McKnight: 1 Peter Explained

McKnight_commentary_reviewed_08092014Scott McKnight. 1996. The NIV Application Commentary: 1 Peter. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

The NIV Application Commentary has been my default commentary over the past several years because the series takes the narrative of scripture seriously. Once I am acquainted with an orthodox interpretation, I can judge a book from other dimensions. I have taught from the series the Books of Romans, Luke, Genesis, Revelations, John, Matthew, Galatians, and 1 Corinthians (I may have forgotten some books). The series takes seriously John Stott’s division of the homiletical task into 3 things: the author’s context (original meaning), the reader’s context (contemporary significance), and the need to bridge the two (bridging contexts) [1].  This background in the series led me to consider Scott McKnight’s commentary on 1 Peter.

McKnight sets out the goal of “to study 1 Peter in such a way as to highlight Peter’s proposals for Christian life in a modern society” (22). In his overview, he breaks Peter’s message into three points: salvation, the church, and Christian life. Peter describes salvation through Christ’s suffering (1 Peter 2:24). The church is pictured as the family of God. In the Christian life, Peter exhorts his readers to practice hope, holiness, fear before God, love, and growth (32). What caught my eye was McKnight’s observation that 1 Peter is the most popular NT book among Christians living with social marginalization and suffering outside the Western context (35). That would include many Hispanic and Middle Eastern people that I know.

Suffering. It is my own observation that the suffering in my own life–a wife with cancer, a child on dialysis, and a younger sister who died suddenly–has enabled me to witness more effectively to those around me. In like manner, we are drawn to the cross of Christ. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24). McKnight’s rendering of 1 Peter and his focus on the role of suffering convinced me that I need to spend more time with this book.

McKnight spends a fair amount of time trying to unpack the social position of Peter’s audience. He views 1 Peter 2:11-12 as a pivotal passage. Are his readers “aliens and strangers”? Is the pursuit of holiness especially important because of their low social standing? If they were literally aliens and strangers—the illegal immigrants of their day—how do we, who are not, read this book? Interesting questions.  In the new, downwardly-mobile, post-Christian context in which most Americans live today, 1 Peter becomes more relevant with each passing day.

Among the NIV commentaries in this series, the McKnight commentary on 1 Peter is a gem. He struggles with interesting questions. His reading of 1 Peter is both balanced and insightful. After reading about Peter’s response to suffering, McKnight convinced me to look also at Paul’s treatment of suffering in 2 Corinthians—a study that I have taken up this summer.

Footnotes

[1] See:  John Stott. 1982.  Between Two Worlds:  The Challenge of Preaching Today.  Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans.

McKnight: 1 Peter Explained

Also See:

Nouwen: Make Space for Self, Others, and God 

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

 

 

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Suffering: Monday Monologues (podcast) January 25, 2021

Stephen_W_Hiemstra_20200125b
Ken Burtram Photography

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

This morning I will share a prayer and reflect on suffering. After listening, please click here to take a brief listener survey (10 questions).

To listen, click on this link.

Hear the words; Walk the steps; Experience the joy!

Suffering: Monday Monologues (podcast) January 25, 2021

Also see:

Monday Monologue On March 26, 2018 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net,

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

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Suffering

Cover, A Christian Guide to Spirituality

“He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.”Ω

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Why do we care about Christ’s suffering on the cross?

The Apostle Peter said it best: “By his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Pet 2:24; Rom 5:6)

 The Jewish authorities said that Jesus claimed to be a king, charged Jesus with sedition (Mark 15:2), and sentenced him to crucifixion, the penalty for sedition (John 19:19). In fact, Jesus was a king (messiah) in the Jewish sense, but not a king (political rival) in a Roman sense. For this reason, the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate cross examined Jesus publicly and concluded: “I find no guilt in him.” (John 19:4) 

Jesus’ link to Pontius Pilate underscores the credibility of his innocent suffering. Even by Roman standards, Pilate was corrupt and brutal. Pilate had Jesus both flogged and crucified solely to satisfy the blood lust of a crowd (Josephus 2009, 3.1). By contrast, when the Apostle Paul found himself charged with profaning the temple only a few years later, another governor, Porcius Festus, simply kept him locked up for two years (Acts 24:6-27). Interestingly, Pilate links Jesus to a person known by historians outside the biblical text. Not only is Pilate mentioned in Josephus, an inscription bearing the phrase “Pontius Pilate Prefect of Judea” was found in 1961 in the excavation of a theatre in Caesarea (Zondervan 2005, 1714).

