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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Passion Sunday - Liturgy of the Passion - April 13, 2014



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.

Isaiah 50:4-9a

Verse 4: “tongue of a teacher”: The phrase in the vowel--less Masoretic text translates as disciple’s tongue.

Verse 4: “weary ...”: Another translation places a period (full stop) after “weary”. It continues: The word wakens me each morning . For “those who are taught”, it has like a disciple. [ NJBC]

Verses 7-9: In Jeremiah 1:18-19, Yahweh tells Jeremiah: “I for my part have made you today a fortified city, an iron pillar, and a bronze wall, against the whole land – against the kings of Judah, its princes, its priests, and the people of the land. They will fight against you; but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, says the Lord, to deliver you”. See also Jeremiah 17:17-18 and Ezekiel 3:7-11. In Romans 8:33, Paul asks: “Who will bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies”. [ NOAB]

Verse 7: “face like flint”: The phrase is common in prophetic teaching. In Isaiah 48:4, the prophet says “... I know that you are obstinate, and your neck is an iron sinew and your forehead brass”. In Ezekiel 3:8-9 Yahweh tells Ezekiel, as part of his commissioning: “I have made your face hard against their faces, and your forehead hard against their foreheads. Like the hardest stone, harder than flint, I have made your forehead”. In Luke 9:51, the evangelist tells us: “When the days drew near for him [Jesus] to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem”. [ NJBC]

Verse 8: Courtroom terminology is also used in Chapter 41. [ NJBC]

Verse 9b: This naturally follows v. 3, so it appears that the Servant Song has been inserted. [ NJBC]

Psalm 31:9-16

The concepts of honour and disgrace (losing face) played an important part in Israel’s consciousness. [ NJBC]

Vv. 1-8 and 9-24 are parallel in form, both containing the principal elements of a lament:

Cry for help vv. 1-5 v. 9
The psalmist’s situation v. 4 vv. 10-13
His expression of confidence in God v. 5 vv. 14, 19-24
His grateful recognition of God’s help vv. 7-8 vv. 21-24 [ NOAB]

Verse 3: “my rock and my fortress”: In 18:2, a psalmist writes: “The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold”.

Verse 4: “take me out of the net”: A common motif. 9:16 says “The Lord has made himself known, he has executed judgment; the wicked are snared in the work of their own hands” See also 10:9 and 25:15. [ NJBC]

Verse 5: “Into your hand I commit my spirit”: Jesus utters this expression of serene confidence just before he dies: see Luke 23:46. [ NJBC]

Verse 6: A protestation of innocence: I deserve God’s protection because I am loyal to him. In 17:3-5, a psalmist tells Yahweh: “If you try my heart, if you visit me by night, if you test me, you will find no wickedness in me; my mouth does not transgress. ... My steps have held fast to your paths; my feet have not slipped”. [ NOAB]

Verse 12: “broken vessel”: Ecclesiastes 12:6 speaks of death as being when “the silver cord is snapped, and the golden bowl is broken, and the pitcher is broken at the fountain, and the wheel broken at the cistern”. [ NOAB]

Verse 13: “terror all around!”: In Jeremiah 20:10, the prophet says at a time when he has, on Yahweh’s behalf, prophesied the doom of his people: “I hear many whispering: ‘Terror is all around! Denounce him! Let us denounce him!’ All my close friends are watching for me to stumble. ‘Perhaps he can be enticed, and we can prevail against him, and take our revenge on him’”. [ CAB]

Verse 15: “My times are in your hand”: In ancient Near East cultures, the major events of life were seen as being in the hands of the god(s). [ NJBC]

Verse 22: “‘I am driven far from your sight’”: This probably means: I am excluded from God’s life--giving presence in the Temple. [ NJBC]

Philippians 2:5-11

For other fragments of early Christian hymns on the subject of Christ’s work, see 1:15-20; Ephesians 2:14-16; 1 Timothy 3:16; 1 Peter 3:18-19, 22; Hebrews 1:3. [ CAB]

