 1:1-15

This is surely one of the most compelling pericopes in the entire Gospel. And yet how easily the themes of urgency and forgiveness can be lost from our view during this hectic season of preparation for the coming of Christ. More than enough has been said about the shallowness and superficial materialism of the commercial Advent.
Enough said. The danger is that we all can easily fall into the trap of making ourselves feel guilty about the self-indulgence of Christmas, as if John were aiming his message of “good news” at the credit card companies and plastic toy manufacturers. Nor is it
sufficient to engage in preparatory nostalgia for Christmas Past. This is first and foremost a text about the God’s future reality breaking into our humdrum present and transforming it with the power of the Holy Spirit. In short, it is the Annunciation of One who is to Come, only this time to the whole cosmos.

Thus the dual theme of metanoia and forgiveness is critical to the text. Without this as the centerpiece of the sermon, the message may be hopelessly corrupted. As Thor Hall said bluntly expressed it many years ago:

“ Much preaching during Advent is dangerously close to misrepresenting the biblical message. Not a few among us reverse the factors and proclaim that God’s coming is a result of proper preparation. Not only during Advent do we twist things this way. We often preach as if repentance precedes grace and grace is the consequence of faith. But this is a misunderstanding of the nature of grace and a misrepresentation of the relationship between God and us.” (Proclamation, Series B, Advent/Christmas, Phila.: Fortress, 1975, p. 11).

This is precisely what vexes us as we try to preach this text, proclaim this Good News.
We are heavy laden with all the bad news which drones about us like flies on the dungheap of “civilization.” As I write this I am appalled by the “news” of the world. Mindless violence and bloodshed on our streets....A fatal stabbing in my child’s high school classroom....The “news” from the National Rifle Association about still more “powerful” bullets now designed to rip apart inside the bodies of their victims.... (These were previously used only by criminals and mafiosi hit men...But now they are considered “respectable” for middle class and upper class American gun-handlers.)
Two children on trial for the brutal murder of a toddler....The spectre of horrible death by starvation and the slaughter of the innocents in Sarajevo....The absurdity of MTV’s “Beavis and Butthead”.....The “buying” and selling of Native American tribal leaders and whole communities being swept away by national frenzy of Gambling and Greed.... The possible “buying” of an election by corrupt politicians in one of the states where representative democracy was originally born in the USA.....And, most pathetically, the discovery in a small town in Massachusetts that an eccentric old woman had died and lain unnoticed locked inside her house for a full four years....The atrocity has become the commonplace.

In such an context it would be easy for us to become cynical or depressed and to miss entirely the message of the simpleton and oddball, John the Baptist, dressed in his animal skins and gnawing on insects and bee’s wax and honey. Yet isn’t it exactly the simplicity of it all which we are missing? John’s message is so very, very simple. It is almost impossible to miss the point, and yet somehow we often do. He is saying, more or less, that it is in these very dark and devious times when the Lord comes to us, showing his power in strange and mysterious ways. For me it is not unlike the message of the Shaker people who came to America from England so long ago, and who now have dwindled to a few old women. The discipline of celibacy did not do much to spread their faith. Yet in spite of this, they left behind them signs and artifacts which witness to the Lord and to a simpler living of life in the Holy Spirit. Perhaps nothing tells this better than their old hymn, Simple Gifts:

‘Tis the gift to be simple,
‘tis the gift to be free, ‘tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
and when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed;
To turn, turn, will be our delight,
‘Til by turning, turning, we come round right.”
(--from Early Shaker Spirituals, ed. D. W. Patterson, United Society of Shakers: Sabbathday Lake, Maine, 1976. Recorded from 1963-1976 on Rounder Records # 0078, 186 Willow Avenue, Somerville, Massachusetts 02144.)

Now the point is not to recruit anyone to become a Shaker. The Shaker life is not for everyone. But all of us could learn a great deal from the spirituality and piety of these now forgotten people who spread throughout the northeastern United States. Above all, their understanding of the coming of the Spirit as a “Gift” is so very timely when we are about the giving and receiving of material gifts. Shaker worship was spare, unaccompanied, but filled with spiritual fervor. Their doctrines were stark and even harsh, but no harsher than John the Baptist. Indeed, one thing we can perhaps learn from them was in dealing with the widening gap between their values and beliefs and those of “the world.” Surely those who those who would follow Jesus today will find his “way” to be difficult and his “paths” to be extremely straight and narrow. Only through honest self-examination and metanoia can we repent of our past. Yet only through God’s forgiving love can we truly “turn” out as we have been called. Then and only then will we find ourselves in a spiritual “valley of love and delight” until we do in deed by our “turning” “come out right.”

Timothy Jolley, O.H.C., an Anglican Benedictine monk, once wrote of his experience in a small “valley of love and delight, ” a South African squatter camp named Vlakfontein. It is no bucolic valley of love, but actually the valley of the shadow of death and despair. It is literally “ five thousand people struggling to stay alive with everything pitted against them.” But in the midst of them there lives an elderly priest named Fr. Jeremy who “lives a peace which sparkles in his eyes each time he laughs with the children” there. After a brief sojourn among the poor and malnourished of Vlakfontein, Brother Timothy spoke of his return to the comfort and safety of the Big City: “I wearied as I saw the land of civilized masks perched on the horizon awaiting my return like a patient vulture.”

(from Mundi Medicina: Newsletter of the Holy Cross Monastery, W. Park, N.Y.,
June ‘92, reprinted in Weavings, v. VIII, n. 3, May/June ‘93, pp. 34-38.)

Each and every one of us each day of our lives is drawn toward the “valley of love and delight” which our Lord has prepared for us. Yet each day of our lives we are also called to contend with powers of evil and injustice which so permeate our world that it has become a valley of the shadow of death. May we find strength and peace and hope in the proclamation of John the Baptist, who tells in simple words of the powerful Lord who comes after him. To be simple in this way, in John the Baptist’s way, is a Gift!

4. References

For further reading on the American Shakers, I can think of no better place to start than the inexpensive Dover book by Edward Deming Andrews, The People Called Shakers (New York: Dover, 1963). Andrews was the greatest Shaker scholar in American history because he was the first to gain a deeper and more sympathetic understanding of the Shaker people after generations of curiousity-seekers and sensationalists had dismissed them as an esoteric sect or cult. A visit to any of the many restored Shaker villages (from Sabbathday Lake, Maine, to Kentucky to Ohio) is for many people today a veritable “pilgrimage,” and one from which they glean many spiritual learnings.

The article by Bro. Timothy Jolley is from one of our favorite publications, Weavings, long edited with great care and attention to detail by John S. Mogabgab and printed in a beautiful format by the Upper Room (1908 Grand Avenue, Box 189, Nashville, Tennessee 37202-9929).
When not at his desk, John enjoys hiking, canoeing, and wading rivers with
fly rod in hand. Weavings remains one of the finest ecumenical
publications in North America: >

5. Music Suggestions

Would it be too bold to invite the congregation to sing “Simple Gifts” on this day? How about Dona Nobis Pacem…or one of the other favorite old “simple songs” gathered into the 1996 “Christmas Revels Songbook” by John Langstaff (1920-2005)? That particular songbook is a welcome music resource at any time of year, but especially as the solstice draws near. Various texts and settings of the Shaker tune abound, including Aaron Copland’s famous version in “Appalachian Spring.” Perhaps it could serve as a gentle reminder that the ultimate charisms are inner, spiritual ones and not the glittering, gaudy, outward trappings of this commodified world of ours.

For some reason, the Hymnbook 1982 was richly blessed with “Advent Carols” on the theme of John the Baptist, a practice emulated in the ELCA’s ‘cranberry’ hymnal as well. The non-Episcopalians among us would do well to get hold of a copy and search its pages diligently.

Hymns in keeping with The feast of St. Mark include:

Herald, sound the note of judgment! (HB 70)
O Lord, How Shall I Meet You (LBW 23)
Once he came in Blessing (HB 53)
On Jordan’s banks the Baptist’s cry (LBW 36, HB 76)
Prepare the way, O Zion (HB 65)
There’s a voice in the wilderness crying (HB 75)

What is the crying at Jordan? (HB 69) - This is particularly beautiful text by Carol Drake (b. 1933) sung to an Irish melody. It captures well the urgency of the Marcan text.

Exegete - David Buehler, Ph.D., teaches on Ethics, Violence, and Food at Providence College In Rhode Island, and has edited Lexegete for two decades.


