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What follows are the readings for Transfiguration Sunday, February 27, 2022.

Readings for Year C can be found here.

This is Quinquagesima Sunday, meaning 50 days before Easter, although the days of Lent are numbered somewhat differently to the way they were centuries ago.

This is also the last Sunday not only in Epiphany but also in Shrovetide. Shrove Tuesday — Pancake Day in Britain, and Mardi Gras in French — is on March 1. Ash Wednesday is the next day, signifying the beginning of Lent.

You can read more about Shrovetide and the Sundays before Lent in the following posts:

Shrovetide — a history

The Sundays before Lent — an explanation (the Sundays that define Shrovetide)

Emphases mine below.

First reading

Moses returns from the mountain with the Ten Commandments. His face was radiant, almost blindingly so, reflecting the infinite glory of God.

Exodus 34:29-35

34:29 Moses came down from Mount Sinai. As he came down from the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant in his hand, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.

34:30 When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face was shining, and they were afraid to come near him.

34:31 But Moses called to them; and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses spoke with them.

34:32 Afterward all the Israelites came near, and he gave them in commandment all that the LORD had spoken with him on Mount Sinai.

34:33 When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face;

34:34 but whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he would take the veil off, until he came out; and when he came out, and told the Israelites what he had been commanded,

34:35 the Israelites would see the face of Moses, that the skin of his face was shining; and Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

Psalm

This Psalm calls us to exalt God. The verses below describe God’s governance of His people in an equitable and just manner.

Psalm 99

99:1 The LORD is king; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!

99:2 The LORD is great in Zion; he is exalted over all the peoples.

99:3 Let them praise your great and awesome name. Holy is he!

99:4 Mighty King, lover of justice, you have established equity; you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.

99:5 Extol the LORD our God; worship at his footstool. Holy is he!

99:6 Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel also was among those who called on his name. They cried to the LORD, and he answered them.

99:7 He spoke to them in the pillar of cloud; they kept his decrees, and the statutes that he gave them.

99:8 O LORD our God, you answered them; you were a forgiving God to them, but an avenger of their wrongdoings.

99:9 Extol the LORD our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for the LORD our God is holy.

Epistle

Paul describes the mercy and freedom to be found in Christ, the giver of the New Covenant, who promises eternal life to the faithful rather than condemnation by the Law under the Old Covenant.

2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2

3:12 Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness,

3:13 not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside.

3:14 But their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside.

3:15 Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds;

3:16 but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.

3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

3:18 And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.

4:1 Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart.

4:2 We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.

Gospel

Luke gives us his version of the Transfiguration, where once again, the radiance of our God as displayed by Jesus is revealed to Peter and brothers James and John.

Luke 9:28-36, (37-43a)

9:28 Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray.

9:29 And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white.

9:30 Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him.

9:31 They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.

9:32 Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him.

9:33 Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” — not knowing what he said.

9:34 While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud.

9:35 Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”

9:36 When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.

9:37 On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him.

9:38 Just then a man from the crowd shouted, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child.

9:39 Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him.

9:40 I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.”

9:41 Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.”

9:42 While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father.

9:43a And all were astounded at the greatness of God.

I wish everyone a blessed Sunday.

The Seventh Sunday after Epiphany is February 20, 2022.

Readings for Year C can be found here.

This day in 2022 is Sexagesima Sunday, meaning 60 days before Easter. Last Sunday was Septuagesima Sunday, signifying 70 days before Easter. Next Sunday will be Quinquagesima Sunday: 50 days before Easter.

You can read more about Septuagesima, Sexagesima and Quinquagesima Sundays in the following post:

The Sundays before Lent — an explanation

This period is called Shrovetide, which ended on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. ‘Shrove’ is the past participle of ‘shrive’, which meant to present oneself for confession, penance and absolution. You can find out more in the post below:

Shrovetide — a history

Even in modern times, the Lectionary readings turn from the themes of rejoicing and thanks that our Saviour came to Earth to redeem us. The themes of sin and repentance predominate.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Luke 6:27-38

6:27 “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,

6:28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.

6:29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt.

6:30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again.

6:31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

6:32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.

6:33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.

6:34 If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again.

6:35 But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.

6:36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

6:37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven;

6:38 give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

We pick up from where we left off last week with Luke’s version of the Sermon on the Mount, or the Beatitudes.

Matthew’s version is considerably longer.

John MacArthur says that Jesus probably preached for hours and that the Gospel authors distilled what He said into the basic premise of His sermon:

Luke’s record of what Jesus said that day near the Sea of Galilee is recorded in chapter 6 verses 20 to 49 It is the same sermon about which Matthew wrote in Matthew 5, 6, and 7 Matthew has a much longer treatment of the sermon.  Matthew recorded much more of what the Lord said, but the Lord said what Matthew recorded The Lord also said what Luke recorded And the sermon would be the combination of both and probably a lot more, since you could read through both passages in a very few minutes, and it’s likely that the Lord preached for a long time.

We conclude, therefore, what Matthew gave us is a true record of a portion of that sermon.  What Luke gave us is also a true record of a portion of that sermon.  Combined they would come short of the full teaching of what Jesus said, which we would have to leave to the discretion of God He gave us what He felt we needed to hear

This is likely to be as long a post as last time. Churchgoers and students of the Bible know much of this by heart but how well do we actually live by these verses? Personally, I find some of them very difficult. Yet, Jesus is calling us to love others in the way that He loves us — and loved His enemies during his time on earth.

He says to those that listen: love your enemies and do good to those that hate you (verse 27).

Note that He says ‘I say to you that listen’. He is distinguishing the blessed from the cursed. Those who are listening are being transformed by God. However, not all His disciples were in that happy state. Recall that in John 6, when He spoke of Himself as the Bread of Life, many of those disciples left Him for good. They found His statement too difficult to comprehend.

MacArthur explains:

… here is the second test for a true disciple First one is how he views himself The second one is how he views others And it’s clear to whom Jesus is referring because verse 27 begins with these words, “But I say to you who – ” What? – “who hear.”  That’s a very important statement There’s a contrast being made here.  There’s a contrast being made between people who have the ability to hear the voice of God and respond and people who don’t

We remember 1 Corinthians 2:14 says, “The natural man understands not the things of God, to him they are foolishness.”  And there is a clear distinction between sinners who are referred to in verses 32, 33 and 34, and sons of the Most High, referred to in verse 35 There is a dramatic difference.  And part of that difference, of course, is that the one who is not a true disciple, the one outside the Kingdom, the one who has never been regenerated, the one who has never been saved has no capacity to hear That is to say to understand, to believe and to act on divine truth

So the Lord narrows His audience here and says, “I’m talking to you who can get it.  I’m talking to you who have spiritual understanding, the true believer, poor, hungry, sad, unpopular.  I’m talking to you who are rejected I’m talking to you who are persecuted, and I’m telling you, you are not only known by your hated of sin…mostly in yourself…but you’re known by your love of your enemies This is your character.” 

Of the sermon itself, MacArthur says:

It is an important sermon because it’s a sermon about salvation It’s a sermon that draws some very clear lines.  It is a very simple and very straightforward sermon.  It always amazes me of how complicated…as to how complicated certain commentators can get in trying to understand what is very, very simple and straightforward.  This sermon draws a simple contrast It is a contrast between those people who are blessed and those people who are cursed And, frankly, that includes everybody.  Everybody everywhere who’s ever lived either falls into the category of being blessed or being cursed

And all men relate to the true and living God one way or another They are blessed by Him or they are cursed by Him.  They are in His Kingdom, or out of His Kingdom They are His children or the children of Satan They are in the kingdom of light or they’re in the kingdom of darkness.  They are citizens of heaven or of hell.  And that’s how it is.  Everybody in the human race fits into one of the two categories.

And that’s how Jesus begins His sermon by pointing clearly to the blessed and the cursed.  The word “blessed” is in verse 20, 21, and 22 and the cursed are referred to with “woes,” woe meaning curse, in verses 24, 25 and 26.  And Jesus, like any good evangelist, creates a contrast

Jesus preached this sermon to His disciples, including the Apostles.

MacArthur points out the difference between the two:

Verse 20 tells us that He was talking to disciples That’s a broad generic word for learner, student.  There were lots of people following Him, not just the twelve apostles. 

Don’t confuse the disciples here with the apostles.  The apostles were disciples but they are set apart from the disciples as apostles.  Disciple means student, learner; apostle means messenger, sent oneAnd they had been identified, as we know, back in verse 12 to 14 as apostles So the apostles are the twelve apostles.  The rest of those following Jesus and learning Jesus’ teaching to one degree or another, being students of Jesus are in the broad category of disciples Jesus then speaks to this broad category of people and says you’re either blessed or cursed; you’re either in one category or the other.  You’re either in the Kingdom of God or outside the Kingdom of God.

