Comments

Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Eighth Sunday after Epiphany - February 27, 2000



Saint Dominic contemplating the Scriptures

Saint Dominic
contemplating the Scriptures

Comments have been prepared by Chris Haslam using reputable commentaries, and checked for accuracy by the Rev'd Alan T Perry, of the Anglican Diocese of Montreal. While not intended to be exhaustive, they are an aid to reading the Scriptures with greater understanding.

Comments are best read with the lessons.

Feedback is always welcome.


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Hosea

Hosea was a native of the northern kingdom, Israel. He prophesied during the decades before the kingdom was conquered by the Assyrians (in 721BC). It was a time of warfare and near anarchy. Four kings of Israel were assassinated within 14 years. Hosea's marriage to a prostitute symbolizes Israel's relationship to God. The people of Israel have become unfaithful to their covenant with God. Hosea's wife leaves him after bearing him three children. But Hosea takes her back publicly - something unheard of in Israelite culture. His personal life is an embodiment of God's redeeming love. God will have compassion on Israel; he will not desert his people.


Hosea 2:14-20

God, speaking through the prophet Hosea, has begun using the metaphor of marriage to describe the relationship between him and Israel: he is the husband and Israel the wife. She has succumbed to worshipping Canaanite gods (including Baal) and has come to see pagan gods as the source of basic necessities rather than God (v. 4). So God will take fertility of the land away from them. Israel will be disclosed to be the whore that she is; she will be punished for worshipping "Baals" (v. 13).

But this is not God's final sentence. He will "allure" her back, to a state ("wilderness", v .14) where she can again make contact with him (as he did during the Exodus). He will care for her. He will again bless her with good harvests ("vineyards", v. 15). Israel will (figuratively) again gain access to the fertile central plain of Palestine through "the Valley of Achor". She will be rejuvenated. At the time of this salvation ("on that day", v. 16), she will become his partner and no longer be in servitude. ("Baal" here means master or overlord.) He will remove the temptation to worship pagan deities (v. 17); he will make a new "covenant" (v. 18) with all animals and abolish warfare, thus protecting his people. This marriage will be "forever" (v. 19). As groom, he offers her a dowry ("take you ... in") of integrity ("righteousness"), working out with her what is right ("justice"), loyalty to the covenant ("steadfast love"), forgiveness ("mercy") and fidelity ("faithfulness"). She will come to know him through walking in his ways (v. 20).


Psalms

Psalms is a collection of collections. The psalms were written over many centuries, stretching from the days of Solomon's temple (about 950 BC) to after the Exile (about 350 BC.) Psalms are of five types: hymns of praise, laments, thanksgiving psalms, royal psalms, and wisdom psalms. Within the book, there are five "books"; there is a doxology ("Blessed be ... Amen and Amen") at the end of each book.


Psalm 103:1-13,22

The psalmist, from his very being ("my soul"), praises God for all he has done for him. God has cured him of a physical disease ("diseases", v. 2). ("You" and "your" means one and one's.) Illness was seen as punishment for sin, so healing is a sign of forgiveness of it ("iniquity", v. 3), i.e. redemption to a good relationship with God. The psalmist was so ill that he felt his life slipping away, of descending into "the Pit" (v. 4, called Sheol elsewhere.) It was the place of the dead, where humans retained only faint glimmerings of life. God has restored him to youthful vigour (v. 5) (Eagles were proverbial for their vigour.) Vv. 6-18 contrast God with humans: God is just (especially to the oppressed), "merciful" (v. 8) and loving ("gracious") to those who hold him in reverence ("fear him", vv. 11, 13). He is slow to anger and forgiving (vv. 9-10, 12). He is like a "father" (v. 13) to us; he realizes our frailty (vv. 14-16). God loves those who hold him in awe and keep his pact for ever, through all generations (vv. 17-18). He "rules over all" (v. 19), so honour "the Lord" (v. 22), all he has created ("all his works", v. 22), whether you be in heaven (vv. 20-21) or on earth (vv. 22)


2 Corinthians

This is a letter, written in the style common in the first century AD. From the text, we know that Paul wrote it in Macedonia after leaving Ephesus, probably in the autumn of 57 AD. It gives us a picture of Paul the person: an affectionate man, hurt to the quick by misunderstandings and evil-doing of his beloved fellow Christians, yet happy when he can praise them. The letter's prime intent is to combat evils which have arisen in the Christian communities in the Achaian peninsula of Greece.


2 Corinthians 3:1-6

Because Paul has not visited the Christians at Corinth as expected, their trust in him has diminished. He seeks to restore it. He has just likened the "triumphal procession" (2:14) of Christians, led by Christ, to that of a Roman conqueror and his army as they parade through Rome. In our procession, the good news (which "comes from knowing" Christ) spreads far and wide. In a Roman parade, "fragrance" (incense) permeated the air; in Christ, we spread both bad and good news: of annihilation at the end of time to those who are false to God, and of eternal life to those who are true to him. The Christians of Corinth need to realize that Paul, unlike other preachers ("peddlers"), does not use "God's word" (2:17) for financial gain, but offers it freely, with "sincerity", as an emissary of God who knows his ways.

But Paul is cautious, lest misunderstanding between him and the community grow rather than fade: am I boasting about myself? Am I like other itinerant preachers? Surely I am known to you; surely there is no need for formal introduction for you are the proof of my ministry ("you are a letter of Christ ...", v. 3). You show a way of being in concert with the Holy Spirit, not one dependant on legalism, on Mosaic law ("tablets of stone", v. 3). You are in the new covenant, not the old. Paul's "confidence" in asserting this, and his competence are "through Christ" (v. 4) and "from God" (v. 5). It is God that has made him who he is (v. 6). Keeping Mosaic law ("the letter", v. 6) leads to despair and death ("kills") while living in "the Spirit" leads to eternal "life".


Symbol of St Mark

Mark

As witnesses to the events of Jesus life and death became old and died, the need arose for a written synopsis. Tradition has it that Mark, while in Rome, wrote down what Peter remembered. This book stresses the crucifixion and resurrection as keys to understanding who Jesus was. When other synoptic gospels were written, i.e. Matthew and Luke, they used the Gospel according to Mark as a source. Mark is most probably the John Mark mentioned in Acts 12:12: his mother's house was a meeting place for believers.


Mark 2:13-22

Jesus is at Capernaum, on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. He has told a paralytic that his sins are forgiven but some religious authorities have doubted his ability to do so, for only God can forgive sins. He has proved that he is from God by also healing the man.

Tax collectors were considered unclean ritually, worked for the occupying power and were suspect financially. As with Peter and Andrew, Jesus sees Levi "beside the sea" (v. 13) and Levi responds immediately to Jesus' call to follow him. (Although called Matthew in Matthew 9:9, it is unclear as to whether he is the author of that gospel.) Jesus dines with people of trades that made them ritually unclean, outcasts from society (v. 15). As earlier, members of the religiously powerful question his actions. Jesus replies that he comes to "call" (v. 17) and invite to his Kingdom those in need of repentance, not those who think themselves one with God ("righteous"). In v. 18, two other groups question the practices of Jesus' disciples. Jesus answers using the metaphor of marriage between God and his people (as in Hosea): he is "the bridegroom" and his followers the "wedding guests". The feast is in progress, so this is a time for joy. After his death will be the time for fasting. In vv. 21-22, Jesus insists that the old way of being and the new (which he brings) be separate, but both are to be valued. New material stretches more than old. When wine ferments, it expands. Soft new wineskins expand with the wine but old ones do not.

© 1996-2016 Chris Haslam



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