Philip and James, Apostles

May 1, 2010
Isaiah 30:18-21
Psalm 44:1-3, 20-26 (26)
2 Corinthians 4:1-6
John 14:8-14

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, you gave to your apostles Philip and James grace and strength to bear witness to your Son. Grant that we, remembering their victory of faith, may glorify in life and death the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Gospel Acclamation

Alleluia. You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea | and Samaria, and to the ends | of the earth. Alleluia. (Acts 1:8)

1a. CONTEXT: JOHN 14:8-14

Pericopes for the Easter season model and recreate the experience of
discovering the Risen Jesus. We move from finding the empty tomb (Easter
Vigil, and Easter Sunday), to seeing Jesus among us (2 & 3 Easter), to a
basic appreciation of the continuing presence of the Risen Lord (4 & 5
Easter), to the reality that Jesus lives in and through a community that
draws all people to God (6, 7 Easter and Ascension). Far from observing
the resurrection of Our Lord from afar, in the Easter season, we
participate in it. (See also Adrian Nocent, OSB, The Liturgical Year, Vol. 3:
The Easter Season, Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1977. Pp. 146-150
and p. 205 ff. )

The Gospel for today is part of this unfolding reality of resurrected life.
Although it may sound disjointed on first hearing some phrases will
undoubtedly catch the attention of both hearer and preacher: verse 6 "I am
the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but by me."
Many of us can recite this by heart, and we can easily count the times this
phrase appears in tracts and billboards.

A further 'hook' for both hearer and preacher is the fact that part (v. 1-12)
of this lesson is a proper for the funeral liturgies in both BCP and LBW
with the reference (v. 2-3) concerning 'rooms' in the Father's house. For
many this paints a picture of a heavenly home waiting for the deceased.
Though rooted in our tradition in the doctrine of Christian hope, the
popular picture may avert our attention from the presence of Christ now to
a picture that does dirt to both tradition and doctrine.

A third issue for hearer and preacher arises out of vv. 13-14: whatever we
ask in Jesus' name we will get. Sounds easy and, perhaps, magical? The
truth of this pericope lies at the heart of John's high Christology-- with
its equally high calling to all believers. These pictures expose the
preacher to the possibility of distraction from the evangelists intent and
the congregations needs. The struggle between the easy, familiar
interpretations of scripture and a true meeting of Jesus as the Christ is at
the heart of the Gospel of John.

1b. TEXT: JOHN 14:8-14

Greek Text:

8 λεγει αυτω φιλιππος, κυριε, δειξον ημιν τον πατερα, και αρκει ημιν. 9λεγει αυτω ο ιησους, τοσουτω χρονω μεθ υμων ειμι και ουκ εγνωκας με, φιλιππε; ο εωρακως εμε εωρακεν τον πατερα: πως συ λεγεις, δειξον ημιν τον πατερα; 10ου πιστευεις οτι εγω εν τω πατρι και ο πατηρ εν εμοι εστιν; τα ρηματα α εγω λεγω υμιν απ εμαυτου ου λαλω: ο δε πατηρ εν εμοι μενων ποιει τα εργα αυτου. 11πιστευετε μοι οτι εγω εν τω πατρι και ο πατηρ εν εμοι: ει δε μη, δια τα εργα αυτα πιστευετε. 12αμην αμην λεγω υμιν, ο πιστευων εις εμε τα εργα α εγω ποιω κακεινος ποιησει, και μειζονα τουτων ποιησει, οτι εγω προς τον πατερα πορευομαι: 13και ο τι αν αιτησητε εν τω ονοματι μου τουτο ποιησω, ινα δοξασθη ο πατηρ εν τω υιω: 14εαν τι αιτησητε με εν τω ονοματι μου εγω ποιησω.
Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition © 1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart; The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition © 1975, United Bible Societies, London

ESV Bible:

8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves. 12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me [5] anything in my name, I will do it.

N.B. - The ESV STUDY BIBLE (and its online edition) were named as the 2009 Christian Book of the Year.... Dallas, TX—The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) announced tonight the winners of the 2009 Christian Book Awards during the 2009 Christian Book Expo (CBE) in Dallas. For the first time in the award’s 30-year history, a study Bible was named Christian Book of the Year, the ESV Study Bible (Crossway). The ESV Study Bible, which sold more than 180,000 units within five months of release, also won its category for best Bible, the first time a Bible has won both its category and the overall Christian Book of the Year award.

2. ANALYSIS: JOHN 14:8-14

The passage contains three distinct pieces: 8-11; 12; 13-14. John has a tendency to overlap sections, (Anchor Bible, volume 29A, The Gospel of John, page 623) so 13-14 both ends this pericope and begins the next, about the Paraclete. I divide the passage into sections for reasons of structure, as follows:


If you had known me, you would have known my Father also.(7)

Philip: Show us the Father, then we'll be satisfied.(8)

Have I been with you so long…?(9)…the Father dwells in me does his works.(10)

Believe me because I am in the Father and the Father in me or believe me

because of the works themselves.(11)

Jesus is leaving; what will become of the disciples? At the time of
the final redaction of John, if Brown's or Martyn's reconstruction of the
Johaninne church is at all realistic, the question is more accurately what
is to become of the church in the face of expulsion from the Jewish
community and in the face of the non-return of the Messiah? Expectation
for a return of the Messiah becomes, in light of the high Christology of the
later John, an understanding of the Christ present in the church. John's
assurance to the church is that as Jesus and the Father are one, so also,
through Christ are God and the church one. The sign that Jesus will still
be present even in his 'absence' is belief: "Believe in God…also in me" (1)
and "Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me…" (11). So the
first two sections are built very carefully to express this.

John 14:8ff. - 'The way, the truth and the life' are not in sequence or separate concepts, but expanding and built on each other. If to 'know' the Christ is to be
transformed, than truly Jesus is the 'way' in the sense of beginning a
journey. The 'truth' brings a changed perspective on ourselves, God and the
world. The 'life' is both eternal life and a changed one as we seek to be
like Jesus in faithfulness and obedience. If one looks at this passage as
perhaps St. Benedict might have, from the stand point of a rule-- a
disciplined map-- of life, we see how both the Evangelist and Jesus were
concerned for transformation of the person for God.

Thomas' and Philip's questions bring us back to our own situation as well
as to the Gospel's setting for the discourse (the Last Supper). They
sandwich the basic question for John: How do we (in more Synoptic
language) "inherit the Kingdom"? How do we know the Father? To be
shown the Father will not "suffice", as Philip and we think. In John's view,
seeing God in Jesus Christ will draw us more deeply into the 'way', which
will change our lives. So the Evangelist answers Philip's question about
'seeing' (and 'knowing') before he asks it, to move us into a discussion of
what that life will be like.

14:11 pisteuete moi hoti 'ego eu to patri kai ho pater eu 'emo. ei de me,
dia ta ' erga auta pisteuete. Brown: "Real belief in the works involves
the ability to understand their role as signs…." The works reveal that
Jesus is in the Father and the Father in Jesus. Rather than a distiction
between knowing Jesus' identity with God and seeing Jesus' works, as
implied in the English, the things Jesus do are a sign-- a sacrament-- of
Jesus' relationship to God. Jesus' oneness with God is both self-evident to
those who have eyes to see, and shown-off by what Jesus does.

But as the next section shows us, the Evangelist clearly thinks that Jesus
is not the only one who shows-off a relationship to God:

A He who believes in me (12a)

B will also do the works that I do (12b)

B' greater works than these will he do (12c)

A' because I go to the Father. (12d)

Verse 12 takes us from belief to power. Through Christ, humanity is
united with God which enables the Christian to share in the power Jesus
has. Jesus going to the Father is linked with our believing in Jesus.
Frequently, in the Synoptic tradition the works of the disciples after the
resurrection are like the miracles of Jesus himself; for John, there is no
list of marvelous works at our disposal. The 'work' ( erga) is to draw
people to God, as Jesus does; to be expressions of God, as Jesus is. In
other words, to show the way is by being on the way.

