Tax collectors (Lk 3:12-3:12)

“Even tax collectors

Came to be baptized.

They asked him.

‘Teacher!

What shall we do?’”

 

ἦλθον δὲ καὶ τελῶναι βαπτισθῆναι καὶ εἶπαν πρὸς αὐτόν Διδάσκαλε, τί ποιήσωμεν;

 

This is another one of the unique sayings of Luke about John and his preaching that is not found elsewhere in the biblical writings.  Luke said that even tax collectors came to be baptized (ἦλθον δὲ καὶ τελῶναι βαπτισθῆναι).  They asked John (καὶ εἶπαν πρὸς αὐτόν), as their teacher (Διδάσκαλε), what they should do (τί ποιήσωμεν).  Tax collectors had a special role in the biblical writings as they were considered like traitors to the Jewish people, since these were Jewish people who collected the Roman tax from the local people.  However, they seemed capable of repentance, as here they were seeking baptism from John.

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They were filled (Mk 8:8-8:8)

“They ate.

They were filled.

They took up

The broken pieces

Left over,

Seven baskets full.”

 

καὶ ἔφαγον καὶ ἐχορτάσθησαν, καὶ ἦραν περισσεύματα κλασμάτων ἑπτὰ σπυρίδας.

 

Matthew, chapter 15:37, has a similar statement about how many ate at this multiplication of the bread loaves.  Mark said that they all ate (καὶ ἔφαγον) the bread and the fishes, so that they were filled or satisfied (καὶ ἐχορτάσθησαν).  They then collected 7 overflowing full baskets of these broken piece fragments of the loaves of bread (καὶ ἦραν περισσεύματα κλασμάτων ἑπτὰ σπυρίδας).  In comparison with the feeding of the 5,000 earlier in chapter 6:30-44, there were 12 baskets of food left over, while here it is only 7 baskets.  Mark, like Matthew, used a different word for the baskets here as opposed to the preceding chapter.  The “σπυρίδας” here was a very large basket, while the other story had a “κοφίνους”, a smaller wicker basket.

 

Four thousand men ate the bread (Mt 15:37-15:38)

“All of them ate.

They were filled.

They took up

The broken pieces left over,

Seven baskets full.

Those who had eaten

Were four thousand men,

Besides women

And children.”

 

καὶ ἔφαγον πάντες καὶ ἐχορτάσθησαν, καὶ τὸ περισσεῦον τῶν κλασμάτων ἦραν ἑπτὰ σπυρίδας πλήρεις.

οἱ δὲ ἐσθίοντες ἦσαν τετρακισχίλιοι ἄνδρες χωρὶς γυναικῶν καὶ παιδίων.

 

Mark, chapter 8:8-9, has a similar statement about how many ate at this multiplication of the bread loaves.  Every one of them ate (καὶ ἔφαγον πάντες) the bread and the fishes, so that they were filled or satisfied (καὶ ἐχορτάσθησαν).  They then collected 7 overflowing full baskets of the fragments or these broken pieces (καὶ τὸ περισσεῦον τῶν κλασμάτων ἦραν ἑπτὰ σπυρίδας πλήρεις).  In comparison with the feeding of the 5,000 earlier in chapter 14:20-21, there were 12 baskets of food left over, while here it is only 7 baskets.  Matthew used a different word for the baskets here as opposed to the preceding chapter.  The “σπυρίδας” here was a very large basket, while the other story had a “κοφίνους”, a smaller wicker basket.  Those who had eaten were 4,000 men (οἱ δὲ ἐσθίοντες ἦσαν τετρακισχίλιοι ἄνδρες), besides the women and the children (χωρὶς γυναικῶν καὶ παιδίων).  The count there was 5,000 men, but here there is only 4,000 men.  Obviously, there was no exact count taken.  Once again, Matthew added the remark about women and children not being part of the semi-official count of the men, because they would have been on the edges of this crowd of men.  Certainly, it was a miraculous feeding of a very large crowd like earlier.  However, there was no mention of anything to drink.  Both Matthew and Mark have this second multiplication of the loaves for the 4,000 people, indicating two separate multiplications of bread.  This does not seem to be the same event described twice.

The great panic (Zech 14:13-14:14)

“On that day,

A great panic

From Yahweh

Shall fall on them.

Thus,

Each will seize

The hand of a neighbor.

The hand of the one

Will be raised

Against the hand of the other.

Even Judah

Will fight at Jerusalem.

The wealth

Of all the surrounding nations

Shall be collected,

Gold,

Silver,

Garments.

All in great abundance.”

There would be a panic on the great day of Yahweh.  Thus, they would seize their neighbors by the hand.  They would raise their hands against each other.  Even Judah would fight with Jerusalem.  All the wealth of the surrounding countries of gold, silver, and garments would be collected in large amounts.  Everything would be topsy-turvy.

The miser (Sir 14:3-14:10)

Riches are inappropriate

For a small minded person.

What use is wealth to a miser?

What he denies himself,

He collects for others.

Others will live in luxury on his goods.

If one is mean to oneself,

To whom will one be generous?

He will not enjoy his own riches.

No one is worse

Than one who is grudging to himself.

This is the punishment for their meanness.

If ever they do good,

It is my mistake.

In the end,

They reveal their meanness.

The miser is an evil person.

They turn away.

They disregard people.

The eye of the greedy person

Is not satisfied with their share.

Greedy injustice withers the soul.

A miser begrudges bread.

Thus it is lacking at his table.”

Sirach reminds us of the miser or the stingy greedy person. Wealth is wasted on these people. These misers deny themselves the pleasure of their own wealth. In fact, others live in luxury on the goods that they collected. If you are mean to yourself, how will you be generous to others. You should enjoy your own riches. The misers are punished for their meanness by themselves and their begrudging ways. If misers ever do anything good, it is by mistake, because they are evil people. They turn away and disregard other people. These greedy people are never satisfied with their share. They never share their bread with anyone.

The defeat of the army of Nicanor (2 Macc 8:24-8:29)

“With the Almighty as their ally, Judas Maccabeus killed more than nine thousand of the enemy. They wounded and disabled most of Nicanor’s army. They forced them all to flee. They captured the money of those who had come to buy them as slaves. After pursuing them for some distance, they were obliged to return because the hour was late. It was the day before the Sabbath. For that reason they did not continue their pursuit. When they had collected the arms of the enemy and stripped them of their spoils, they kept the Sabbath. They gave great praise and thanks to the Lord, who had preserved them for that day. He allotted it to them as the beginning of mercy. After the Sabbath, they gave some of the spoils to those who had been tortured, the widows, and the orphans. They distributed the rest among themselves and their children. When they had done this, they made common supplication. They implored the merciful Lord to be wholly reconciled with his servants.”

This section is a little like the battles in 1 Maccabees, chapter 4, but not quite the same. The leader of the army is Nicanor and Gorgias. As God Almighty was on their side, Judas and his men killed more than 9,000 of the 20,000 enemy soldiers. They also wounded and disabled most of Nicanor’s army, as those who were able, fled the scene. They even got the money that was going to be used to buy Jewish slaves. They had to stop pursuing them since it was the eve of the Sabbath. They then celebrated the Sabbath with great praise and thanksgiving for the Lord’s mercy to them. Then on the day after the Sabbath, they gave some, but not all, of the spoils to those who had been tortured, as well as the widows and orphans. The rest of the money they distributed it among themselves and their children. They once again prayed to the Lord so that he might be reconciled with his servants. There is no longer any mention of religious sacrifices of any kind.