Verse 6: “in the form of God”: i.e. pre--existent and divine, sharing in God’s very nature. Colossians 1:15-16 says of Christ: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, ... all things have been created through him and for him”. See also John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:15; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Romans 8:3; Galatians 4:4. [ NOAB]

Verse 7: “slave”: Perhaps an allusion to Isaiah 52:13-53:12, a Servant Song. [ NOAB]

Verse 8: Hebrews 12:2 says: “... Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame ...”. See also Matthew 26:39, John 10:18; Romans 5:19; Hebrews 5:8. [ NOAB]

Verse 9: “highly exalted him”: In his resurrection and ascension. In his Pentecost sermon, Peter says: “This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you both see and hear” (see Acts 2:32-33). See also Acts 5:30-31; Ephesians 1:20-21. [ CAB]

Verse 11: Paul writes in Romans 10:9 “... if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”. See also 2 Corinthians 9:13. [ NJBC].

Verse 11: “Lord”: The title of Israel’s covenant God is applied by Christians to the risen and glorified Jesus, as also in 1 Thessalonians 1:1. [ NOAB]

Matthew 26:14-27:66

The parallels are:

Matthew Mark Luke John
26:14-16 14:10-11 22:3-6 18:2-5
26:17-19 14:12-16 22:7-13
26:20-25 14:17-21 22:14, 21-23 13:21-30
26:26-29 14:22-25 22:15-20 --
26:30-35 14:26-31 22:39; 22:31-34 18:1; 13:36-38; 16:32
26:36-46 14:32-42 22:40-46 18:1; 12:27; 14:31; 18:11
26:47-56 14:43-52 22:47-53 18:2-12, 20
26:57-75 14:53-72 22:54-71 18:13-27
27:1-2 15:1 23:1 18:28-32
27:3-10
27:11-14 15:2-5 23:2-5 18:33-37; 19:6, 9-10
27:15-26 15:6-15 23:17-25 18:38-40; 19:4-16
27:27-31 15:16-20 19:1-3
27:32-44 15:21-32 23:26-43 19:17-24
27:45-61 15:33-47 23:44-56 19:25-42
27:62-66

Parallels in chapters of John other than 18 and 19 are theological, rather than narrative.

26:2: “Passover”: See Exodus 12:18-27 and Deuteronomy 16:5-8 for its origins.

Comments: In this particular year, Passover begins on a Thursday evening : As we (and the Romans) reckon the day. For Jews, Friday begins at sundown. Because the start of Passover is linked to the phases of the moon, it could fall on any day of the week.

26:6: “the house of Simon the leper”: Jesus is anointed in a ritually impure setting. [ JBC]

26:7: To afford a “very costly ointment”, the woman is one of means.

26:15: “thirty pieces of silver”: In Exodus 21:32, “thirty shekels of silver” is decreed as the payment an owner must make if his “ox gores a male or female slave”. [ JBC]

26:16: “from that moment”: We are told of other turning points, 4:17 (“From that time Jesus began to proclaim, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near’”) and 16:21 (“ From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised”).

Comments: Space is scarce in the city, so Jesus sends his disciples to reserve a room: Jerusalem’s normal population was about 30,000. During Passover, it swelled to about 100,000.

26:18: “My time is near”: In the Garden of Gethsemane, as Jesus wakes up the disciples, he says “the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners”. See also John 7:6; 12:23; 13:1; 17:1. [ NOAB]

26:20: “took his place”: NJBC translates the Greek as reclined.

26:20: “with the twelve”: At a Seder meal, women and children were also present. [ NJBC]

26:24: See also Psalm 41:9; 1 Corinthians 15:3; Acts 17:2-3; Matthew 18:7. [ NOAB]

26:27: Some Jewish meals included a prayer over the cup and several such prayers might be offered during a meal.