Jesus’ death on the cross underscores his extreme suffering. The Romans devised crucifixion as a method of execution by torture—it amplified the suffering inflicted. It was a slow, painful death. Crucifixion was so horrific that Roman law forbade Roman citizens from being crucified.

In Jewish tradition, death on the cross meant that one was cursed by God (Deut 21:22-23). This is what Paul meant when he wrote: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us— for it is written, cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.” (Gal 3:13)  The implication was that the crime committed was so horrible that the person deserved not only death but also eternal damnation. Jesus’ burial reinforced this point.

Burial behind a stone assured that Jesus was truly dead, as the death of Absalom illustrates. Absalom rebelled against his father, King David, and raised an army to over-throw him. He was captured because his hair got caught in a tree which led to the belief that he was cursed by God. David’s commander, Joab, had Absalom publicly executed, buried in a pit, and covered with stones (2 Sam 18:10-18).

Because Jesus was sinless and remained innocent, even in death, he became the only sinless person to live after Adam (Heb 4:15). Unlike Adam, Jesus, whose sinless life came to an abrupt end, never gave into temptation. In death, he was accordingly a perfect (without defeat or blemish) sin offering (Lev 4:22-24). In dying, Jesus became the Second Adam, reversing the curse of death, as validated by his resurrection (1 Cor 15:21-22).

In the same way that the holy conception confirms Jesus’ divinity and establishes credibility with God, Jesus’ innocent suffering on the cross confirms his humanity and status as God’s chosen sacrifice for our sins.

References

Zondervan. 2005. NIV Archaeological Study Bible: An Illustrated Walk Through Biblical History and Culture. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Suffering

Also see:

Preface to A Christian Guide to Spirituality

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Purchase Book: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

 

 

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Salvation: Monday Monologues (podcast) October 5, 2020

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Stephen W. Hiemstra 2020 (Ken Burtram Photography)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

This morning I will share a prayer and reflect on salvation. After listening, please click here to take a brief listener survey (10 questions).

To listen, click on this link.

Hear the words; Walk the steps; Experience the joy!

Salvation: Monday Monologues (podcast) October 5, 2020

Also see:

Monday Monologue On March 26, 2018 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net,

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

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Suffering Often Predates Salvation

Life_in_Tension_revision_front_20200101

He will swallow up death forever; 

and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, 

and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, 

for the LORD has spoken. (Isa 25:8)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Suffering and salvation are prominently linked in the Books of the Law and the Prophets, where emotional distress often amplified the reproach suffered.

In the Books of the Law, reproach is often a theme of wives teasing each other viciously over barrenness. This conflict figures prominently in conflict between Sarah and Hagar (Gen 16:4) and later between Hannah and Peninnah (1 Sam 1:1–6). Consider the reproach suffered by Rachel who was barren and whose older sister, Leah, had six sons and a daughter: “Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb. She conceived and bore a son and said, God has taken away my reproach.” (Gen 30:22–23) Rachel’s reproach over her barrenness fueled a bitter rivalry with her sister, Leah (Gen 30:1). Because Rachel was also Jacob’s favorite wife, her son, Joseph, soon became Jacob’s favorite son, as we read: “Now Israel [also called Jacob] loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors.” (Gen 37:3) Jacob’s gift of the robe to Joseph signaled the passing of family leadership and made Joseph’s half-brothers so jealous that they sold him into slavery in Egypt. They later told Jacob that Joseph had been killed by wild animals (Gen 37).

After suffering at the hands his brothers, being sold into slavery, and sent to prison, Joseph proved himself to be an honest man, a hard worker, and an able leader. However,  it was God’s gift of interpreting dreams that brought him before Pharaoh and led to his promotion to prime minister. As prime minister, Joseph saved Egypt and his own family from starvation during a seven-year famine (Gen 38–45), even though he started out as the son who suffered revulsion and persecution within his family.

