Bible Tuesday for Sunday, July 19, 2015
“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” says the Lord. 2Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: “It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings,” says the Lord. “Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. 4I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing,” says the Lord. “The days are surely coming,” says the Lord, “when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’”
The previous chapters of the book of Jeremiah contain admonishment and prophecy concerning the southern kingdom of Judah and their impending fall to Babylon and its king, Nebuchadnezzar. While the faithful and mighty but humble King Josiah, who restored the temple and destroyed all the places where Israelites worshiped Baal and Asherah/Astartes, he died nine years before this prophecy and his sons were not nearly so faithful, nor the ruler that their father was.
In Hebrew tradition, the king of Israel is called the shepherd. In the above prophecy given through Jeremiah, God is scold the unfaithful kings; and there have been a string of them. According to the books of I & II Kings and I & II Chronicles, of the last dozen or so kings prior to this text, only Hezekiah and Josiah were faithful and actively sought to lead the Israelites in faithful life with Yahweh/God. The other kings blended worship of Yahweh in with worship of idols.
When this text was originally delivered by Jeremiah to the people of Judah, it was understood to be a prophecy about the next king of Judah, or at least the first king after they returned from exile. As rabbinic scholars read the text in the subsequent years, it became a prophecy and job description for the messiah. Note that the name of this king will be “The Lord is our righteousness.” Because the people and the kings have by and large been so massively unfaithful, they have no righteousness. God is saying through this king’s name that God will be their righteousness, foreshadowing Ephesians 2:8 “For by Grace you have been saved through Faith. And this is not of you. This is a gift of God.”
The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads in me right paths for his own name’s sake. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for you are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You spread a table before me in the midst of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil. My cup overflows. Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of my God forever more.
As this is the assigned psalm for at least 2 Sundays a year, I have written on it in these text notes several times before. For this writing, I will focus on “He restores my soul.”
In Hebrew, the word we translate as “soul” is “nefesh”. The word “nefesh” refers to one’s whole being, mind, body, heart, hopes, dreams, history, future, successes, failures, the whole package that is you. This psalm is, in part, a list of ways in which God ministers to the psalmist: feeding, watering, protecting, anointing/giving a vocation in the Kingdom of God, making peace between psalmist and his/her enemies, and more. Through all these activities, God is restoring the whole being of the psalmist to fullness of life in God. Death does not end that, nor do rivalries with enemies, loss of purpose in life, or suffering.
As God works in and with us, God is seeking to restore our whole being/our nefesh to the fullness of life which God intends, and not only for us, but for every person ever.
So then, remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called “the uncircumcision” by those who are called “the circumcision” —a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands— 12remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
14For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. 15He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, 16and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. 17So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 18for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, 20built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; 22in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.
When God called Abraham and made of him a great nation, he planted Abraham and his descendants into the middle of the trade routes between Egypt/Africa, China, and India for a purpose, so that the Israelites could host these merchants during their travels and witness to them. The whole point of calling one faithful man and all his progeny was to strike a spark that would create a bonfire. Instead, as Paul notes above, the descendants of Abraham became a people unto themselves, slave holding, land grabbing, war starting, just like any other tribe in the area. But, of course, those Israelites saw themselves as best because they were “God’s chosen people” even if they ignored everything they were supposed to do in that role.
In the above passage, Paul describes how Jesus reconciles the Israelites and the goyim/ethnos (Hebrew and Greek for “not us”) through making a new covenant in his own blood; no one signs this covenant or promises anything to anyone in it except Jesus to all humanity (both the gospel of John and Revelation would argue that the new covenant is with all of creation). So, whether Hebrew or goyim, circumcised or uncircumcised, all are lumped together into one body, the recipients of the covenant Jesus/God/Holy Spirit makes with God’s self.
Mark 6:30-34 & 53-56
The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. 31He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. 33Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. 34As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. 35When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; 36send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.” 37But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?” 38And he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” When they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. 41Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all.42And all ate and were filled; 43and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.
45Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46After saying farewell to them, he went up on the mountain to pray.
47When evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48When he saw that they were straining at the oars against an adverse wind, he came towards them early in the morning, walking on the sea. He intended to pass them by. 49But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out; 50for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” 51Then he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.
53When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. 54When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, 55and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.
Above in the title of the gospel, the pericope is stated as only the beginning and ending verses of this passage. The feeding of the 5,000 will appear in the Sunday morning lectionary later this summer (over and over and over again for 5 weeks, mostly from the gospel of John). I have included the entire passage in these notes because the beginning and ending verses make so much more sense if you know what comes in the middle. I will treat the prescribed verses for this Sunday as part of the whole.
This text immediately follows Jesus being mobbed so badly that he can’t go out in public without expecting the same. People clamor around him so desperately that he is fully occupied with healing and does not has the opportunity to teach and preach so much. So, Jesus sends out his disciples in pairs (remember, not the 12 only, but all the disciples) to teach, heal, proclaim the Kingdom of God has come near, and to travel very light, expecting the hospitality of folks along the way to sustain them.
The above passage picks up with the return of the disciples. The disciples give their report to Jesus, that people were healed and demons were cast out. Note Jesus’ response: “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” Burn out and exhaustion were real dangers even for the first “church workers” and Jesus calls for quiet down time. But the crowds keep coming and Jesus will not turn anyone away.
The miracles of the teaching and feeding 5,000 men + women + children only heightens the frenzy to reach Jesus. No matter where he goes, people bring the sick for him to cure. Despite what Jesus Christ Superstar says, “There are too many of you…Don’t push me…There’s too little of me…Heal yourselves!” Jesus goes right into the crowd and starts healing again. Those who look for healing from God get it, even if all they do is touch Jesus clothes.