Those who are in the kingdom of God bless those who curse them and pray for their abusers (verse 28).

This was a radical departure for the works-based salvation system that the Jews had at that time. The Jew obeyed as many of the laws of Moses as he could. That was where his religion began and ended. However, Jesus was calling — and does call — for something greater, an imitation of divine love.

MacArthur says that loving one’s enemy was not part of the Jewish mindset at that time:

Roots in the Old Testament, the true religion that developed a [hybrid] of Judaism that was part Old Testament, part human tradition and invention, and the end result was an apostate form of Judaism But it was a very complex kind of religion and very highly codified and defined And in their system…listen to this…it was a sin to love your enemy It was a sin to love your enemy.  So when Jesus stepped in front of the crowd in the Sermon on the Mount…and He’s got Pharisees there and scribes there; they followed Him everywhere.  He’s got priests and rabbis and local synagogue rulers and the popul[ace]…and He says, “Love your enemies,” that, to the Jews, is a statement that is immoral It is ungodly to say that.  It’s not right.  That’s offensive to them because they tied their spiritual virtue to their hatred

They hated the Romans because the Romans were idolatrous gentile pagans When they came in with their poles on which they had the image of Caesar, that was a violation of the commandment to make no graven images because they worshiped Caesar as a God.  And so here they had blatant idolatry in the land.  Every time a Roman coin passed through a Jew’s hand, it was something to spit on because it had the image of Caesar engraved upon the coin and that was an idol There was a group of Jews connected with the Zealots called the Sicari, who were the terrorists, the Jewish terrorists who went around stabbing Romans They were obviously clandestine.  They were murderous.  The Jews hated them And they thought they hated them with holy hatred; they thought they hated them with a righteous hatred.

They also had developed a hatred of people who violated the law and traditions And they thought that that was a righteous thing to do … 

Here’s what the Essenes say, and I quote some of their literature.  “Love all that God has chosen and hate all He has rejected.”  They also wrote, “Love all the sons of light and hate all the sons of darkness.”  That was prescribed in their ethical, moral, religious code.  Hate sons of darkness, unbelievers.  In fact, they went to far as to curse all non-Essenes, which means hate the Pharisees, hate the Sadducees, hate the Zealots, hate everybody who is a non-Essene, hate them all.

And the Pharisees weren’t much better than that I’m quoting from one of the Maxims of the Pharisees.  “If a Jew sees a gentile fallen into the sea, let him by no means lift him out of there, for it is written, ‘Thou shalt not rise up against the blood of thy neighbor but this man is not thy neighbor.’ Why?  Because he’s a gentile, let him drown.  It’s a sin to lift him out of the water.  Don’t rescue a gentile Now this had become a point of their virtue In fact, the Romans…you can find in Roman writings…the Romans actually accused the Jews of hating the human race Nice reputation.  We would like to think that Christians are known by their love In the ancient world Jews were known by their hate It is not unlike contemporary Middle Eastern and other places in the world…Islam.  Strange parallel.

Then we get to the troublesome verse about showing the person striking you your other cheek and the exhortation from Jesus to give your shirt to someone who has stolen your coat (verse 29).

Matthew Henry has a simple explanation:

Let him have that too, rather than fight for it.

The first part of the verse is about being struck on the cheek in the synagogue, which was part of the ritual of being expelled from it.

MacArthur has more:

What is it about?  Jesus said in John 16, … “The time is going to come when they throw you out of the synagogue.  He was telling His followers that They’re going to throw you out of the synagogue … That was not a small deal because Jewish society circled around the synagogue.  That was both the circumference and core of life.  The greatest single humiliation, the greatest shame was to be excommunicated from the synagogue You were then constituted as a reprobate, very serious.  And they took it very seriously.

When someone was unsynagogued, which they were for their faith in Jesus Christ, frequently they were whipped before whoever wanted to watch Clothes were taken of their backs and they received 39 lashes, leather thongs probably imbedded with bits of stone that lacerated their back 39 times The apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:24 says, “They did it to me five times.”  Five times the Jews did it to me.  Acts 5:40 talks about those in the early church who preached the gospel being flogged That was the physical punishment connected to the shame of being unsynagogued for the sake of Jesus Christ.

But there was something else that they did The way you dishonored someone, one of the ways you dishonored someone, was to slap them across the face And while there was a real flogging, actual physical pain, there was also a symbolic humiliation in front of the synagogue congregation One of the officials would slap the person across the face as a symbolic indignity and humiliation.  That’s what is in view here.  When they bring you in front to humiliate you and they slap you across the face, offer the other cheek, accept your humiliation.  Now don’t get too literal with this Turn to John 18 for a moment.  Let me show you something

John 18 verse 19This is Jesus before the High Priest He had been arrested.  The High Priest questioned Jesus, verse 19, about His disciples, about His teaching And Jesus was going to be legal about this, even if they weren’t.  We still have a law in this day in time about no man incriminating himself Jesus knew that if there was to be any accusation, it had to be confirmed in the mouth of two or three witnesses So the high priest is really in violation of the law when he says, “Tell us about Your teaching.” 

“Jesus answered him,” calling him back to what was right according to law, “I have spoken openly to the world I always taught in synagogues and in the temple where all the Jews come together.  I spoke nothing in secret.  Why do you question Me?  Question those who have heard what I spoke to them, behold, these know what I said.  Bring in the witnesses, they’ll tell you exactly what I said, I never said anything in private.”  He was rebuking this man for putting Him in an illegal position of incriminating Himself rather than calling the witnesses which was the just thing to do.  The reaction, verse 22, “When He had said this, they read it for what it was, a rebuke of the High Priest.  One of the officers standing by gave Jesus a blow.  It’s exactly the same thing.  He smashed Him across the face.  “Is that the way You answer the High Priest?” 

This is not so much punishment, this is not so much the flogging, lashing, which later the Lord received at the hands of the Romans, as the indignity and the humiliation and the shame of the slap across the face And you’ll notice that Jesus did not say, “Here, hit the other side.”  He didn’t interpret even His own words in that literal fashion.  He answered and said, “If I’ve spoken wrongly, bear witness of the wrong.  If rightly, why do you strike Me?”  Why are you hitting Me, why don’t you just bring the witnesses in?

So what then does it mean, “to turn the other cheek?”  It simply means this, when you have been treated with humiliation, when you’ve been treated with shame, when you’ve been treated with sort of the anger and hostility, when you have been despised and scorned and rejected, just keep on loving and get ready to be hit again.  Don’t retaliate.  The love that has been called for here doesn’t retaliate.  It doesn’t defend itself against this kind of humiliation and rejection, hostilityIt doesn’t get angryIt doesn’t hate when it is hit

The second half of the verse, about the cloak and shirt, also relates to the persecution of Christians that would come:

And the second reaction in verse 29 is another abuse that happened to Christians and still does in some form “Whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either.  Whoever takes away your outer garment, don’t withhold your inner garment.  This is very similar to Matthew 5:40, to Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount.  And this goes back to an issue.  Many of the people, of course, living in Palestine were not wealthy It was common that people had one outer cloak They didn’t have wardrobes like we do today.  And they needed that outer cloak to protect them, to keep them warm and even to use as a blanket at night Exodus 22:26 and 27 says, “If you ever take your neighbor’s coat as a pledge, you are to return it to him before the sun sets for that is his cloak for his body.  What else shall he sleep in?”  You don’t want him lying at night in the cold.

One of the ways that they persecuted the believers, the early believers, was to take their cloak so that they were left naked Believe me, the land of Israel can be very cold in the winter.  It snows in Jerusalem.  This was a severe abuse of these believers.  And He says, “If they take your cloak, keep loving them even if they take your shirt.”  Don’t retaliateDon’t seek vengeance They never really are the enemy; they are always the mission field.

We are to give to those who beg from us and, should anyone take our goods, we are not to ask for their return (verse 30).

Henry says that we are not to fight for our possessions:

And (Luke 6:30; Luke 6:30) of him that taketh thy goods” (so Dr. Hammond thinks it should be read), “that borrows them, or that takes them up from thee upon trust, of such do not exact them; if Providence have made such insolvent, do not take the advantage of the law against them, but rather lose it than take them by the throat,Matthew 18:28. If a man run away in thy debt, and take away thy goods with him, do not perplex thyself, nor be incensed against him.”

MacArthur says that this, too, was — and still is — a form of persecution:

One of the things that also happened to these early believers was people robbed them.  They humiliated them, slapped them, mistreating them, abusing them in that fashion.  Took away their clothes.  They came trading on their goodness, borrowing money they never intended to pay back And they robbed them.  And they still do.  Even up until modern times, Christians being persecuted in some parts of the world have their possessions taken That’s happened all through historyChristians persecuted, their personal belongings taken, their homes looted.  But when they do that, don’t demand it back.

