Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Maundy Thursday and Good Friday Scriptures

The manuscript for my book, Walking with Jesus through the Old Testament (available here or here), had an appendix that contained allusions and quotations to Old Testament passages that, for the New Testament writers, were pertinent to Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. The appendix was omitted because it didn't fit the devotional quality of the rest of the book. But with my editor's permission, I'm posting that material here on this blog.

The Gospel accounts of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday are filled with allusions and quotations to Old Testament passages. The New Testament authors sought to demonstrate the messianic nature of Jesus by showing correspondence of Jesus' experiences with the biblical traditions. It is so difficult to discuss Holy Week scriptures without sounding anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic; the Gospels were written by Jews about other Jews, but as history moved along, Christianity became a predominantly Gentile religion, and the portrayal of Jews in the Gospels caused Christians to hate and persecute Jews. We must never forget this as we study the scriptures; in my book, I tried to show Jesus' continuity with the scriptures of his religion rather than to take a supersessionist approach.

With all that in mind: if you have time, look up some or all of these passages, so you can appreciate how the Gospel writers interpreted Jesus' experiences as deeply rooted in Hebrew scriptures. The way the Romans treated Jesus reflected their perception Jews as a troublesome people who, in their religious integrity, refused to respect the Roman gods.

Then [Jesus] said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
(Luke 24:44-47)

• Judas betrays Jesus (Ps. 41:9; Matt. 26:14–16; Mark 14:10–11; Luke 22:3–6; John 13:21–30) and receives thirty pieces of silver (Zech. 11:12–13; Matt. 26:14–16; 27:3–7).
• Jesus’ friends abandon him; the sheep are scattered after the shepherd is struck (Ps. 38:11; Zech. 13:7; Mark 14:50).
• The witnesses accuse him (Ps. 27:12; 35:11–12; Matt. 26:59¬–61; Mark 14:55–57).
• Jesus is silent before his accusers (Isa. 53:7; Matt. 27:13–14; Mark 15:3–-5); he does not respond to them with deceit or violence (Isa. 53:12; 1 Pet. 2:22); but he testifies to the victory of the Son of Man (Ps. 110:1; Dan. 7:13; Matt. 26:64; Mark 14:62; Luke 22:67–70).

For Good Friday, Old Testament passages connected to Jesus’ experiences are many.
• Satan will “bruise” him (Gen. 3:15; John 12:31–33; 19:18).
• Jesus will suffer for the world (Isa. 53:4–6, 10-11; Rom. 5:6–9).
• Jesus experienced insults, rejection, and abuse (Isa. 49:7; 50:6; Ps. 22:8; Matt. 27:41–44; Mark 15:31–32;, Luke 23:35–38). He is spat upon (Isa. 50:6; Matt. 27:30; Mark 15:19). People gloat (Ps. 22:12–13, 16; 38:11; 109:25; Matt. 27:39–40;, Mark 15:29–30; Luke 23:35), and they reproach him and mock him (Ps. 22:6–8, 16–18; 44:13–16; 109:25; Matt. 27:27–31, 39–40; Mark 15:16–20, 25–32; Luke 23:35–36;, John 19:19–20).
• He is led as a “lamb to the slaughter” (Exod. 12:3–13; Ps. 44:11; Isa. 53:7; John 1:29; 1 Cor. 5:7).
• He is disfigured and brutalized (Isa. 52:14; Ps. 22:16–17; Matt. 27:26; Mark 15:2; John 19:1–3).
• He is pierced (Ps. 22:16; Zech. 12:10; John 19:33–37; 20:25–27).
• His betrayer dies and the money is used for a potter’s field (Jer. 18:2–3; 32:6–15; Zech. 11:12–13; Matt. 27:3–10).
• He is executed with criminals (Isa. 53:12; Matt. 21:38, 44; Mark 15:27; Luke 23:32–33; 39–43; John 19:18).
• He expresses thirst (Ps. 69:21; John 19:28).
• He is given vinegar to drink (Ps. 69:21; Matt. 27:48; Mark 15:36; Luke 23:36).
• Lots are cast for his clothing (Ps. 22:18; Matt. 27:35;, Mark 15:24; Luke 23:34; John 19:24).
• He makes intercession for those who kill and mock him, and he invokes the compassion of God for them (Isa. 53:12; Luke 23:34, 39–43; Acts 2:36–39).
• He cries, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” which is the first line of Psalm 22 (Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34).
• He experiences the onslaught of death (Ps. 69:15).
• He declares, “It is finished” (Ps. 22:31; John 19:30).
• He prays, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit,” which is taken from Psalm 31:5 (Luke 23:46).
• Romans did not break Jesus’ legs, which would have hastened his death; that his bones were not broken connects us to Psalm 34:20, as well as to Passover Scriptures like Exodus 12:43–46 and Numbers 9:12. These Passover texts, in turn, connect us back to the image of Jesus as the Lamb of God.
• God did not abandon Jesus to death, corruption, and anonymity (2 Sam. 7:12–13; Ps. 16:10; Acts 2:31, 31–32).
• He is given another man’s grave (Isa. 53:8–9; Matt. 27:57–61; Mark 15:42–47; Luke 23:50–56;
John 19:38–42).
• Jesus accomplishes God’s salvation (Isa. 25:8, and many others).

