The sign (Lk 2:12-2:12)

“This this will be

A sign

For you.

You will find

A child

Wrapped in

Bands

Of swaddling cloth,

Lying in a manger.”

 

καὶ τοῦτο ὑμῖν σημεῖον, εὑρήσετε βρέφος ἐσπαργανωμένον καὶ κείμενον ἐν φάτνῃ.

 

Luke said that the angel told the shepherds that there would be a sign for them (καὶ τοῦτο ὑμῖν σημεῖον) in order to find this baby child (εὑρήσετε βρέφος) that would be a Savior, Messiah, Christ, and Lord.  This baby child would be wrapped in bands of swaddling cloth (ἐσπαργανωμένον), lying in a manger (καὶ κείμενον ἐν φάτνῃ).  Instead of the sign of a star, as in Matthew, chapter 2:2, they were told about a place with a manger.  These shepherds did not bring any gifts with them, unlike the Magi with their gold, frankincense, and myrrh in Matthew, chapter 2:11.

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The Christmas scene birth of Jesus (Lk 2:7-2:7)

“Mary gave birth

To her first-born son.

She wrapped him

In bands

Of swaddling cloths.

She laid him

In a manger,

Because there was

No place

For them

In the inn.”

 

καὶ ἔτεκεν τὸν υἱὸν αὐτῆς τὸν πρωτότοκον, καὶ ἐσπαργάνωσεν αὐτὸν καὶ ἀνέκλινεν αὐτὸν ἐν φάτνῃ, διότι οὐκ ἦν αὐτοῖς τόπος ἐν τῷ καταλύματι.

 

Luke explained in great detail about the birth of Jesus, his clothing, and the manger, that has become the famous Christmas scene that most have come to know and love.  Matthew, chapter 2:1, had no details like this in his story about the birth of Jesus, while Mark and John had no infancy narratives at all.  In fact, Matthew said that the Magi visited Mary and the child in a house in chapter 2:11, not a manger.  Luke reported that Mary gave birth to her first-born son (καὶ ἔτεκεν τὸν υἱὸν αὐτῆς τὸν πρωτότοκον).  Did that imply that there were other children?  Within the Jewish tradition, the first-born male child would be dedicated to God with special legal and family rights, as indicated in Exodus, chapter 13:2, where Yahweh got the first-born of everything, as a consecration to God.  In Numbers, chapter 3:12, the Levites take the place of the first born as a dedication to God.  In Deuteronomy, chapter 21:17, the first born had all the rights versus the other children.  Mary wrapped the baby Jesus with bands of cloth or swaddling clothes (καὶ ἐσπαργάνωσεν αὐτὸν), as it is often called.  These tight bands of cloth kept the arms and legs of the newborn from wailing away, while also keeping the child warm.  Then Mary laid him in a manger (καὶ ἀνέκλινεν αὐτὸν ἐν φάτνῃ), because there was no place for them in the lodging inn (διότι οὐκ ἦν αὐτοῖς τόπος ἐν τῷ καταλύματι).  This manger (ἐν φάτνῃ) was a feeding trough for horses and cattle.  Thus, Jesus was born in a place where animals would feed.  He then would offer himself as the bread of life.  Apparently, they were in a barn because there were no appropriate lodging places for a pregnant expecting woman.  There was no indication that Joseph had other relatives in Bethlehem where they might stay.  Just by coincidence, I am posting this blog on December 24, 2018, Christmas Eve.

Joseph puts the body of Jesus in a tomb (Mk 15:46-15:46)

“Then Joseph bought

A linen cloth.

He took the body down.

He wrapped it

In the linen cloth.

He laid it

In a tomb

That had been hewn

Out of the rock.

He then rolled

A stone

Against the door

Of the tomb.”

 

καὶ ἀγοράσας σινδόνα καθελὼν αὐτὸν ἐνείλησεν τῇ σινδόνι καὶ κατέθηκεν αὐτὸν ἐν μνήματι ὃ ἦν λελατομημένον ἐκ πέτρας, καὶ προσεκύλισεν λίθον ἐπὶ τὴν θύραν τοῦ μνημείου.

 

This is similar to Matthew, chapter 27:59-60, and Luke, chapter 23:53, almost word for word.  John, chapter 19:38-41 introduced Nicodemus into this burial ritual.  Mark said that Joseph brought a clean linen cloth (καὶ ἀγοράσας σινδόνα).  He took the body down from the cross (καθελὼν αὐτὸν).  These biblical texts do not explain if he needed help with this task.  Then he wrapped the body in the linen cloth (ἐνείλησεν τῇ σινδόνι).  Finally, he laid Jesus’ body in his own new tomb (καὶ κατέθηκεν αὐτὸν ἐν μνήματι), that he had carved or hewn in a rock (ὃ ἦν λελατομημένον ἐκ πέτρας).  He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb (καὶ προσεκύλισεν λίθον ἐπὶ τὴν θύραν τοῦ μνημείου).  This seemed like a private one-person burial ritual.

Jesus in the tomb of Joseph (Mt 27:59-27:60)

“Joseph took the body.

He wrapped it

In a clean linen cloth.

He laid it

In his own new tomb,

Which he had hewn

In the rock.

He then rolled

A great stone

To the door

Of the tomb.

Then he went away.”

