Daily Readings for Saturday, January 11, Year II
Isaiah 55:3-9; Psalm 47; Colossians 3:1-17; John 14:6-14
In the midst of an oracle inviting Israel to return to the Lord, we hear words that transcend the exiles and speak to each of us. “Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live.” The exiles are reminded of the everlasting covenant God made with David and now offers to make with them based upon his steadfast love. After comment on David as leader and commander, they are reminded that even nations that they do not know will come to them, because the Lord—the Holy One of Israel—has glorifed her. What follows has become a universal invitation: “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near’, let the wicked forsake their way and the unrighteous their thoughts’; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” That thought was astonishing—God forgive? But, the Lord’s thoughts are not our thoughts nor God’s ways, our own. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are the Lord’s ways and thoughts higher than our own. Here is a strong corrective to those who would try to distinguish between the God of the Old and New Testaments—this is as much sheer grace as any word in the gospels.
The psalm celebrates God’s reign over all the earth. It is a hymn of praise that may have been used during a festival commemorating God’s covenant with Israel, and calls on the people to celebrate God’s ritual enthronement. It remembers how the Lord, the Most High, is God of the gods, awesome and king over all the earth—not just Israel. Not only has God subdued the nations, the Lord has chosen Israel as his heritage, “the pride of Jacob whom he loves.” “God has gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of the trumpet.” All are called upon to sing praise to God as king. “Our King is King of all the earth.” The phrase, “God has gone up with a shout,” caused the church to associate this with Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, while “with the sounds of a trumpet” suggests this was used as part of the liturgy for Rosh ha-Shanah, when the ram’s horn is blown to announce the new year.
Paul reminds the Colossians of their new status in Christ. Having been raised with him in baptism, they are encouraged to seek the things that are “above,” with him, as he is seated at the right hand of God—the place of honor and authority. They have died and their lives are “hidden with Christ in God.” When Christ, who is their life, is revealed, they also will be revealed with him in glory. Until then, they are to live as citizens of the heavenly realm, putting to death whatever is earthly—of this world. Paul then lists a catalogue of evils, half of which are sexual in nature. It is for these that the wrath of God is coming on those who participate in them, as indeed, they once did themselves, before their baptisms. The other half of the things of which they must rid themselves are the sins that destroy human community: anger, wrath, malice, slander and abusive language. Given the fact that they have stripped off the old self and have now clothed themselves in Christ, and are being renewed in his image, they must not lie to one another. In that renewal there is no longer Jew or Greek, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian or Scythian, slave or free, but simply Christ who is all and in all. Continuing with the image of being clothed in Christ, Paul now calls on them to put on particular qualities of life that emerge out of life in Christ: compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forbearance, and forgiveness. This last quality is, as Jesus taught, the requirement of having been forgiven. Above all of this, they are to clothe themselves in love, which binds everything together (1 Corinthians 13). The word in the text about the peace of Christ ruling in their hearts is an imperative and is addressed to the community, as they teach and admonish one another, both in wisdom, and out of gratitude. The reference to singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to God is not only a description of their worship, but also an indication of what was being used to teach and admonish. Remember that right after Paul’s greeting, he had employed a hymn text to make his point about who Christ is. And it remains as true today as it was then—hymn texts are one of the church’s greatest instructional resources for helping shape our faith. Whatever they do, whether in word or deed, they are to do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Here is one of the injunctions for praying always in Jesus’ name. Whatever we say or ask of God, we do so in Jesus’ name, remembering his promise that whatever we rightly ask in his name will be done for us (John 14:13; 16:26).
Jesus has been trying to prepare his followers for his departure. Then he tells them that they know the way to the place where he is going. Thomas objects: they don’t know where he is going; how can they know the way? Jesus responds that he is the way, the truth and the life and that no one comes to the Father except through him—he is the door into the heart of the Father. If they know him, then they know the Father, and having seen Jesus, they have seen the Father. Phillip, not understanding what Jesus means, says, “Lord, show us the Father and we will be satisfied.” Jesus responds, “Have I been with you all this time and still you do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” Jesus again affirms that he and the Father are one; the words he speaks are not his own but those of the Father who dwells in him and is doing his work through Jesus. Again Jesus says it, “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not believe it, then believe me because of the works that the Father is doing through me.” But more, truly, those who believe in Jesus will do the works that he is doing and, in fact, will do greater works than these. Why? Because he is going to the Father, and from there Jesus will do whatever they ask in his name so that the Father can be glorified in the Son. Again he says it: “If, in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.”