We then come to the verse that some refer to as the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would be done by (verse 31).

MacArthur explains that the verse refers to the sort of love those who hate us are incapable of:

Frankly, that sums up the whole idea of loving your enemies Don’t treat them the way they’re treating you.  The world does that.  The world of sinners treats people the way they treat them You treat people the way you would like them to treat you We assume they’re not treating you that way.  They are hating you.  They are cursing you.  They are mistreating you.  They are hitting you on the cheek.  They are taking things from you, stealing them, borrowing them.  They’re already your enemies.  They’re manifesting that in the way they treat you.  This is all abuse, mistreatment.

So what do you do?  Well, if you’re a normal person, you give them back what they gave you:  vengeance, retaliation, hostility, vindictiveness And Jesus says that’s not the way you do it Treat them the way you would like them to treat you, even though they’re not treating you that way That’s the point.  Treat them the way you would like them to treat you.

Now this golden rule is singularly Christian I know you hear that this is a sort of a universal law of religion, but let me sort of sort that out a little bit for you.  Every time you find something like the golden rule that appears in some religion or some philosophical system, it appears in a negative form What I mean by that is it’s don’t treat people the way you don’t want to be treated It’s a negative.  It’s reversed or lowered …

In every case, the emphasis is negative Don’t do to someone what you don’t want them to do to you because there’s a universal principle in life.  Whatever you do to people, they will do back You got that?  That’s how the world works.  That’s human life.  Whatever you do to them, they’re going to do back to you.  So don’t do what you don’t want back.

In the next three verses, Jesus talks about going beyond normal human behaviour in our approach to loving one another.

There is nothing distinctive in reciprocating love to someone who loves us; even sinners do that (verse 32).

Performing good deeds to someone who has shown us a good deed is normal; sinners do that, too (verse 33).

Similarly, lending to someone who is likely to lend to us is easy; sinners do the same thing (verse 34).

Henry explains that Jesus wants us to go well beyond social norms and imitate heavenly norms instead:

To love those that love us has nothing uncommon in it, nothing peculiar to Christ’s disciples, for sinners will love those that love them. There is nothing self-denying in that; it is but following nature, even in its corrupt state, and puts no force at all upon it (Luke 6:32; Luke 6:32): it is no thanks to us to love those that say and do just as we would have them. “And (Luke 6:33; Luke 6:33) if you do good to them that do good to you, and return their kindnesses, it is from a common principle of custom, honour, and gratitude; and therefore what thanks have you? What credit are you to the name of Christ, or what reputation do you bring to it? for sinners also, that know nothing of Christ and his doctrine, do even the same. But it becomes you to do something more excellent and eminent, herein to out-do your neighbours, to do that which sinners will not do, and which no principle of theirs can pretend to reach to: you must render good for evil;” not that any thanks are due to us, but then we are to our God for a name and a praise and he will have the thanks.

Jesus makes the point that when we go above and beyond — by loving our enemies, doing good to all and lending freely — our reward with God will be great and we will be children of the Most High, He who is kind to the ungrateful and to the wicked (verse 35).

Similarly, we are to show each other mercy in the same way that God the Father shows us mercy (verse 36).

Henry says:

What is given, or laid out, or lent and lost on earth, from a true principle of charity, will be made up to us in the other world, unspeakably to our advantage. “You shall not only be repaid, but rewarded, greatly rewarded; it will be said to you, Come, ye blessed, inherit the kingdom.

MacArthur expands on the heavenly reward and the example we show the rest of mankind:

The reward we’re going to receive in heaven for suffering persecution – there will be a heavenly reward.  But this is in the world of men.  You’re loving sinners the way sinners are not used to being loved You’re loving those who don’t love you.  You’re loving those who don’t do good to you.  You’re loving those who don’t lend to you, and you’re asking no love, no goodness, and no loan back.  This is unconditional, free, transcendent love You’re just loving them the way they ought to love you, even though they don’t.  You’re showing them a love that they can’t experience, doesn’t belong to their world, and your reward will be great.

What will be your reward?  Follow along in verse 35.  “And you will be sons of the Most High.”  What do you mean?  Well, the people are going to conclude you’re a son of God.  You will manifestly be in their eyes.  He’s not talking about what God is going to give you He’s talking about what men are going to think They’re going to say, “He’s very much like God.”  Why?  “For he himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.” 

The kindness of God, the grace of God, the forgiveness of God, the mercy, tenderness, compassion of God is all through the Old Testament You live like this, the Jews who know the Old Testament, they’re going to know you’re manifesting the kind of love that was true of God.  God is kind, kind even to ungrateful and evil men As I said earlier, that’s the only kind of people there are We’re all in the category of ungrateful, Romans 1:24We’re all in the category of evil, Romans 3:10 and following.  We’re all wicked.  We’re all thankless.  We’re the only people there are to love, and God loves us and is kind It’s the kindness, again, of compassion.  It’s the kindness of warning.  It’s the kindness of invitation.  It’s the kindness of goodness.  And when you do that, people are going to make the connection, like Ephesians 5:1, “Walk in love even as your Father loves, and as Jesus loved and gave His life.”

Further, in verse 36 Jesus added, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”  What you’re trying to do, in the words of Paul, is to adorn the doctrine of God What you’re trying to do is manifest your sonship, to demonstrate that the life of God is in your soul, that the divine nature is there in you, that the Spirit of God dwells with you, that you are supernatural in your ability to love.  And people will say, “He’s a son of the Most High.”

“Most High,” by the way, we’ve already discussed that title for God It’s a New Testament equivalent to the Hebrew El Elyon, God Most High, used many, many times.  First of all, in Genesis 14, it’s used four times and then El Elyon goes all through the Old Testament referring to God as the sovereign.  “Most High” means “You’re the sovereign ruler.  You’re the ultimate one.”  Here in the Greek hupsistos is “sovereign, the ultimate, supreme ruler.”  It can refer none other than God Himself And by the way, Christ is called the “Son of the Most High” in Luke 1:32 and 1:76

Jesus says that if we avoid judging and condemning others, then we will not be judged or condemned; if we forgive, we, too, will be forgiven (verse 37).

We often wonder why good things happen to bad people.

MacArthur says that this is because God is good to both evildoers and the faithful in this world:

The reason good things keep happening to bad people is because God is positively kind and merciful He gives and He withholds.  He gives kindness and blessing, and withholds judgment out of His own compassionate heart And you see that, even the Old Testament, Exodus 34, God is merciful, showing mercy to thousands.  He’s compassionate.  He’s kind.  The prophet Joel talks about that.  The prophet Jonah saw the kindness and mercy of God toward Nineveh and it irritated him.  God has pity over sinners.  He grieves over them.  He’s kind, merciful to them.

So when you are kind, positive good toward your enemies, and merciful, withholding judgment, you are like God Therefore you are manifestly sons of the Most High.  You manifestly are giving evidence that God is your Father So until the final day when God’s judgment does fall on everybody, God Himself is kind and God Himself is merciful That’s His nature.  And if you bear His nature and His name, that is how you need to be, as well.

As for judging and condemning, we would do well to leave that to God and show a good example to others instead, which can have positive benefits in this world:

What it forbids is some kind of harsh, hard, critical, compassionless hostility to enemies.

We’ve already had a pretty good hint at this when back in verse 28 it says, “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”  That’s the idea.  That’s the idea.  Don’t become their judge Don’t pronounce judgment on them.  Speak blessing into their lives Don’t pass sentence on them.  Love them mercifully.  Love them kindly.

And the reward for that?  You will not be judged by them, because sinners will give you back what you give them, and if you’re not judgmental, and harsh, and cold, and condemning, they’ll see that and they’ll treat you that way because that’s how sinners do They love who they love because they love them They’re good to those who do good to them They lend to those who lend to them.  That’s how it works in the world. 

So if you, in the midst of being persecuted, and mistreated, and hated, and cursed, will not be their judges, but will love them with kindness, and mercy, and compassion, and goodness, and invitation the way God loves sinners, then what will happen is they will not judge you They’ll ease up on you You don’t want to do something that’s going to shut the door of evangelism.

Finally, if we give freely, we will receive abundantly. To illustrate our reward to come, Jesus uses an analogy of measuring corn (verse 38), which had to be pressed down into a basket in order to fill every bit of space.

MacArthur explains the verse and the process for measuring corn:

… in verse 38 He says, “Give,” and you know what will happen?  As you give, and give, and give, and give, it will be given to you It will be given to you.  Because that’s how people are As you give in common grace, as you give in mercy, as you give in kindness to sinners, sure God will bless you, that’s not the point Look at this, good measure.  “It will be given to you good measure-pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap.” 