 

καὶ λαβὼν τὸ σῶμα ὁ Ἰωσὴφ ἐνετύλιξεν αὐτὸ ἐν σινδόνι καθαρᾷ,

καὶ ἔθηκεν αὐτὸ ἐν τῷ καινῷ αὐτοῦ μνημείῳ ὃ ἐλατόμησεν ἐν τῇ πέτρᾳ, καὶ προσκυλίσας λίθον μέγαν τῇ θύρᾳ τοῦ μνημείου ἀπῆλθεν.

 

This is similar to Mark, chapter 15:46, and Luke, chapter 23:53, almost word for word, while John, chapter 19:38-41 introduced Nicodemus into this burial ritual.  Matthew said that Joseph took the body of Jesus (καὶ λαβὼν τὸ σῶμα ὁ Ἰωσὴφ).  He wrapped it in a clean linen cloth (ἐνετύλιξεν αὐτὸ ἐν σινδόνι καθαρᾷ).  The texts do not explain if he needed help with this task.  Then he laid Jesus’ body in his own new tomb (καὶ ἔθηκεν αὐτὸ ἐν τῷ καινῷ αὐτοῦ μνημείῳ), that he had carved or hewn in a rock (ὃ ἐλατόμησεν ἐν τῇ πέτρᾳ).  He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb (καὶ προσκυλίσας λίθον μέγαν τῇ θύρᾳ τοῦ μνημείου).  Finally, he went away (ἀπῆλθεν).  This seemed like a private one-person burial ritual.

The slave with one talent (Mt 25:24-25:25)

“Then the slave who had received

One talent

Also came forward.

He said.

‘Master!

I knew that

You were a harsh man.

You reap

Where you did not sow.

You gather

Where you did not

Scatter seed.

I was afraid.

I went off.

I hid your talent

In the ground.

Here you have

What is yours.’”

 

προσελθὼν δὲ καὶ ὁ τὸ ἓν τάλαντον εἰληφὼς εἶπεν Κύριε, ἔγνων σε ὅτι σκληρὸς εἶ ἄνθρωπος, θερίζων ὅπου οὐκ ἔσπειρας, καὶ συνάγων ὅθεν οὐ διεσκόρπισας·

καὶ φοβηθεὶς ἀπελθὼν ἔκρυψα τὸ τάλαντόν σου ἐν τῇ γῇ· ἴδε ἔχεις τὸ σόν.

 

This parable is unique to Matthew, but there is something similar in Luke, chapter 19:20-21, where the slave had wrapped the money in a piece of cloth.  This slave who had received one talent came forward to his master (προσελθὼν δὲ καὶ ὁ τὸ ἓν τάλαντον εἰληφὼς).  He said to his master or lord (εἶπεν Κύριε) that he knew that his master was a harsh or hard man (ἔγνων σε ὅτι σκληρὸς εἶ ἄνθρωπος), because he would reap or harvest crops where he had not sown them (θερίζων ὅπου οὐκ ἔσπειρας).  He even gathered crops where he had not scattered seeds (καὶ συνάγων ὅθεν οὐ διεσκόρπισας).  Thus, this slave said that he was afraid (καὶ φοβηθεὶς), so he went and hid his talent in the ground (ἀπελθὼν ἔκρυψα τὸ τάλαντόν σου ἐν τῇ γῇ).  Then he seemed happy to return this one talent worth $4,000,000 US back to his master, as he said “Look! here it is (ἴδε ἔχεις τὸ σόν)!”  He was glad to be rid of this burden of protecting this money from possible thieves or robbers.

The near-death experience of Jonah (Jon 2:4-2:6)

“Then I said.

‘I am driven away

From your sight.

How shall I look again

Upon your holy Temple?

The waters closed in

Over me.

The deep surrounded me.

Weeds were wrapped

Around my head.

At the roots

Of the mountains,

I went down

To the land.

The bars closed

Upon me forever.

Yet you brought up

My life

From the Pit.

O Yahweh!

My God!’”

The experience of drowning or nearly drowning is like a near-death experience. Jonah had been driven away from the sight of Yahweh because he had decided to run away from the task that Yahweh had asked him to do. He would never again look at the holy Temple in Jerusalem. As the sea waters closed in on him on every side, sea weeds were wrapped around his head. He actually felt like he was buried at the bottom of a mountain with the bars closed in on forever. He had gone down to the sea. like in Davy Jones locker. However, Yahweh, his God, brought him to life. He saved him from the Pit, the shadow like afterlife.

The difficult day of your birth (Ezek 16:4-16:5)

“As for your birth,

On the day

You were born

Your navel cord

Was not cut.

You were not washed

With water

To cleanse you.

You were not rubbed

With salt.

You were not wrapped

In clothes.

No eye pitied you.

No one did

Any of these things

For you

Out of compassion

For you.

But you were

Thrown out

In the open field.

You were abhorred

On the day

You were born.”

Apparently when Jerusalem was born, she did not have the usual amenities of child birth. The following things seemed to have happened at child birth at that time. Obviously, the navel cord, which would normally have been cut, was not done so. There was no washing of the child, nor the rubbing with salt as a protective element, nor being wrapped in clothing. No one pitied Jerusalem or had compassion for this city. She was simply thrown out into the open field to fend for herself.  She was abhorred from the day of her birth. She had a difficult first day.