2c. a Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, (13a)

b that the Father may be glorified in the Son (13b)

a' if you (me) ask anything in my name, I will do it. (14)

Because Jesus and God the Father are one, as we become one with Jesus (or
as the Evangelist might say "know that Jesus is the Christ"!) we will
become one with God. The effect of this is that our will and spirit become
conformed to God's. So the effect of this is a two-way street: as we
become conformed to Christ, we ask and recieve what we ask; on the other
hand, Jesus works through us as we grow in Christ. John Climacus is
quoted in Esther deWaal's Seeking God: "God gives prayer to the man who

3. STRATEGY: JOHN 14:8-14

There are, as I have already noted, three possible 'booby-traps' both for the
hearer and the preacher in this Paschal gospel-text: the image of
mansions/houses/rooms in heaven; "I am the way"; and "Whatever you
ask…I will do". Fortunately, the most common misconceptions surrounding
these passages do have a base in Christian theology. The image of
mansions in our Father's house does generally point to the fact that God is
bringing all things to completion. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life,
by breaking down the barriers between ourselves and God. And we can
expect have done what we pray, as we live in conformity with the mind of
Christ as we grow in maturity with him among his people. So the preacher
does not have to fight the images we already have, so much as use them as
keys into a deeper understanding of Jesus' and John's message to the

The funeral liturgy could be a way into the passage--even during
Eastertide, perhaps especially just now! The picture of rooms or mansions
can be turned from a romantic reasurrance to an image of power by noting
that the room was prepared for us on the cross, was given to us at our
baptisms and we live in it now just as surely as we will after we have

There are many connections with the second lesson. I Peter 2:1-10
presents several coresponding images to the Gospel: putting away all
malice and nurturing in the life of Christ (I Peter 2:1-3) to knowing Jesus
as the way (John 14:4,6); Peter's spiritual house (oike) and John's mona^
--both being in and living in Christ; John's "works" (14:11b, 12) and the
priesthood described in I Peter 2:4-6-- both declaring the "wonderous
deed of him who called you out of darkness" (I Peter 2:9).

As I have said, I think a key to understanding of John's gospel is
understanding 14:6 both as a Christological affirmation and as way of life
to be put on. "The NT thought of Jesus as truth revealed. His resurrection
became the principle clue through which all other truths were to be
grasped and clarified." (Thomas C. Oden, Pastoral Theology: Essentials of
Ministry, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1983.) And that discovery leads to
a new pattern of life in intimate relation to God through Christ Jesus.
Archbishop Ramsey said, "The whole Jesus demands the whole man." Jesus
is not only is the way, the truth, the life-- but our way, our truth, our
life. How that unfolds for us is the wonder of real life made holy in Jesus


Paulist Press, 1979.
______________. THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JOHN. Anchor Bible, vol. 29A
Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1970.
Nocent, Adrian,OSB. THE LITURGICAL YEAR. Volume 3: Easter Season.
Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1977.
Oden, Thomas. PASTORAL THEOLOGY. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1983.
Schoenfeld, H. THE ORIGINAL NEW TESTAMENT. New York: Harper and Row,


Thou art the Way (LBW 464, HB 457)
Christ is Made the Sure Foundation (LBW 367, HB 518)
Jesus Shall Reign ( LBW 530, HB 544)
Christ is Alive, Let Christians Sing (LBW 363, HB 182)
All Hail The Power of Jesus' Name (LBW 328/9, HB 450/l)

Exegete: Andrew T. Gerns, AOA (Associate, Order of the Ascension)
Rector, Trinity Episcopal Church, Easton, PA



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Saturday, April 17, 2010

+ EASTER + F O U R + A.D. 2010

Lexegete ™ | Year C | St. Luke

Fourth Sunday of Easter
April 25, 2010
Acts 9:36-43
Psalm 23 (1)
Revelation 7:9-17
John 10:22-30

Prayer of the Day

O God of peace, you brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, the great shepherd of the sheep. By the blood of your eternal covenant, make us complete in everything good that we may do your will, and work among us all that is well-pleasing in your sight, 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. Jesus says, I am | the good shepherd.
I know my own and my | own know me. Alleluia. (John 10:14)

1a. CONTEXT: JOHN 10:22-30

The context for this pericope is threefold. First,

John has Jesus in the city of Jerusalem, and this is not

for a brief visit because there is a significant amount of

time between the events described. Second, the cause for

being in Jerusalem is a Jewish Holy Day. Third, this

pericope is a subpoint in the story of Jesus as the Good

Shepherd. In very picturesque language, John describes

Jesus walking in the temple, during the time of the Feast

of Dedication (Chanukah) in the month of December

(Chislev). This story is in a section that follows a

major section on the feast of tabernacles and takes place

in the temple at yet another feast. The Feast of

Dedication is literally a time of renewal, when the temple

was dedicated after the desecration of the temple by

Antiochus Epiphanies, and the heroic efforts of Judas

Maccabaeus. It also follows the dramatic declaration of

Jesus that He is the Good Shepherd, and a statement that

among the Jews there was dispute about Jesus. On the one

hand, some were saying that he was demon possessed;

while on the other hand, there was speculation that

perhaps he really was the Messiah.

This pericope raises the issue with forthrightness:

"Are you the Christ?" Jesus' manner of response calls

upon the hearer's previous acquaintance with Jesus, and

his/her inclusion among those who know, i.e. the flock of

the Good Shepherd. This raises the questions: What are

the qualifications of the Messiah? What does it take to

know the Messiah?

The context of this story presumes a significant amount of

knowledge of Jesus' story and history, both for the person

in the story and for the reader in the twentieth century.

1b. TEXT: John 10: 22-30


I and the Father Are One
22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, [1] is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
[1] 10:29 Some manuscripts: What my Father has given to me


22Ἐγένετο τότε τὰ ἐγκαίνια ἐν τοῖς Ἱεροσολύμοις: χειμὼν ἦν, 23καὶ περιεπάτει ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ ἐν τῇ στοᾷ τοῦ Σολομῶνος. 24ἐκύκλωσαν οὖν αὐτὸν οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι καὶ ἔλεγον αὐτῷ, Εως πότε τὴν ψυχὴν ἡμῶν αἴρεις; εἰ σὺ εἶ ὁ Χριστός, εἰπὲ ἡμῖν παρρησίᾳ. 25ἀπεκρίθη αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Εἶπον ὑμῖν καὶ οὐ πιστεύετε: τὰ ἔργα ἃ ἐγὼ ποιῶ ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι τοῦ πατρός μου ταῦτα μαρτυρεῖ περὶ ἐμοῦ: 26ἀλλὰ ὑμεῖς οὐ πιστεύετε, ὅτι οὐκ ἐστὲ ἐκ τῶν προβάτων τῶν ἐμῶν. 27τὰ πρόβατα τὰ ἐμὰ τῆς φωνῆς μου ἀκούουσιν, κἀγὼ γινώσκω αὐτά, καὶ ἀκολουθοῦσίν μοι, 28κἀγὼ δίδωμι αὐτοῖς ζωὴν αἰώνιον, καὶ οὐ μὴ ἀπόλωνται εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα, καὶ οὐχ ἁρπάσει τις αὐτὰ ἐκ τῆς χειρός μου. 29ὁ πατήρ μου ὃ δέδωκέν μοι πάντων μεῖζόν ἐστιν, καὶ οὐδεὶς δύναται ἁρπάζειν ἐκ τῆς χειρὸς τοῦ πατρός. 30ἐγὼ καὶ ὁ πατὴρ ἕν ἐσμεν.

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 10: 22-30

v. 22 John, Chapter 5 begins a series of events

centered around feasts, and concludes with Jesus at the

Feast of Dedication in Chapter 10. The feasts are the

Sabbath, Passover, Tabernacles, and Dedication.

Dedication is the literal translation of the Greek work

[egkainia] which means renewal, which is a translation of

the Hebrew [Hanukkah]. Dedication is the renewal of

temple worship after the desecration. Could it be that

John uses this setting as a monumental statement of the

"new Temple" which is Christ?

v. 23 The reference to Solomon's portico adds some

local color to the description. Specifically, it is the

one on the east side of the temple, which was the oldest

and associated with Solomon. The portico is a cloister

around the outside of the temple, closed on the outside

and open to the temple courtyard. Technically, it is

outside the temple proper. Some believe that Jesus was

walking there as he sought protection from the cold

weather. The mention of winter may also be a subtle

commentary about the "cold" reception of the Jews toward


v. 24 The phrase "keep us in suspense" translates

the Greek phrase: "take away our [psyche] (breath of

life)." It probably would be dangerous to overstress this

idiom, but there still is the possibility that just as

Jesus lays down his life for the sheep, those who are not

of the fold find that life is withheld from them. The

major emphasis in this unit of scripture is the question

of Jesus' identity. "If you are the Christ, tell us

plainly." The evangelist carefully chooses his word:

Christ--instead of anointed one, or messiah. This is the

Christian designation, and John makes his point from a

Christian perspective.

v. 25 Jesus' response is characteristically

indirect. Or is it? For him the question is one of

belief. The persons who do not believe can never "see" or

"know" the Christ, whether he is revealed as the Good

Shepherd, or the Light of the World, or a compassionate

healer. The end of this verse brings in the objective

witness: the works of Jesus, done in the Father's name.