In the Books of the Prophets, suffering and persecution are major themes in the story of Job. Job is a righteous man persecuted by Satan (Job 1–2) but reviled by his friends who doubt his righteousness.

One of Job’s friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, inquires of Job saying: ”who that was innocent ever perished? Or where were the upright cut off?” (Job 4:7) Another friend, Bildad the Shuhite, calls Job a windbag and asks: “Does God pervert justice? Or does the Almighty pervert the right?” (Job 8:3) This reproach by Job’s friends gets so bad that God himself gets angry at these friends and corrects their theological misconceptions saying: “For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” (Job 42:7)

In spite of the reproach of his friends and the loss of his family and fortune, God comes to Job’s rescue and rewards Job’s faithfulness, as we read: “And the LORD restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.” (Job 42:10) The story of Job highlights the reproach and suffering which are explained in three separate Old Testament ethical approaches.

The first ethical approach is that one is made righteous in keeping the law and unrighteous in breaking it. God enforces the law by rewarding the righteous and punishing the unrighteous, as is the expectation of Job’s friend, Eliphaz the Temanite (Job 4:7). Psalm 1 also focuses on this theme.

The second approach is that one becomes righteous by gaining wisdom as to how the world really works, as we read: “One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless.” (Prov 14:16) In effect, evil is not just bad, it is also stupid, as we often read in Proverbs.

The third approach is that God honors righteous suffering, as we saw in the life of Job and as we also experience in daily life as deferred gratification. In education, for example, we put off taking a job, study hard, and are typically blessed later with a better job, although the risk of failure is always possible. Still, God rewards those who trust in him and take risks for the kingdom, and punish those who refuse to (Matt 25:14–30).

In God’s kingdom, the cross we bear always precedes the crown we wear.

He will swallow up death forever; 

and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, 

and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, 

for the LORD has spoken. (Isa 25:8)

Suffering and salvation are prominently linked in the Books of the Law and the Prophets, where emotional distress often amplified the reproach suffered.

In the Books of the Law, reproach is often a theme of wives teasing each other viciously over barrenness. This conflict figures prominently in conflict between Sarah and Hagar (Gen 16:4) and later between Hannah and Peninnah (1 Sam 1:1–6). Consider the reproach suffered by Rachel who was barren and whose older sister, Leah, had six sons and a daughter: “Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb. She conceived and bore a son and said, God has taken away my reproach.” (Gen 30:22–23) Rachel’s reproach over her barrenness fueled a bitter rivalry with her sister, Leah (Gen 30:1). Because Rachel was also Jacob’s favorite wife, her son, Joseph, soon became Jacob’s favorite son, as we read: “Now Israel [also called Jacob] loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors.” (Gen 37:3) Jacob’s gift of the robe to Joseph signaled the passing of family leadership and made Joseph’s half-brothers so jealous that they sold him into slavery in Egypt. They later told Jacob that Joseph had been killed by wild animals (Gen 37).

After suffering at the hands his brothers, being sold into slavery, and sent to prison, Joseph proved himself to be an honest man, a hard worker, and an able leader. However,  it was God’s gift of interpreting dreams that brought him before Pharaoh and led to his promotion to prime minister. As prime minister, Joseph saved Egypt and his own family from starvation during a seven-year famine (Gen 38–45), even though he started out as the son who suffered revulsion and persecution within his family.

In the Books of the Prophets, suffering and persecution are major themes in the story of Job. Job is a righteous man persecuted by Satan (Job 1–2) but reviled by his friends who doubt his righteousness.

One of Job’s friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, inquires of Job saying: ”who that was innocent ever perished? Or where were the upright cut off?” (Job 4:7) Another friend, Bildad the Shuhite, calls Job a windbag and asks: “Does God pervert justice? Or does the Almighty pervert the right?” (Job 8:3) This reproach by Job’s friends gets so bad that God himself gets angry at these friends and corrects their theological misconceptions saying: “For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” (Job 42:7)

In spite of the reproach of his friends and the loss of his family and fortune, God comes to Job’s rescue and rewards Job’s faithfulness, as we read: “And the LORD restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.” (Job 42:10) The story of Job highlights the reproach and suffering which are explained in three separate Old Testament ethical approaches.

