Monday, September 16, 2013

Let us not love in word, but in deed

"But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him." (I John 3:17-19 ESV)

"And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."  (II Peter 1:5-8 ESV)

Friday, September 13, 2013

Poetic Redemption (John 18:13-27)

(This post continues where I left off in my recent series on John's gospel, chapters 18 & 19. The previous two posts in this series can be viewed here and here.) 

John 18:13-27 forms a neat chiastic framework, and there is a lot more packed into John's version of these events than what ordinarily meets the eye. John's chiastic framework is below:

A)  18:13-18 -- "Annas" & "Caiaphas" are both mentioned. Peter is "standing and warming himself" by a charcoal fire. Peter is asked, "You also are not one of this man's disciples, are you?" and Peter says "I am not" (ouk eimi)
    B)  18:19-21 -- The high priest asks a question & Jesus answers with a question. Jesus says he said nothing in secret.
    B')  18:22-23 -- An officer asks a question & Jesus answers with a question. Jesus says he said nothing wrong.

A')  18:24-27 -- "Annas" & "Caiaphas" are both mentioned. Peter is "standing and warming himself" by a charcoal fire. Peter is asked, "You also are not one of this man's disciples, are you?" and Peter says "I am not" (ouk eimi)

First John tells us that Jesus was led away from the garden to "the courtyard of the high priest" (v. 15). This mention of a "courtyard" is, in itself, a peculiar way of describing where the high priest was located. Courtyards are generally associated with the liturgical boundaries of the tabernacle and temple, not the houses of priests. But in this case, John seems to be alluding to these tabernacle boundaries intentionally, as though Jesus had moved from his arrest in a most-holy garden-sanctuary to it's outer courtyard, where sinners meet with their high priest. It is here in this courtyard of the high priest that we first learn of Peter being barred from entrance therein -- at least his initial attempt to enter in.

Next, John says that a slave-girl was the gatekeeper that night, and she expressed her curiosity of Peter's involvement with the trial of Jesus that night. This is where we find Peter's first emphatic denial of Jesus, expressed in a way that paints him as hiding from his Lord, not merely the enemies of his Lord. This intentional act of hiding is inferred from Peter's response to the gatekeeper's question, asking as he entered, "You also are not one of this man's disciples, are you?" Prior to this question, John had already informed us that he was known to the high priest (v. 15), and so they let him in; and it was him who came back out to tell the gatekeeper to let Peter in also. It is at that time when the gatekeeper asked if Peter is also one of Jesus' disciples. Peter could have said yes, and he still might not have been in any danger by saying so. After all, Peter was with John, and the high priest knew John and welcomed him in; John says so. But as we all know, what Peter says is not yes. Instead, what Peter says is an emphatic no, "I am not!" 

Why say no? And why does John record these two emphatic I am not's the way he does, sandwiching Jesus' trial between?
At first glance, this open denial of Jesus seems to have its strategic advantages, and we may want to sympathize with Peter. After all, Peter knows that the rulers of Israel have arrested Jesus because He claims to be the King of Israel. And Peter knows the end result of that arrest isn't going to be pretty. He knows they are going to find some way to try and execute Jesus as a criminal, and he doesn't want to be tried executed along with Jesus. Also, considering the fact that he already mustered up enough courage to strike the high priest's servant with a sword, and he lost that battle because of Jesus' surrender, he's probably not trying to attract too much attention to himself. He just wants to lay low below the radar and see what they do to Jesus. From this perspective, Peter doesn't look as bad as he could. But upon a second glance, we find a different picture.
Sandwiched between Peter's denials, we find Jesus on trial for his life while Peter hides himself, standing and warming himself by a charcoal fire. Inside, Jesus speaks openly and boldly while Peter tries to say as little as possible in the background. But there is more.

Inside, the high priest asks Jesus about his disciples and his teaching, and Jesus responds by pointing out what should be most obvious to everyone in the room: He spoke openly to the world. He always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews assemble together. Nothing he said was in secret either. So why is the high priest asking Jesus about his own teaching? If he's on trial for something criminal, the high priest should ask other witnesses whom Jesus has spoken to. That is what God's Law requires, after all. In fact, Jesus' disciples should have been brought in as chief witnesses. Perhaps even Peter should have volunteered to speak in defense of Jesus. Perhaps. Interestingly, it is at this point that one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand because of Jesus' seemingly brass response (v. 22). Like Peter in the garden, this officer is bold to strike whom he perceives to be an enemy of God. But Jesus remains faithful in the face of adversity. Jesus responds again by appealing to God's Law and its requirement to bear true witness about His wrongdoing (v. 23). But there is more.