This is reminiscent of the accepted form of credibility in

bringing witnesses, but it also shifts the authority from

Jesus to the Father.

v. 26 This verse raises a very significant question:

Which comes first--belief or belonging? The Jews to whom

Jesus addresss this remark do not know him as the Christ,

because they do not believe, because they are not of his

sheep. This raises the issue of choosing God, or being

chosen by Him.

vv. 27-28 These verses describe an intimacy of

relationship between Jesus and his followers. Jesus uses

the imagery of the relationship between sheep and

shepherd to describe the relationship, the dependency

of the sheep for life, and the security of the sheep. The

intimacy of relationship between the Shepherd and the

sheep portrays a depiction of the eternal relationship

which Jesus offers.

vv. 29-30 These verses also describe a relationship;

but this relationship is the intimate relationship between

Jesus and the Father, and the subsequent benefits to

Jesus' sheep because of that relationship. There is a

hint of Hebrew parallelism in the thought patterns between

27-28 and 29-30. After walking all around Solomon's porch

in His response to the question of His identity, vs. 30 is

about as direct as Jesus can be.

3. STRATEGY: John 10: 22-30

By the fourth Sunday of Easter, the proclamation of

the Resurrection has made its impact, and it would be

appropriate to look at this text from the perspective of

implications for living in the power of the resurrection.

Several strategies are possible.

One interesting possibility would be to do a

comparison of the desecration of the temple with the

desecration of humankind by sin, and the subsequent

renewal and dedication of the temple with the resurrection

of the Son of God who gives eternal life and security to

His flock.

Another possibility would be to link together several

different moves (in the manner of Buttrick's HOMILETIC)

that approach the identity of Jesus from different

stances. For example, one "move" would be from the

perspective of the Jews who gathered around him on

Solomon's porch; a second "move" would be from the second

group of Jews who had become followers; and a third

"move" would be from the perspective of Jesus himself,

in a first person delivery.

This text presumes some previous knowledge of the

Gospel on the part of the hearer, yet it may provide a

real challenge to those who really don't believe. A

possible creative way to rehearse this text would be to

allow the hearer to "listen in" on a conversation between

Jesus and the Father, using the information in this text

as the parameter of the discussion.

The First Lesson, from Paul's exhortation in Acts 13,

deals with the challenge to believe, as does this passage.

The Revelation text from the Second Lesson supports the

benefits of the intimate relationship which the followers

of Jesus enjoy; that is also presented in this Gospel


Somehow, this text calls for the preacher to deal with

the matter of Jesus' identity as the Christ. Just as the

Feast of Dedication is one of a series of temple feasts,

so the identity issue is seen in this context as

one of several events in the life of Jesus: at His

Baptism, at the Transfiguration, and other places where

the words from Psalm 2 are quoted as in the sermon of Paul

in the Acts text.

4. REFERENCES: John 10:22-30

Beasley-Murray, George R. JOHN. Word Biblical
Commentary, Vol. 36, Waco, Texas: Word Books, 1987.

(i-xii), The Anchor Bible, Garden
City, NY: Doubleday and Co., 1966.

Buttrick, David. HOMILETIC: Moves and Structures.
Philadelphia: Fortess, 1987.

Haenchen, Ernst. A Commentary on the Gospel of John
Chapters 7-21. HERMENEIA, John 2. Philadelphia: Fortress
Press, 1984.

5. WORSHIP SUGGESTIONS: John 10: 22-30

There are lots of traditional shepherd songs based on

the 23rd Psalm. All of these could be used, but it might

be wiser to select hymns that reflect the identity of


"In a Lowly Manger Born" (ELW 718, LBW 417) gives an

interesting dimension to the identity of Christ.

"The Son of God, Our Christ" (LBW 434, ELW 584) is a

twentieth century hymn with some very powerful words

describing the Christ.

If you are going to use the shepherd theme, then have

your children and congregation learn to sing "Have No

Fear, Little Flock" ( ELW 764, LBW 476).

Three possibilities for some creative worship dimensions

are these: have someone who raises sheep bring them to

graze on the church lawn on Sunday morning; or if

you have a cloister or porch, take the children to the

porch, and wearing a transmitter microphone, allow the

congregation to listen to your discussion with the

children about Jesus' relationship with the Father. A new

approach to a sermon might include someone like the

character who has been developed in my parish over the

years. He is "The Shepherd"--he was the youngest

shepherd on the Hillside outside of Bethlehem, to whom

the Angels announced the Birth of Jesus. He was

interviewed by a man called Luke who was writing down

the life of Jesus.

He talked about the "hoped-for" king of Israel,

described by Ezekiel, who would be like a shepherd. In

this context, "the Shepherd" could have been attending the

Feast of Dedication at the temple, perhaps delivering some

animals for the sacrifice at the rededication, or be

simply one of the crowd who saw and heard the exchange

between Jesus and the Jews in Solomon's porch. Surely the

Shepherd could describe the intimacy of relationship

between shepherd and sheep, and the benefits to the sheep

from their owner. Likewise, the shepherd could describe

the inability of those who were not of the fold to

understand the care and directions of the shepherd in

whom they did not believe.

Exegete: Rev. Dr. Dale I. Gregoriew is a Pastor in theEvangelical Lutheran Church in America (RT), living in Fairview Texas, near Dallas.

Mark, Evangelist
April 26, 2010 (transferred from April 25)
Isaiah 52:7-10
Psalm 57 (9)
2 Timothy 4:6-11, 18
Mark 1:1-15

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, you have enriched your church with Mark's proclamation of the gospel. Give us grace to believe firmly in the good news of salvation and to walk daily in accord with it, 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 Jesus | God raised up;
and of that all of | us are witnesses. Alleluia. (Acts 2:32)

Philip and James, Apostles
May 1, 2010
Isaiah 30:18-21
Psalm 44:1-3, 20-26 (26)
2 Corinthians 4:1-6
John 14:8-14

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, you gave to your apostles Philip and James grace and strength to bear witness to your Son. Grant that we, remembering their victory of faith, may glorify in life and death the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Gospel Acclamation

Alleluia. You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea | and Samaria, and to the ends | of the earth. Alleluia. (Acts 1:8)


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Monday, April 12, 2010

+ EASTER + THREE + 2010, A.D.

Lexegete™ | Year C | St. Luke

Third Sunday of Easter • April 18, 2010

Acts 9:1-6 [7-20]
Psalm 30 (11)
Revelation 5:11-14
John 21:1-19

Prayer of the Day
Eternal and all-merficul God, with all the angels and all the saints we laud your majesty and might. By the resurrection of your Son, show yourself to us and inspire us to follow Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Gospel Acclamation
Alleluia. Our hearts | burn within us
while you open to | us the scriptures. Alleluia. (Luke 24:32)

1a. Context: John 21:1-19

Commentators agree that John 20:30-31 is the

conclusion of the gospel, and they follow with much

discussion as to the nature and purpose of John 21. Was

it added by an earlier editor, even before "publication"?

Does it include other Johannine material whch was

considered too important to overlook? Is it added in

order to emphasize specific theological themes? The

Galilee fishing scene, with the disciples not recognizing

the risen Lord (21:4,12) does not harmonize with the

Jerusalem appearances. After their commissioning, why are

these seven disciples (21:2) fishing?

The conclusion (21:24-25) seems to be a clumsy

restatement of 20:30-31. Should we read and interpret

this story as a realistic account or is the author "more

concerned with a chiaroscuro, an interplay of black and

white, in which what is real and what is symbolic is not

distinguished for us"? (E. Haenchen, p. 230).

The relationship of Jesus to Simon

Peter and to "the disciple whom Jesus loved," and their

relationship to one another, seems to be the focus of the

chapter. Brown calls this chapter, "An added account of a

post-resurrectional appearance of Jesus in Galilee which

is used to show how Jesus provided for the needs of the

Church." (p. 1063) It is an "ecclesiastical chapter"

(Brown, p. 1082).

It may or may not have been written by the hand of

the Fourth Evangelist, but it has always been an integral

part of the Fourth Gospel, important to the church and its

scriptural canon. "We thus have before us a literary

composite, which, however, stands in the service of a

thoroughly thought through theological composition."

(Haenchen, p. 230)

1b. Text: John 21:1-19


Jesus Appears to Seven Disciples

21:1 After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
4 Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. 8 The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards [1] off.

9 When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

Jesus and Peter

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

[1] 21:8 Greek two hundred cubits; a cubit was about 18 inches or 45 cm.