26:28: This verse relates the eucharistic rite to Jesus’ impending death on the cross, as being of atoning, saving, significance: see Exodus 24:6-8 and Jeremiah 31:31-34. His blood is a mediating reality in the new relationship between God and humans. See also Hebrews 9:20; Matthew 20:28; Mark 1:4. [ NJBC] [ NOAB]

26:29: See also Luke 14:15; 22:18, 30; Revelation 19:9. For the messianic banquet at the end of time, see Isaiah 25:6. [ NOAB]

26:29: “when I drink it new ...”: The next milestone after his death and resurrection will be his second coming. There is an echo of the Emmanuel prophecy in 1:23. See also 18:20; 28:20. [ NJBC]

26:30: “the hymn”: Probably Psalms 115-118. [ NOAB]

26:30: “the Mount of Olives”: 2 Samuel 15:30-31 tells of David’s flight there: “... David went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went, with his head covered and walking barefoot; and all the people who were with him covered their heads and went up, weeping as they went”.

26:31-35: Jesus makes three predictions:

Prediction made in: Referred to again in: Fulfilled in:
v. 31 26:56
v. 32

28:7, 10

28:16-20
v. 34 26:69-75 [ NJBC]

26:31: In John 16:32, Jesus says “The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me”.

26:34: “before the cock crows”: i.e. before dawn, although cocks sometimes crow in the middle of the night! [ NOAB]

26:35: All the disciples flee in 26:56. [ NJBC]

26:37: “the two sons of Zebedee”: In 20:20-21, their mother asks a favour of Jesus. [ NJBC]

26:38: “I am deeply grieved”: Greek: My soul is ... Jesus’s words echo Psalms 42:6, 11; 43:5. See also John 12:27; Hebrews 5:7-8. [ NJBC] [ NOAB]

26:39: See Ezekiel 23:31-34; John 18:11; Matthew 20:22. [ NOAB]

26:39: “this cup”: A metaphor for that which is allotted by God, whether blessing (see Psalms 16:5 and 116:13) or judgement (see Isaiah 5:17 and Lamentations 4:21). Here it is Jesus’ suffering and death: see 20:22; 26:27-28 and Mark 10:38. [ NJBC]

26:41: See also 6:13 (the Lord’s Prayer) and Luke 11:4. [ NOAB]

26:41: “spirit ... flesh”: These correspond to the two tendencies of good and evil in rabbinic psychology. [ NJBC]

26:42: See also John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38. Jesus’ prayer is modelled on 6:10 (the Lord’s Prayer). [ NOAB]

26:45: “the hour”: Of destiny, truth and supreme trial.

As with the temptation in the wilderness ( 4:1-11), the whole scene can be read as a commentary on the command to love God with all one’s heart (i.e. will, 26:39), soul ( 26:38) and strength ( 26:42).

26:47: Note the omission of the scribes from the list of villains, but see 26:57 and 27:41. By omitting the Pharisees from these chapters, Matthew appears to exonerate the Pharisees. [ NJBC]

26:49: “Greetings, Rabbi!”: A further token of false heartedness. [ NJBC]

26:50: “Friend”: The Greek word is slightly formal – and is ironical. Jesus also uses this form of address in 22:12. The synoptic gospels do not report Judas’ movements in this night but John gives some information: see John 13:30 (“... after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night”) and 18:3 (“... Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons”). [ NJBC]

26:51: John 18:10 says “Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest's slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave's name was Malchus”. Luke tells us that the ear was healed. [ NOAB]

26:52: Genesis 9:6 says: “Whoever sheds the blood of a human, by a human shall that person's blood be shed; for in his own image God made humankind.”. See also Revelation 13:10. [ NOAB]

Comments: Jesus’ preference is for non--violence: In 5:39, Jesus says: “Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also”.

26:55: Luke 19:47 tells us “Every day he was teaching in the temple. The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people kept looking for a way to kill him”. The “high priest” questions “Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching” in John 18:19-21. [ NOAB]

26:56: “the scriptures of the prophets ...”: To Matthew, the scriptures are prophetic. Events happen according to divine plan. [ NJBC]

26:57-75: The historicity of the healing before the Sanhedrin is disputed. There probably was such a hearing, but it was not a full trial and may have involved Romans in planning it.

