Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Seventh Sunday of Easter - May 24, 2020

Saint Dominic contemplating the Scriptures Saint Dominic contemplating the Scriptures
Author's note:
Sometimes I have material left over when I edit Comments down to fit the available space. This page presents notes that landed on the clipping room floor. Some may be useful to you. While I avoid technical language in the Comments (or explain special terms), Clippings may have unexplained jargon from time to time.

A hypertext Glossary of Terms is integrated with Clippings. Simply click on any highlighted word in the text and a pop-up window will appear with a definition. Bibliographic references are also integrated in the same way.

Acts 1:6-14

Verses 1-5: Introduction: the risen Christ. [ NOAB]

Verse 1: Parallel to Luke 1:2-3. “Theophilus” may be a person, or may stand for anyone who loves God. [ NOAB]

Verse 2: “the apostles whom he had chosen”: This parallels Luke 6:13, the selection of the Twelve, yet it also looks back to Luke 24:44-49, Jesus’ followers receive the risen Lord’s final instructions. [ NJBC]

Verse 3: “many convincing proofs”: Some are in Luke 24:13-53. [ NOAB]

Verse 3: “forty days”: The Septuagint translation furnishes precedents for such a rounded period of preparation, e.g. Exodus 24:18; 34:28 (Moses); 1 Kings 19:8 (Elijah); Numbers 13:25; 14:34 (preparation for crossing into the Promised Land) – and closer at hand, Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, an event that precedes his first preaching. So the number represents sufficient time for the witnesses’ preparation, but it may also, with the “not many days from now” (v. 5), add up to fifty, the number of days from Passover to Jewish Pentecost and from Easter to Christian Pentecost. [ NJBC]

Verse 3: “speaking about the kingdom of God”: A constant theme of Jesus’ teaching. See, for example, Luke 4:43; 8:1; 9:11. It also a theme of the first missionaries, the Seventy, in Luke 10:1-9. [ NJBC]

Verse 4: “staying”: NJBC points out that the Greek word can also be translated as eating. He says that this meaning is more probable, given Luke 24:43 and Acts 10:41.

Verse 4: “not to leave Jerusalem”: Jesus also commands this in Luke 24:49. Jerusalem is the spiritual symbol of continuity between the times of Jesus and that of the Church. [ NJBC]

Verse 4: “the promise of the Father”: This fills out, and varies, the reprise of Luke 24:49. The promise will be announced in 2:33; it is mentioned as fulfilled in Galatians 3:14 and Ephesians 1:13. [ NJBC]

Verse 5: John the Baptist predicted that the Messiah would baptise people with the Holy Spirit: see Mark 1:8; Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16; John 1:33. The notion is also found in the Qumran literature. The conjunction of water baptism and outpouring of the Spirit (see Ezekiel 36:25-26 and John 7:37-39) will recur in 2:38; 8:14-16; 10:47-48; 19:5-6. [ NJBC]

Verses 6-11: The Ascension. These verses follow Luke 24:50-51. [ NOAB]

Verse 6: “they”: Probably more than the Eleven are in view.

Verse 6: “restore the kingdom”: Note the link to Luke 1:32. See also Jeremiah 33:7; Psalms 14:7; 85:1; Hosea 6:11; Sirach 48:10. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 7: “times or periods”: See also 1 Thessalonians 5:1 (“the times and the seasons”). Acts 3:20-21 expands these words: “so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah appointed for you, that is, Jesus, who must remain in heaven until the time of universal restoration that God announced long ago through his holy prophets”. [ NJBC]

Verse 8: “you will be my witnesses”: Of the restoration of the Kingdom. For the apostles as witnesses, see also Luke 24:46-48; Acts 1:22; 2:32. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

Verse 8: “in Jerusalem, ... to the ends of the earth”:This is the movement of Acts – to Rome, so Rome is at the end in a religious sense. [ BlkActs]

Verse 8: “to the ends of the earth”: Isaiah 49:6, a verse in the second Servant Song, says “... I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth”. See also Acts 13:47. [ NJBC]

Verses 9-11: The Ascension. For direct verbal echoes, see 2 Kings 2:9-13 (Elijah’s ascension) and Sirach 48:9, 12. While only Luke tells us the story of the Ascension, there are other possible traces of the tradition of the Ascension in Ephesians 4:8-10; 1 Timothy 3:16; John 20:17; Epistle of Barnabas 15:9. [ NJBC]

Verse 9: “a cloud”: See also Exodus 33:7-11 and Mark 9:7 (the Transfiguration).

