“Agnus Day appears with the permission of www.agnusday.org”
Monday, June 2, Chapter 21
Americans fidget when we read about the widow’s offering. We cannot see the sense of giving all we have. Then what would we live on. We would have to depend on other people to keep us alive.
It is not easy to trust God to provide for us. In this country we only get food if we work. Cyril of Alexandria wrote (430 AD): This may perhaps irritate some among the rich. We will therefore address a few remarks to them. You delight, O rich person, in the abundance of your possessions…. You offer not so much in proportion to your means as merely that which when you give, you will never miss—out of great abundance, a little.
The disciples became impressed with the outward appearance of the Temple, forgetting its true importance. The moved on to the end times and Jesus had to warn them that his Second Coming would not be of this world and it will not be right away. Be patient.
Be patient because you will be persecuted, beaten, imprisoned, and killed. But if you die you will die in Christ. 1 Peter 4:17-18: It’s judgment time for God’s own family. We’re first in line. If it starts with us, think what it’s going to be like for those who refuse God’s Message! If good people barely make it, what’s in store for the bad? Acts 9:16: I will show him how much he must suffer for my name. 1 Corinthians 4:9,13: It seems to me that God has put us who bear his Message on stage in a theater in which no one wants to buy a ticket. We’re something everyone stands around and stares at, like an accident in the street. We’re the Messiah’s misfits. When they call us names, we say, “God bless you.” When they spread rumors about us, we put in a good word for them. We’re treated like garbage, potato peelings from the culture’s kitchen. And it’s not getting any better.
In verse 20, Jesus speaks about the events of 66-70 AD when the Romans destroyed the city and the Temple. Before the legions surrounded the city, the Jewish-Christian congregation fled to Pella, east of the Jordan, amid cries of “traitors.”
Verse 25 gives us the long view. All of these things will occur, most over and over. Isaiah 13:9-10: Watch now. God’s Judgment Day comes.
Cruel it is, a day of wrath and anger,
A day to waste the earth
and clean out all the sinners.
The stars in the sky, the great parade of constellations,
will be nothing but black holes.
The sun will come up as a black disk,
and the moon a blank nothing.
Verse 27: they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud. Lift up your heads, redemption is near.
In London, December 3, 1933, Dietrich Bonhoeffer opened his sermon describing the explosion of a mine in Derbyshire two weeks earlier. Fourteen men, a mile below ground, lost their lives. If you were in that tomb, how would you react if you heard the rescuers coming to release you? What if you were slowly dying of an incurable disease? Depressed with no hope? In prison for life? This is no time to shake your head, to doubt and look away—freedom, salvation, redemption is coming. Look up and wait! Raise your heads! Be strong and without fear!—for Christ is coming.
A decade later, Bonhoeffer wrote from Tegel Prison to a friend. Life in a prison cell may well be compared to Advent; one waits, hopes…the door is shut, and can be opened only from the outside.
Jesus spoke of the fig tree, a symbol of Judah. When he says this generation, we cannot take it literally to mean twenty years or even until all the living are dead; that happened a long time ago. My word will never pass away is likely the key. The Word will last until the end of days.
Tuesday, June 3, Chapter 22
There is sometimes confusion over the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread. Jews then and now tend to run them together as one event, even as they know they are different. Here are the facts: Passover is on the 15th of Nissan (April 15 this year). Part of the confusion for us is that Jews begin a new day at sundown, so for our thinking, Passover begins at sundown of the 14th.
In Jesus’ day the Passover lambs were slaughtered the afternoon of the 14th to be eaten that night (the 15th). On Nissan 16, the Feast of Unleavened Bread begins and runs for seven days. In Jesus’ day no businesses were open and the week was spent at the Temple, in between meals.
The first day of the year is Nissan 1. It is always the day of the new moon, so the full moon occurs on the 15th (really 14-15). According to the Bible, the Messiah was crucified on the night of a blood moon.
The rules for setting the date of Easter go back to the 4th Century, but have been altered numerous times since then to account for newer scientific calculations, ie, leap year.
The ecclesiastical rules are:
- Easter falls on the first Sunday following the first ecclesiastical full moon that occurs on or after the day of the vernal equinox;
- this particular ecclesiastical full moon is the 14th day of a tabular lunation (new moon); and
- the vernal equinox is fixed as March 21.
resulting in that Easter can never occur before March 22 or later than April 25.
So, now you know.
Verse 3 has an interesting statement, Satan entered Judas. That tells us that Judas was a loyal Apostle until then. He is the only one Jesus is recorded as calling friend. It also tells us that Judas allowed Satan in because God has not allowed sin to force us to act against our wills. Judas still had free choice; he chose to turn Jesus over to the authorities, we believe, to force Jesus to take action, to claim the throne they all knew he was destined for. Judas did what the other disciples were thinking about.