By recording these events this way, John is painting a vivid picture: Inside, Jesus repeatedly speaks out against the false witnesses against him, while Peter's lips are sealed in the background. Inside, the one who has the words of eternal life speaks openly and boldly against the unlawful violence inflicted upon him, while Peter stands and warms himself by a charcoal fire alongside officers of Israel. But there is more.

Immediately after Jesus' response, saying "If what I said is right, why do you strike me?" (v. 23), we are reminded a second time that "Simon Peter was standing and warming himself" (v. 25). This repetition of details is no mere coincidence. John wants us to interpret what is happening to Jesus in light of what Peter is doing nearby. It is while Peter stands there that some officers nearby ask him the same question as the gatekeeper, which means this is another chance for Peter to redeem himself by answering yes. But unfortunately, he denied it and said again, "I am not." Immediately after this, the final fall of Peter comes to fruition. A relative of Malchus who also was a participant in the arrest of Jesus in the garden, asks Peter, "Did I not see you in the garden with him?" At that moment Peter denied Jesus' Lordship for a third time, and the rooster crowed, just as Jesus had prophesied (13:36-38). But there is more.
The overtones from this trinity of denial alongside a charcoal fire reverberate unto the end of John's gospel where we find the second and only other time this "charcoal fire" (anthrakia) is mentioned in all of Scripture. In John 21:9, the resurrected Jesus sits down with Peter next to a charcoal fire (anthrakiaand asks him one question three times: "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" By asking Peter this question three times by a charcoal fire, Jesus wasn't condemning him or reminding him that some strange form of poetic justice awaited him. Instead, Jesus' choice of words was designed to redeem him. Jesus wasn't challenging Peter's love and faithfulness by the charcoal fire; He was instructing Peter in how to love and serve His sheep more faithfully and boldly in the future. These three questions aren't the only words of Jesus by that charcoal fire. After these instructions, Jesus also prophesied about the kind of death Peter would suffer to glorify God (21:15-19). Just as surely as the rooster crowed according to the word of the Lord, this prophecy of Jesus was a sure sign that Peter would need to prepare to suffer as a faithful witness for the name of Jesus. From that time forward, Peter knew he would have to go where Jesus ultimately went (13:36-38), but because Jesus already went before him and was raised from death to life, his heart wouldn't need to be troubled. Where he would ultimately go is his heavenly Father's house, where Jesus had already prepared a place for him (14:1-4). But there is more.
In this brief narrative (John 18:13-27) we don't just learn something about Peter and his fall into sin. We also learn something about Adam and the whole human race united with him. The story of mankind after Adam's fall in the garden is a story about misunderstanding the Son of God and His voluntary surrender to death so that the world united to His resurrected life could live again. Just as Peter attempted to hide himself from the Lord, the whole world stands guilty of doing the same. Just as Peter told Jesus he would lay down his life for Jesus, but couldn't even admit to being his disciple when surrounded by enemies, so all those who remain united to Adam follow that same path to their own destruction. The world is filled with half-hearted people who say they would follow God wherever He leads, but would much rather stand cozy by a fire warming themselves from the cold instead of entering the heat of battle. But the good news of John 18:13-27 is that Jesus came into this fallen world and took upon Himself human nature in order to deliver even those who stumble and fall, over and over again, like Peter. It is because Jesus has overcome all temptation for us, and even faced death for us, and having been raised from death to life for us, that we know who we can go to right now for strength to overcome the next temptation. We know who we can go to now for courage to overcome the next temptation. We know to whom we can go to give us peace of mind as we endure those trials and overcome those temptations. But there is more.

From this brief narrative we learn that the world united to the first Adam only knows what it's like to be Peter, denying his Lord over and over again by the first charcoal fire. The world united to Jesus, however, knows what it's like to be Peter by both charcoal fires, the first convicting him of his sins and the second redeeming him. The world united to Jesus knows what it's like to fail Jesus in the garden and the courtyard too, even as Peter did, but yet still cling to Jesus as He takes that failure with him to a cross and tomb. The world united to Jesus on his cross and in his tomb knows that it must be a martyr for Him, dying each day for Him. But in dying with Jesus, the world is raised in glory with Him, and being raised with Him in glory, every day of resurrected life is one more day to speak openly and boldly in the face of false witnesses. Every day is one more day to testify to the truth of the empty tomb. 