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles


1Μετὰ ταῦτα ἐφανέρωσεν ἑαυτὸν πάλιν ὁ Ἰησοῦς τοῖς μαθηταῖς ἐπὶ τῆς θαλάσσης τῆς Τιβεριάδος: ἐφανέρωσεν δὲ οὕτως. 2ἦσαν ὁμοῦ Σίμων Πέτρος καὶ Θωμᾶς ὁ λεγόμενος Δίδυμος καὶ Ναθαναὴλ ὁ ἀπὸ Κανὰ τῆς Γαλιλαίας καὶ οἱ τοῦ Ζεβεδαίου καὶ ἄλλοι ἐκ τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ δύο. 3λέγει αὐτοῖς Σίμων Πέτρος, Ὑπάγω ἁλιεύειν. λέγουσιν αὐτῷ, Ἐρχόμεθα καὶ ἡμεῖς σὺν σοί. ἐξῆλθον καὶ ἐνέβησαν εἰς τὸ πλοῖον, καὶ ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ νυκτὶ ἐπίασαν οὐδέν. 4πρωΐας δὲ ἤδη γενομένης ἔστη Ἰησοῦς εἰς τὸν αἰγιαλόν: οὐ μέντοι ᾔδεισαν οἱ μαθηταὶ ὅτι Ἰησοῦς ἐστιν. 5λέγει οὖν αὐτοῖς [ὁ] Ἰησοῦς, Παιδία, μή τι προσφάγιον ἔχετε; ἀπεκρίθησαν αὐτῷ, Οὔ. 6ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Βάλετε εἰς τὰ δεξιὰ μέρη τοῦ πλοίου τὸ δίκτυον, καὶ εὑρήσετε. ἔβαλον οὖν, καὶ οὐκέτι αὐτὸ ἑλκύσαι ἴσχυον ἀπὸ τοῦ πλήθους τῶν ἰχθύων. 7λέγει οὖν ὁ μαθητὴς ἐκεῖνος ὃν ἠγάπα ὁ Ἰησοῦς τῷ Πέτρῳ, Ὁ κύριός ἐστιν. Σίμων οὖν Πέτρος, ἀκούσας ὅτι ὁ κύριός ἐστιν, τὸν ἐπενδύτην διεζώσατο, ἦν γὰρ γυμνός, καὶ ἔβαλεν ἑαυτὸν εἰς τὴν θάλασσαν: 8οἱ δὲ ἄλλοι μαθηταὶ τῷ πλοιαρίῳ ἦλθον, οὐ γὰρ ἦσαν μακρὰν ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς ἀλλὰ ὡς ἀπὸ πηχῶν διακοσίων, σύροντες τὸ δίκτυον τῶν ἰχθύων. 9ὡς οὖν ἀπέβησαν εἰς τὴν γῆν βλέπουσιν ἀνθρακιὰν κειμένην καὶ ὀψάριον ἐπικείμενον καὶ ἄρτον. 10λέγει αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Ἐνέγκατε ἀπὸ τῶν ὀψαρίων ὧν ἐπιάσατε νῦν. 11ἀνέβη οὖν Σίμων Πέτρος καὶ εἵλκυσεν τὸ δίκτυον εἰς τὴν γῆν μεστὸν ἰχθύων μεγάλων ἑκατὸν πεντήκοντα τριῶν: καὶ τοσούτων ὄντων οὐκ ἐσχίσθη τὸ δίκτυον. 12λέγει αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Δεῦτε ἀριστήσατε. οὐδεὶς δὲ ἐτόλμα τῶν μαθητῶν ἐξετάσαι αὐτόν, Σὺ τίς εἶ; εἰδότες ὅτι ὁ κύριός ἐστιν. 13ἔρχεται Ἰησοῦς καὶ λαμβάνει τὸν ἄρτον καὶ δίδωσιν αὐτοῖς, καὶ τὸ ὀψάριον ὁμοίως. 14τοῦτο ἤδη τρίτον ἐφανερώθη Ἰησοῦς τοῖς μαθηταῖς ἐγερθεὶς ἐκ νεκρῶν. 15Οτε οὖν ἠρίστησαν λέγει τῷ Σίμωνι Πέτρῳ ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Σίμων Ἰωάννου, ἀγαπᾷς με πλέον τούτων; λέγει αὐτῷ, Ναί, κύριε, σὺ οἶδας ὅτι φιλῶ σε. λέγει αὐτῷ, Βόσκε τὰ ἀρνία μου. 16λέγει αὐτῷ πάλιν δεύτερον, Σίμων Ἰωάννου, ἀγαπᾷς με; λέγει αὐτῷ, Ναί, κύριε, σὺ οἶδας ὅτι φιλῶ σε. λέγει αὐτῷ, Ποίμαινε τὰ πρόβατά μου. 17λέγει αὐτῷ τὸ τρίτον, Σίμων Ἰωάννου, φιλεῖς με; ἐλυπήθη ὁ Πέτρος ὅτι εἶπεν αὐτῷ τὸ τρίτον, Φιλεῖς με; καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ, Κύριε, πάντα σὺ οἶδας, σὺ γινώσκεις ὅτι φιλῶ σε. λέγει αὐτῷ [ὁ Ἰησοῦς], Βόσκε τὰ πρόβατά μου. 18ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω σοι, ὅτε ἦς νεώτερος, ἐζώννυες σεαυτὸν καὶ περιεπάτεις ὅπου ἤθελες: ὅταν δὲ γηράσῃς, ἐκτενεῖς τὰς χεῖράς σου, καὶ ἄλλος σε ζώσει καὶ οἴσει ὅπου οὐ θέλεις. 19τοῦτο δὲ εἶπεν σημαίνων ποίῳ θανάτῳ δοξάσει τὸν θεόν. καὶ τοῦτο εἰπὼν λέγει αὐτῷ, Ἀκολούθει μοι.

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 21:1-19

Jn. 21:1 - "After this" (meta tauta) is a

transitional phrase which does not connnect up with what

precedes. That this is understood to be Jesus' third

post-resurrection appearance (vs. 14) would necessitate

discounting one of the previous three

(20:11-18,19-23,26-29). Does the writer exclude the

appearance to Mary Magdalene, perhaps because she is not

"one of the twelve," and besides, a woman?!

The verb phanero, here and in vs. 14 translated

"reveal" (see also 1:31), elsewhere in John is translated

"manifest" or "make manifest" (2:11;9:3;17:6), "show"

(7:4), and "seen" (3:21). It has the meaning of

emergence from obscurity, and for John it means a concrete

revelation fo the heavenly upon earth (Brown, p. 1067).

This theme is evident as the verb is used in 1 John 1:2

and 4:9. The mission of Christ is assumed in this

word--"that he might be revealed to Israel" (1:31). "And

so the task of the Baptist proclaimed in the first chapter

of the Gospel has been brought to completion in the last;

Jesus has been fully revealed to Israel, that is, to the

community of believers represented by the disciples"

(Brown, p. 1096).

Jn. 21:2 - Disciples previously featured in John's gospel

make their final appearance, plus two that are unnamed.

Is "the disciple whom Jesus loved" one of the "two others"

or one of the "sons of Zebedee" who appear here for the

first and last time in John's gospel? Those who argue

that John (one of the sons of Zebedee, brother to James)

is "the disciple whom Jesus loved," perhaps grasping at

straws, suggest that the evangelist reveals the incognito

in this passage with the phrase oi tou Zebedaiou.

Jn. 21:3 - That Peter could even imagine handling both the

boat and the drag-net by himself ("I am going fishing")

suggests that the gospel writer is using fishing as a

metaphor. Nevertheless, Peter, even with the help of

others, "caught nothing."

Jn. 21:4 - That Jesus is unrecognized is reminiscent of

Luke 24:16 and the whole passage Luke 24:13-35, bringing

to mind the story of eating in Luke 24:41-43 and of course

the fishing story in Luke 5:1-11.

Jn. 21:5 - "Children, you haven't caught anything to eat,

have you? (mei ti prosphagion echete)...It's interesting

that the disciples are addressed as paidia (cf. 1 Jn.

2:13,18). The word translated in RSV as "fish" is

prosphagion which was actually a relish eaten with bread,

or anything generally eaten with other food.

Since fish usually was the dominant ingredient in this

relish, it came to have the meaning of fish, opsarion (vs.

9,10,13), diminutive of opson which means most any kind of

meat. That the disciples have toiled but netted no fish

reminds us that in the gospels the disciples--regardless

of the number of fishermen Peter brings along--never catch

any fish without Jesus' help!

Jn. 21:6 - Here and in vs. 8 & 11, the word for "fish" is

ichthus. These verses focus not on the meal but on the

catch of fish. The "right" side is the auspicious side

(cf. Mt. 25:33), the favorable or fortunate side.

