The call of John (Lk 3:2-3:2)

“The word of God

Came to John,

The son of Zechariah,

In the wilderness.”

 

ἐγένετο ῥῆμα Θεοῦ ἐπὶ Ἰωάνην τὸν Ζαχαρίου υἱὸν ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ.

 

Luke presented John like a prophet who was called like the other Israelite prophets.  The word of God came or happened to John (ἐγένετο ῥῆμα Θεοῦ ἐπὶ Ἰωάνην), the son of Zechariah (τὸν Ζαχαρίου υἱὸν), in the wilderness or desert (ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ), just like it had come to many other ancient Jewish prophets.  There should be no confusion about whom this John is because he was the son of Zechariah that was described in chapter 1.  There is something similar, but not quite the same in all 4 gospel stories.  In Mark, chapter 1:4, John appeared on the scene immediately after a citation from the prophet IsaiahMatthew, chapter 3:1-2, seemed to follow Mark, since Mark began his gospel with this story.  Matthew had John the Baptizer preaching in the wilderness or desert in Judea, southeast of Jerusalem and west of the Dead Sea.  John, chapter 1:19, also introduced John the Baptist immediately after his prologue.  Only Matthew and Luke have the infancy narratives before the introduction of John, who was central to the work of Jesus.

 

Jesus goes to the Roman palace courtyard (Mk 15:16-15:16)

“Then the soldiers

Led Jesus away

Into the courtyard

Of the palace.

That is

The governor’s headquarters,

The praetorium.

They called together

The whole cohort,

The battalion.”

 

Οἱ δὲ στρατιῶται ἀπήγαγον αὐτὸν ἔσω τῆς αὐλῆς, ὅ ἐστιν Πραιτώριον, καὶ συνκαλοῦσιν ὅλην τὴν σπεῖραν.

 

This is similar to Matthew, chapter 27:27, while Luke does not have this episode at the Roman headquarters.  Mark said that the Roman soldiers (Οἱ δὲ στρατιῶται) led Jesus (ἀπήγαγον αὐτὸν) into the courtyard of the Roman governor (ἔσω τῆς αὐλῆς).  Mark explained that it was called the praetorium (ὅ ἐστιν Πραιτώριον).  This governor’s headquarters or home of Pilate was the ancient palace of Herod the Great, who tried to have Jesus killed in the prologue of Matthew.  There they gathered a whole cohort or a battalion of about 500-600 Roman soldiers (συνκαλοῦσιν ὅλην τὴν σπεῖραν).  The Jews were no longer in this scene around Jesus here, since the Romans had taken over.

Prologue

This Gospel of Matthew has a prologue with five parts that echo the book of Genesis.  First, there was the genealogy of Jesus via Joseph that began with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Then this genealogy went through the twin sons of Judah and the descendants of Perez.  Then it went from Ruth to King David.  Then there was the kings of Judah from Solomon to the gap and up to and including the Babylonian captivity.  Finally, there were the unknown names in this genealogy that led up to Joseph and his father.  Matthew then explained the genealogy of Jesus, since there were differences of this genealogy with that of the Gospel of Luke.

The second part of this prologue was the virgin birth of Jesus.  First of all, there was the conception of Jesus from Joseph’s point of view, not Mary’s.  Joseph wanted to divorce Mary for being pregnant until an angel in a dream told him that Jesus would be a special child that fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah.  After waking up from his dream, there was the virgin birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.

The third part of this prologue was the visit of the Magi.  They brought their questions to Herod the Judean Roman king, who was annoyed and frightened.  He found out that Bethlehem was described by the prophet Micah as the place where the Messiah would be born.  Herod summoned the Magi and sent them to Bethlehem.  The Magi followed the star and found Mary with the child at the so-called Epiphany.  However, they went home another route so that they did not go back to King Herod.

The fourth part was the flight into Egypt, as Joseph had another dream.  They went to Egypt to fulfill another prophecy that the Messiah would come out of Egypt.  Meanwhile, King Herod killed all the under two-year old boys in the Bethlehem area as the fulfillment of the prophecy of Jeremiah.

Finally, the fifth part of the prologue was the return of Jesus to Nazareth when Joseph had a third dream.  He was told to return to Israel, or more specifically to Galilee in a place called Nazareth.  Thus, this prologue gave the unique perspective of Joseph.

Jesus goes to the governor’s head quarters (Mt 27:27-27:27)

“Then the soldiers

Of the governor

Took Jesus

Into the praetorium,

The governor’s headquarters.

They gathered

The whole cohort

Around him.”

 

Τότε οἱ στρατιῶται τοῦ ἡγεμόνος παραλαβόντες τὸν Ἰησοῦν εἰς τὸ πραιτώριον συνήγαγον ἐπ’ αὐτὸν ὅλην τὴν σπεῖραν.

 

This is similar to Mark, chapter 15:16, while Luke does not have this episode.  Matthew said that the Roman soldiers of the governor (Τότε οἱ στρατιῶται τοῦ ἡγεμόνος) took Jesus (παραλαβόντες τὸν Ἰησοῦν) into the praetorium (εἰς τὸ πραιτώριον) or courtyard.  This governor’s headquarters or home of Pilate was the ancient palace of Herod the Great, who tried to have Jesus killed in the prologue of this gospel.  There they gathered a whole cohort or battalion of about 500-600 Roman soldiers around Jesus (συνήγαγον ἐπ’ αὐτὸν ὅλην τὴν σπεῖραν).  The Jews were no longer in this scene around Jesus here.