26:57: “Caiaphas”: Of the synoptic gospels, only Matthew identifies the high priest. Caiaphas was high priest 18-36 AD. John 18:13 tells us that “Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year”. The Sanhedrin was made up of 70 priests, scribes and elders . See also John 11:47. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

26:60-61: For the requirement for two witnesses, see also Numbers 35:30.

26:61: “destroy the temple of God”: See 24:2; 27:40; Mark 13:2; 14:58; John 2:19; Acts 6:14. [ NOAB]

26:63: See also 27:11 (Jesus is questioned by Pilate) and John 18:33. [ NJBC]

26:63: “I put you under oath”: NJBC offers I adjure you.

26:64: “From now on ...”: This is a conflation of parts of Daniel 7:13 and Psalm 110:1. [ NOAB]

26:64: “the Son of Man”: In 16:28, Jesus predicts that “... there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom. [ NOAB]

26:65: “tore his clothes”: Numbers 14:6 tells us that “Joshua ... and Caleb ..., among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes”. When Paul and Barnabas are mistaken for gods, they tear their clothes in grief (or frustration): see Acts 14:14. [ NOAB]

26:66: “He deserves death”: Leviticus 24:16 prescribes that “One who blasphemes the name of the Lord shall be put to death”. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

26:67: “they spat ...”: It appears that they is members of the Sanhedrin, but see Luke 22:63.

Comments: Peter’s dialect, his “accent”, shows him to be Galilean: See also Acts 2:7 (the Day of Pentecost).

27:1: “When morning came”: This can be taken as an indication that the Sanhedrin met late into the night. Jewish law required that the Sanhedrin only take formal action by daylight.

27:3-10: These verses are only in Matthew. They are probably here to explain how the “potter’s field” (v. 7) came to be known as “the Field of Blood” (v. 8). It appears to be based on local oral traditions; it shares with the version in Acts 1:18 that Judas suffered a violent death and that there was a connection between his death and the Field of Blood; however Acts records a different form of death: Judas fell headlong and burst open. [ NJBC]

27:5: Suicides are rare in the Bible. Some are recorded in 1 Samuel 31:4-5 (Saul falls on his sword); 2 Samuel 17:23 (Ahithophel hangs himself); 1 Kings 16:18 (Zimri burns himself to death). [ NJBC]

27:9-10: The quotation is actually a complex use of Zechariah 11:12, 13 (note the NRSV footnote re the potter); Exodus 9:12; Jeremiah 32:6-15 (especially v. 7); 18:2; 19:1-2; 7:30-34. [ NJBC]

27:11-14: Matthew introduces the Roman trial in a formal, judicial way.

27:11: The high priest has asked: Are you the Messiah? in 26:63. Now Pilate asks as a Gentile: “Are you the King of the Jews?” – but see 27:17 and 27:22 where Pilate refers to Jesus as the Messiah when speaking to the Jewish crowd. [ NJBC]

27:11: “You say so”: Meaning: you have answered your own question. I could say yes clearly, but if I did you would understand king in a way I do not intend. [ NJBC]

27:13: Matthew does not tell us the charges.

27:15: “the governor was accustomed”: In Mark, it appears that it was Pilate’s practice – not a custom.

27:18: “jealousy”: NJBC translates the Greek word as envy. The unworthiness of their motive leads Matthew to the next verse.

27:19: Dreams in Matthew furnish divine guidance: being “innocent”, Jesus should be released. See also Luke 23:4. [ NOAB]

27:20: “persuaded the crowds”: For the first time, the crowds are implicated in the miscarriage of justice. [ NJBC]

27:21: See also Acts 3:13-14 (Peter’s speech in Solomon’s Portico). [ NOAB]

27:23: “Let him be crucified!”: The first of three calls for the death penalty.

27:24: “washed his hands”: For this Jewish rite of declaring innocence, see Deuteronomy 21:6-9 and Psalms 26:6; 73:13. [ NJBC]

27:24: “see to it yourselves”: As the members of the Sanhedrin say to Judas in 27:4. [ NJBC]

27:25: See also Acts 5:28 (the apostles before the Sanhedrin) and Joshua 2:19. [ NOAB]

27:25: “the people as a whole”: i.e. the priests, lay leaders and crowd.