The first ethical approach is that one is made righteous in keeping the law and unrighteous in breaking it. God enforces the law by rewarding the righteous and punishing the unrighteous, as is the expectation of Job’s friend, Eliphaz the Temanite (Job 4:7). Psalm 1 also focuses on this theme.

The second approach is that one becomes righteous by gaining wisdom as to how the world really works, as we read: “One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless.” (Prov 14:16) In effect, evil is not just bad, it is also stupid, as we often read in Proverbs.

The third approach is that God honors righteous suffering, as we saw in the life of Job and as we also experience in daily life as deferred gratification. In education, for example, we put off taking a job, study hard, and are typically blessed later with a better job, although the risk of failure is always possible. Still, God rewards those who trust in him and take risks for the kingdom, and punish those who refuse to (Matt 25:14–30).

In God’s kingdom, the cross we bear always precedes the crown we wear.

Suffering Often Predates Salvation

Also see:

Preface to a Life in Tension

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

 

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Righteous Suffering: Monday Monologues (podcast) September 7, 2020

Stephen_W_Hiemstra_20200125b
Stephen W. Hiemstra 2020 (Ken Burtram Photography)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

This morning I will share a prayer and reflect on righteous suffering. After listening, please click here to take a brief listener survey (10 questions).

To listen, click on this link.

Hear the words; Walk the steps; Experience the joy!

Righteous Suffering: Monday Monologues (podcast) September 7, 2020

Also see:

Monday Monologue On March 26, 2018 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net,

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/Norm2020

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Righteous Suffering

Life_in_Tension_revision_front_20200101

Then the LORD said, 

I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt 

and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. 

I know their sufferings (Exod 3:7).

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

The Jewish experience of God frequently arises in the context of suffering. Moses suffered living as a refugee in the desert and shepherding his father-in-law’s sheep far from his home and family in Egypt. Exiled from Egypt, shamed by his own inept leadership, and fearful of legal prosecution for murder, Moses found himself before a burning bush in the presence of God (Exod 3:1), who called him for a new assignment: Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt. (Exod 3:10) Egypt is in his heart and on his mind, but Moses does not jump at the idea of returning to Egypt because, having murdered an Egyptian, returning entailed obvious personal risk. Mitigating the risks are three important assurances that God gives to Moses which take the forms of His presence, His name, and His covenant (the Law).

Presence

The assurance of God’s presence is a blessing in the form of comfort, provision, and protection—things Moses lacked when he attempted to lead his people without God’s help. In revealing his presence to Moses, the uncertainty of the mission in Egypt is immediately reduced (Rom 8:31) and its success is assured: “But I will be with you” (Exod 3:12). God’s presence is further secured when God reveals his name, and, later, offers a covenant to Moses.

The Name

The assurance of knowing God’s name was no small deal in the ancient world. The ancients believed that knowing the name of a god gave one power over that god. When God gave Moses his name, he was, at a minimum, offering him a direct line of communication—personal prayer—with God.

 In Hebrew YHWH means “I will be who I will be” or “I am who I am” (Exod 3:14–15). The implication here is that God is: A REAL GOD (one that really exists) with REAL POWER (sovereign everywhere, not just the local neighborhood). Local gods were the norm in the ancient world, in part, because leaders wanted to lay claim to their territories and to seek their intervention (typically through sacrifices) in the spiritual world (e.g. Judg 11:30–40; 1 Kgs 12:26–29). God’s interventions on behalf of Moses were not unusual from an ancient perspective, but what was unusual was that God traveled with Moses out of Egypt and into the Promised Land.

Covenant Law 

The covenant helped secure Moses’ experience of God presence because in the covenant God revealed his will to the people of Israel, something uncommon in the ancient world. Prayer is really difficult when one neither knows a god’s name nor what that god desires. God revealed to Moses that He was both a covenant maker and covenant keeper.

The covenant of Moses begins with a preamble: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” (Exod 20:2). The preamble makes clear that God cares about the people of Israel enough to intervene on their behalf and the Law instructs them on how to live in peace and righteousness, making God’s presence concrete in daily life.