Daily Readings for Friday, January 10, Year II
Jeremiah 23:1-8; Psalm 46; Colossians 2:8-23; John 10:7-17
The Lord speaks woes against the faithless kings of Judah. They have failed as shepherds of their people and destroyed and scattered the sheep of God’s pasture. So, too, will the Lord destroy and scatter them. Then, the Lord himself will gather the remnant of his flock out of all the lands where he has driven them, and bring them back to their fold, where they shall be fruitful and multiply. Then the Lord will raise up faithful shepherds over them and they shall no longer live in fear or dismay, and none shall be missing. The days are coming when the Lord will raise up for David a righteous Branch who shall reign as king and deal wisely, and execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his reign, Judah will be saved and all Israel will live in safety. He will be called “The Lord is our righteousness.” So great is the restoration that it will outshine Israel’s liberation from Egypt. Rather, it will be said, “As the Lord lives who brought out and led the offspring of the house of Israel out of the land of the north (Babylon), and out of all the lands where he had driven them. Then, they shall live in their own land.”
This communal psalm is a source of comfort and solace as well as an affirmation of confidence and trust in God as our only refuge and strength in times of trouble. No matter the threat or crisis—even one as dire as massive earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, or the enormous tides, tsunamis and floods created by the sea—we will not fear for God is with us. God is not only stronger than the forces of the earth, God is in the city of his holy habitation—Jerusalem and its Temple—and it shall not be moved. The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter, the Lord speaks, and the earth melts. Again, it repeats the affirmation that the Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. The psalm then invites us to look upon and consider the works of the Lord: his sovereignty over the chaotic forces of nature and his ability to silence the still warring and ravenous nations. Therefore, be still—know God! Know that God is sovereign over all things that can harm, be it the forces of nature or the brutality of humanity. More; know that the Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Be still and know God.
Paul continues to warn the Colossians about the deceptive philosophy and empty deceits of human traditions being taught, concerning the “elemental spirits of the universe” and not according to Christ. After all, in Christ, the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily. Why then even concern themselves with these other notions? They have come to fullness in Christ, who is sovereign over every ruler and authority. It sounds as though the Jewish-Christian circumcision party is in town as well, for Paul reminds the Colossians that they have already been circumcised with a spiritual circumcision in Christ, in which they have “put off the body of flesh” in him. All of this took place in their baptisms in which they were buried with Christ and also raised with him through faith in the power of God who raised Christ from the dead. From this text Calvin will come to speak of circumcision as prefiguring the sacrament of baptism. Before their spiritual circumcision in baptism, they were dead in their flesh. But God has made them alive in Christ, forgiving us our trespasses (notice Paul’s use of the first person plural as he identifies himself with them), erasing the record against us and its legal demands. That record, God nailed to the cross in Christ, disarming the rulers and authorities—even the “elemental spirits of the universe!” God has made a public example of all of them. So, too, for those missionaries among them teaching about matters of food, drink, festivals, new moons or sabbaths—again, the agenda of the Jewish-Christians. All of this is but a shadow of what is to come. Their substance belongs to Christ, so focus on him. Do not let anyone attempt to disqualify you by insistence on abstinence from this or that, or insisting that you have visions or participate in other false religious practices. Rather, hold onto the head—Christ himself, in whom God is nurturing and maturing the body. Once again he warns them: “If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world?” Do not submit to their regulations, which are simply human commands and teachings. Though they have the appearance of wisdom to promote piety, they are of absolutely no value in checking self-indulgence, and all too easily can become another form of it.