27:25: “His blood be on us”: See also 2 Samuel 1:16; Jeremiah 26:15; 51:35; 1 Kings 2:33. [ NJBC]

27:26: “he handed him over to be crucified”: Pilate is responsible in spite of his declaration of innocence in v. 24. [ NJBC]

27:27: “the whole cohort”: At full strength, about 500 men. [ NJBC]

27:28-31: The mocking of Jesus is a gesture of momentary moral chaos with affinities to the Roman Saturnalia festival and to the mock king occasions going back to ancient Babylonia. Jesus has already been mocked (apparently by the Sanhedrin) in 26:67-68. [ NJBC]

27:28: “They stripped him”: Jesus has already been stripped for the flogging. [ NJBC]

27:32-33: The procession included Jesus, two other prisoners, a centurion and a few soldiers. In John 19:17, Jesus carries his own cross (but John’s purpose may be theological rather than narrative.) [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

27:34: There are illusions here to Psalm 69:21: “They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink”. [ NJBC]

27:35: “they divided his clothes”: A Roman custom. The clothes would be a head--dress, cloak or outer garment, belt, shoes, and tunic or inner garment. See also John 19:23. [ NOAB]

27:37: “King of the Jews”: The Romans recognized the ruling Herod family, so it seems implied that Jesus was a pretender and revolutionary. [ NOAB]

27:39: “shaking their heads”: See Psalms 22:7-8; 109:25; Lamentations 2:15. [ NOAB] [ NJBC]

27:40: See also 26:21 (Jesus foretells his betrayal); Acts 6:14 (Stephen’s speech); John 2:19 (Jesus says “‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up’”).

27:41: “the chief priests ...”: A full list of those responsible. Note the omission of the Pharisees.

27:42: “King of Israel”: Rather than of the “Jews” (v. 37), so of the religious community, not the state. For Christians, Jesus is saviour for enduring the cross – not for avoiding it. [ NJBC]

27:45: “darkness”: See also Genesis 1:2; Exodus 10:22; Amos 8:9. [ NJBC]

27:46: “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani”: Quoted from Psalm 22:1. Sebaq is Aramaic for leave, abandon. [ NJBC]

27:48: See Psalm 69:21. [ NJBC]

27:51a: See also Hebrews 9:8; 10:19-20; Exodus 26:31-35; Matthew 28:2. In the new era, the Temple will not be a building. [ NOAB]

27:51b-53: For similar cosmic portents, see 2:2. The Old Testament background is found in Joel 2:10; Ezekiel 37:12; Isaiah 26:19; Nahum 1:5-6; Daniel 12:2. There is hope beyond the grave. [ NJBC]

27:55: The presence of the women shows the power of love. [ NJBC]

27:56: “James”: Possibly the James of 10:3, Luke 24:10 and Acts 1:13. [ NOAB]

27:57: “rich”: To afford a tomb, one needed to be rich. [ NJBC]

27:57: “a disciple of Jesus”: In Mark, he is a member of the Sanhedrin. The bodies of those executed were normally denied burial. [ NJBC]

27:60: “rolled a great stone”: The circular stone door rolled in a track. Recent excavations show that the tomb was in an abandoned quarry. [ NJBC]

27:61: The women are present as witnesses to the correct site, not only as mourners. Because women could not be legal witnesses, this verse has historical veracity. [ NJBC]

27:62: “The next day”: i.e. the Sabbath.

27:63: See 16:21 (“... Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised”); 17:23; 20:19. See also 12:40; 26:61; 27:40. [ NJBC]

27:65: “You have a guard of soldiers”: As translated, this is permission to use the temple police (who were under the authority of the Sanhedrin). Another translation is Take a guard, i.e. Pilate grants them a squad of Roman soldiers. [ NOAB]

27:66: “sealing the stone”: There may be an allusion here to Daniel in the lion’s den: see Daniel 6:17. [ NJBC]

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