And that “they” is the interpretive principle for the whole section, “they.”  It’s the people you do this to They’re going to return it back You don’t judge them, they won’t judge you.  You don’t condemn them, they won’t condemn you And if you forgive them, they will tend to forgive you And if you give to them, they will tend to give to you That’s how the world works.  That’s the common human way to love.  But for us, it has to start with loving those who hate us before they can be transformed into this.

If you are merciful, and kind, and non-critical, and non-condemning, and non-judgmental, if you are generous, and giving to sinners, holding no grudge, then they’ll treat you that way because that’s how they work.  And the hard thing for them to understand will be, “How can he or she treat me that way when I treated him or her the way I did?”  They’re going to see your good works and glorify – whom? – your Father who is in heaven, Matthew 5:16.

And it’s going to be generous.  Look at verse 38.  “They’re going to give to you good measure-pressed down, shaken together and running over.”  That’s a very vivid picture.  Jeremias writing on the history of Jerusalem has a little paragraph that explains this.  “The measuring of corn is a process which is carried out according to an established pattern in Israel The seller crouches on the ground, puts his legs around a huge basket. 

“First of all, he fills the measure three-quarters full, and then gives the basket a rotating shake to make the grain settle, and settle, and settle, and settle.”  You know how important that is.  That’s like when you bring the cookies home that filled the box and by the time they get home they’re all in the bottom and the rest is air.  That’s to prevent this.

“Once the rotary motion is done with the three-quarter filled basket, it all settles and settles, and all the little grain find all the space and fill it up, fill it up, and it’s solid packed, then he fills the rest to the very top.  And once it’s filled to the very top flat, it’s given another shake, and another shake Then he presses the corn together strongly with both hands, pushing, and pushing, and pushing it down Finally, he piles it into a cone with a point in the middle,” writes Jeremias, “tapping it carefully to press the grains together.  From time to time bores a hole in the cone and pours more in, and pours more in, and pours more in, and pours more in, until the cone gets to the very place where it doesn’t run down anymore That’s a full measure.”

And Jesus said, “If you love people like this, they’ll love you back like that.” 

MacArthur concludes that if we treat each other the way Jesus taught His disciples, we then have an opportunity to be true disciples and teach them the Gospel:

You can actually be loved by sinners.  Christians need a good dose of this, don’t they?  We live in a time when Christians are making enemies out of the mission field.  Wouldn’t you like sinners to do that?  You love them.  Love your persecutors.  Love sinners and they will love you back the way you love them That’s how sinners love.  They love those who love them.  They do good to those who do good to them.  They lend to those who lend to them.  That’s the way they work.  The problem is, that’s all they can do.  But you can love your enemies and benefit.

And what is the goal?  The goal, then, would be to have sinners not judge you, not condemn you, forgive you for the offense against them, and be generous with you.  If that’s the case, that would indicate that they have accepted you, and you now have an opportunity to proclaim to them – what? – the gospel

So take advantage of sinners’ limitations.  They can’t love their enemies, but you can.  They do love those who love them, they do give to those who give to them, and they do good to those who do good to them.  You do that when they are enemies, and you will lay down a testimony that you are not like them, but you are like God, who loves His enemies compassionately, kindly, mercifully, invitingly, and that becomes the basis of your witness This is what marks a true disciple.

I have never heard that message in church. It gives me more hope in being able to take the Beatitudes to heart.

May all of my readers have a very blessed Sunday.

The Sixth Sunday after Epiphany is February 13, 2022.

Readings for Year C can be found here.

This Sunday in 2022 is also Septuagesima Sunday, meaning 70 days until Easter. However, it occurs only 63 days before Easter. Early Christians began observing Lent the day after Septuagesima Sunday. This is because Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays were not days of fasting in the early Church. So, if the faithful wished to fast for 40 days before Easter, following the example of Jesus, they would have had to start the Monday after Septuagesima Sunday.

You can read more about Septuagesima, Sexagesima and Quinquagesima Sundays in the following post:

The Sundays before Lent — an explanation

This period of time was known as Shrovetide, which ended on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. ‘Shrove’ is the past participle of ‘shrive’, which meant to present oneself for confession, penance and absolution. You can find out more in the post below:

Shrovetide — a history

Even in modern times, the Lectionary readings turn from the themes of rejoicing and thanks that our Saviour came to Earth to redeem us. The themes of sin and repentance predominate.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Luke 6:17-26

6:17 He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon.

6:18 They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured.

6:19 And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.

6:20 Then he looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

6:21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.

6:22 “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man.

6:23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.

6:24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.

6:25 “Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. “Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.

6:26 “Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

The preceding verses in Luke 6 tell us that Jesus went to a mountainside to pray before choosing His Apostles:

The Twelve Apostles

12 One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. 13 When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: 14 Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, 15 Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, 16 Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

He then came down from the mountainside with them, stood on a level place surrounded by a great crowd of disciples and people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon (verse 17).

Some in the crowd came out of curiosity to hear the greatest Preacher. Others came to be healed of physical ailments or demons (verse 18). Yet others, who were of sound mind and body, wanted to be in His presence and hear what He had to say.

Everyone wanted to personally touch Him, for He emanated power and healed all of them, even those with no ailments (verse 19).

Matthew Henry’s commentary says:

Some were troubled in body, and some in mind; some had diseases, some had devils; but both the one and the other, upon their application to Christ, were healed, for he has power over diseases and devils (Luke 6:17; Luke 6:18), over the effects and over the causes. Nay, it should seem, those who had no particular diseases to complain of yet found it a great confirmation and renovation to their bodily health and vigour to partake of the virtue that went out of him; for (Luke 6:19; Luke 6:19) the whole multitude sought to touch him, those that were in health as well as those that were sick, and they were all, one way or other, the better for him: he healed them all; and who is there that doth not need, upon some account or other, to be healed? There is a fulness of grace in Christ, and healing virtue in him, and ready to go out from him, that is enough for all, enough for each.

John MacArthur tells us that the New Testament reveals more about God through His Son Jesus Christ:

God becomes clear, manifest, revealed in Christ in a way that is even more intimate, more clear, more profound, more comprehensible, more understandable than any Old Testament vision of God The record of that appearance of God in human flesh is contained in Matthew, Mark, Luke and JohnThere we see God in all His glory, all His perfection manifest in Jesus Christ Every page, every paragraph, every line of the gospels is dominated by the incomparable Jesus Christ. 

Luke’s purpose in writing was to prove that Jesus is the Son of God and the long-awaited Messiah:

Now remember, Luke’s gospel was written to reveal and prove that Jesus is the Messiah, God, the Lord, the Savior.  Luke wrote his gospel to prove that Jesus as God came into the world to preach the forgiveness of sins to all who would repent and believe He came to establish His eternal rule over the souls of men and women who would put their trust in Him and He would eventually extend that rule beyond the souls of men to the whole earth, destroying the power of…of SatanAnd then in the end He would create a new heaven and a new earth where there is no sin forever Carefully, systematically, Luke is analyzing the life of Jesus to give us irrefutable proof that He is God, that He is Lord, that He is Savior. 

MacArthur says that it is important for Luke to stop at certain points in his Gospel story to show us the power of Christ on those who journeyed from miles around to see and hear Him:

Luke stops with the incidents, stops with the events to gather up the big picture here.  And the first thing he wants us to see is how popular Jesus had become I mean, nobody had ever been this popular in Israel. No would-be, self-styled Messiah had ever commanded this kind of attention.  The popularity of Jesus is indicated in verse 17, “He descended with them and stood on a level place and there was a great multitude of His disciples and a great throng of people from all Judea, Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon” …

The appeal of Jesus didn’t have any limits, from the common man to the religiously literate to the pagans, He drew them all

Jesus did the miracles to affirm that He was speaking the truth He came to explain the truth of God and no one ever heard such a teacher, no one ever heard such a teacher. He had the most profound and perfect mind, He knew everything there was to know He knew the truth of God, He was the truth of God incarnate, perfect control of every thought, perfect knowledge of every reality, perfect use of language, perfect use of emotion, perfect use of logic and reason so as to be nothing but clear, concise, convicting, penetrating, captivating and profound all at the same time His teaching was unlike any other teaching ever.  His mental agility, His mental clarity, His mental force, His mental depth drew the masses and true salvation came to those who heard and believed and embraced the truth.  And He preached the kingdom and forgiveness and how people could be forgiven and enter the kingdom if they would believe in Him and cry out to God for forgiveness and salvation

this is a preview of what heaven is going to be and it proves to us that He is the Lord of heaven, that He is the God of very God, that He is the Savior and Redeemer who can and will give us a perfect mind, a perfect body and a perfect soul Right?  Isn’t that what heaven is?  And we long for that don’t we?  We long for the day when we have a clear, perfect, pure mind and we know the truth of God and is uncluttered with confusion and ignorance and sin.  We long for the day when all of the infirmities of the body are gone.  We long for the day when all the torturous problems of the soul and all the threats and temptations of Satan are forever banished.  Jesus said, “Look, I can do that.  I can bring the truth to your mind and give you a perfect mind.  I can bring wholeness to your body and give you a glorified body with no infirmity, no sorrow, no sadness, no sickness, no dying.  And I can take your soul and I can make it pure and free from any evil influence.  This is what He does This is what salvation is And that full cleansing doesn’t happen till we go to glory. But we’re already in the process, aren’t we?