In the Books of the Prophets, no one suffers more than Job even though he is a righteous man: There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. (Job 1:1) Job is so righteous that even God brags about him to Satan: Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? (Job 1:8) To which Satan asks God’s permission to test him and God grants permission for Satan to take everything Job has away and to afflict him with horrible suffering (Job 1-2). In righteous suffering, Job feels a need to seek out and to rely on God, rather than his own resources, and, in his misery, to seek a savior: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.” (Job 19:25) Some believe that Moses used the story of Job’s righteous suffering to convince the people of Israel to leave slavery in Egypt, which would make the Book of Job the oldest book in the Bible (Geisler 2007, 189–195).

This redemption theme, of relying solely on God, is repeated in the story of Daniel’s friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. When Daniel’s friends refuse to worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s golden idol instead of the one true God, they are thrown into the fiery furnace, as we read:

And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace. Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, Did we not cast three men bound into the fire? They answered and said to the king, True, O king. He answered and said, But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods. (Dan 3:23-25)

Righteous suffering not only leads us to rely on God, it gives testimony to God’s glory. Jesus later ties righteous suffering to eternal life: “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matt 10:39)

References

Geisler, Norman L. 2007. A Popular Survey of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: BakerBooks.

Righteous Suffering

Also see:

Preface to a Life in Tension

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/Norm2020

 

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Lament over Sin

Life_in_Tension_revision_front_20200101Those who sow in tears 

shall reap with shouts of joy! 

(Ps 126:5)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

The Second Beatitude says those who mourn will be comforted, but what does God mourn for? In Genesis, God grieves over human wickedness:

The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. (Gen 6:5-6)

Human sin grieved God so much that he sent the flood, sparing only Noah, his family, and two of each animal (Gen 6:7-8).

Books of the Law

Elsewhere, studies of the word for mourning used in Matthew 5:4 in the Greek, associate it most often with grief over death. For example, Abraham mourns over the death of his wife, Sarah (Gen 23:2), and Joseph mourns over the death of his father, Jacob (Gen 50:3).

By contrast, studies of the word for crying used in Luke’s Beatitude (Luke 6:21) in the Greek, associate it most often with prayer in the midst of suffering. For example, a significant point in the life of Moses arose when as a baby he cried lying in the basket floating in the Nile. On hearing Moses’ cry, the daughter of Pharaoh is moved to rescue and to raise the child as her own, disobeying her father’s edict to drown all Hebrew baby boys—including Moses (Exod 1:22; 2:6). Later, Moses cries to the Lord in prayer to heal his sister, Miriam, who has been afflicted with leprosy, and she is healed (Num 12:13). By contrast, crying in the sense of whining or self-pity evokes God’s anger (Num 11:10).

Books of the Prophets

The focus of mourning shifts in the Books of the Prophets from death of a person to anguish—crying out over the fate of the nation of Israel (e.g. Jer 8:18–19).

Israel cried out to the Lord in anguish primarily because of the ups and downs of leadership in the four hundred years after the nation left Egypt. During these years Moses led the nation of Israel out of Egypt and Joshua led them into the Promised Land with strong charismatic leadership. But leadership weakened as they entered a period of the judges when, as today, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judg 17:6) During the time of the judges, a cycle of sin, trouble, revival, and restoration became the normal pattern (Younger 2002, 35). The turning point in this pattern arose when the people turned and cried out to the Lord to keep his promises:

And when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the LORD your God has driven you, and return to the LORD your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and with all your soul, then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have mercy on you, and he will gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you. (Deut 30:1–3)

In the Book of Judges this pattern of sin, trouble, revival, and restoration is repeated at least five times (Judg 3:9, 15; 4:3; 6:6–7; and 10:10). 

Later during the period of the exile of Judah to Babylon, mourning becomes prominent as the first of two parts in a lament. A lament starts with grief, but ends in praise. Jeremiah, the Mourning Prophet, wrote  the  Book of Lamentations; we also read many lamentations in the Psalms, as in: 

Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. (Ps 130:1–4)

The heart is first emptied of bitterness; then, it opens to God (Card 2005, 19). This lament form also appears in the Second Beatitude, where Jesus says—“Honored are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matt 5:4).

