The tender mercy of God (Lk 1:78-1:78)

“By the tender mercy

Of our God,

The dawn

From on high

Will break

Upon us.”

 

διὰ σπλάγχνα ἐλέους Θεοῦ ἡμῶν, ἐν οἷς ἐπισκέψεται ἡμᾶς ἀνατολὴ ἐξ ὕψους,

 

Luke continued Zechariah’s canticle with an insistence on the mercy of their God.  Zechariah said that by the heart felt tender mercy and compassion of their God (διὰ σπλάγχνα ἐλέους Θεοῦ ἡμῶν), a new day or a sunrise (ἀνατολὴ) from on high (ἐξ ὕψους) would break out upon them or visit them (ἐν οἷς ἐπισκέψεται ἡμᾶς).  As many of the prophets had pointed out already. the messiah or savior would come like a sunrise to break into their lives.  So too, John, his son, would be part of this process that would culminate in Jesus.

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Saving your life means you will lose it (Mk 8:35-8:35)

“Those who want

To save

Their life

Will lose it.

Those who lose

Their life

For my sake

And for the sake

Of the gospel

Will save it.”

 

ὃς γὰρ ἐὰν θέλῃ τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ σῶσαι, ἀπολέσει αὐτήν· ὃς δ’ ἂν ἀπολέσει τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ καὶ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου, σώσει αὐτήν.

 

Jesus told his disciples how to save their lives.  Something similar can be found in all 3 synoptic gospels, Matthew, chapter 16:25, Luke, chapter 9:24. and here, almost word for word.  Mark indicated that Jesus said that whoever wished, desired, or wanted to save their life (ὃς γὰρ ἐὰν θέλῃ τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ σῶσαι), they would lose it (ἀπολέσει αὐτήν).  However, anyone who lost their life for the sake of Jesus (ὃς δ’ ἂν ἀπολέσῃ τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ), or for the sake of the gospel or good news of Jesus (καὶ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου), they would save their lives (σώσει αὐτήν).  This last phrase was not in the other 2 gospel stories.

How to save your life (Mt 16:25-16:26)

“Whoever wants

To save

Their life

Will lose it.

Whoever loses their life

For my sake

Will find it.

What will it profit them?

If they gain

The whole world,

But forfeit their life.

What will they give

In return

For their life?”

 

ὃς γὰρ ἐὰν θέλῃ τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ σῶσαι, ἀπολέσει αὐτήν· ὃς δ’ ἂν ἀπολέσῃ τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ, εὑρήσει αὐτήν.

τί γὰρ ὠφεληθήσεται ἄνθρωπος ἐὰν τὸν κόσμον ὅλον κερδήσῃ, τὴν δὲ ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ζημιωθῇ; ἢ τί δώσει ἄνθρωπος ἀντάλλαγμα τῆς ψυχῆς αὐτοῦ;

 

Jesus told his disciples how to save their lives.  Something similar can be found in all 3 synoptic gospels, Mark, chapter 8:35-37, Luke, chapter 9:24-25, and here, almost word for word.  Jesus said that whoever wished, desired, or wanted to save their life (ὃς γὰρ ἐὰν θέλῃ τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ σῶσαι), they would lose it (ἀπολέσει αὐτήν).  However, anyone who lost their life for the sake of Jesus (ὃς δ’ ἂν ἀπολέσῃ τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ), they would find their life (εὑρήσει αὐτήν).  What is the profit or benefit for a person (τί γὰρ ὠφεληθήσεται ἄνθρωπος) to gain the whole world (ἐὰν τὸν κόσμον ὅλον κερδήσῃ) if they lose their life or soul (τὴν δὲ ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ζημιωθῇ).  What will a person give in exchange for his life or soul (ἢ τί δώσει ἄνθρωπος ἀντάλλαγμα τῆς ψυχῆς αὐτοῦ)?  Give up your life to Jesus, and you will live.

Agnosticism

Agnosticism holds that we cannot know if there is a transcendent God out there or not.  There are a variety of agnostics.  The most common are the practical agnostics.  They act in their lives as if there is no transcendent power.  They are even too lazy to declare that there is no God.  They just act as if there is none.  To the question of whether there is a God or not, they say, “who cares?”  Then there are the intellectual agnostics who says that the question is too difficult, so just leave it alone, since they believe that they can never know if there is a God or not.

Christians reading the Old Testament

The Old Testament Hebrew Bible raises questions of interpretation for a Christian.  To what extent am I, as a Christian, projecting Christian views and values on the children of Israel, the people of Israel, the Israelites?  There are various terms that translators have used to describe the slowing forming group of Yahweh believers over three thousand years ago.  Yahweh was their God and intervened in their lives.  They had a special relationship or covenant with him.  The Hebrew sacred writings were incorporated into Christianity because all the early Christians were Jewish.  However, the writings were not originally meant for Christians, but for the Hebrew people.  Can I really fully understand the Semitic thought process of three thousand years ago?  Will I be able to appreciate how important the promised land of Israel was to Jewish people?  What role did the exodus from Egypt, the Temple, the exile, and the various codes play in their lives?  I can try, but I doubt if I will be fully successful.

The unbelieving rich (Zeph 1:12-1:13)

“At that time,

I will search Jerusalem

With lamps.

I will punish

The people

Who rest complacently

On their dregs.

I will punish

Those who say

In their hearts,

‘Yahweh will not do good.

Nor will he do harm.’

Their wealth

Shall be plundered.

Their houses laid waste.

Though they build houses,

They shall not inhabit them.

Though they plant vineyards,

They shall not drink wine

From them.”

On the day of Yahweh, Yahweh was going to search through Jerusalem with lamps.  He would punish the complacent people, those who had drunk too much of the dregs of their wine casks.  Yahweh was going to punish those who said that they didn’t care about Yahweh, because he had no effect on their lives, either for good or bad.  Yahweh was going to take the wealth of these rich people by plundering their belongings and destroying their homes.  If they were planning to build a house, they would never live in it.  If they were planting vineyards, they would never enjoy the wine from those vines.  Wealth would not save them from the Day of Yahweh.

The punishment of Israel (Am 2:13-2:16)

“‘So,

I will press you down

In your place.

Just as a cart

Presses down,

When it is full of sheaves.

Flight shall perish

From the swift.

The strong

Shall not

Retain their strength.

The mighty

Shall not

Save their lives.

Those who handle the bow

Shall not stand.

Those who are swift

Of foot

Shall not save themselves.

Those who ride horses

Shall not save their lives.

Those who are stout

Of heart,

Among the mighty,

Shall flee away naked,

In that day.’

Says Yahweh.”

Yahweh, via Amos, issued his punishment. The Israelites were going to be pressed down like a bundle of hay or sheaves. The swift people would lose their quick agility. The strong people would lose their strength. The mighty people would lose their lives. The archers would not be able to stand. The fast people would not be able to save themselves. The horse riders would lose their lives also. The mighty strong people would run away naked. Yahweh said that all this would take place on the appointed day.