Verse 10: “two men in white”: See also Luke 9:30, 34 (the Transfiguration, “Moses and Elijah”); 24:4-9 (the empty tomb). Such figures are semi-divine and are especially associated with the Last Days: see also Mark 9:3 and 1 Enoch 62:15ff. [ NJBC]

Verse 11: “will come in the same way”: This suggests that the Ascension and the second coming bound the present era. Jesus says in Luke 21:27: “‘Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory’”. [ NJBC]

Verses 12-26: These verses continue Luke 24:52-53. [ NJBC]

Verse 12: “the mount called Olivet”: In Judaic eschatology, at the Last Day, God will stand on the Mount of Olives and a valley will appear in the mountain, “the Lord’s mountain” (see Zechariah 14:5). By this route the people will flee; God “shall become King over all the earth” (see Zechariah 14:9), and all shall know him intimately. [ NJBC] [ BlkActs]

Verse 12: “a sabbath day’s journey”: A negligible distance, perhaps a kilometre (half a mile). [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

Verses 13-14: A minor summary portraying the harmonious and prayerful community life. See also Luke 24:53. For the wider group, see also Luke 23:49; 24:9-10, 33. Their prayer effectively illustrates Luke 11:13. [ NJBC]

Verse 13: The list of apostles is the same as in Luke 6:14-16 less, of course, Judas Iscariot, but the sequence is different: those mentioned in Acts are listed first. [ NJBC]

Verse 13: “the room upstairs”: Possibly the home of Mark’s mother: 12:12 says: “... he [Peter] went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark”. [ NJBC]

Verse 13: “John”: John is mentioned in 3:1-11; 4:13, 19; 8:14; 12:2. [ NJBC]

Verse 13: “James”: 12:2 tells us that “King Herod ... had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword”. [ BlkActs]

Psalm 68:1-10,32-35

NOAB says that this is the most difficult psalm to interpret. There is no general agreement as to its meaning as a whole or in many of its details. To some scholars, its is a collection of unrelated fragments. Perhaps, NJBC suggests, it is composed of thirty incipits (first lines or strophes) of a series of ancient hymns – thus a catalogue of lyric poems. Such catalogues are found in Mesopotamian literature.

Verses 1-6: Praise to God as helper of the helpless. [ NOAB]

Verse 2: “as wax melts before the fire”: See also 97:5; Micah 1:4; Isaiah 19:1 (“... the Lord is riding on a swift cloud ... the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them”). [ NJBC]

Verse 5: “Father of orphans and protector of widows”: Similar descriptions of concern are found in Ugaritic (Canaanite) literature. See also Deuteronomy 33:26 and Psalm 18:10. [ NJBC]

Verse 6: “gives the desolate a home”: This can also be translated as causes the unmarried to set up house, i.e. to have a family: 113:9 says “He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children ...”. [ NJBC]

Verses 7-10: God’s care for his people in times past. [ NOAB]

Verses 7,19,32: “Selah”: This word is probably a liturgical direction, added to the original text of the psalm. It may mean lift up, either to indicate the lifting up of the voices of the singers in a doxology, or to call for lifted-up instrumental music in an interlude in the singing. [ NOAB]

Verses 11-14: Announcement of a great victory. [ NOAB]

Verse 13: “dove”: An emblem of the Canaanite goddess Astarti.

Verse 14: “Zalmon”: This mountain, possibly east of the Jordan, seldom gets snow. It may be in “Bashan” (v. 15). [ JBC]

Verses 15-16: Praise of the mountain of God (Zion). The rivalry between the mountains points to a time before the choice of Zion as God’s dwelling place. (There is also a Mount Zalmon near Shechem, which is a promontory or slope of Mount Gerizim. Shechem was the principal northern worship site.) [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

Verses 17-18: Victorious, God ascends his throne in the Temple: 47:8 says “God is king over the nations; God sits on his holy throne”. [ NOAB]

Verse 17: “the Lord came from Sinai ...”: See also Isaiah 2:2-4. [ NJBC]

Verse 18: In Ephesians 4:8-9, this verse is applied to the ascended Christ: “... (When it says, "He ascended," what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth?”). [ NJBC]

Verses 19-20: Praise of God, who daily delivers the people. [ NOAB]

Verse 21: An expression of certainty that God will give victory. [ NOAB]

Verse 23: The meaning is very obscure.

Verses 24-27: The procession enters the Temple: see also 24:7-10. [ NOAB]

Verse 27: The tribe of Benjamin (the youngest of the brothers) leads; Judah is in the middle of the procession, and two northern tribes, Zebulun and Naphtali, bring up the rear.