Did Jesus know that Judas was the one when he called him to follow, to be an Apostle? We do not know, but I do not think so. Jesus had a human body with a human brain. I believe God gave him the information he needed when he needed it. The mind of God cannot fit into a human brain. There is no doubt Jesus knew on that night as they ate, as he washed Judas’ feet. I think Jesus was praying even then that Judas would change his heart at the last minute. But Jesus did not send Judas away with condemnation.
Verse 7 is incorrect as Luke states it. As I recorded above, the lamb was sacrificed on the 14th which was the day before Passover and two days before the start of the Feast. But, again, common thinking lumped all the events together.
Verse 10 has a man carrying a jar of water. Carrying water was women’s work. To see a man doing that was so rare that the disciples could not have made a mistake about who to follow. This is an example of God giving Jesus the information needed.
At the time of Passover, the largest of all celebrations, the population of Jerusalem rose from 80,000 to as many as a million. The Passover Seder had to be eaten inside the city walls. To accommodate that great influx, every home was to be opened. Complete strangers were allowed in for the meal. Nearly all homes had at least two groups eating, one inside and one on the roof. Larger homes might have four or five separate groups in different rooms.
Jesus and his followers found a place with an upper room. We generally picture it as a second story room as we would find in houses all over the world. However, we must remember that the homes of that day were all flat roofed structures with stairs leading to the roof. At Passover, the owners would put up a tent or two for different groups. Those were called rooms.
Verse 14 describes the men reclining at the table. It was generally done on the floor with pillows at a low table, each reclining on his left side. To recline at a meal was proof they were free men.
Luke alone mentions two cups of wine. Four cups were used in the Seder. The wine was general mixed with water. The statement, Take this and divide it among you, has suggested a common cup, each drinking from it in turn. But it could just mean that each poured some from the common cup into his own cup.
In the Seder, each cup has a symbolic part to play in the story of the Passover. Jesus would have followed the proper procedure for the first century which may differ somewhat from current practice. If so, the cup in verse 17 would be number 2; the one in verse 20 number 3.
Unleavened bread (matzah in Hebrew) was eaten at the meal. Today they are like crackers, but in the first century may have been more like tortillas. There were three large pieces of the matzah, stacked together. At the beginning of the meal, the middle piece was broken in half with one half being hidden for later. Jewish-Christians (Messianic Jews) quickly identified the middle bread as the Messiah, broken for us.
Jeremiah 31:31: The days are coming,” declares the Lord,
“when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
and with the people of Judah.
Verses 26-27 are key verses we often overlook when reading about the last days of Jesus. Even as he knows he is headed for death, he reminds us to be servants in all ways, at all times.
Jesus turns to Simon Peter and says that Satan has picked him out especially to join the dark side. Ambrose (380 AD) has this to say about Peter that night: Although Peter was ready in spirit, he was still weak in physical love. Not even Peter could equal the steadfastness of the divine purpose. The Lord’s Passion has imitators but no equals. I do not criticize Peter’s denial, but I praise his weeping. The one is common to nature, but the other is peculiar to virtue.
Both Peter and Judas vocally denied Jesus. One cried, the other killed himself. Judas could have asked for forgiveness as did Peter, in fact as did the other Apostles, all of whom turned away.
Verse 35 is unique to Luke. It harkens back to chapter 9:1-6 and 10:3-4.
For verse 37, read Isaiah 52:13-53:12.
Two swords tells us that the Apostles did travel with weapons at times. We can make some symbolism out of the two swords: they represent the Word of God in the Old Testament and in the New.
Jesus kneeling for prayer is interesting. Normally Jews today only kneel for a special prayer on Rosh-Hashanah (New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). In ancient times, including in Jesus’ day, they did kneel for pray often, but not always. After Christians adopted the custom, Jews stopped doing it except for the two times.
Verses 43-44 appear in about half the most ancient manuscripts while the others do not have it. Also, only Luke has it. Take your pick.
Luke’s account of Jesus’ arrest is the shortest of the Four Gospels. All four mention swords but only John says Peter caused the damage. Only Luke adds that Jesus healed the ear.
Verse 57 holds some strong Greek. For denied we can read the Greek as abandoned. Peter’s response is much like the official statement banning someone from a synagogue.
If you know anything about roosters, you will know that some of them crow throughout the night, so Peter may have heard one at two or three in the morning.
We know that Jesus spoke the truth in verses 68-69, but he also, knowingly, gave the authorities enough for execution; he claimed to be God, or at least his Messiah. Saying he would sit at the right hand of God was itself condemning. Only God sits in Heaven, all others must stand, according to the oral tradition.