This mourning over sin, godly grief, appears as Jesus begins his journey to the cross (2 Cor 7:10). In the same way that God mourned over sin when preparing the great flood, Jesus mourns over the hardness of heart of the Pharisees on the Sabbath:

And he said to them, Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill? But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, Stretch out your hand. He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him. (Mark 3:4-6)

Here when Mark writes about the hardness of heart, he is comparing the Pharisees to Pharaoh (Exod 4:21).

The narrative in Mark 3 is also significant because it explicitly links human suffering to sin and God’s grief. Mark 3 “is the only passage in the gospels where Jesus is said to be angry. (Elliott 2006, 214). Jesus gets angry, because “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27) and he cares about the well-being of people more than he cares about Sabbath observance (Lester 2007, 14–16, 106).  Because Jesus cares about suffering people, we should too.

Reference

Card, Michael. 2005. A Sacred Sorrow: Reaching Out to God in the Lost Language of Lament. Colorado Springs: NAVPress. Elliott, Matthew A. 2006. Faithful Feelings: Rethinking Emotion in the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel. Lester, Andrew D. 2007. Anger: Discovering Your Spiritual Ally. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press. Younger, K. Lawson. 2002. The NIV Application Commentary: Judges and Ruth. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Lament over Sin

Also see:

Preface to a Life in Tension

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/Lent_2020  

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Joy in Sorrow: Monday Monologues, Podcast on March 16, 2020

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Stephen W. Hiemstra 2020 (Ken Burtram Photography)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

This morning I will share a prayer and reflect on Joy in Sorrow. After listening, please click here to take a brief listener survey (10 questions).

To listen, click on this link.

Hear the words; Walk the steps; Experience the joy!

Joy in Sorrow: Monday Monologues, Podcast on March 16, 2020

Also see:

Monday Monologue On March 26, 2018 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/Lent_2020

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Joy in Sorrow

Life_in_Tension_revision_front_20200101Honored are those who mourn, 

for they shall be comforted. 

(Matt 5:4)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

The tension within ourselves is never more obvious than when we grieve. Grief vanquishes all pretense of our self-sufficiency as we cry out to God from the bottom of our hearts and acknowledge our dependence and loss. This loss and subsequent grief is the most basic form of human suffering (France 2007, 109). Because grief and blessing sit at opposite ends of the emotional spectrum—one feels cursed, not blessed in mourning, it is paradoxical to be honored for mourning.

Mourning and Comfort

Mourning and comfort are brought together in Matthew’s rendering of the Second Beatitude. The Greek word for mourning (πενθέω; “pentheo”) means—“to experience sadness as the result of some condition or circumstance, be sad, grieve, mourn” (BDAG 5773.1). Meanwhile, the word for comfort (παρακαλέω; “parakaleo“) means—“to instill someone with courage or cheer, comfort, encourage, cheer up” (BDAG 5584(4)).

Luke’s rendering of the Beatitude speaks not of mourning and comfort, but of crying and laughter. In the Second Beatitude, Matthew focuses on the inward tension and release of grief (mourning/encouragement) while Luke focuses on its outward expression (crying/laughing). The Apostle Paul sees this inward tension as critically important in our spiritual formation. He writes: “For godly grief (θεὸν λύπη; “theo lupe”) produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death” (2 Cor 7:10). Paul uses an entirely different word for grief in the Greek that means: “pain of mind or spirit, grief, sorrow, affliction” (BDAG 4625). In Paul’s analysis we see grief tinged with guilt and shame—a motivator for repentance.

The Object of Mourning

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus is the object of mourning, which appears only once before and once after the Second Beatitude. Before the Beatitude, Matthew records the mourning of Jewish mothers after King Herod’s slaughter of innocents in Bethlehem (Matt 2:18). Matthew cites the Prophet Jeremiah:

A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more. (Jer 31:15)

Rachel died in child-birth when her second son was born. She called him—Ben-omi (son of my sorrow)—but Jacob renamed him: Benjamin (son my right hand; Gen 35:18). In the quote from Jeremiah the Greek word for weep (κλαίω) is the same word as used in Luke’s Second Beatitude and it simply means: weep or cry (BDAG 4251.1).