Jesus continues to teach in the temple at the Feast of Tabernacles, now taking up the image of the shepherd from Ezekiel 34, who in Israel’s life had been the king. The king was understood to have been chosen and commissioned by God to care for the people, who were God’s flock. God’s reign was the sheepfold and God himself the gatekeeper. But with the loss of a king in 587 BCE, increasingly God was looked to as the shepherd and keeper of the sheep (Psalm 23). Jesus announces himself as the “Good Shepherd,” as well as the gate to the sheepfold. The sheep know his voice and follow him. All who have come before him as messiahs have been thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. He is the gate: whoever enters by him will be saved, and whoever comes in and goes out through him will find pasture. He is a shepherd who not only cares for his sheep, but actually lays his life down for them—unheard of! The hired hands (religious leaders of the day—the Pharisees and chief priests) do not own the sheep, so, when the wolf comes, they leave the sheep behind and run away. Jesus on the other hand, knows his own just as they know him, in precisely the same way that he and the Father know one another. He lays down his life, but does so in order to take it up again.
Daily Readings for Thursday, January 9, Year II
Isaiah 45:14-19; Psalm 114; Colossians 1:24—2:7; John 8:12-19
In the midst of an oracle of salvation addressed to the exiles, speaking for the triumph that shall be theirs on their return to Jerusalem, we hear a recitation on the unique nature of the Lord. The Lord alone is God; there is no other. Yet, the Lord—the God and Savior of Israel—is a God who hides himself, putting to shame all of those who make or serve idols. Rather, Israel shall not be put to shame, but shall be saved by the Lord with “everlasting salvation.” The Lord then speaks about creation—it was not created a chaos to be uninhabited, but formed as an orderly place for habitation. He is the Lord; there is no other! Nor did he speak in secret, nor say to Jacob, “Seek me in chaos.” Rather, the Lord is the God of truth, order, and what is right.
This psalm is a hymn praising God’s power, recounting the wonders God did in claiming the house of Israel as his own and bringing them out of Egypt to make them God’s own dwelling place in the land of promise. The psalm uses various images from creation to emphasize God’s sovereignty at critical points in Israel’s life—the sea looked and fled; the river Jordan turned back to allow the people to cross over. At God’s presence, the mountains skipped like rams and the hills like lambs. Why? Because it is the Lord, the one who turns rocks into pools of water and flint into a gushing spring, a reference to Moses striking the rock in the wilderness. The hymn is a remembrance of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt and was later sung at Passover on the 8th day of that celebration, and still is today.
In the Christ Hymn, Paul began to reveal one of the challenges facing the Colossians, and it seems to be a Gnostic form of Christianity. The Gnostics denied Christ’s incarnation—he only appeared to be human—and therefore, also his saving death. They viewed Christ only as a heavenly messenger of secret knowledge, which, when attained, assured their own spirits would return to the realm of the eternal, free from bodily constraint. It was a popular movement and one Paul continued to preach against throughout his ministry. Notice how often he makes use of physical imagery like blood and flesh and death when talking about Christ. And so, Paul keeps vigilant in the struggle, even from prison, and views his imprisonment as somehow integral to Christ’s own suffering. He even makes the astonishing assertion that in his suffering, he is making up for what was lacking in Christ’s affliction, and doing so for the sake of the church. Paul is not suggesting that his sufferings are redemptive as Christ’s were. He has already made the point of the full sufficiency of Christ—all things were reconciled in him. Rather, Paul is talking about the travails and hardships he is enduring on behalf of Christ as Paul has been appointed by God to be the suffering apostle to the Gentiles. Remember, he is writing to a church he did not form and has not had a relationship with, and so this is as much missionary activity as pastoral concern. Paul simply sees himself as bearing these hardships as Christ did, and doing so on Christ’s behalf, as part of his charge to proclaim the gospel to the Gentiles and to guard and build up the church that has emerged from that proclamation. Therefore, he is doing this for the church. He returns to the subject of hidden mystery—a cardinal issue for Gnostics—and proclaims that though the mystery of God’s redemption was hidden throughout the ages, it has now been fully revealed to Christ’s saints. God has chosen to reveal among the Gentiles the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” The gospel is about more than forgiveness and it is about more than secret knowledge that brings salvation. It is about the astonishing reality of Christ in us! This, not mysterious knowledge, is our hope. Paul now turns to his concerns for the neighboring church in Laodicea, as he wants to encourage them as well—clearly, this was intended to be a circular letter. Continuing with the theme of Christ in us, Paul expands it to remind us that hidden in Christ are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge—the things the Gnostic missionaries claimed as essential, and that only they possessed. Paul wants to assure the churches to whom this is written, in order that they not be deceived and drawn away into a gnostic gospel. As they have received Christ Jesus the Lord, they are to continue to live their lives in him, just as they were taught, rooted in the faith and abounding in thanksgiving, for Christ lives in them.
