The mustard seed (Lk 17:6-17:6)

“The Lord replied.

‘If you had faith

The size of

A mustard seed,

You could say

To this mulberry tree,

‘Be rooted up!

Be planted

In the sea!’’

It would obey you.’”

 

εἶπεν δὲ ὁ Κύριος Εἰ ἔχετε πίστιν ὡς κόκκον σινάπεως, ἐλέγετε ἂν τῇ συκαμίνῳ ταύτῃ Ἐκριζώθητι καὶ φυτεύθητι ἐν τῇ θαλάσσῃ· καὶ ὑπήκουσεν ἂν ὑμῖν.

 

Luke indicated that Jesus, the Lord, replied (εἶπεν δὲ ὁ Κύριος) that if they had faith (Εἰ ἔχετε πίστιν) the size of a mustard seed (ὡς κόκκον σινάπεως), they could say (ἐλέγετε) to this mulberry or sycamore tree (ἂν τῇ συκαμίνῳ ταύτῃ), be rooted up (Ἐκριζώθητι) and planted in the sea (καὶ φυτεύθητι ἐν τῇ θαλάσσῃ).  Luke is the only biblical writer to use the Greek term συκαμίνῳ that means a black mulberry tree or a sycamore tree that had medicinal value.  Then this tree would obey them (καὶ ὑπήκουσεν ἂν ὑμῖν).  There are expanded faith sayings that can also be found in Mark, chapter 9:28-29, and Matthew, chapter 17:19-21, who are much closer to each other.  Matthew indicated that the disciples came to Jesus privately (Τότε προσελθόντες οἱ μαθηταὶ τῷ Ἰησοῦ).  They wondered why they were not able to cast out the evil spirits from that boy (κατ’ ἰδίαν εἶπον Διὰ τί ἡμεῖς οὐκ ἠδυνήθημεν ἐκβαλεῖν αὐτό).  Jesus reminded them (ὁ δὲ λέγει αὐτοῖς) of their little faith (Διὰ τὴν ὀλιγοπιστίαν ὑμῶν), a term used predominately by Matthew.  Jesus came back with a solemn pronouncement (ἀμὴν γὰρ λέγω ὑμῖν) that if they had faith the size of a mustard seed (ἐὰν ἔχητε πίστιν ὡς κόκκον σινάπεως), like here in Luke, they could move mountains from here to there (ἐρεῖτε τῷ ὄρει τούτῳ Μετάβα ἔνθεν ἐκεῖ, καὶ μεταβήσεται).  Nothing would be impossible for them (καὶ οὐδὲν ἀδυνατήσει ὑμῖν).  If they had faith with prayer and fasting (εἰ μὴ ἐν προσευχῇ καὶ νηστείᾳ), they would be able to cast the evil spirits out (τοῦτο δὲ τὸ γένος οὐκ ἐκπορεύεται).  Matthew continued to emphasize the lack of faith or the little faith of the disciples of Jesus.  Mark said that the disciples wondered why they were not able to cast out the evil spirit from that boy (Ὅτι ἡμεῖς οὐκ ἠδυνήθημεν ἐκβαλεῖν αὐτό).  The disciples were concerned that they must have lacked something that made it impossible for them to get rid of this evil spirit that was in that boy.  Mark added the need for prayer.  There was no emphasis on faith as in Matthew, where Jesus talked about faith and the mustard seed.  Mark emphasized prayer, as he indicated that Jesus said that this kind of evil spirit could only be expelled (Τοῦτο τὸ γένος ἐν οὐδενὶ δύναται ἐξελθεῖν) through prayer (εἰ μὴ ἐν προσευχῇ).  Prayer might imply faith, but it is not explicit here in Luke.  Which is more important to you, faith or prayer?

Jesus’ face changes (Lk 9:29-9:29)

“While Jesus

Was praying,

The appearance

Of his face

Changed.

His clothes

Became dazzling white.”

 

καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ προσεύχεσθαι αὐτὸν τὸ εἶδος τοῦ προσώπου αὐτοῦ ἕτερον καὶ ὁ ἱματισμὸς αὐτοῦ λευκὸς ἐξαστράπτων.

 

Luke said that while Jesus was praying (καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ προσεύχεσθαι αὐτὸν), the appearance of his face changed or altered (τὸ εἶδος τοῦ προσώπου αὐτοῦ ἕτερον).  Also, his clothes became dazzling white (καὶ ὁ ἱματισμὸς αὐτοῦ λευκὸς ἐξαστράπτων).  This description of the face and clothing of Jesus can be found in all 3 synoptic gospels, Matthew, chapter 17:2, Mark, chapter 9:3, and here in Luke, but there are minor differences in all 3 accounts.  Mark said that Jesus was transfigured in front of the 3 apostles.  There was a metamorphosis, as the appearance of Jesus changed right before their very eyes.  There was no mention of the face of Jesus changing, as in Matthew and Luke.  However, Mark indicated that Jesus’ clothes or garments became a dazzling white, so white that not even any cleaner on earth could bleach them any whiter.  Matthew also said that Jesus was transfigured in front of the 3 apostles.  He said that Jesus’ face was shining like the sun, just like what happened to Moses, in Exodus, chapter 34:35.  There the face of Moses was so bright that he had to put a veil on after talking to Yahweh, before he could talk to Aaron, his brother.  Jesus’ clothes or garments also became a dazzling white, like a bright light or white snow.  Suddenly, the human Jesus seemed more brightly divine.  White and light were good, while black and darkness were bad.  What is the whitest white that you have seen?

Blessed are the poor (Lk 6:20-6:20)

“Then Jesus

Looked up

At his disciples.

He said.

‘Blessed are you

Who are poor!