The positive response of Peter (Mt 16:16-16:17)

“Simon Peter answered.

‘You are the Christ!

The Son

Of the living God.’

Jesus answered him.

‘Blessed are you!

Simon!

Son of Jonah!

Flesh and blood

Has not revealed this

To you,

But my Father

In heaven.’”

 

ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ Σίμων Πέτρος εἶπεν Σὺ εἶ ὁ Χριστὸς ὁ Υἱὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ τοῦ ζῶντος.

ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτῷ Μακάριος εἶ, Σίμων Βαριωνᾶ, ὅτι σὰρξ καὶ αἷμα οὐκ ἀπεκάλυψέν σοι ἀλλ’ ὁ Πατήρ μου ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς.

 

The response of Peter can be found in all four gospels, Mark, chapter 8:29, Luke, chapter 9:20, and John, 6:69, but all slightly different.  The name of Peter is sometimes just Peter.  Are the Greek “Christ” and the Hebrew “Messiah” the same?  Matthew is the only one who had Peter say the son of the living God.  Matthew is also the only one that mentioned the special relationship that Peter had with his Father in heaven.  Peter gave a strong positive response.  Simon Peter replied (ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ Σίμων Πέτρος) to the question of Jesus immediately.  He said that Jesus was the Christ (εἶπεν Σὺ εἶ ὁ Χριστὸς) or the Messiah that they were expecting in Israel.  Jesus was the son of the living God (ὁ Υἱὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ τοῦ ζῶντος.), not just merely the son of God.  Jesus then responded to Peter (ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς).  He said that Simon, the son on Jonah, was blessed (εἶπεν αὐτῷ Μακάριος εἶ, Σίμων Βαριωνᾶ), because flesh and blood or humans had not revealed this saying of his (ὅτι σὰρξ καὶ αἷμα οὐκ ἀπεκάλυψέν σοι), but Jesus’ heavenly Father (ἀλλ’ ὁ Πατήρ μου ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς) had done so.  Peter had a special relationship with the Father in heaven.  Peter, as the leader of this new group of Jesus followers, asserted this important belief about Jesus.  For the first time, Jesus is called the Christ, the messiah.  The only other mention of this was in the prologue with the expectation of a messiah and the question about John the Baptist on whether he was the messiah.  Here Peter, in the name of the nascent Christian community, proclaimed that Jesus was the messiah, the Christ, the son of the living God.  Matthew, more than any of the other gospel writers, emphasized the role of Peter as the leader of the early Christian community, the disciples, and the apostles of Jesus.

The family of Jesus (Mt 13:55-13:56)

“Is not this the carpenter’s son?

Is not his mother

Called Mary?

Are not his brothers

James,

Joseph,

Simon,

And Judas?

Are not all his sisters with us?

Where then did he

Get all this?’”

 

οὐχ οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ τοῦ τέκτονος υἱός; οὐχ ἡ μήτηρ αὐτοῦ λέγεται Μαριὰμ καὶ οἱ ἀδελφοὶ αὐτοῦ Ἰάκωβος καὶ Ἰωσὴφ καὶ Σίμων καὶ Ἰούδας;

καὶ αἱ ἀδελφαὶ αὐτοῦ οὐχὶ πᾶσαι πρὸς ἡμᾶς εἰσιν; πόθεν οὖν τούτῳ ταῦτα πάντα;

 

This story about the relatives of Jesus can be found in Mark, chapter 6:3.  The local people asked, was he not this carpenter’s son (οὐχ οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ τοῦ τέκτονος υἱός)?  Matthew did not use the carpenter’s name, when in the prologue Joseph played a major role.  A carpenter could also mean a builder or artisan.  However, Matthew explicitly mentioned the name of Jesus’ mother, Mary, who played a minor role in the prologue.  Was not his mother called Mary (οὐχ ἡ μήτηρ αὐτοῦ λέγεται Μαριὰμ)?  Were not his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas (καὶ οἱ ἀδελφοὶ αὐτοῦ Ἰάκωβος καὶ Ἰωσὴφ καὶ Σίμων καὶ Ἰούδας)?  Were not all his sisters there with them also (καὶ αἱ ἀδελφαὶ αὐτοῦ οὐχὶ πᾶσαι πρὸς ἡμᾶς εἰσιν)?  Where then did he get all this  knowledge and power (πόθεν οὖν τούτῳ ταῦτα πάντα)?  Once again there is the question of the brothers and sisters of Jesus as mentioned earlier in chapter 12:46. These brothers and sisters could be biological brothers or sisters, half-brothers and half-sisters from a first marriage of Joseph, or kissing cousins or other close cousins of the family.  The Hebrew and Aramaic language did not have a distinctive word for cousins, so that the word “brother” and “sister” was often used to mean more than a biological brother.  Just as today, people sometimes refers to others as brothers or sisters, when there is no biological link.  Half-brothers often refer to themselves as brothers or sisters today also.  The traditional belief of Christians, even though the Reformation period, has been that Mary was a virgin, so that Jesus was her only son.  However, the Greek language did have a word for cousins.  Here there are explicit names for the brothers of Jesus, James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas, who may have been leaders in the early Christian community but were never mentioned as disciples.  They clearly were relatives of Jesus, exactly how is not clear