Falling on the heels of Jesus’ announcing his gift of life-giving water, his “I am” sayings take up another image—light—a common metaphor for the presence of God and itself an important element in the Feast of Tabernacles celebration. Whoever follows him will never walk in darkness but have the light of life. The Pharisees challenge him for testifying on his own behalf, a testimony that is therefore not valid. Jesus does not deny it, but says, “even so, it is valid, because I know where I have come from and where I am going, while you know neither!” Further, the Pharisees judge by human standards; Jesus judges no one, but simply does what his Father tells him. But if he did, it would be valid for it is not Jesus alone who judges but the Father who sent him. Quoting the law back to them, Jesus reminds them of the Torah’s requirement of two witnesses to make something valid. He then says that he and his Father are those two witnesses.
Daily Readings for Wednesday, January 8, Year II
Exodus 17:1-17; Psalm 93; Colossians 1:15-23; John 7:37-52
Exodus recounts two major events as the children of Israel continue their journey to the Promised Land. Having complained about no bread in the wilderness of sin, and receiving the gift of manna, the issue is now water. They have continued to follow the cloud of the Lord’s presence and are now at Rephidim, but there is no water. The people complain bitterly against Moses and quarrel with him, asking why he has brought them out of Egypt into the wilderness to die. Moses, in turn, quarrels with the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me?” The Lord sends Moses ahead of the people, instructing him to take some of the elders with him, as well as the rod with which Moses had struck the Nile. As Moses goes, he will find the Lord standing in front of him on a rock at Horeb (Sinai). Moses is to strike the rock, and when he does, water will come out of it so that the people’s thirst may be satisfied. Moses does so in the plain view of the elders he has brought with him, and he calls the place Massah and Meribah, because the people quarreled and tested the Lord saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?” The water crisis averted, yet another appears: the wandering people’s vulnerability to raiding, marauding forces. Amalek, leader of the Amalekites, attacks the people at Rephidim and Moses selects Joshua as captain of forces to go out and fight Amalek. As for Moses, he will stand at the top of the hill with the staff of God in his hand. Joshua selects his men and the next morning, goes out against Amalek, while Moses, Aaron and Hur go to the top of the hill. Moses raises the staff of God, and while he does, Joshua and the Israelites prevail. But when his arms grow weary, and Moses rests, the Amalekites prevail. After several attempts at holding the staff of God aloft, Moses is too tired to continue to do so. Aaron and Hur solve the problem by finding a stone for Moses to sit upon, while standing at his right and left, supporting Moses’ arms and the uplifted staff of God. The result is the defeat of the Amalekites. The battle over, the Lord instructs Moses to write an account of this event and read it in the hearing of Joshua, lest Joshua think that winning the war was solely his own doing. The Lord also promises to “utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven,” in spite of the fact that his instructions to Moses ever-after keep Amalek’s memory alive! Moses builds an altar for the Lord and calls it, “The Lord is my banner”—an expression of gratitude and for the Lord’s continuing presence among them. At the same time, Moses prophesies that the Lord will have war on the Amalekites from generation to generation, as indeed, the hostilities between the two peoples will continue once they settle in the land.
This psalm, probably used during the annual enthronement of Israel’s king, is appointed for today because in his resurrection Jesus has become King of kings and Lord of lords. The psalmist praises the majesty, strength and holiness of the Lord—Israel’s true king—and recalls how all creation has been fixed by God and shall not be moved. So too, is God’s throne firmly fixed from of old and is “until everlasting.” Even the floods join their voices in praising God’s majesty. God’s reign is eternal, God’s decrees are sure, and only holiness is suitable for God’s house. In the enthronement, this psalm reminds Israel’s king of who it is that truly reigns in Israel, and to whom he is accountable—the Lord.