Monday, September 9, 2013

The Fall of Peter (John 18:1-12)

As noted in a previous post, after returning from my first intensive course at the Trinity House Institute for Biblical, Liturgical, & Cultural Studies, I have decided to start writing a series of posts on John's gospel, starting with some of my own thoughts about chapters 18 & 19. I'm starting with those two chapters primarily because of a group discussion our class had on those two chapters, and I want to share my own thoughts while our group discussion is fresh in mind. Below are some of my own thoughts.

John 18:1-12 follows a neat chiastic arrangement:

A)  vv. 1-3 -- "band of soldiers" and "officers of the Jews"
    B)  vv. 4-5 -- "ego eimi" ("I AM")       
        C)  v. 6 -- John's observation: soldiers and officers fall down from "ego eimi" ("I AM")
    B')  vv. 7-9 -- "ego eimi" ("I AM")
A')  vv. 10-12 -- "band of soldiers" and "officers of the Jews"

In this section we find many literary connections between Judas's actions and Peter's. Judas is mentioned twice as "the one who betrayed him" (vv. 2, 5) just as Peter is mentioned twice as the one having a "sword" (vv. 10, 11). We also find Judas bringing in backup to arrest Jesus, and they bring lanterns, torches, and weapons with them--a triple emphasis (v. 3). Peter attempts to stop Jesus' arrest with his sword, and there we find another triple emphasis: he draws his sword, strikes with it, and cuts off the right ear of the High Priest's servant, Malchus (v. 10). In the middle of all this, we find another triple action, only it's from the words of Jesus (vv. 5-8). Three times the divine words ego eimi ("I AM") are highlighted, and the central reference comes from John, the author, who says the soldiers fell down to the ground by the Word of God. Interestingly, just as Judas was mentioned twice at the beginning as the one who betrayed Jesus, in the following pericope (18:13-27) it is Peter whose words of betrayal are explicitly stated twice, saying ouk eimi ("I am not", vv. 17 & 25). All these judicial witnesses of two's and three's in a garden can hardly be accidental on John's part.

In this scene, Judas is portrayed as a subtle serpent entering the garden to tempt and trap Jesus, the second Adam. But Jesus knows the will of His heavenly Father (v. 4), and so he doesn't give into the serpent's temptation. Jesus also knows He has complete control over the situation. He manifests His great power with the breath of his mouth, knocking down his enemies. It is only after this manifestation of divine power that find Jesus doing something shocking. He knows His enemies have arrived with lanterns, torches, and weapons to seize Him, but He doesn't defend himself. Instead He defends His disciples by giving up his own life for them: "If you seek me, let these men of mine go." (v.8 ESV). By doing this, Jesus manifests himself as the greater Adam. Jesus does what the first Adam should have done in the Garden. Jesus protects his Bride by laying down his life for Her. 

However, the narrative doesn't end there. According to the way John records this series of events, it seems like Peter had not been paying much attention to what Jesus was saying, or to the fact that some soldiers fell down by His word. Peter, instead, seems to remain focused upon the soldiers with lanterns, torches, and weapons. His response to all of the commotion is to war with the serpent in the garden, seizing authority not given to him by God, by drawing, striking, and cutting off the ear (apparently aiming for the head) of the high priest's servant. By going to war with the serpent, Peter is also portrayed as ignorant of what Jesus' divine mission is. If anyone in this narrative understands the divine mission, it's the soldiers who just fell down on the ground from the mere breath of the Lord. But John doesn't tell us anything more about those who fell down. It is clear enough that those who fell down had perceived Jesus to be the one in complete control. All John continues to tell his readers is that Peter attacks the high priest's servant, Malchus, as though the divine affirmation of Jesus' authority wasn't good enough.

Peter also seems to expect the other disciples to join in with him in the attack. This is like Judas, who brought a band of soldiers with him because he expected resistance from Jesus and his disciples. And so, when Peter attacks Malchus, the high priest's servant, Peter is not thinking Christ's thoughts after Him. He is thinking Judas's thoughts after him. By striking Malchus, Peter is betraying his own High Priest, Jesus. By striking Malchus, Peter is striking Yahweh's servant. Interestingly, the name Malchus means "the kingly one," which again highlights the fact that by disregarding Jesus' voluntary surrender, Malchus is obeying the word of the Lord and Peter is symbolically striking the Kingly One. Malchus' actions are in line with the Father's will, whereas Peter's actions are not. In this regard, Jesus' response to Peter's actions are very telling: "Put your sword into its sheath, shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?"1 (v. 11).

