Opening hearts: witnesses

Luke-upper-roomPointing to the life in the Early Church. Since these disciples are to continue Jesus’ ministry, perhaps it is not surprising that they are to proclaim the salvific message “in his name.” In fact, what is done in the “name” of Jesus surfaces as an important motif in Acts. Luke will portray a community very much oriented around Jesus (1:1, 21–22)—with salvation offered to “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord” (= Jesus; cf. 2:21, 36), and people directed to be baptized “in the name of Jesus Christ” (2:38), appropriating the blessings available through and signaling their allegiance to him. Subsequently in Acts Christians heal (3:6, 16; 4:10, 30; 19:13), preach (4:12; 5:28, 40), and are baptized (8:16; 10:48; 19:5) in the name of Jesus; suffer for his name (5:41; 9:16; 21:13); and are those “who call upon the name” of Jesus (9:14, 21; 22:16). The mission role of the disciples is summarized in the words, “You are witnesses of these things.” Continue reading

Opening hearts: proof

Luke-upper-roomOffering Proof. Jesus does not rebuke them for their lack of faith but offers two proofs of his own materiality as evidence of his resurrected existence. Negating two among the several possible categories for imagining the afterlife—one barbaric, the other more sophisticated—Luke first shows that Jesus’ disciples do not mistake him for a cadaver brought back to life (v.37), then confirms that Jesus is not an “immortal soul” free from bodily existence. It is why Jesus assures them with the phrase egō emini autos – “it is I myself” – or in modern English, “It’s really me!” Continue reading

Opening hearts: terrified

Luke-upper-roomJesus had predicted his passion and death – and that those predictions have come to pass is all too apparent to the small community of disciples sequestered away in the upper room, unsure of all that has passed, and even more unsure of what awaits them. But Jesus had also predicted his resurrection. In this Lucan narrative Jesus manifests himself not only to selected individuals (vv. 31, 34) but to the whole company of his followers. Their reaction is less than stellar: But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. Only in the later Lucan account of the Ascension (vv.50–53) do fear, amazement, and doubt (vv.37, 41) give way to worship, great joy, and obedience. Continue reading

Opening hearts: context

Luke-upper-room35 Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread. 36 While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37 But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38 Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” 40 And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of baked fish; 43 he took it and ate it in front of them. 44 He said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. 46 And he said to them, “Thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day 47 and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And (behold) I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Continue reading

So I send you: believing

john20 v21Thomas. Although many translations include “doubt” in v. 27 — and thus lead to the phrase “Doubting Thomas,” but there is no Greek word for “doubt” in the verse. The phrase do not be unbelieving, but believe contrasts apistos and pistos — the only occurrence of both these words in John. Simply put, the word does not mean “doubt” and Greek does not lack the equivalent words: diakrinomai, dialogismos, distazō, dipsychos, aporeō, and aporia. Lowe and Nida (Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains) give three definitions for the adjective – pistos.

  • pertaining to trusting — one who trusts in, trusting
  • pertaining to being trusted — faithful, trustworthy, dependable, reliable
  • pertaining to being sure, with the implication of being fully trustworthy — sure

Thus apistos would be “not having trust or faith or certainty.” Continue reading

Coming to believe receiving

john20 v21“Receive the holy Spirit” The sacred writer had already introduced the giving of the Holy Spirit in John 7 in a scene during the Feast of Tabernacles in which the Spirit is promised at a future time when Jesus was glorified. In the Fourth Gospel it is at the crucifixion that Jesus is glorified in that his willing obedience manifests the nature of God, which is love. It is there on the cross that Jesus deliver the Spirit into the world (19:30), symbolized immediately afterward by the flow of the sacramental symbols of blood and water. Continue reading

Coming to believe: mission

john20 v21Commentary. Meanwhile the disciples, still reeling from the events of the last three days, gather in the upper room. In Matthew 28:8, Mary Magdalene’s reaction to the encounter with Jesus was “fearful but overjoyed.” Perhaps this too is the experience of the disciples. All John tells us is that they were gathered together, hiding as it were, for fear of the Jews (v.19)

These are the disciples who scattered and fled at Jesus’ arrest, who stood at a distance from the cross, and in the case of Peter denied Jesus. These are disciples that upon seeing Jesus appear within the room would have likely experienced shame as they remembered all they had done and failed to do. Yet Jesus’ words are not words of recrimination or blame, his first resurrected words to the disciples as a group is “Peace be with you.Continue reading

Coming to believe: context

john20 v21John 20:19-31 19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 (Jesus) said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. 23 Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” 24 Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Continue reading

My Father’s House: clarity

Jesus-money-changers-giottoClarity. 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 Therefore, when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they came to believe the scripture and the word Jesus had spoken.

Verse 21 makes the second level of meaning of Jesus’ words is now made explicit. The Evangelist tells the reader that Jesus speaks of “the temple of his body.” Since for Judaism the Temple is the locus of God’s presence on earth, v. 21 suggests that Jesus’ body is now the locus of God. Verse 21 recalls 1:51 where the Son of Man replaces Jacob’s ladder as the locus of God’s interaction with the world. Continue reading

Eastertide

eastermorningAs a liturgical season, Lent is rather straightforward. It is kinda’ easy to write about. There is Ash Wednesday to dramatically mark its beginning, and we all know we are moving relentlessly towards Easter. We count the days even as we mark Lent’s beginning. The Ashes make a visible mark upon us, reminding us that we are dust and to dust we shall return – but that is not the end of the story. We are reminded to repent and believe in the Gospel – but that is not the end goal. We are encouraged to pray, fast, and give alms – but those practices are meant to make room in our lives for God that we too may rise to the newness of life at Eastertide. Continue reading