The ensuing verses are Luke’s version of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-7, continuing through Matthew 7), or the Beatitudes.

Secularists use the Sermon on the Mount as a statement of ethics, but MacArthur tells us that it is about salvation:

There are people who treat this sermon as a statement of ethics, but it isn’tIt’s a sermon about salvation.  In fact, it’s the most definitive sermon that Jesus preached, identifying who is saved and who is not.  In the end, it’s about who is going to heaven and who is going to hell It’s not about who is religious; it’s about who is savedIt’s not about who is living an ethical life; it’s about who knows GodAnd so it is a critical sermon from the lips of Christ HimselfThere are variations between Matthew’s account and Luke’s account.  And there are reasons for that.  Jesus actually preached it in AramaicBut both Matthew and Luke wrote it in Greek, and so they might translate an Aramaic word a different way using synonyms

Furthermore, MacArthur surmises that Jesus preached this sermon often, in other places:

Jesus certainly did preach these truths everywhere He went.  No doubt the content of this He repeated again and again and again and again, place after place after place because it’s so basic. 

MacArthur says that Jesus was preaching against the received wisdom of religiosity, so prevalent among the Jews of His day. However, it also goes against the human — carnal — way of thinking, even today:

what made it so hard for people to hear and understand, and still does today, is the fact that what Jesus taught was absolutely opposite human thinking, even the thinking of religious people.  In fact, the religious Jews, the leaders of the religious Jews, the most theological astute of all found the teaching of Jesus repugnant.  They found it offensive.  They found it threateningThey even determined that it was so wrong that He was speaking from Satan.  Now why would they ever conclude such a thing?  Because everything He taught was so utterly opposite everything they thought.  In fact, they determined that they had to silence Him by killing Him before He upset the entire religious Judaistic system

You see, the teaching of Jesus doesn’t add a little to conventional religious wisdom.  It doesn’t just subtract a little.  It replaces it.  The teaching of Jesus then and the teaching of Jesus now…because it’s the same…it’s here in Scripture recorded for all time and eternity.  The teaching of Jesus then and now shatters all man’s basic foundational thinking.  It destroys his motives whether they are secular or religious.  It turns man’s world upside-down.  It turns his thinking on its head.  The teaching of Jesus then and now is not PC; it’s not political correct.  It’s not CW; it’s not conventional wisdom.  In fact, the teaching of Jesus is alien to everything we consider to be true in the natural mind.  It runs counter to everything.  It is the antithesis of human ideasIt is the antithesis of human motivation.

So when Jesus spoke about spiritual issues, when He spoke about His Kingdom, when He gave the laws and principles of His Kingdom, when He talked about how to know God and how to inherit eternal life, what He taught literally toppled the very carefully constructed ideological fortresses that men had established, and then it blasted their foundations to rubble.  It’s just not what we normally think.  And this passage makes it evident as He begins this great sermon.  The first few verses are paradoxical, and they show how Jesus overturned conventional religious thinking, and even conventional secular thinking.

Jesus began by turning to His disciples — this sermon is for them, as their first lesson — saying that the poor are blessed, because the kingdom of God is theirs (verse 20).

Henry explains what this means, preferring the world to come over the temporal world:

You are poor, you have left all to follow me, are content to live upon alms with me, are never to expect any worldly preferment in my service. You must work hard, and fare hard, as poor people do; but you are blessed in your poverty, it shall be no prejudice at all to your happiness; nay, you are blessed for it, all your losses shall be abundantly made up to you, for yours is the kingdom of God, all the comforts and graces of his kingdom here and all the glories and joys of his kingdom hereafter; yours it shall be, nay, yours it is.” Christ’s poor are rich in faith,James 2:5.

MacArthur says:

Now to the average person that sounds crazy.  Since when are poverty, hunger, sorrow and rejection a blessing?  And since when are riches, satisfaction, happiness and popularity a curse?The world and all its thinking is exactly opposite the truth.  That’s why the apostle Paul said, in 1 Corinthians chapter 1, that the wisdom of God is foolishness with men and the wisdom of men is foolishness with God.  Romans 1, Paul said man professes himself to be wise, but in fact he is a moron.  That’s the Greek.  It isn’t again that Christianity adds something to man’s brilliance; it replaces it.

Jesus went on to say that those who are hungry will be filled and that those who weep now will be filled with laughter (verse 21).

Henry says that this indicates the supreme and sublime comfort of the afterlife:

… you hunger now in this world, but in the other world you shall be filled, shall hunger no more, nor thirst any more

They that now sorrow after a godly sort are treasuring up comforts for themselves, or, rather, God is treasuring up comforts for them; and the day is coming when their mouth shall be filled with laughing and their lips with rejoicing, Job 8:21.

Jesus then addressed persecution, saying that blessed are they who experience hate, exclusion, revilement and defamation because they believe in Him (verse 22).

He said to rejoice in that day and leap for joy because the rewards in heaven will be great, reminding them that the Lord’s prophets were similarly persecuted (verse 23).

Henry warns us that our persecutors can make their claims very convincing, indeed, as if they came from the Almighty Himself:

They will pronounce anathemas against you, as scandalous and incorrigible offenders. They will do this with all possible gravity and solemnity, and pomp and pageantry of appeals to Heaven, to make the world believe, and almost you yourselves too, that it is ratified in heaven. Thus will they endeavour to make you odious to others and a terror to yourselves.” This is supposed to be the proper notion of aphorisosin hymasthey shall cast you out of their synagogues. “And they that have not this power will not fail to show their malice, to the utmost of their power; for they will reproach you, will charge you with the blackest crimes, which you are perfectly innocent of, will fasten upon you the blackest characters, which you do not deserve; they will cast out your name as evil, your name as Christians, as apostles; they will do all they can to render these names odious.” This is the application of the eighth beatitude, Matthew 5:10-12.

Jesus pronounces woe — a severe judgement — on the rich, for they already have their consolation, or reward, i.e. here on earth (verse 24).

Henry explains that the rich focus on creature comforts — carnality — rather than on God. This holds true today and always will:

(1.) It is the folly of carnal worldlings that they make the things of this world their consolation, which were intended only for their convenience. They please themselves with them, pride themselves in them, and make them their heaven upon earth; and to them the consolations of God are small, and of no account. (2.) It is their misery that they are put off with them as their consolation. Let them know it, to their terror, when they are parted from these things, there is an end of all their comfort, a final end of it, and nothing remains to them but everlasting misery and torment.

Jesus had a message for those who enjoy life’s comforts too much; those who indulge too much will go away hungry, and those who are laughing from constant enjoyment will mourn and weep (verse 25).

Henry offers this analysis:

They are full of themselves, without God and Christ. Woe to such, for they shall hunger, they shall shortly be stripped and emptied of all the things they are so proud of; and, when they shall have left behind them in the world all those things which are their fulness, they shall carry away with them such appetites and desires as the world they remove to will afford them no gratifications of; for all the delights of sense, which they are now so full of, will in hell be denied, and in heaven superseded.

Here is a woe to them that laugh now, that have always a disposition to be merry, and always something to make merry with; that know no other joy than that which is carnal and sensual, and know no other use of this world’s good than purely to indulge that carnal sensual joy that banishes sorrow, even godly sorrow, from their minds, and are always entertaining themselves with the laughter of the fool. Woe unto such, for it is but now, for a little time, that they laugh; they shall mourn and weep shortly, shall mourn and weep eternally, in a world where there is nothing but weeping and wailing, endless, easeless, and remediless sorrow.

Jesus also pronounced judgement on those who find favour among their fellow men, which is exactly how the unrepentant favoured the false prophets in Scripture (verse 26).

Henry says that we should seek favour of the wise and the good, not fools:

We should desire to have the approbation of those that are wise and good, and not be indifferent to what people say of us; but, as we should despise the reproaches, so we should also despise the praises, of the fools in Israel.

MacArthur tells us more about the word ‘blessed’:

It’s the Greek makarioiIt means “most favored, most favored.”  It speaks of somebody who is in the most beneficial condition, somebody who’s in the most beneficial condition.  Then the other one, “woe,” ouai, almost a transliteration in the Greek, it means “most unfavored.”  It means the person who is in the worst condition.  The blessed are enjoying the most beneficial condition and the cursed are enduring the pain of the worst condition.  Those are the only two places people live.  You live in one or the other.  You’re either among the blessed or the cursed; there is no middle ground.