Jn. 21:7 - Perhaps because of the great catch of fish, the

"beloved disciple" recognizes Jesus and tells Peter, "It

is the Lord." Is this the disciple who "opened the door"

for Peter at the court of the high priest (18:15-16)? Now

again he provides access to the Lord for Peter (cf.

13:23-26). And again "the disciple whom Jesus loved" is

not as quick to respond perhaps but quicker tobelieve (cf.

20:8). Simon Peter does respond, "tucking in" or

"cincturing" (cf. Brown, p. 1072 for discussion of

diazonnumi) his loose outer garment (ependuteis). Perhaps

the diazonnumi of verse 7 refers forward to zonnumi

("gird") in verse 18.

21:9 - We switch scenes, not only to land, but to a new

focus, perhaps with eyes and ears open for the symbolic,

the metaphorical, the parabolic. The charcoal fire

(anthrakia) here and in 18:18 reminds us of Peter's denial

in the court of the high priest (18:17, 25-27). This is

also important for 21:15-17. Here, and in verses 10 and

13, where the word for "fish" is opsarion, the story-focus

is on the meal rather than on the catch.

21:11 - We again focus on the catch. The verb, elko,

translated "haul" and used here and in verse 6, is the

verb used by John in 6:44 and 12:32, where it is

translated "draw." "I, when I am lifted up from the

earth, will draw all men to myself" (12:32).

Also, look for background in LXX of Jeremiah 38:3

(MT,31:3) where God says of Israel, "I have drawn you with

kindness." The word is used kerygmatically and so the

catch of fish is a parable of the church's mission (cf.

Luke 5:10;Mt. 4:19; Mark 1:17). That Peter hauls the net

of large fish ashore by himself is not meant to suggest a

tremendous physical feat, but Peter's leadership role in

the apostolic ministry. The number "153" is obviously

symbolic, but it is not clear exactly what the author had

in mind. It is clear that the catch is large (cf. Luke

5:6-9) as are the fish (21:11). The allegorical

interpretation by Jerome, drawing on Oppianus Cilix and

early zoology asserts that "153" represents the number of

known species of fish, a symbol for all nations and

peoples. Augustine, like many others, tried his hand at

numerological interpretation, but also confessed it a


I prefer the species interpretation which may fulfill

Ezekiel 47:10 (cf. Matthew 13:47). "153" symbolizes the

all-embracing character of Christian mission, anticipating

the fulness of the Church. Yet "the net was not torn"

(schizo). Whereas Jesus' earthly ministry caused

divided response or schism (7:43;9:16;10:19), the

apostolic community and its mission and ministry are

united in response, one and seamless (19:23). Though many

in number and kind, in Christ we are gathered together and

made one (cf. 6:12-13;10:16;11:52;17:11,20-23).

Jn. 21:12 - Jesus invites the disciples to the meal,

establishing fellowship with them, a fellowship which was

never broken , despite the cross, their forsaking him and

their doubt. There is some confusionk, not only with the

disciples, but with the story. Why should none dare ask

him, "Who are you?" if they already "knew it was the

Lord?" Some suggest that their recognition of the Lord

should follow verse 13 (cf. Luke 24:31).

Jn. 21:13 - According to Hooker (p. 205), bread and fish

were eucharistic symbols in the early church. Recall that

John presented bread and fish in his eucharistic scene in

chapter 6, the feeding of the 5,000. [ See 6:11; also

Luke 24:30,41-42; Acts 1:4, 10:41]. The meal is


3. STRATEGY: John 12:1-14

There are two principal themes according to McPolin's

JOHN (p. 225): apostolic mission and eucharistic presence.

Both themes "wrestle with questions confronting the post-

Easter Christian community...Where is the promised

accomplishing of greater works (14:12)?

Where are answers to prayer (14:13) and the experience

of the love of God (14:23)? Where is the gift of

'life in his name' (20:31)? Where is he himself in these

days of the church?" (Smith, p. 177).

Within the story of the miraculous catch of fish, with the

theme of apostolic mission, are other concerns:

DISCIPLESHIP IS OBEDIENCE--"Believing is Obeying" –

The disciples are not certain that it is Jesus, yet upon his

word they act. It's risky business, faith, but we throw

forth our nets because the Lord commands, although the

catch is not a guarantee. Nevertheless, whatever success

may come is only with the help of Jesus, when we act upon

his command. This theme continues on through the meal

and through Jesus' conversation with Peter.

[Note that the Common Lectionary also utilizes 15-19. It

seems to me that verses 15-19 are fair game for

the preacher, especially since only verses 15-17 are

include in some lectionaries, and then only for Pastors

and Bishops. 21:20-25 is reserved the day of Saint John. ]

We are also nourished at our Lord's invitation, in

obedience to his words....Come and Eat, Take and Eat, Do

This in Remembrance of Me. In trust and obedience the

meal becomes the Lord's--the Lord's Breakfast, the Lord's

Supper. And from the nourishment we are again sent in

mission: Feed My Lambs, Tend my Sheep, Feed my Sheep,

Follow Me. Dietrich Bonhoeffer notes that "On two

separate occasions Peter received the call, 'Follow me.' It

was the first and last word Jesus spoke to his disciple

(Mark 1:17; John 21:22). A whole life lies between these

two calls" (COST OF DISCIPLESHIP, p. 48).

Our Christian discipleship is done with INTENTION,

in obedient response to our Lord (cf. 15:9-11). The arena

of our responsive obedience is in the everyday, including

the workaday world and times of table fellowship.

Discipleship is also DRAWING people to Jesus. It is

the "come and see" of Philip (1:46). We are drawn to the

cross (12:32), to the risen Lord and we are all drawn

together. Discipleship is WORKING TOGETHER IN UNITY, not

tearing the net. We are the Church when we work together

in common mission. In the Lord's mission we find unity

and community. There is a time and a place for arguing

dogma and doctrine, but our commitment to a common

mission must always override. The image of the net not

torn calls us to unity.

The image of fishing is also our GREAT COMMISSION

(cf. Matthew 28:18-20). Fishing is the metaphor for

teaching. It is also a vocation and a way of making a

living. People are "caught" by our way of living--by

what we do more than by what we say.

And within the lakeside meal, the breakfast barbeque,

is the eucharistic presence of our Lord. It is the Lord's

meal, prepared by himl, and in this meal our resurrected

Lord is with us "to the close of the age." The eucharist

is not a somber memorial meal for the crucified Jesus, or

the last meal of one about to be executed, but a

celebration of our Lord's resurrected presence in our

midst, sharing himself with the whole church and sending

us forth as missionaries into the everyday world. The

eucharist both nurtures and commissions the community of


We may compare this meal to the feeding of 5,000 in

John 6 as we proclaim the sacrament through word. What

was previously recorded by John seems now like a promise

fulfilled: "I am the bread of life...I am the living

bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this

bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall

give for the life of the world is my flesh" (6:48,51).

4. REFERENCES: John 21:1-19

Philadelphia: Westminster, 1978.

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP, transl.
R.H. Fuller. New York, NY: MacMillan, 1963.

(xiii-xxi). Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1970.

Bultmann, Rudolf. THE GOSPEL OF JOHN,transl. and ed. by
G.R. Beasley- Murray, General Editor, R.W.N. Hoare and J.K. Riches. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1971.

NARRATIVES. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1980.

Fuller, Reginald H. "John 20:19-23," INTERPRETATION,
volume 32, number 2, April, 1978, pp. 180-184.

Haenchen, Ernest. JOHN 2, transl. Robert W. Funk.
Hermeneia. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984.

Hooker, Morna. STUDYING THE NEW TESTAMENT. Minneapolis:
Augsburg, 1982.

Jervell, Jacob. JESUS IN THE GOSPEL OF JOHN, transl.
Harry T. Cleven. Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1984.

PAPERS, volume 5, edited and translated by Howard V. Hong
and Edna H. Hong. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1978.

Kysar, Robert. JOHN. Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1986.

Kysar, Robert. JOHN'S STORY OF JESUS. Philadelphia:

Fortress, 1984.

McPolin, James,S.J. JOHN. Wilmington,DE: Michael
Glazier, 1979.

Marsh, John. SAINT JOHN. Baltimore: Penguin; Books, 1968.

Philadelphia: Fortress, 1970.

CONTEMPORARY REFLECTION. Garden City,NY: Doubleday, 1984.]

JOHN, volume 3. New York,NY: Crossroad, 1982.

Sloyan, Gerard S. JOHN: Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. Atlanta,GA: John Knox Press, 1988.