The Christ Hymn from Colossians makes the gospel’s astonishing claim that Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the one through whom all things were created and the one in whom “all things hold together.” Not only were all things created by him, but also for him. In other words, he is the Sovereign God in human flesh; in Calvin’s words, “God’s accommodation to us,” so that we could know who God is, what God is like and what it is God desires. Paul employs these words from the hymn in his letter to the Colossians (scholarly consensus is that Paul did not write this himself, but appropriated a hymn or confession commonly used in the liturgy of the churches of Central Asia, to make his homiletical point). Doing so Paul challenges the worship of astral bodies as spiritual beings, a thought that seems to have been creeping into the churches’ faith. Christ, as Sovereign Lord, exercises dominion over all things, including the astral bodies! He is also head of his church and the firstborn of the dead. All of this is so that he might come to have first place in all things—especially human lives. But Christ is not a remote ruler of the universe unconcerned with the rest of creation. Rather, in him, not only was all the fullness of God pleased to dwell, but through Christ, God was pleased to reconcile to God’s-self all things, thereby making peace through the blood of the cross. More was taking place on the cross than a demonstration of God’s love for the world. In the mystery of God’s ways, all things were being reconciled to God—notice that it is past tense; God has done it! Having quoted the hymn, Paul now makes the personal application with the Colossians. Though they were once “estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,” Christ has now reconciled them and the rest of creation in his human body through death, in order to present them holy, blameless and irreproachable before God provided—and here is Paul’s point—they continue securely established and steadfast in the faith. God in Christ has done his part. Our part is to respond in faith with lives of gratitude. In addressing an error in the church’s worship in Colossae, Paul has given us witness to the faith of the church enshrined in the hymnody of the mid-first century of the Christian era, a faith it would take another three hundred years to hammer out in an official creed of the church. What was ultimately confessed at Nicaea in 321 CE actually was being confessed by followers of Christ in 60 CE.
On the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, as the priests are pouring fresh water on the altar as an offering to God, Jesus stands and cries out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let those who believe in me drink.” With allusions to Isaiah 44:3, 55:1 and 58:11, he proclaims himself the source of new life. As his body is the manna of Passover, he is also the life-giving water celebrated in the Feast of Tabernacles (Booths). The author quickly reminds us that Jesus is talking about the gift of the Spirit which believers will receive after Jesus’ glorification. When the crowd heard this, some said, “He really is the prophet.” Other said, “This is the Messiah.” But the skeptics in the crowd returned to the theme of his origin—Galilee. The scriptures are clear; the Messiah is from David and will come from Bethlehem. And so a division occurs among them. The temple police return to the chief priests and Pharisees empty handed, so overwhelmed were they by Jesus’ words and the peoples’ response. The Pharisees accuse them of having been deceived, like the rest of the ignorant crowd, and then ask a self-incriminating question: “has any one of the authorities or of the Pharisees believed in him?” After all, the crowd is both accursed and ignorant of the law—what do they know? But Nicodemus, who in chapter 3 went to Jesus by night, is among them and knowing the law, challenges them with it: the law does not allow them to judge people without first giving them a hearing. Angered and embarrassed, they try to shame Nicodemus by accusing him of being a Galilean as well—an ignorant country bumpkin—and challenge him to search the scriptures. He will learn that no prophet is to arise from Galilee.
Daily Readings for Tuesday, January 7, Year II
Deuteronomy 8:1-3; Psalm 27; Colossians 1:1-14; John 6:30-33, 48-51
The word deuteronomy means second law, and the Book of Deuteronomy is developed as Moses’ second recitation of the law for the children of Israel as they prepare to enter the Promised Land. Today’s lesson warns of the dangers of prosperity—the tendency to think that we ourselves have done this, rather than that it is a gift from the Lord. Moses reminds them of the wilderness wanderings and now casts it as God’s means of humbling the people and testing them to know what was in their hearts. Would they keep his commandments or not? Moses recalls the occasions of humbling: hunger that was satisfied by the manna, which none of them or their ancestors had ever before known. The Lord did this to teach them that “one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” It is ancient counsel, but appropriate as we enter into this New Year.