By highlighting Judas' betrayal at the beginning of this garden scene, there is no surprise that Jesus would be arrested and taken away. The real surprise of John's narrative is Peter betraying Jesus. Judas enters this garden with a band of soldiers because he knows Jesus often met there with his disciples, walking and talking with them in the cool of the day. But it is Peter who falls into temptation in the garden. It is Peter who thinks his eyes are open, discerning good from evil. It is Peter who is deceived by the craftiness of the serpent.

1.  Another translation of Jesus' words (however unlikely) could be: "Throw the knife into the grave! The cup that the Father has determined to give me, shall I not drink it?"

Friday, September 6, 2013

The World Beholds its King: Literary Structure and Movement in John 18-19

This past month I attended my first intensive course at the Trinity House Institute for Biblical, Liturgical, & Cultural Studies. The course was titled How To Read the Bible, which involved multiple lectures, tons of fellowship, and a full week of morning, noon, and evening worship all centered on Christ and His Word. As I've been reflecting upon that training, one of the things I valued most about the course was its two-hour group discussions for certificate students each day. Those discussions involved specific assignments of biblical texts --sometimes multiple chapters together-- and one of them was on chapters 18 & 19 of John's gospel. Those conversations with Dr. Leithart, James Jordan, and the other students were extremely helpful, which spurred further thoughts of my own worth sharing.

In his classic (and unfortunately forgotten) work, The Genius of John: A Composition-Critical Commentary on the Fourth Gospel, Peter Ellis lays out the chiastic framework recorded by the apostle John in chapters 18 & 19 (See below):

A)  18:1-2
    B)  18:13-27
       C)  18:28-19:16
    B')  19:17-30
A')  19:31-42

Working with this chiastic composition in mind, multiple parallels stand out to me. The first and most obvious parallel is A and A'. Both scenes take place in a "garden" (18:1; 19:41 ESV). This mention of a garden is what provides a clear inclusio for the literary structure of chapters 18 & 19. Even though this section begins and ends in a garden, the first garden where Jesus is arrested is likely not the location of the second garden, because the second garden is where Jesus body was buried in a tomb. But the garden scenery is very important thematically nonetheless. And so, according to John's own structure, we know that Jesus moves from arrest to burial, from the garden out into the world and then back to the garden. 

Upon closer examination of the chiasm above, this movement from garden to tomb has many other striking parallels.

First, in sections A through A', the history that John records moves from Jesus' arrest (A) to his trial (B) to his torture (C) to his crucifixion (B') to his burial (A'). Secondarily, and in a fashion of mockery, the story moves from Israel's election of Jesus (A) to his examination (B) to his coronation (C) to his procession (B') to his installation (A') as Israel's King. And last of all, but just as strikingly, John records a movement which symbolizes the Tabernacle, Courtyard, and World boundaries and Jesus' presentation in the midst of all of them. Scene A moves from his election in the garden, then out into to "courtyard" (18:15), followed by his coronation in the midst of the world--in Pilate's "headquarters" (18:28), and then proceeding back to the land where a cross-shaped tree of life awaited him on a hill, and then back into the garden where he would finally be installed as King of the world in a tomb. The movement looks like this (below):

A)  18:1-2                      Arrest          Election           Garden (Holy Place)
    B)  18:13-27               Trial            Examination     Land (Courtyard)
       C)  18:28-19:16       Torture         Coronation      World (Outside the Courtyard)
    B')  19:17-30             Crucifixion     Procession       Land (Tree/Courtyard)
A')  19:31-42                 Burial           Installation       Garden (Tomb/Most Holy Place)

These aren't my final thoughts on the matter, but the parallels are striking. Why is it that John records movement from a garden to a "courtyard" and then to Pilate's house, skipping Jesus' trip to Ciaphas' house altogether (vv. 24 & 28)? To me that seems intentional on John's part in order to move from garden to courtyard to world as those typological boundaries of the Tabernacle are laid out in Scripture. (See my previous posts here and here regarding that imagery.) All of my accumulating posts about tabernacle/temple typology can be found here

Is all of this merely a coincidence?