Augsburg, 1983.

5. MUSIC SUGGESTIONS: John 21:1-14

The traditional hymn THEY CAST THEIR NETS IN

GALILEE (HB 661, LBW 449) is especially suitable for this

day and lends itself to accompaniment (e.g., guitar,

dulcimer, flute,etc.). Other recommended hymns are:









If the text is carried on through to 21:25, the hymn BY ALL


Vs. 6,8,10) maybe suitable insome liturgical settings.

Exegete – Rev. Glenn C. Petersen is Pastor of Central Lutheran Church in Achorage, AK < >
Glenn is a graduate of Yale Divinity School and has served parishes in CT, CA, and WA before arriving in AK.


Lexegete™ © 2010

Tischrede Software

Dartmouth, MA 02747


Monday, April 5, 2010

+ EASTER + TWO, 2 0 1 0 +

Lexegete ™ | Year C | Luke

Second Sunday of Easter • April 11, 2010

Acts 5:27-32
Psalm 118:14-29 (28) or Psalm 150 (6)
Revelation 1:4-8
John 20:19-31

Prayer of the Day
O God of life, you reach out to us amid our fears with the wounded hands of your risen Son. By your Spirit's breath revive our faith in your mercy, and strengthen us to be the body 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

Alleluia. Blessed are those who | have not seen
and yet have come | to believe. Alleluia. (John 20:29)



John 20:19-31 is the first of a series of lessons from the Fourth Gospel during the Easter season of Year C. After Easter 2, on the following Sundays we will read John 21:1-19, John 10:22-30, John 14:8-14, John 13:31-35, John 14:23-29 [or John 5:1- 9], and John 17:20-26. The Easter season is a time for reflecting on the living presence of Christ within the church and on the forms and images which convey that presence.

These texts from the Fourth Gospel are a rich resource for such reflection. For in them relational language is central. Jesus speaks in a revelatory present tense in his “ I AM ” (εγπ ειμι) sayings. From the perspective of the Fourth Gospel it makes no difference that Jesus speaks in this way before his death and resurrection. For the Logos is revealed throughout the gospel as eternally present to those who are willing to see, hear, and believe.

1a. CONTEXT: John 20:19-31

John 20:19-31 is a continuation of the resurrection account of the Fourth Gospel. The pericope falls into three distinct parts. Verses 19-23 tell of Jesus' appearance to the gathered disciples and his commissioning of them. Verses 24-29 deal with the doubt of Thomas. Verses 30-31 form a concluding statement for the whole Gospel, if we assume that at some point the Gospel ended at 20:31, with chapter 21 being added later (Rudolf Schnackenburg, The Gospel According to St John, volume 3, p. 335).

The first scene, 20:19-23, has some partial parallels in the other gospels, particularly in Luke 24:36-49. Certain elements of John 20:19-23 also are paralleled in the commissioning scene of Matthew 28:16- 20, in the secondary ending of Mark 16:14-18, and especially in the Pentecost account of Acts 2. The Fourth Gospel, however, brings together the elements of these appearance and commissioning traditions in a unique way.

The Thomas story in 20:24-29 is uniquely Johannine, both as a story and in its theological import. The coda in 20:30-31 also has no other Gospel parallels. It may have originally been the ending of the Signs Gospel, which many suppose to have been a source document of the Fourth Gospel (Robert Fortna, The Fourth Gospel and Its Predecessor, pp. 201-204). As such it would not have focused particularly on the resurrection, but on all the mighty signs of Jesus recounted in that Gospel.

The effect of the succession of scenes in John 20:19-31 is to place in striking focus the question of faith raised by the signs, revelatory words, and death and resurrection of Jesus. The narrative moves quickly from the church's reception of the Spirit and authority to forgive and retain sins, to the doubts of those who have not seen Jesus directly, to a final appeal to those who read the Gospel to believe and have life in the name of Jesus.

1b. TEXT: John 20:19-31

ESV Study Bible:
Jesus Appears to the Disciples

19 c On the evening d of that day, the first day of the week, e the doors being locked where the disciples were f for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, g “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, h he showed them his hands and his side. Then i the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As j the Father has sent me, k even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he l breathed on them and said to them, m “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 n If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

Jesus and Thomas

24 Now o Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, [1] was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, p “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. q Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, q “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, r “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, s “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? t Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

The Purpose of This Book

30 u Now Jesus did many other signs v in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 w but these are written so that you may x believe that Jesus is the Christ, y the Son of God, and that by believing z you may have life a in his name.

Translation Notes

[1] 20:24 Greek Didymus

Lettered Notes:

ESV STUDY BIBLE © 2008–2010 Crossway Bibles.


19 Οὔσης οὖν ὀψίας τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ τῇ μιᾷ σαββάτων, καὶ τῶν θυρῶν κεκλεισμένων ὅπου ἦσαν οἱ μαθηταὶ διὰ τὸν φόβον τῶν Ἰουδαίων, ἦλθεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς καὶ ἔστη εἰς τὸ μέσον καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς, Εἰρήνη ὑμῖν. 20καὶ τοῦτο εἰπὼν ἔδειξεν τὰς χεῖρας καὶ τὴν πλευρὰν αὐτοῖς. ἐχάρησαν οὖν οἱ μαθηταὶ ἰδόντες τὸν κύριον. 21εἶπεν οὖν αὐτοῖς [ὁ Ἰησοῦς] πάλιν, Εἰρήνη ὑμῖν: καθὼς ἀπέσταλκέν με ὁ πατήρ, κἀγὼ πέμπω ὑμᾶς. 22καὶ τοῦτο εἰπὼν ἐνεφύσησεν καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς, Λάβετε πνεῦμα ἅγιον: 23ἄν τινων ἀφῆτε τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἀφέωνται αὐτοῖς, ἄν τινων κρατῆτε κεκράτηνται. 24Θωμᾶς δὲ εἷς ἐκ τῶν δώδεκα, ὁ λεγόμενος Δίδυμος, οὐκ ἦν μετ' αὐτῶν ὅτε ἦλθεν Ἰησοῦς. 25ἔλεγον οὖν αὐτῷ οἱ ἄλλοι μαθηταί, Ἑωράκαμεν τὸν κύριον. ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Ἐὰν μὴ ἴδω ἐν ταῖς χερσὶν αὐτοῦ τὸν τύπον τῶν ἥλων καὶ βάλω τὸν δάκτυλόν μου εἰς τὸν τύπον τῶν ἥλων καὶ βάλω μου τὴν χεῖρα εἰς τὴν πλευρὰν αὐτοῦ, οὐ μὴ πιστεύσω. 26Καὶ μεθ' ἡμέρας ὀκτὼ πάλιν ἦσαν ἔσω οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ Θωμᾶς μετ' αὐτῶν. ἔρχεται ὁ Ἰησοῦς τῶν θυρῶν κεκλεισμένων, καὶ ἔστη εἰς τὸ μέσον καὶ εἶπεν, Εἰρήνη ὑμῖν. 27εἶτα λέγει τῷ Θωμᾷ, Φέρε τὸν δάκτυλόν σου ὧδε καὶ ἴδε τὰς χεῖράς μου, καὶ φέρε τὴν χεῖρά σου καὶ βάλε εἰς τὴν πλευράν μου, καὶ μὴ γίνου ἄπιστος ἀλλὰ πιστός. 28ἀπεκρίθη Θωμᾶς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Ὁ κύριός μου καὶ ὁ θεός μου. 29λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Οτι ἑώρακάς με πεπίστευκας; μακάριοι οἱ μὴ ἰδόντες καὶ πιστεύσαντες. 30Πολλὰ μὲν οὖν καὶ ἄλλα σημεῖα ἐποίησεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἐνώπιον τῶν μαθητῶν [αὐτοῦ], ἃ οὐκ ἔστιν γεγραμμένα ἐν τῷ βιβλίῳ τούτῳ: 31ταῦτα δὲ γέγραπται ἵνα πιστεύ[ς]ητε ὅτι Ἰησοῦς ἐστιν ὁ Χριστὸς ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ, καὶ ἵνα πιστεύοντες ζωὴν ἔχητε ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι αὐτοῦ.

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 20:19-31

2a. John 20:19-23
This short scene carries a lot of weight in the Fourth Gospel, for it serves to shift the readers' focus from Jesus to the task of the disciples. It takes the form of a commissioning scene, with all the elements that would be expected: the commissioning agent appears, greets the gathered community, and gives signs that confirm his identity; the actual commission is given, with reference to the ultimate commissioner, the Father (see John 17:18); finally, the power to carry out the commission is imparted. An important element of the setting here is that the disciples are gathered behind closed doors, because of fear. This is no incidental comment, for there are a number of hints in the Fourth Gospel that the community being addressed is threatened and in danger of losing its courage (7:13; 9:22; 12:42; 19:38).