This psalm expresses confidence in the presence of the Lord and does so in triumphal language. “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom then shall I fear?” (Sorry, that’s the way I memorized it, and this should be memorized, right after Psalm 23!) The Lord is the strength and stronghold of my life, of whom should I be afraid? Enemies range from “evildoers,” to adversaries and foes—all of them shall stumble and fall because of the Lord’s care. “Even though an army encamps against me, yet, my heart shall not fear.” The imagery of a fearful heart is so true to life when anxiety hits. After one more expression of confidence, the psalm turns more reflective: “One thing have I asked of the Lord and that will I seek after: to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” This is precisely the same sentiment with which Psalm 23 ends. It goes on to affirm (and perhaps even recall) God’s sheltering care in the day of trouble. The double action of “conceal me in his tent,” and “set me high on a rock” covers the span from shelter, when on the run to ultimate triumph over those who pursue. And now the psalm turns victorious and exultant with promises of sacrifice, shouts of joy and songs (psalms) and melodies to the Lord (remember, they were often accompanied by or sung to melodies; not just recited). There is the request for God to hear when he cries, and to answer. Immediately, his heart says to him “Come, seek his face,” and he replies, “Your face Lord, do I seek; do not hide it from me.” Notice the kind of face-to-face intimacy of relationship that is being sought as the psalm pleads not to be turned aside, cast away or forsaken. And then there is the extraordinary confession, “Though my mother and father forsake me, the Lord will not, but will take me up.” There follows the request to be taught the Lord’s ways and to be led on a level path (who of us does not want a life without its ups and downs?), and to be kept out of the hands of his adversaries, for false witnesses have arisen against him and are breathing threats of violence. The psalm ends with the wonderful affirmation, “I believe I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living,” and then “wait for the Lord, be strong, let your heart take courage. Wait for the Lord.” This last phrase, in one or another form, appears some fourteen times in the Old Testament, better than a third of them in the Psalter. The faith of the Psalter, if not all of Scripture, can be summed up as “Waiting for the Lord.” Seeing the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living along with the previous, “the Lord will take me up,” was later seen as a reference to life after death in heaven. Here, in its original setting, it simply means goodness of life lived with and out of the strength of the Lord now, here, in the land of the living.
Today we begin a continuous reading of the Paul’s letter to the Colossians. Paul is in prison, probably in Rome, though possibly Ephesus, and writing to the churches in and around the city of Colossae. Though Paul did not know the Colossians personally, he knew enough about them to write in order to support and encourage them in their devotion to Christ. On the other hand, Paul is concerned with some questionable practices that are seeping into their worship—possibly angel or astral worship. The letter opens in standard epistolary style with Paul identifying himself as “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.” He is accompanied by Timothy. After greetings of “grace and peace from God our Father,” Paul reminds them of his prayers of thanksgiving for them, having heard of their faith in Christ and their love for all the saints. This is because of the hope laid up for them in heaven, hope they have heard in the word of truth—the gospel that has come to them. That word is bearing fruit throughout the world, just as it is bearing fruit among them. Paul mentions Epaphras, the founder of the church in Colossae, whom he calls his beloved fellow servant and faithful minister of Christ on their behalf. It is Epaphras who has made the Colossian’s faith and love known to Paul. It is for this reason that, from the day Paul first heard these words, he has not ceased to pray for them, asking that they be filled with the knowledge of God's will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that they may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as they bear fruit in every good work, while they grow in the knowledge of God. He also prays that they may be strengthened in order to enable them to endure everything with patience, joyfully giving thanks to the Father who has enabled them to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. God has rescued all of them—Paul and Timothy included—from the power of darkness and transferred them into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom they have redemption—the forgiveness of sins.
Jesus has fed the 5000, and the crowd continues to follow him, seeking further signs of who he is, promising that with it they will see and believe in him—the irony is heavy. Picking up on our first lesson, the crowd reminds Jesus that their ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness and, in the way it is presented, can suggest that it came from God, or more likely, it was Moses’ work and a sign of his authority. Jesus reminds them that it was not Moses who gave them bread from heaven, but Jesus’ Father who gives the true bread from heaven, which comes down, not simply to satisfy physical hunger, but to give life to the world. The crowd, again, in ironic ignorance, pleads for him to give this to them. The lectionary now moves directly to verse 48 in which Jesus again (read verses 35 through 47) tells them that he is the bread of life, using the “I am” formula. Their ancestors at the manna in the wilderness, but ultimately died. He is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat and not die. Again, he uses the ineffable name of God for himself saying “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
Author: The Rev. Dr. Fred R. Anderson
Created: June 21, 2012
The Rev. Dr. Fred R. Anderson, Pastor of Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, offers thoughts on today’s lectionary readings.