MacArthur emphasises that, while some these verses can be applied literally to the faithful, Jesus intended them to pertain more to spiritual health, the state of our souls:

Poverty in itself is not necessarily a blessing.  What’s the point?  Well, He’s not talking about material povertyHe’s not talking about economics.  What kind of poverty is He talking about?  Well Matthew gives us another statement that Jesus made in that same sermon, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”  That’s what He’s talking about.  God doesn’t bless people just because they’re poor.  These are statements of fact.  The poor are not blessed.  And not all the poor people, by just being poor, are going to receive the Kingdom of GodYou don’t get converted by poverty.  It’s not talking about that. 

God doesn’t give salvation to people because they’re deprived economically and materially He’s talking about spiritually poor.  The people that are blessed are people who understand their spiritual povertyThey understand the bankrupt condition of their soul They understand that they have absolutely no resources with which to buy God’s favorThey understand that salvation is not by works, good deeds, righteous acts, ceremonies, ritual, religious thoughts, feelings, etc.  They understand that when all is said and done no matter how much human goodness they may manifest, no matter how much religion they may involve themselves in, no matter how many ceremonies they engage in, they are bankrupt.  None of that has any purchase power with regard to salvationThis was the very issue.

MacArthur says it is about realising we cannot save ourselves. We need God’s help through a belief in Jesus Christ:

Blessed are those who understand their spiritual bankruptcy Blessed are those who know they have no resources to buy their salvation.  They know they can do nothing to please God They have no ability to gain what is necessary to please God.  Blessed are those who know they are spiritually destitute, bankrupt.  They are the ones who receive the Kingdom of God.  The Kingdom of God is for the sinners who know they can’t save themselves.

And then, secondly, came the blessing of hunger “Blessed are you who hunger now for you shall be satisfied.”  It’s not talking about people who don’t have any food.  He’s talking about people who hunger for righteousness Blessed are those who feel the emptiness.  Blessed are those who know they aren’t righteous They feel it.  They are starved for it They understand their spiritual bankruptcy and they cry out to be fed righteousness from God, even though they are unworthy of it.

And then also we saw the blessing of sorrow.  Verse 21, “Blessed are you who weep now for you shall laugh.”  Those whose spiritual condition produces an overwhelming grief, this is brokenness and contriteness of heart which Isaiah spoke Blessed are those who because they’re so spiritually bankrupt, because they have such a profound hunger for righteousness which they know they don’t have and can’t earn are, therefore, in grief, those people will receive the riches of the Kingdom.  Those people will be eternally satisfied and those people will have eternal joy.

What about persecution? Can we avoid it?

MacArthur says that it can be possible for most, provided we live quiet lives and mind our own business:

we don’t want to set this up so that you expect that your life will be nothing but an act of persecution and you develop some kind of martyr complex Look, the early church, according to Acts 2:47, had favor with all the people Later on, in Acts chapter 5 verse 13, it says the people in Jerusalem had great esteem for the Christians And 1 Timothy chapter 2 says that we’re to conduct ourselves in a godly fashion, living a quiet, peaceable, tranquil life so that there will be respect Peter says you ought to live your lives so that evil people have nothing of which to accuse you. Titus chapter 3 says you’re to live your life in a very quiet way, in a gracious way so that you have a testimony as to the transforming power of Christ in your life to reach those who are without Him.

Unfortunately, some in this world do persecute, maim and murder believers who live godly lives. Paul was constantly persecuted, often with physical brutality that left permanent bodily damage. However, he never gave up his faith — and standing firm is a difficult thing to do. That is because he focused on his heavenly reward, wanting so intensely to be with His Saviour forever.

Speaking generally on this issue, MacArthur says:

“Leap for joy for behold your reward is great – ” Where? – “In heaven.”  You have to have an other worldly perspective to deal with this If all you want is comfort here, you’re going to miss it If you understand that your eternal reward is proportionate to your willingness to confront and suffer for the gospel, then you realize that the little suffering here is not worthy, as Paul said, to be compared with the glory there That’s the eternal perspective What do I care what hostility comes to me in this life for the truth of the gospel?  What do I care what people do to me in this life for preaching the truth, when I understand that there is a reward for me in the glory that I will receive and be able to cast at the feet of my Christ for the little suffering here? 

My apologies for the length of this post, but the Beatitudes are not altogether the statement of Christian militancy in the sense of oppression on earth that some clergy would have us believe.

They are primarily about our spiritual state. And when we realise we are helpless children without God’s help, He will send His Son with His grace to help us to repent and to strengthen our faith.

Below are the readings for Transfiguration Sunday, February 14, 2021.

These are for Year B in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

This is also Quinquagesima Sunday, 50 days before Easter, and the final Sunday before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading

This is the dramatic account of Elijah being whisked into Heaven by a chariot and horses, leaving Elisha to succeed him. Matthew Henry’s commentary explains the background to Elijah’s influence as a prophet and what happened at his death. There were several schools of prophecy among God’s chosen at the time, and Elijah was the spiritual leader for all of them. Before he died, he bade farewell to those in the schools of prophecy. When he was about to die, he did not want Elisha there, but then he relented (verses 2, 4). Elisha asked his spiritual leader for ‘a double share of his spirit’ — meaning ability to properly interpret Scripture and thereby prophesy (verse 9). After Elijah was ‘translated’ (theological term) into Heaven, Elisha rent his own clothes, the traditional manner of mourning in Judaism. Scholars believe that the horse and chariot that whisked Elijah into Heaven were actually angels: cherubim and seraphim. Zechariah 1:8 and Zechariah 6:1 have similar imagery. Elijah appears in the account of the Transfiguration in the Gospel stories (see Mark’s below).

2 Kings 2:1-12

2:1 Now when the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal.

2:2 Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; for the LORD has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel.

2:3 The company of prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that today the LORD will take your master away from you?” And he said, “Yes, I know; keep silent.”

2:4 Elijah said to him, “Elisha, stay here; for the LORD has sent me to Jericho.” But he said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they came to Jericho.

2:5 The company of prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that today the LORD will take your master away from you?” And he answered, “Yes, I know; be silent.”

2:6 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; for the LORD has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on.

2:7 Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan.

2:8 Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground.

2:9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.”

2:10 He responded, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.”

2:11 As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven.

2:12 Elisha kept watching and crying out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.

Psalm

The Psalm tells us to live a life worthy of God and avoid judgement in the afterlife.

Psalm 50:1-6

50:1 The mighty one, God the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.

50:2 Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth.

50:3 Our God comes and does not keep silence, before him is a devouring fire, and a mighty tempest all around him.

50:4 He calls to the heavens above and to the earth, that he may judge his people:

50:5 “Gather to me my faithful ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!”

50:6 The heavens declare his righteousness, for God himself is judge. Selah

Epistle

Paul tells the Christians of Corinth that those who are perishing in sin are incapable of understanding the Gospel. On the other hand, Christians proclaim the Light, which is Christ Jesus.

2 Corinthians 4:3-6

4:3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.

4:4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

4:5 For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake.

4:6 For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Gospel

Readings from Mark continue. Jesus took Peter, James and John — His most trusted Apostles — to give them a glimpse of Himself as He lives and reigns forevermore. Note that Elijah (see the first reading above) was there with Moses. God the Father spoke, telling the three men to listen to Him. Compare Mark’s version with Matthew’s (read in Year A).

Mark 9:2-9

9:2 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them,

9:3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.

9:4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus.

9:5 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

9:6 He did not know what to say, for they were terrified.

9:7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”

9:8 Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.

9:9 As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

These readings give show us the incomprehensible heavenly glory of the life to come.

May I also take this opportunity to wish those celebrating it a very happy St Valentine’s Day!

Below are the readings for the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, February 7, 2021.

These are for Year B in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

As I explained last week, we are now in Shrovetide. Last Sunday was Septuagesima Sunday. February 7 is Sexagesima Sunday, signifying 60 days before Easter.

My posts below discuss these Sundays and Shrovetide in more detail:

Shrovetide — a history

The Sundays before Lent — an explanation (the Sundays that define Shrovetide)

Emphases mine below.

First reading

Isaiah prophesies deliverance, not only for the chosen held captive in Babylon but also salvation for mankind in general through Jesus Christ. Verse 31 contains the imagery of eagles’ wings, also found in Exodus 19, Psalm 91 and Matthew 13.

Isaiah 40:21-31

40:21 Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?

40:22 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to live in;

40:23 who brings princes to naught, and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.

40:24 Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows upon them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble.

40:25 To whom then will you compare me, or who is my equal? says the Holy One.

40:26 Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these? He who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name; because he is great in strength, mighty in power, not one is missing.

40:27 Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God”?

40:28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.