Jn. 20:25
In this light, the repeated greeting of peace in 20:19, 21, 26 (ειφρηπνη υθμιν−−∀Peace be with you.") is more than just a conventional greeting. For peace is the gift of Christ that is left behind with the church to overcome fear and instill courage (14:27; 16:33). In verse 20 we read, εφχαπρησαν ου∴ν οιθ μαθηται; ιφδοπντε τον κυπριον--"Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord." The disciples react with joy at their recognition of the one who gives peace (see John 16:22), the one whose hands and side have been pierced and who has faced his hour and been glorified through death and resurrection.

In verse 21 is the commissioning itself. καθω∍ αφπεπσταλκεπν με οθ πατηπρ, καφγω; πεπμπω υθμα`"--"As the Father has sent me, so I send you." This commissioning draws on a major focus of the whole Gospel, in which the sending of Jesus by the Father has been a central motif (see 17:18). The breath of the Holy Spirit is Jesus' new creation of the church (see Genesis 2:7; Ezekiel 37:9; Wisdom 15:11; and John 7:39). This is the predicted baptism with the Holy Spirit of John 1:33. The specific task of the commission is spelled out in verse 23: the disciples are to forgive and retain sins (compare Matthew 16:19 and 18:18). They can do so by the authority of Christ, "the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29)."

2b. John 20:24-29

The Thomas scene brings to a climax a major theme of the Fourth Gospel--the ambiguous relationship between "seeing" and "believing." The first "sign" (σημειον) of Jesus evokes faith (John 2:11), but the cause and effect relationship is not without difficulty (2:18; 2:23; 4:48; 6:30; 7:31; 11:47-48; 12:37). A negative climax of this theme is reached in 12:37: "Although he had performed so many signs in their presence, they did not believe in him." In fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy, their eyes are blinded (12:40).
This theme of the ambiguous value of sight becomes acute in the narrative of Jesus' resurrection, where repeatedly the disciples "see" the empty tomb or the Lord himself (John 20:8, 18, 20, 25, 29). Thomas himself is led to his climactic confession of faith by his privileged sight of Jesus. Thus he still stands more in the privileged position of the disciples than he does in the situation of the second and third generation of believers. Nevertheless, his confession of faith is the high point of the Fourth Gospel: οθ κυπριοπ μου και; οθ θεο; μου--"My Lord and my God!" This forms an appropriate conclusion to the Gospel that began with the proclamation that "the Word was God (1:1)."

In verse 29 Jesus, as it were, addresses the readers of the Fourth Gospel directly: μακαπριοι οιθ μη; ιφδοπντε και; πιστευπσαντε"--"Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to
believe." These are the people of the second and third generations of believers, who see Jesus only through the "signs" written in the Gospel itself (verses 30-31). The ambiguous value of seeing Jesus is really no problem--faith is possible even for those who have not seen Jesus directly.

2c. John 20:30-31

"Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book." These verses at some point served to end the Gospel document. If these words closed the hypothetical "Signs Gospel," then the word σημεια ("signs") referred specifically only to those mighty deeds of Jesus recounted in that document. However, as a concluding statement for the whole Fourth Gospel the words take on a broader reference. In this context they point to all the words and actions of Jesus as contained in the Fourth Gospel. The signs were done "before his disciples," so that the disciples now serve as witnesses of the signs.

Ταυτα δε; γεπγραπται ι{να πιστευπσητε ο{τι φΙησου εφστιν οθ χριστο; οθ υιθο;∀ του θεου`
--"But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God." What was the original purpose of the Fourth Gospel? Was it a missionary document, intended to convince people to believe in Jesus as the Messiah? Or was it intended mainly for use within the community of believers? The debate over this question is sometimes focused on a textual uncertainty in verse 31. Was the original reading the aorist subjunctive πιστευπσητε, which could be translated "so that you may come to believe" ? This reading would tend to support a missionary purpose for the Gospel. Or is the better reading the present subjunctive πιστευπητε, which could be translated "so that you may continue to believe"? This reading would support a community purpose for the Gospel. In fact, the problem cannot be solved on purely textual grounds. One must make the judgment about the Gospel's purpose on the basis of a reading of the whole document. (See Robert Fortna, The Fourth Gospel and Its Predecessor, pp. 201-204; and Rudolf Schnackenburg, The Gospel According to St John, volume 3, pp. 335-340.) In any case, the stated goal of the Fourth Gospel is faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. To begin and to continue in such faith results in life. Not just staying alive, but life in the name of Jesus, which is eternal life.

3. STRATEGY: John 20:19-31

Although Thomas appears in only one of the three sections of our text, his "conversion" forms the dramatic centerpiece that holds this pericope together. Faith in the resurrection of Jesus can easily be the focus of a sermon on this text. But one should note that the issue for Thomas is not directly the fact of the resurrection. What he does not believe is the statement of the other disciples, "We have seen the Lord." The faith he confesses after his encounter with the risen Jesus is not expressed as, "I believe that Jesus has been raised from the dead." Rather, it is an expression of faith in the identity of Jesus that has now been revealed to him with more certitude, "My Lord and my God." The closing statement in John 20:31 affirms that this faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, is the goal. One does not need to get involved in philosophical debates over the nature of the resurrection and the possibility of accepting it today. What is in doubt for Thomas, and for us today, is the continuing relationship with the living Lord.

One homiletical entry into the story of Thomas is his experience of isolation. Thomas is at first separated from the gathered disciples, and because of this he also experiences the absence of Jesus. The experience of Jesus absence is one current running through the whole Johannine resurrection narrative. Mary Magdalene, the other disciple, and Peter all play a kind of hide-and-seek with the body of Jesus. Even when the living Jesus is found, there are hints that he will soon be absent again (20:17; the implication in 20:21-22 that the commissioning and reception of the Spirit means the departure of Jesus; see 14:25-26; 16:5-7). Thomas' experience of the absence of Jesus is all the more poignant, since the reader knows that others have already been reunited with Jesus and have experienced peace and joy in his presence.

Thomas consequently stands on a trajectory between the experience of the disciples who were with Jesus during his time in the world and those who will come later. His misguided demand to see Jesus, to see the marks in his flesh as the signs of his bodily presence, is a warning to us--faith is not a matter of seeing Jesus. That means, I think, that we are misguided if we seek such props for our faith as the blessings of health and wealth; or an inner voice that gives us guidance in the decisions of life; or the feeling that events are being orchestrated in our favor; or a kind of moral smugness that our political views are the correct ones. All these things are a kind of search for a tangible sign that the Lord is alive and well and working on our behalf.

"Blessed are those who do not see and yet believe." Our experience of the absence of Jesus, which becomes particularly acute in times when doubt threatens to overwhelm trust or when difficult decisions or personal suffering isolate us from peace and joy, is a serious challenge. We do not see Jesus, but we do see the signs of the Lord's living presence. What are those signs? The Johannine resurrection narrative gives us some hints. The word of Jesus, as he spoke it and as it is written in the Gospel is one such sign (20:30; 14:25-26). The gathered community of faith is itself a sign of the living Lord. Jesus does not appear to Thomas by himself, but only in the presence of all the disciples. Here is where peace and joy as gifts of Christ will be experienced. A third sign is the power of the Holy Spirit. This power comes particularly in the forgiveness of sins, received and given (20:23). These signs come as gifts from the living Lord.

Paul reflects on this same tension between Jesus' absence and presence in his words, "For we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7)." Paul was speaking primarily of experiencing God's power in the midst of human weakness and suffering. The Fourth Gospel speaks primarily of experiencing faith in the midst of alienation, doubt, uncertain identity. To those who have ears to hear and eyes to see, God does grant the gift of signs through which the living Lord Jesus is present. Thomas finally accepts this gift and affirms his faith, and so he becomes one with all those who have life in Jesus' name.

4. REFERENCES: John 20:19-31

Fortna, Robert T. The Fourth Gospel and Its Predecessor. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988. Schnackenburg, Rudolf. The Gospel According to St John, volume 3. New York: Crossroad, 1987.

Exegete - David Kuck, Ph.D.

A graduate of Yale Divinity School (Old Testament) and Seminex, David is on the faculty of the United Theological College/Seminary on Kingston, Jamaica. See: Expressions/Churchwide-Organization/Global-Mission/Where-We-Work/Latin-America-Caribbean/Jamaica.aspx


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