This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on October 29, 2017.
The lectionary seemingly assigns us two moments in Matthew this week. In the first, Pharisees test Jesus’ legal knowledge, prompting him to offer his infamous articulation of the greatest commandment. In the second, Jesus turns the tables, quizzing his inquisitors about the Messiah, ultimately leaving them speechless. The temptation here is to pick a passage like we pick our news outlets, zeroing in on one (likely the first) to the complete exclusion of the other. However, we’d do well to receive the assignment as given and wrestle with why the lectionary lists these moments as the biblical author does, as one.
The second half of this passage gives weight to the first in a few notable ways. First, Jesus comes closer to revealing his identity here than in any of the previous chapters in Matthew. Son of David was a common messianic reference, and if you turn back a page, you’ll see this is the title the crowds he encountered on the way into Jerusalem and the children in the temple courts have already given him. In this light, the question itself implies his Messianic identity. Secondly, the fact that Jesus answers their question impressively and they are dumbstruck by his speaks both to Jesus’ credibility and authority as a teacher. Soon these elders and teachers of the law will have him arrested and put him on trial. Matthew wants us to witness this before we get to that. The higher credibility and authority of Jesus in comparison to other teachers of the law is established here. Finally, the establishment of Jesus as the teacher of highest authority combined with the implication of his messiahship calls the reader back to his response regarding the greatest commandment, because it provides us with an important interpretive resource for life, scripture and the messiahship of Jesus.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on February 7, 2016.
Luke begins this section on the transfiguration by telling us it happened “about 8 days after Jesus said this.” (Luke 9:28) This should prompt the eyes of the preacher to look up the page and see that Jesus’ transfiguration comes just after Jesus offers words about the meaning of his messiahship and, consequently, the nature of discipleship for those who choose to follow him. Jesus asks the disciples to tell Him what the crowds are saying about Jesus’ identity. Some say he’s John the Baptist, Elijah or one of the other long-gone great prophets, but Peter says he is God’s Messiah. (Luke 9:20) Notice then what happens next: Jesus affirms his messiahship, asks them to keep a lid on it for a while, and tells them that His messiahship will be characterized by submission and suffering, death then resurrection. In Matthew and Mark’s gospels this description prompts confrontation between Peter and Jesus (Matthew 16: 22-23; Mark 8:33), but here Jesus moves on to what this will mean for his disciples – that they must be prepared to follow suit. Before and after the transfiguration Jesus offers clarity by teaching and experience regarding exactly who he is and who he isn’t, and consequently, what it will and won’t look like to continue following him. The preacher will want to remember this distinction as they survey the possibilities within our text this week.
Jesus’ company on the mountain clearly answers the question of whether he might be the second coming of Elijah (Luke 9:19), or Moses for that matter. He is not, but Luke does want us to see Jesus’ connection to them. Perhaps intentionally, Luke does not tell us what mountain Jesus is transfigured upon. Some think it was part of Mt. Hermon, near Caesarea Philippi, since the transfiguration occurs shortly after Peter’s confession there in Mark, still others have identified it as Mt. Tabor, near Nazareth, however, symbolically Luke may prefer we sense similarity with the experience of Moses and Elijah on Mt. Sinai and Mt. Horeb. This gives some added content to the glory (Luke 9:32) seen in Jesus in this moment. It is not a glory divorced from the past. Rather, Jesus, his glory and his mission are connected to Israel’s great past. For instance, the word “departure” utilized in their discussion about Jesus’ mission, means exodus, and there is little doubt the author wants us to make this connection. Jesus, like Moses, will lead his people out of bondage. How many connections might be made here with people in the congregation who are longing for freedom from something that has a hold on them?
This text is used for the Lectionary Year B on November 22, 2015.
Today’s passage offers a glimpse into Pilate’s private investigation of Jesus as described in the Gospel of John. Most of the conversation is comprised of material unique to this Gospel except for the central question from which this Sunday’s festival of “Christ the King” takes its name. Each one of the Gospels records that “Are you the King of the Jews?” was Pilate’s first question during his tête–à–tête with Jesus (Matthew 27:11; Mark 15:2; Luke 23:3; John 18:33). The fact that all four preserve this same question and place it first speaks to the significance of the charge at Jesus’ trial and to the strength of this memory among the early Church.
Up to this point in the Gospel of John, “King” and “kingdom” language has been noticeably sparse (occurring only in 1:49; 3:5; and 12:13), especially in comparison with the emphasis on the “kingdom of God” in Jesus’ teaching in the Synoptics. In John’s passion narrative, however, Jesus’ kingship takes on a more prominent role (cf. 18:33, 36, 37; 19:19, 21) because of the trial charge.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on March 16, 2014.
Have you noticed lately that when you try to use a $20 bill at the store, the cashier swipes it with a marker before accepting it? What is the purpose of that action? She or he wants to make sure your bill is legitimate, not counterfeit. There are many cases in which we are concerned with legitimacy: news stories, internet “facts”, credit card charges. Some things are too important to risk illegitimacy. Continue reading →