40:29 He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless.

40:30 Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted;

40:31 but those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

Psalm

This is one of the Praise Psalms (145-150). Matthew Henry’s commentary says that many Bible scholars believe this was written after the Jews were released from captivity, but Henry says that a case could also be made for David’s authorship, during the building up of Jerusalem and the return of the outcasts from Saul’s time.

Psalm 147:1-11, 20c

147:1 Praise the LORD! How good it is to sing praises to our God; for he is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting.

147:2 The LORD builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel.

147:3 He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.

147:4 He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names.

147:5 Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.

147:6 The LORD lifts up the downtrodden; he casts the wicked to the ground.

147:7 Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre.

147:8 He covers the heavens with clouds, prepares rain for the earth, makes grass grow on the hills.

147:9 He gives to the animals their food, and to the young ravens when they cry.

147:10 His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the speed of a runner;

147:11 but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.

147:20c Praise the LORD!

Epistle

The Corinthians were a troublesome congregation, paying too much attention to the world and developing factions among themselves with false teachers. As such, Paul felt the need to justify his commission to preach the Gospel. He explains his strategy for evangelising in order to reach both Jew and Gentile.

1 Corinthians 9:16-23

9:16 If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel!

9:17 For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission.

9:18 What then is my reward? Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel.

9:19 For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them.

9:20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law.

9:21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law.

9:22 To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some.

9:23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.

Gospel

Readings from Mark continue. His account of Jesus’s early ministry continues, relating what happened after he drove the demon out of the man with the unclean spirit. This is his account of His healing Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, who had a debilitating fever. Afterwards, Jesus healed many more people through His power, mercy and compassion.

Mark 1:29-39

1:29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.

1:30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once.

1:31 He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

1:32 That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons.

1:33 And the whole city was gathered around the door.

1:34 And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

1:35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.

1:36 And Simon and his companions hunted for him.

1:37 When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.”

1:38 He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.”

1:39 And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

Have a blessed Sunday.

Below are the readings for the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany, January 31, 2021.

These are for Year B in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

This particular Sunday is also known traditionally as Septuagesima Sunday, marking 70 days before Easter. It is also the beginning of Shrovetide, which concludes on Shrove Tuesday. Shrove Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday.

Centuries ago, some Christians began their Lenten disciplines during Shrovetide. A number of traditionalists, not only in the Catholic Church but also the Anglican Communion and Lutheran Church, also observe the pre-Lenten Sundays counting down to Easter: Septuagesima, Sexagesima and Quinquagesima.

My posts which follow discuss these Sundays and Shrovetide in more detail:

Shrovetide — a history

The Sundays before Lent — an explanation (the Sundays that define Shrovetide)

Emphases mine below.

First reading

Moses relates what the Lord told him. From the midst of His people, the Lord promises His people a prophet above all others: Jesus Christ.

Deuteronomy 18:15-20

18:15 The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet.

18:16 This is what you requested of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said: “If I hear the voice of the LORD my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.”

18:17 Then the LORD replied to me: “They are right in what they have said.

18:18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command.

18:19 Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable.

18:20 But any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak–that prophet shall die.”

Psalm

This short Psalm of David’s was likely used in communal worship, reflecting on God’s infinite glory, power and mercy. Verse 10 will be familiar to most readers.

Psalm 111

111:1 Praise the LORD! I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation.

111:2 Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them.

111:3 Full of honor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures forever.

111:4 He has gained renown by his wonderful deeds; the LORD is gracious and merciful.

111:5 He provides food for those who fear him; he is ever mindful of his covenant.

111:6 He has shown his people the power of his works, in giving them the heritage of the nations.

111:7 The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy.

111:8 They are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.

111:9 He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is his name.

111:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever.

Epistle

Paul discusses weaker and stronger brothers in faith, a topic that he wrote about extensively in Romans. If a weaker Christian is offended by something that a stronger Christian does, i.e. eating meat sacrificed to idols, then it is incumbent upon the stronger Christian not to do it in his presence or force him to do so. The weaker Christian, if forced to partake of an activity that he finds offensive, could suffer an interminable pang of conscience and could even leave the faith.

1 Corinthians 8:1-13

8:1 Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.

8:2 Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge;

8:3 but anyone who loves God is known by him.

8:4 Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “no idol in the world really exists,” and that “there is no God but one.”

8:5 Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth–as in fact there are many gods and many lords–

8:6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

8:7 It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.

8:8 “Food will not bring us close to God.” We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.

8:9 But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.

8:10 For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols?

8:11 So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed.

8:12 But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.

8:13 Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall.

Gospel

Readings from Mark continue. This is what happened after Jesus began calling His disciples.

Mark 1:21-28

1:21 They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught.

1:22 They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

1:23 Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit,

1:24 and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.”

1:25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!”

1:26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him.

1:27 They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching–with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”

1:28 At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

May all of my readers enjoy a blessed Sunday.

The last Sunday in the season of Epiphany is named after the Transfiguration of Christ.

Transfiguration Sunday is February 23, 2020.

This is also Quinquagesima Sunday, 50 days before Easter.

What follow are readings for Year A in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

All the readings are about God’s magnificent, majestic manifestations to His people as well as a powerful one of Christ’s own glory in the Epistle and Gospel.

There are two Psalms from which to choose this week.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading

This is the dramatic story of God’s delivery of the Ten Commandments to Moses.

Exodus 24:12-18

24:12 The LORD said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain, and wait there; and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.”

24:13 So Moses set out with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God.

24:14 To the elders he had said, “Wait here for us, until we come to you again; for Aaron and Hur are with you; whoever has a dispute may go to them.”

24:15 Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain.

24:16 The glory of the LORD settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the cloud.

24:17 Now the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel.

24:18 Moses entered the cloud, and went up on the mountain. Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.

Psalm — first option

Although David’s establishment of his kingdom, according to God’s will, was controversial and fiercely opposed, he prevailed in the end. While this Psalm looks to be about his kingdom, Matthew Henry says that it prophesies Christ and His kingdom. Henry points out that, while all the verses apply to Christ, not all apply to David.

Psalm 2

2:1 Why do the nations conspire, and the peoples plot in vain?

2:2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and his anointed, saying,

2:3 “Let us burst their bonds asunder, and cast their cords from us.”

2:4 He who sits in the heavens laughs; the LORD has them in derision.

2:5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying,

2:6 “I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill.”

2:7 I will tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to me, “You are my son; today I have begotten you.

2:8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.

2:9 You shall break them with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

2:10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth.

2:11 Serve the LORD with fear, with trembling kiss his feet, or he will be angry, and you will perish in the way; for his wrath is quickly kindled. Happy are all who take refuge in him.

Psalm — second option

This Psalm exhorts the faithful to worship God, for He reigns over all. How much more reason we have to do so, knowing that He sent His Son Jesus Christ to Earth to deliver us from sin and give us life eternal.

Psalm 99

99:1 The LORD is king; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!

99:2 The LORD is great in Zion; he is exalted over all the peoples.

99:3 Let them praise your great and awesome name. Holy is he!

99:4 Mighty King, lover of justice, you have established equity; you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.

99:5 Extol the LORD our God; worship at his footstool. Holy is he!

99:6 Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel also was among those who called on his name. They cried to the LORD, and he answered them.

99:7 He spoke to them in the pillar of cloud; they kept his decrees, and the statutes that he gave them.

99:8 O LORD our God, you answered them; you were a forgiving God to them, but an avenger of their wrongdoings.

99:9 Extol the LORD our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for the LORD our God is holy.

Epistle

Peter recounts his experience as one of the three Apostles to see the Transfiguration. Note verse 16, in particular.

2 Peter 1:16-21

1:16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty.

1:17 For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

1:18 We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain.

1:19 So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

1:20 First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation,

1:21 because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

Gospel

This reading needs no introduction. I cannot imagine what it must have been like to be Peter, James and John on that mountain, especially as they could speak to no one about it until after the Resurrection (verse 9). That Jesus would rise from the dead was something that they could not fully comprehend at the time.

Matthew 17:1-9

17:1 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves.

17:2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white.

17:3 Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.

17:4 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

17:5 While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!”

17:6 When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear.

17:7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.”

17:8 And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.

17:9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

I hope there are some excellent sermons tomorrow. There is much to preach about regarding what the Apostles understood of Jesus’s ministry at the time of the Transfiguration. Peter wanted to stay with heavenly company. I would have felt the same way. However, Jesus had much more to accomplish. Yet, He chose His best and brightest to whom to reveal His true nature accompanied by a very personal message from His Father.

Lent starts next week. Shrovetide — comprising the ‘-gesima’ Sundays — ends on Shrove Tuesday, February 25. Ash Wednesday is February 26.

What follows are the readings for the Sixth Sunday after Epiphany, February 16, 2020.

