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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Saint Peter and Saint Paul - June 29, 2014



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 Venerable Alan T Perry, of the Anglican Diocese of Edmonton. While not intended to be exhaustive, they are an aid to reading the Scriptures with greater understanding.

Comments are best read with the lessons.

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Ezekiel

Ezekiel was a prophet and a priest. His ministry began before the conquest of Judah in 587 BC, and continued in exile in Babylon. This book is the foundation for both Jewish and Christian visionary or apocalyptic literature, e.g. Revelation (or The Apocalypse.) It is a book that contains many strange things (strange because we do not understand them, e.g. Ezekiel eating a scroll), but the prophet's message to the exiles is clear: he assures his hearers of God's abiding presence among them, and he emphasizes God's involvement in the events of the day, so that Israel and all nations "will know that I am the Lord". For the first time, we see the importance of the individual in his relationship to God. To a dispersed and discouraged people, he brings a message of hope: hope that God will restore them to their homeland and the temple.


Ezekiel 34:11-16

From the third millennium on, rulers in the Near East saw themselves as shepherds of their subjects. Vv. 1-2 say: “The word of the Lord came to me: ... prophesy against the shepherds of Israel ...” Israel’s kings had mistreated their people and were responsible for scattering them. The kings had taken the plenty of the land for themselves, rather than sharing it with their subjects. Written in a time of despondency (Judah had been invaded by Babylon in 587 BC), vv. 1-10 blame the people’s sorry state on the kings: some people had dispersed around the Mediterranean; others were deported to Babylon; those left at home were no better off. In foreign lands, they have fallen prey to pagan beliefs. Rulers too are subject to God’s law: they are individually responsible for the mess.

Now God will reverse the evil done by the bad human shepherds. He will “seek ... out” (v. 11) the sheep, and “rescue” (v. 12) them from wherever they have been scattered. God will “gather them” (v. 13) and bring them back, restore them, to Palestine; he will care for them (v. 14). He will aid the “lost” (v. 16), “strayed”, “injured” and “weak” – but he will destroy the “fat and the strong”, i.e. those who rule them. God will give them justice: rulers will be accountable for their actions. God will judge, and differentiate between, the “fat sheep” (v. 20, the overfed rich oppressors, the ungodly) and the “lean” (the underfed poor oppressed, the godly). “I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged” (v. 22). The sheep must behave properly, and submit to “one shepherd” (v. 23), a descendant of “David”, whom God will place over them. He will “make with them a covenant of peace” (v. 25) and will bring prosperity and safety from attack by other nations; then Israel will truly know her God. Jesus built on this passage to express the nature of his mission.


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 87

The text of this psalm is damaged, so scholars are unsure of its full meaning; even so, it is clear that vv. 1-3 tell of God’s choice of “Zion”, Jerusalem, as his earthly home: he loves Jerusalem more than any other city in Israel (“Jacob”, v. 2). V. 4 probably says that God includes the dispersed Jews (living in Egypt: “Rahab”, “Babylon”, etc.) among the citizens of Jerusalem, but it may include non-Jews who acknowledge God as their god. Then v. 6: God keeps a record of those who follow his ways; he take special pleasure in the citizens of “Zion” (v. 5). V. 7 is a fragment of the rest of the psalm. All the godly find “springs”, their sources of well-being, in God.


2 Timothy

1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus, together known as the Pastoral Epistles, are markedly different in vocabulary and literary style from epistles we know to be Paul's. They also present a more institutionalized church. For these reasons, most scholars believe that the Pastorals were written a generation or so later than the letters we are sure are Pauline. 2 Timothy is the most personal of the Pastorals: most of it is directed specifically to Timothy. From the Book of Acts, we know that Timothy was from Lystra in Asia Minor, and was the son of a Greek father and a Jewish mother who had become a Christian. He accompanied Paul on his travels.


2 Timothy 4:1-8

To understand this letter, it helps to know that, while it appears to be written by Paul, it was actually written by one of his followers (in his name) some time later: it reflects the Church’s situation about 100 AD, so we contend with a time warp. The author speaks to his readers “in the presence of God” and (in particular) of Christ who, when he comes again (“appearing”) to inaugurate his “kingdom”, will judge both those who are still alive (“living”) and those who have already died; he urges them to “proclaim the message” (v. 2), the traditions handed down to them about Jesus’ life and mission; to use every opportunity to preach – whether the time seems propitious (“favourable”) or not; to convince, and to “rebuke”, those who distort this tradition, this deposit of faith, etc. Why? Because (from Paul’s viewpoint), “the time is coming” (v. 3) when people will listen to teachers who say what they want to hear (rather than the Truth). (From the first readers’ viewpoint, this is happening now, in 100 AD.) People will/do “wander away to myths” (v. 4), distortions of the gospel. Rather, be “sober” (v. 5, wise, prudent) about the faith, keeping to “sound doctrine” (v. 3), enduring “suffering” (v. 5, in this time of persecution), evangelize, etc. (Paul is the example of suffering for this new generation.)

In the Temple, both a lamb and drink (a “libation”, v. 6) were offered daily to God; Paul (and those martyred now) offer their blood. Their time to depart from this life and return to Christ “has come”. The metaphors in v. 7 are ones Paul used: the Christian is like a prize boxer and a runner. A winner in Greek games was adorned with a “crown” (v. 8) of laurel, pine or olive; such a crown is “reserved for me”, to be presented by Christ on Judgement Day (“on that day”). All who have lived the Christian life, who look forward to Christ’s “appearing”, his second coming, will also be crowned. Paul’s death is pictured as being close; his legacy is handed on to Timothy and other future leaders of the Church.


Symbol of St John

John

John is the fourth gospel. Its author makes no attempt to give a chronological account of the life of Jesus (which the other gospels do, to a degree), but rather "...these things are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name." John includes what he calls signs, stories of miracles, to help in this process.


John 21:15-19

Our reading is from the epilogue, the chapter after the first conclusion of the gospel. After his resurrection, Jesus appears to six disciples near the Sea of Galilee (vv. 1-2). Led by Peter, they go fishing but catch nothing (v. 3). When they return to the shore in the morning, Jesus is there. When he invites them to cast their net again, they catch many fish. One (probably John) recognizes him; the others do shortly. When Peter hears it is Jesus, he is so excited that he jumps into the sea, in his haste to get to shore. On shore, a charcoal fire is burning. Jesus invites them to share a breakfast of bread and fish (v. 13).

Jesus now asks Peter about his love for him (v. 15). Peter avoids comparisons with “these”, the other disciples. Jesus asks him three times (earlier Peter denied knowing him three times); each time Jesus tells him: feed/tend my lambs/sheep. V. 18 begins with a proverbial saying: in old age, we lack the mobility and freedom of movement we had when young. But Peter’s life will be cut short: he will either be bound a prisoner or crucified (“stretch out ...”). In 13:37-38, when Peter offers to follow Jesus even to laying down his life for him, Jesus answers: “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterward”. Now Jesus says: “Follow me” (v. 19).

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