Remember that nearly all these Psalm references come from Psalms of King David, connecting Jesus’ sufferings with those of his ancestor David and thus saying something about the kind of monarch Jesus is affirmed to be.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

"The Love of Bible Study"

During the 00s, I worked on a book manuscript of my own (rather than a commissioned work or one resulting from a successful proposal), that was an experiment which, ultimately, found no interested publisher. The title was The Love of Bible Study, and the text can be found here. I wrote as an introduction:

"For many years I’ve written church curriculum aimed at helping people understand the Bible, apply it to personal life, and interpret the text concerning modern topics. For an even longer time, I’ve read the Bible in order to grow in my faith, to clarify God’s will and purposes. For me, reading the Bible is a great joy!

"A few years ago I purchased a new NRSV Bible to replace (but more usually to supplement) the worn old Bible I’ve used since I purchased it for a college course in 1977.  Approaching my 50th birthday, I decided to take notes as I compared the two Bibles. Beginning with that time of midlife spiritual renewal, my notes became a blog called “Changing Bibles,” and then I “farmed out” the posts at that site to this one, and also to a companion site to this one (called Bible Connections), and to yet another site that focuses upon Psalm 121. So these four sites of informal notes and reveries are interconnected as the results of a common midlife resolution to study the Bible anew. My resolution clearly got out of hand, but in a good way.

"At first I hoped that the contents of the present blog would become a published book. But the material did not fit comfortably into a genre: academic study, curriculum, or memoir. So I stopped sending queries to publishers and “cut to the chase” by making my studies available to readers in this online form.

"Thereby, I hope I can help you—you who found this site—discover favorite scriptural passages of your own, and give you a fresh appreciation of the Bible, lengthy and intimidating though it can be for many of us.    

"As we study the Bible, we seek not only to understand things about the Lord but also to seek the Lord himself.  It can be easy for us to forget that the living Christ is right now helping us as we read and study. Thus my blog title has a double sense: we grow in enjoyment of Bible study so that we look forward to it, but we also grow in love of God and one another. We connect Bible passages to Christ, and as we do so we see how the living Christ and the Holy Spirit is present to us today, helping us learn and grow and draw closer to the triune Lord who has already accomplished more than we could think or ask (Eph. 3:20-21).

"Please feel free to comment and raise topics and questions, so that we can have a conversation about faith and life. Also, please feel free simply to browse. I managed to refer to every biblical book (even tiny Obadiah and 3 John), and I quoted or cited a few passages in the Apocrypha, the Talmud, and the Dhammapada. If anything here is helpful enough for you to use, you may certainly do so but if you quote something, please indicate the source."

The site has had only a very modest viewership, a few thousand during the last few years, but hopefully some have found it helpful. It certainly was to me, as I delved into the scriptures with that out-of-hand interest of which I wrote above.