This particular day is also Sexagesima Sunday, 60 days before Easter. Centuries ago, Lent would have already begun a week earlier, the Monday after Septuagesima Sunday.

The readings are for Year A in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

Emphases mine below.

First reading

Moses reveals God’s rewards and penalties with regard to the Ten Commandments. Matthew Henry calls our attention to the number of times Moses says ‘the Lord your God’, a clear indication that He had made a covenant with His people. One of my favourite verses is the second half of verse 19.

Deuteronomy 30:15-20

30:15 See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity.

30:16 If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the LORD your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess.

30:17 But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them,

30:18 I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.

30:19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live,

30:20 loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the LORD swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

First reading – alternate (Catholic)

This alternate first reading about the Ten Commandments is from the Book of Sirach, found in the Catholic version of the Bible.

Sirach 15:15-20

15:15 If you choose, you can keep the commandments, and to act faithfully is a matter of your own choice.

15:16 He has placed before you fire and water; stretch out your hand for whichever you choose.

15:17 Before each person are life and death, and whichever one chooses will be given.

15:18 For great is the wisdom of the Lord; he is mighty in power and sees everything;

15:19 his eyes are on those who fear him, and he knows every human action.

15:20 He has not commanded anyone to be wicked, and he has not given anyone permission to sin.

Psalm

Matthew Henry says that David gathered all of his praises of the Lord that he had written during the course of his life and placed them in this magnificent Psalm. Henry describes Psalm 119 as a ‘chest of gold rings, not a chain of gold links’.

Psalm 119:1-8

119:1 Happy are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD.

119:2 Happy are those who keep his decrees, who seek him with their whole heart,

119:3 who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways.

119:4 You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently.

119:5 O that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!

119:6 Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.

119:7 I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous ordinances.

119:8 I will observe your statutes; do not utterly forsake me.

Epistle

Readings from 1 Corinthians continue. We are now on 1 Corinthians 3. Paul explains that the converts of Corinth were still ‘infants in Christ’, needing spiritual milk rather than meat. They were dividing themselves up into factions, based on the church leader who baptised them. He wanted them to remember that they were all followers of Christ, therefore, all servants of God.

1 Corinthians 3:1-9

3:1 And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.

3:2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready,

3:3 for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations?

3:4 For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human?

3:5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each.

3:6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.

3:7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.

3:8 The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each.

3:9 For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.

Gospel

Readings from the Sermon on the Mount continue. Jesus discusses reconciliation, temptation, divorce and idle oaths. N.B.: Jesus did not mean verses 29 and 30 literally; He means for us to walk in the Spirit and not be tempted by what we see. Walking in the Spirit will cut off our carnal appetites.

Matthew 5:21-37

5:21 “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’

5:22 But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.

5:23 So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you,

5:24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.

5:25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison.

5:26 Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’

5:28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

5:29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.

5:30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.

5:31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’

5:32 But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

5:33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’

5:34 But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God,

5:35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.

5:36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black.

5:37 Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.

Those were hard words for people to hear then. They are just as difficult these days.

My latest instalment on what Episcopal priests are thinking about involves respecting the Church calendar.

The following tweets come from the Revd Scott Gunn, an Anglo-Catholic serving in a Midwestern city. He is also the executive director of Forward Movement in the Episcopal Church, a co-author of Faithful Questions: Exploring the Way with Jesus and a religious editorial writer for Fox News.

Epiphany

We are in the last few Sundays of the season of Epiphany, so let’s make the most of them. We should be grateful for the Lord God sending His only begotten Son who died for our sins:

And, while we are at it, let’s forget this abominable modern concept of ‘Ordinary Time’ in the Church calendar, as promulgated by Roman Catholics. Sadly, it has spread to some liturgical Protestant churches. How can Sunday worship or the Church calendar ever involve something ‘ordinary’?

Someone replying suggested developing an Episcopal Church of Twitter. Count me in. It’s a darn sight more traditional and meaningful than many Episcopal Church witterings. That goes for the Church of England, too.

Septuagesima Sunday

In my post with the readings for the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany — Year A, I later updated it to say that February 9, 2020, was Septuagesima Sunday, the seventh Sunday before Easter. Next Sunday will be Sexagesima Sunday and the one after that Quinquagesima Sunday.

Until Vatican II modernised the Catholic Church, that was the Sunday that signalled the beginning of Lent for traditionalists. In old money, Lent would have started on Monday, February 10. Now Lent begins on Ash Wednesday for nearly everyone. You can read more about the Sundays before Easter below, including the season of Shrovetide in my post below:

Shrovetide — a history

The Sundays before Lent — an explanation (the Sundays that define Shrovetide)

The readings for the latter Sundays in the season of Epiphany begin to move towards a call to repentance, and this was evident in the first reading from Isaiah as well as the Gospel reading for February 9.

Scott Gunn reminded us of our traditions, which some of his readers had also noticed:

Other Episcopal priests also remembered it was Septuagesima Sunday:

There was a bit more about the importance of the Gesimas in terms of our souls:

Holy Week

Then we discover that Holy Week is a separate season from Lent. This I did not know. I was not alone:

Either way, penitence, prayer and fasting still apply to the final days before Easter.

Corpus Christi

Mr Gunn also reminded us of the feast of Corpus Christi, which is the Thursday or the Sunday following Trinity Sunday. (Corpus Christi is Latin for Body of Christ.) It is still commemorated in the Church of England on the first Thursday after Trinity:

This is the modern version of the Collect from that liturgy:

Lord Jesus Christ,

we thank you that in this wonderful sacrament

you have given us the memorial of your passion:

grant us so to reverence the sacred mysteries

of your body and blood

that we may know within ourselves

and show forth in our lives

the fruits of your redemption;

for you are alive and reign with the Father

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.

An Episcopal priest replying to him was in a lather, tweeting in all caps. It culminated in this exchange, which clarified that the priest was angry about Maundy Thursday as the institution of Holy Communion at the Last Supper:

Oh, dear. I connect both with Holy Communion.

In closing, it is good to see that so many clergy — and laity — still place importance on the traditional Sundays of the Church calendar. Long may it last.

I hope more follow their example.

The following are the readings for the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, February 9, 2020.

These are for Year A in the three-year Lectionary used for public worship.

Emphases below are mine.

First reading

This passage from Isaiah, whilst meant for the captives in Babylon in his time, has timeless wisdom for us all.

Isaiah 58:1-9a (9b-12)

58:1 Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet! Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins.

58:2 Yet day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God.

58:3 “Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?” Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers.

58:4 Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high.

58:5 Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?

58:6 Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?

58:7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

58:8 Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.

58:9a Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.

58:9b If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,

58:10 if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.

58:11 The LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.

58:12 Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.

Psalm

This Psalm lists the many blessings God confers on those who fear Him and obey His commandments.

Psalm 112:1-9 (10)

112:1 Praise the LORD! Happy are those who fear the LORD, who greatly delight in his commandments.

112:2 Their descendants will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.

112:3 Wealth and riches are in their houses, and their righteousness endures forever.

112:4 They rise in the darkness as a light for the upright; they are gracious, merciful, and righteous.

112:5 It is well with those who deal generously and lend, who conduct their affairs with justice.

112:6 For the righteous will never be moved; they will be remembered forever.

112:7 They are not afraid of evil tidings; their hearts are firm, secure in the LORD.

112:8 Their hearts are steady, they will not be afraid; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.

112:9 They have distributed freely, they have given to the poor; their righteousness endures forever; their horn is exalted in honor.

112:10 The wicked see it and are angry; they gnash their teeth and melt away; the desire of the wicked comes to nothing.

Epistle

Readings from 1 Corinthians continue. We are now on 1 Corinthians 2. Paul makes a distinction between worldly wisdom and spiritual wisdom.

1 Corinthians 2:1-12 (13-16)

2:1 When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom.

2:2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

2:3 And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling.

2:4 My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power,

2:5 so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.

2:6 Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish.

2:7 But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.

2:8 None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

2:9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him”

2:10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.

2:11 For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God.

2:12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.

2:13 And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual.

2:14 Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

2:15 Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny.

2:16 “For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

Gospel

Last Sunday, the Gospel reading was that of the Beatitudes. This week, we have another passage from Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, in which He exhorts us to righteousness and tells us He came not to abolish the law of the prophets, but to fulfil it.

Matthew 5:13-20

5:13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.

5:14 “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid.

5:15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.

5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.

5:18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.

5:19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

5:20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

We have much to ponder this week, especially from our Lord’s teachings in the powerful Gospel reading.

UPDATE: I forgot to add that this is, in old money, Septuagesima Sunday, 70 days before Easter and the beginning of Shrovetide. If we were alive not so long ago, Lent would have started on Monday, February 10. As it is, we have around two weeks to go.

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