Some rules of the court not followed that night. In a capital case, the charged is presumed guilty and he is allowed to try to prove his innocence. The vote of the Sanhedrin must have a majority of two to convict. A capital case must be tried in public during the day. If convicted, the condemned cannot be executed until the next day. No capital case can begin the day before a festival. There were some other minor rule violations.
Wednesday, June 4, Chapter 23
Everything leading to the appearance before Pilate was for show, only Pilate could condemn Jesus to death. Pilate had recently been reprimanded by the Emperor for mishandling the Jews. He was being very careful this time. No doubt, the Jews waited until Pilate was awake and ready for business. Luke does not give us the whole trial, but Pilate does decide there is not enough for crucifixion and sends him to Herod Antipas who was king in Galilee. In fact, Pilate had no legal jurisdiction in Galilee.
We can feel sympathy for Pilate while reading this account. He seems to give Jesus every chance to get off. In fact, Pilate hated the Jews and before the dressing down, went out of his way to create excuses to kill them. Some scholars think that the Gospel writers made him appear to be the good leader so as not to antagonize Rome.
Verse 31 seems strange until we learn that the dry tree represents sinners (us) and the green tree is the Messiah. It is based loosely on Ezekiel 20:47: “Tell the forest of the south, ‘Listen to the Message of God! God, the Master, says, I’ll set a fire in you that will burn up every tree, dead trees and live trees alike. Nobody will put out the fire. The whole country from south to north will be blackened by it. Everyone is going to see that I, God, started the fire and that it’s not going to be put out.’”
The word Calvary is the King James transliteration for the Latin calvaria, meaning skull. Psalm 22:16-18: Now packs of wild dogs come at me;
thugs gang up on me.
They pin me down hand and foot,
and lock me in a cage—a bag
Of bones in a cage, stared at
by every passerby.
They take my wallet and the shirt off my back,
and then throw dice for my clothes.Psalm 22:6-8: And here I am, a nothing—an earthworm,
something to step on, to squash.
Everyone pokes fun at me;
they make faces at me, they shake their heads:
“Let’s see how God handles this one;
since God likes him so much, let him help him.Psalm 69:21: They put poison in my soup,
Vinegar in my drink.
Still, Jesus thinks of the thief who confesses and repents.
Amos 8:9: I’ll turn off the sun at noon.
In the middle of the day the earth will go black.
Of the disciples, only the women witnessed the death of their Master.
The burial was supervised by Joseph. He was a man of wealth, so had his servants actually touch the body. Even those servants had to sleep outside Joseph’s house to avoid the ritual contamination that would have taken a week for Joseph to cleans. Luke sets up Sunday morning by having the women see the tomb and go home to prepare for a proper burial.
Thursday, June 5, Chapter 24
Psalm 16:9-10: Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
nor will you let your faithful[a] one see decay.
Saturday is the Sabbath, so the woman could not go to the tomb to properly prepare the body. They waited for the first day of the week. While we are throwing names around, note that Jews called the days of the week: first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and Shabbat (Sabbath). The reason was because the Greeks named the days after their gods and the Romans followed. Jews would not commit such a sacrilege. Our names have come from the Roman names and handed down from the German and old English.
Tuesday for example:
Tuesday — Tiu’s day
Middle English tiwesday or tewesday
Old English tiwesdæg “Tiw’s (Tiu’s) day”
Latin dies Martis “day of Mars”
Ancient Greek hemera Areos “day of Ares”
Tiu (Twia) is the English/Germanic god of war and the sky. He is identified with the Norse god Tyr.
Mars is the Roman god of war.
Ares is the Greek god of war.
We should notice that the first announcement of the resurrection was made to the women, only three of whom were named in verse 10. They saw angels but not Jesus. Peter ran to the tomb and saw it was empty but did not see Jesus.
So in Luke’s account, the first sighting was on the road to Emmaus where a stranger fell into step with the disciples, Cleopas and an unnamed man, and began to talk about the events of Passover.
In verse 24 we learn that several disciples saw the empty tomb but none saw Jesus. We are told that Jesus tried to walk on past Emmaus but the other two insisted he eat with them. Only when he broke the bread to give to them did they recognize Jesus. Jesus could change his body at will, even walk through walls.
The two returned to Jerusalem at once, even though it was getting dark. They arrived to discover that Jesus had appeared to Simon Peter as well. As they talked, and the noise level must have been high, Jesus appeared in the room. We generally think of Jesus appearing to the Eleven, but this was a mixed group of Apostles and disciples.
With that visit, Jesus opened their minds and prepared them for Pentecost. He walked with most of them to a place near Bethany where he was taken into Heaven.
Luke picks up the story again in Acts.