Yours is

The kingdom of God.”

 

Καὶ αὐτὸς ἐπάρας τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς αὐτοῦ εἰς τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ ἔλεγεν Μακάριοι οἱ πτωχοί, ὅτι ὑμετέρα ἐστὶν ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ Θεοῦ.

 

Luke said that Jesus looked up at his disciples (Καὶ αὐτὸς ἐπάρας τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς αὐτοῦ εἰς τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ).  He said (ἔλεγεν) that the poor are blessed or happy (Μακάριοι οἱ πτωχοί), using the second person plural.  Their reward would be the kingdom of God (ὅτι ὑμετέρα ἐστὶν ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ Θεοῦ).  This sermon on the plain is somewhat similar to the sermon on the mount in Matthew, chapters 5-7.  Most people speak about the 8 beatitudes of Jesus on the mountain, since they feature the key points of Jesus’ preaching that was founded on the Hebrew Scriptures.  What does “blessed (Μακάριοι)” mean?  This Greek word Μακάριοι appeared over 68 times in the Greek Septuagint Old Testament, especially in the Psalms.  God will bless these people, so that they will be the fortunate ones, the happy ones, the wise ones.  There are echoes of Psalm 32, where the happy and blessed ones are those who have had their sins forgiven, since they have no deceit in their hearts.  The blessed people are the poor, the hungry, the mourners, and those being persecuted.  Number one is the poor.  However, right off the bat, there is a difference with Matthew. chapter 5:3, who used the term the “poor in spirit (οἱ πτωχοὶ τῷ πνεύματι).”  What did Matthew mean by this “poor in spirit” or spiritual poverty?  There is a whole Judaic tradition about the oppressed poor and the humble of the land, as in the prophets Isaiah, chapter 61:1 and 66:2, and Zephaniah, chapter 2:3, but that was not spiritual poverty.  Perhaps, this was more like the lack of concern for material things, whether you are actually poor or not.  For Luke, it was black or white, poor or not.  The 2nd major difference was the reward.  Matthew talked about what they would possess, the kingdom of the heavens (ὅτι αὐτῶν ἐστιν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν), while Luke said it was the kingdom of God (ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ Θεοῦ), plain and simple.

Jesus’ clothes are whiter than white (Mk 9:3-9:3)

“His clothes

Became

Dazzling white,

Such as no one

On earth

Could bleach them.”

 

καὶ τὰ ἱμάτια αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο στίλβοντα λευκὰ λίαν, οἷα γναφεὺς ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς οὐ δύναται οὕτως λευκᾶναι.

 

This description of the clothing of Jesus can be found in all 3 synoptic gospels, Matthew, chapter 17:2, Luke, chapter 9:29, and here in Mark, but there are minor differences in all 3 accounts.  Jesus was transfigured in front of the 3 apostles. There was a metamorphosis, as the appearance of Jesus changed right before their very eyes.  There was no mention of the face of Jesus changing, as in Matthew.  Mark indicated that Jesus’ clothes or garments became a dazzling white (καὶ τὰ ἱμάτια αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο στίλβοντα λευκὰ λίαν).  They were so white that not even any cleaner on earth could bleach them any whiter (οἷα γναφεὺς ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς οὐ δύναται οὕτως λευκᾶναι).  Suddenly, the human Jesus seemed more brightly divine with his amazing glittering white clothes.  White and light were good, while black and darkness were bad.

Jesus is transfigured before the three apostles (Mt 17:2-17:2)

“Jesus was transfigured

Before them.

His face shone

Like the sun.

His clothes

Became dazzling white.”

 

καὶ μετεμορφώθη ἔμπροσθεν αὐτῶν, καὶ ἔλαμψεν τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ ὡς ὁ ἥλιος, τὰ δὲ ἱμάτια αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο λευκὰ ὡς τὸ φῶς.

 

This transfiguration can be found in all 3 synoptic gospels, Mark, chapter 9:2-3, Luke, chapter 9:29, and here in Matthew, but there are minor differences in all 3 accounts.  Jesus was transfigured in front of the 3 apostles (καὶ μετεμορφώθη ἔμπροσθεν αὐτῶν).  There was a metamorphism, as the appearance of Jesus changed right before their very eyes.  His face was shining like the sun (καὶ ἔλαμψεν τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ ὡς ὁ ἥλιος,), just like what happened to Moses, in Exodus, chapter 34:35.  There the face of Moses was so bright that he had to put a veil on after talking to Yahweh, before he could talk to Aaron, his brother.  Jesus’ clothes or garments became a dazzling white, like a bright light or white snow (τὰ δὲ ἱμάτια αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο λευκὰ ὡς τὸ φῶς).  Suddenly, the human Jesus seemed more brightly divine.  White and light were good, while black and darkness were bad.

The bad living conditions

“We get our bread

At the peril

Of our lives,

Because of the sword

In the wilderness.

Our skin is black

As an oven

From the scorching heat

Of famine.”

Once again in the first person plural, they complain about their living conditions. They have trouble getting bread. They are afraid of the wilderness, because they could die there. Their skin is turning black from the sun with famine all around them. Black skin was considered bad.

The bleak transformation of the Jerusalem princes (Lam 4:8-4:8)

Heth

“Now the visage

Of the Jerusalem princes

Is blacker

Than soot.

They are not recognized

In the streets.

Their skin

Has shriveled

On their bones.

It has become

As dry as wood.”

There has been a huge transformation of these Jerusalem princes. Now they are black like soot, instead of white. No one would recognize them. Their skin has shriveled up and become dry like wood. They are no longer good looking dudes. This verse starts with the Hebrew consonant letter Heth in this acrostic poem.