Monday, September 2, 2013

One Year With Jadon!

Friends and family celebrated Jadon's first birthday today! To watch the YouTube video my wife made for everyone, click on this link.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Gate Liturgy of Eden

In The Tabernacle Pre-Figured: Cosmic Mountain Ideology in Genesis and Exodus, L. Michael Morales presents a fascinating (and practical) case in defense of what he calls "gate liturgy," particularly in the relationship between the old covenant tabernacle/temple gate liturgy and that which pertains to entering the Garden of Eden, as recorded in Genesis 1-3. Commenting on this in some length, Morales writes:
YHWH God's expulsion of the primal couple and his placing the cherubim and flaiming sword to guard the garden's (gate) entrance become particularly poignant apologies for the necessity of the tabernacle/temple cultus. If it may justly be said that Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy all focus to some degree on the way of approaching God through the worship of the tabernacle, then the expulsion from the divine Presence in the garden sanctuary becomes a manifest "key" to understanding the Pentateuch as well as the tabernacle cultus. The association, already developed but relevant here, between the garden and the tabernacle/temple was recognized by the Jewish sages as evident in the midrash that states when YHWH drove out Adam "from the garden of Eden he revealed to him the destruction of the temple" (Bereshit Rabbah 21.8). The Hebrew Bible itself appears to draw a parallel when, with Hosea 9.15 as an example, similar language is used for the exile of Israel:  
על רע מעלל‍יהם מ‍בית‍י אגרשׁ‍ם  Because of the wickedness of their deeds from my house/temple I will drive them out 
This idea is only strengthened, further, if Joaquim Azevedo's reading of Genesis 4.7, whereby he concludes that Adam's children brought their sacrifices to the gate of Eden, is accepted. Without rehearsing his argument, based on grammatical and syntactical considerations, contextual and background analysis, he posits an understanding of Gen 4.7 as: "If you do not do what is right, fix it with the sacrificial offering lying at the doorway of Paradise, then his [Abel's] desire will be to you and you will rule over him again."1 Davidson appears to take a similar reading when he writes: 
After Adam and Eve are expelled, in their sinful state they are no longer able to meet with God face to face in the Garden. But...the Gate of the Garden becomes the Sanctuary where Adam and Eve and their descendants were to meet with God, worship Him, and bring their sacrifices. Here the Shekinah glory was manifested as God came down to hold communion with them.2 
To be sure, it can hardly be insignificant that Gen 4.7 presents the first usage of the thematically rich term "door" (פתח  petah), and in relation to sacrifice. Eden's entrance (3.24) is not only a reasonable referent for the door in 4.7, but the cherubim mentioned in 3.24 also correspond, in a cultic setting, "to the apprehension of the shrine as a door to heaven."3 Indeed, stationed cherubim, at an eastward entrance--what else can this be but a temple gate? An ancient reading of Gen 3.24 may have recognized, then, not only a threatening barrier to garden entry, but a cultic site, the place where YHWH, in the consuming theophany of his fiery Presence, was "enthroned on the cherubim" (ישׁב  ה‍כרובים yoseb hakkrubim  Ps 80.2; 99.1). In the tabernacle cultus, which likely serves as a conceptual backdrop to the narrative, the door of the tent served as the place to which the people came to present their offerings to YHWH (Exod 40.29; cf. Lev. 1.3; 4.7; 18). The cultic material of the Pentateuch, in other words, demonstrates a concern that sacrificial ritual takes place "before YHWH" (לִפְנֵי יְהוָה  lipne yhwh) or "at the door of the tent of meeting," making the garden entrance the likely place of sacrifice since the previous narrative has already marked Eden as the locus of divine Presence, not to mention that most occurrences of the phrase "before YHWH" have a sanctuary or shrine clearly in mind. Thus not only does the conception of paradise as sanctuary already involve its being a place for cultic sacrifice, but also that the ritual is being performed before the divine Presence.4

1.  Morales cites: J Azevedo, "At the Door of Paradise," Biblische Notizen 110 (1999) 45-59

2.  Morales cites: R.M. Davidson, "Cosmic Metanarrrative," 112
3.  Moraales cites: T. Stordalen, Echoes of Eden, 293
4.  L. Michael Morales, The Tabernacle Pre-Figured: Cosmic Mountain Ideology in Genesis and Exodus  [Leuven-Paris-Walpole, MA: Peeters, 2012], pp. 109-11