1-5 Dear Theophilus, in the first volume of this book I wrote on everything that Jesus began to do and teach until the day he said good-bye to the apostles, the ones he had chosen through the Holy Spirit, and was taken up to heaven. After his death, he presented himself alive to them in many different settings over a period of forty days. In face-to-face meetings, he talked to them about things concerning the kingdom of God. As they met and ate meals together, he told them that they were on no account to leave Jerusalem but “must wait for what the Father promised: the promise you heard from me. John baptized in water; you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit. And soon.”
6 When they were together for the last time they asked, “Master, are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now? Is this the time?”
7-8 He told them, “You don’t get to know the time. Timing is the Father’s business. What you’ll get is the Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world.”
9-11 These were his last words. As they watched, he was taken up and disappeared in a cloud. They stood there, staring into the empty sky. Suddenly two men appeared—in white robes! They said, “You Galileans!—why do you just stand here looking up at an empty sky? This very Jesus who was taken up from among you to heaven will come as certainly—and mysteriously—as he left.”
Friday, June 6, 1 Corinthians Chapter 1
I will be using the work of Kenneth E. Bailey, Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes, for much of this study on the letter to Corinth
Paul wrote this letter about 55 AD in his third year at Ephesus. It is the longest of all his letters and is written to the church in the largest city in Greece. It was a troubled church and Paul had to address several issues, most of which still plague churches today.
Corinth as a city had its own problems, starting with the population of 250,000 free people and 400,000 slaves. It was a city built on commerce, primarily shipping of goods. The city controlled two ports on either side of the narrow north-south isthmus connecting the two main portions of the nation. Because it was cheaper, faster, and safer to stop at one harbor and haul the goods overland seven miles to the other harbor that is how Corinth made a living and why they needed all those slaves.
In ancient times, the term to Corinthianize was a common expression to describe sexual immorality. The city was a sailor’s paradise. It is little wonder the church faced problems.
Do not skip the first nine verses. Notice in the greeting that God has a will and he is our Father. In the Prayer of Thanksgiving, God extends grace and is faithful.
Notice in the same nine verses what we learn about Jesus: he calls Apostles, makes the Corinthians holy, gives all believers his name, extends grace and peace, is a source of thanksgiving, is a testimony available to the church, sustains his followers as guiltless, and he is the Son of God creating a unique fellowship with God.
Look again at the eight things said about the believing community: the church has apostles and brothers & sisters; they are mad holy and called to be saints; they (& we) are called by the name of Jesus; they received grace and peace; the grace is a source of thanksgiving; they are enriched by speech, knowledge and all spiritual gifts; they will be sustained guiltless to the end; and they are called into the fellowship of God’s Son.
You want to look back at Acts 18:17 and the attack on Paul by Sosthenes. Having lost the case in court, he was beaten by his fellow Jews in front of the court while the Roman guards watched. It seems likely that Paul would have taken the occasion to visit Sosthenes to provide whatever support he might. It is further possible that the Sosthenes cited as co-author is the same man. We do not know one way or the other, but I like the story.
What is pertinent is that Sosthenes, whichever one he was, was a Corinthian, so would loan Paul his hometown credence in the letter, making Paul less of an outsider.
Now Paul in verse 10 moves into the first problem; divisions. Paul always starts with positives; this time with three: Jesus is Lord, no divisions, must unite. Then he matches those with three negatives: there is quarreling, Is Christ divided, who was crucified for you?
The Greek word for quarreling is Eris, who was the Greek goddess who stirs up wars, probably because her brother was Aris, the god of war. The point is Paul uses the strongest word possible to describe the division in the church.
Paul names Chloe, so she must have been secure enough not to worry about people being upset that she told Paul what was going on. However, Paul uses a neat ID test for the main groups in the fight: Paul, Apollos, and Cephas. What was happening was the age old struggle of: who is more important. Corinth was a Roman colony, and the Romans held all the political and much of the economic power. The Greeks were second class, but still financially successful. Everyone else, including the Jews were third class. So, Paul, a Roman citizen represented the first class, Apollos, who was Greek, represented the second class, and Peter, named Cephas here, represented the third class. All were on the Titanic fighting for the life boats.
To fight the holier-than-thou attitudes (I am closer to God because I am Roman [or American]), Paul brings out the big guns, baptism and the Cross of Christ. It does not matter who baptized you, we are all equal on the Cross of Christ.
The message of the Cross is foolishness, the very foolishness of Jesus choosing to allow himself to be brutally executed. The same foolishness that accepts Americans and Iranians to be equals. There are no second class Christians. We are all baptized into the Cross of Christ.
Verse 22 is at the center of Paul’s point in this section. Signs and wisdom have not brought people closer to God. Only the Cross of Christ can do that.
With 26 to the end, Paul strengthens his point that God is strong, man is weak. Only through Christ can we have hope.
Be righteous and do good.