Verses 28-31: A prayer for victory over Egypt. Note the “reeds” in v. 30. [ NOAB]

Verse 29: “kings bear gifts to you”: For kings bearing gifts to the Temple, see also Isaiah 60:6-7, 11-14. [ NJBC]

1 Peter 4:12-14;5:6-11

4:12: “fiery ordeal”: As in 1:6-7. This may be meant literally, but it is more likely to be an allusion to the book of Daniel. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

4:13: See also Acts 5:41; Romans 8:17 (“... we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.”); 2 Timothy 2:12; James 1:2. [ NOAB]

4:13: “you are sharing Christ’s sufferings”: In 2:21, they are urged to follow Christ’s example. See also 2 Corinthians 1:5; Philippians 3:10; Colossians 1:24. [ NJBC] [ CAB]

4:14: See also 2:20; 3:14; Isaiah 11:2 (in the Septuagint translation, but with a variant). [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

4:14: “the Spirit of God”: See also Numbers 11:25; Mark 13:11 (“... do not worry beforehand about what you are to say ...”); Matthew 10:20; Luke 12:11-12.

4:15: “mischief maker”: One who meddles in another’s business. See also Acts 16:20-21. [ NJBC]

4:16: Paul says in Philippians 1:20: “It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be put to shame in any way, but that by my speaking with all boldness, Christ will be exalted now as always in my body, whether by life or by death”.

4:16: “suffers as a Christian”: The same situation as in 2:15; 3:16; 4:4. [ NJBC]

4:16: “Christian”: Acts 11:26 says: “... it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called ‘Christians.’” The Latin word means partisan of Christ. Perhaps it was originally a term of reproach. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

4:17: In Malachi 3:1-5, God’s judgement will definitely begin with the Israelites (who have failed to follow his ways). It is also possible to interpret Jeremiah 25:29, Ezekiel 9:6, Isaiah 10:12 and Zechariah 13:7-9 in this way; however other interpretations are possible. Mark 13:8-13 says that the persecution of Christians will be the beginning of the process leading to the end-times. 1 Corinthians 11:31-32 says that both Christians and others will be judged, but that the effect of the judgement of Christians will be to discipline them, while that of others will be condemnation. [ NJBC]

Whether the godly are judged is a matter of interpretation. Ancient interpreters were divided on the question. For some, judgment is universal, with the godly being vindicated and the wicked damned. For others, only the wicked needed judgement, as the godly are already vindicated

4:17: “what will be the end ...”: See also 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10. [ NJBC]

4:18: The quotation is Proverbs 11:31 in the Septuagint translation. [ NJBC]

4:19: See also 2:20. This is the only place in the New Testament where the word “Creator” occurs. [ NOAB]

5:1: “elder”: In 1:1, the author refers to himself as “an apostle”. [ NJBC]

5:1: “witness”: The Greek word does not imply that the author was an eye-witness. [ NJBC]

5:2-4: A picture of the ideal pastor. See also John 21:15-17; Acts 20:28; Ephesians 4:11. [ NJBC]

5:2: “not for sordid gain”: Paul was paid for his services at times; other pastors probably were too. See also Acts 20:33-34; 1 Corinthians 9:7-14; 2 Corinthians 12:13-18; 1 Timothy 5:17-18; Matthew 10:9-10. Other warnings against greed are found in Titus 1:7; 2:5. [ NJBC]

5:4: “the chief shepherd ...”: See also 2:25. This verse echoes the language of Isaiah 53:1-12 (part of the fourth Servant Song). [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

5:4: “the crown of glory”: See also Jeremiah 13:18; 1QS (*Qumran Rule of the Community) 4:7; 1QH (Qumran Hymns) 17:25 ( Vermes: 9:25).

5:5: “clothe yourselves”: Literally tie about you, as a slave tied on an apron for menial work. So it takes effort! [ NJBC]

5:5: The quotation is Proverbs 3:34 (in the Septuagint translation). It is also quoted in James 4:6-10.

5:6: “the mighty hand of God”: For use of this phrase with reference to God’s great acts of deliverance, see Exodus 3:19; 6:1l; Deuteronomy 9:26. For it referring to the obedience he expects, see Job 30:21; Psalm 32:4; Ezekiel 20:34-35. [ NJBC]

5:7: This verse is Psalm 55:22 (in the Septuagint translation) with an echo of Wisdom of Solomon 12:13. See also Matthew 6:25-34 (“‘do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink ... ‘”). [ NJBC]

5:8: “keep alert”: See also 1:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:6; Matthew 24:42; Luke 21:34-36; Romans 13:11-12. [ NJBC]

5:8: “a roaring lion”: Psalm 22:12-13 says “Many bulls encircle me, ... they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion”. [ NJBC]

5:8: “your adversary the devil”: This adversary is as in a lawsuit, so this points to the Day of Judgement. For Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness, see Matthew 4:1-11.

5:8: “the devil”: In the Septuagint, the Greek word diabolos, devil, is used to translate the Hebrew word satan, literally accuser – as it is translated in Job 1-2. The word was later applied to the leader of the fallen angels. [ NJBC]

5:9: “him”: i.e. the devil. See also Ephesians 6:11-18. [ NOAB]

5:10: “... suffered ... grace ... called ... glory”: This verse sums up some of the chief elements of the letter. [ NJBC]

5:10: “God of all grace”: This is the “God of all consolation” of 2 Corinthians 1:3. According to 4:10, “grace” is in part the ability to serve one another in the Church. [ NJBC]

5:10: “who has called you”: See also 1 Thessalonians 2:12; 5:24.

5:11: A doxology to the Father.

John 17:1-11

This prayer of Jesus for his followers and those who will believe in him through them is a fitting culmination to Jesus’ ministry, and leads on to the cross.

Verses 1-26: This is Jesus’ high priestly prayer. It falls naturally into three parts:

  • Vv. 1-5: Jesus’ prayer for himself
  • Vv. 6-19: His prayer for his disciples, left in the world after his ascension, and
  • Vv. 20-26: His prayer for the Church universal. [ NOAB]

There are parallels to the Lord's Prayer. [ NJBC]

Verse 1: “looked up to heaven”: Presumably standing – the conventional Jewish attitude of prayer. See also 11:41; Luke 9:16; 18:13; Mark 6:41; 7:34; Matthew 14:19; 1 Enoch 13:5.

Verse 2: “you have given him authority”: To judge, lay down and take up his life. See also 5:27; 10:18; 19:10-11 (Jesus before Pilate); 3:27, 35.

Verse 4: “by finishing the work”: See also 4:34; 5:36; 19:28, 30.

Verse 4: “that you gave me to do”: See also 10:25.

Verse 5: “before the world existed”: See also 1:1ff; 8:58; 17:24.

Verse 6: “I have made your name known”: The Greek verb ephanerosa is used of the manifestation of Jesus, or of his glory, or of God’s works, in 1:31; 2:11; 9:3; 21:1, 14. Here it is to those given to Jesus by the Father that Jesus, by his words and deeds, makes known God’s “name”, i.e. his character and person. [ BlkJn]

Verse 7: “‘everything you have given me’”: i.e. the entire ministry of Jesus with all that this involves. [ BlkJn]

Verse 8: “‘for the words ...’”: Jesus’ words are the Father’s words: 3:34 says “He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure”. See also 7:16; 12:49-50; 14:10, 24. [ BlkJn]

Verse 8: “they ... know in truth that I came from you”: See also 16:27. In context, Jesus does not merely mean that he is Messiah, far less that he is a superman, one of the divine heroes of the ancient world, but that his claims to pre-existence (see v. 5) are justified. [ BlkJn]

Verse 9: “‘I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me’”: Others are not capable, unless they come to faith in Jesus (see v. 20), of sharing in what the Father gives. [ BlkJn]

Verses 11-12: 13:1 tells us that Jesus’ departure is imminent: “Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father ...”. On the disciples being left exposed to the hostility of the world, in 15:18 Jesus says “If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you”. See also 17:14 and 16:1-5a (for an alternative presentation of the ideas). [ BlkJn]

Verse 11: The unity of believers is modelled on the shared purpose and character of the Father and the Son, who are in complete unity. [ BlkJn]

Verse 12: “‘the scripture’”: That “scripture” is in the singular implies that John has a particular passage in mind. It may be Psalm 41:9 (“Even my bosom friend in whom I trusted, who ate of my bread, has lifted the heel against me.”), which Jesus quotes in 13:18. [ BlkJn]

Verse 12: “the one destined to be lost”: This phrase is also found in 2 Thessalonians 2:3; there it refers to the Antichrist. [ BlkJn]

Verse 14: “‘word’”: See also 1:1-19: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...”.

Verse 17: “your word is truth”: God’s “word” (Greek: logos) is the means of sanctification. The Father’s “word” is characterized as the revelation of ultimate reality. 1:14 says that the incarnate “Word”, Jesus, is “full of grace and truth”. The “truth” sets free those who persevere in Jesus’ word: see 8:31-36. [ BlkJn]

Verse 18: In 20:21, in his appearance to the disciples, Jesus tells them: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you”. [ BlkJn]

Verse 19: “‘sanctify myself’”: In the Septuagint translation, the Greek verb agiadzo (“sanctify”) is used both for the setting apart for God (in Exodus 3:2 and Deuteronomy 15:19) and for the consecration of people to God’s service (in Jeremiah 1:5, of a prophet, and in Exodus 28:41, of priests). Christ’s perfect self-offering is the means by which the disciples whom he is sending into the world are dedicated in obedience to God. [ BlkJn]

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