After the Beatitude, Matthew reports Jesus telling a short parable:

And Jesus said to them, Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. (Matt 9:15)

Because mourning accompanies both Jesus’ incarnation (the slaughter of innocents) and his ascension (Jesus’ parable), for Matthew the object of mourning is always Jesus.  Underscoring this point, note that the stories of the widow at Nain (Luke 7:11–16) and Lazarus (John 11–12), which have obvious references to mourning, do not appear in Matthew. A possible exception to this generalization about mourning are the references to hell as a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt 8:12, 13:42, 13:50, 22:13, 24:51, and 25:30).

Why Does God Mourn?

If mourning requires an object, what does Jesus mourn for? Much like God mourned over sin before sending the flood (Gen 6:6), Jesus mourned over the sin of the nation of Israel, borrowing words from the Prophet Isaiah: “to comfort all who mourn” (Isa 61:2). Isaiah 61 connects the Beatitudes and Jesus’ call sermon and draws attention to Jesus’ role as a prophetic messiah. Messiah is the Hebrew word translated as Christ in Greek—both mean anointed one (John 1:41; BDAG 4834). In Jewish tradition, prophets, kings, and priests were anointed which explains the three types of messiahs and points to three offices of Jesus’ messianic ministry.

By contrast, Isaiah’s prophesy announced the release of slaves in Babylon who previously disobeyed God and rebelled twice against the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar. Because of their rebellion, Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem, burned the city and the temple, and took many Jewish survivors back to Babylon as slaves (2 Kgs 24 and 25). In this context, Jewish salvation was literal—God would pay their ransom and redeem them from slavery, using King Cyrus of Persia to redeem them (Ezra 1:1-3). Redemption of sinful slaves (rebellious Israelites) is a small step removed from redemption of slaves of sin (us).

Mourning over sin starts in Matthew with John the Baptist, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 3:2) who draws heavily on the prophetic tradition. For example, mourning over sin starts in the Prophet Isaiah’s call story:

And I said: Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts! (Isa 6:5)

Elsewhere in the prophets we read: “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble.” (Mal 4:1) Facing an eternity in hell (a burning oven) for our inadequacy, brokenness, and sin (evil deeds), scripture suggests that appropriate responses include repentance, mourning, and reconciliation.

Prophet Voice

Another word for mourning—woe (οὐαὶ)— is the classic expression of prophet voice and Luke uses it as a contrast immediately following μακάριος in his Beatitudes. For example, we read:

Honored (μακάριος) are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. . . But woe (οὐαὶ) to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. (Luke 6:20, 24)

In Greek, woe is an: “interjection denoting pain or displeasure, woe, alas” (BDAG 542.1). Matthew uses the word, woe, eleven times, but not in the context of his Beatitudes, like Luke.

Mourning is also a form of anxiety that Jesus suggests may focus on food, clothing, and the future (Matt 6:15–34). Jesus continues:“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt 6:33) Jesus’ brother James completes this thought:

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you . . . Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (Jas 4:8–10)

Here James links mourning to humbling ourselves before God. 

Triad of Humility

The link in James between mourning and humbling suggests a subtle reading of the first three Beatitudes as a emphatic triad of humility. In fact, early manuscripts reverse the Second and Third Beatitudes (meek becomes mourn and mourn becomes meek), suggesting textual support for this interpretation (Nestle-Aland 2012, 9). Remember that poor in spirit and meek can be expressed in the same Hebrew word (עָנָו; Num 12:3). In the current ordering (that is, poor in spirit, mourn, meek) mourning is bracketed by two expressions for humility that suggests that it is a synonym for humility.

References

Bauer, Walter (BDAG). 2000. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3rd ed. ed. de Frederick W. Danker. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. <BibleWorks. v.9.>.

France, R.T. 2007. The Gospel of Matthew. New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Neyrey, Jerome H. 1998. Honor and Shame in the Gospel of Matthew. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press.

Guelich, Robert. 1982. The Sermon on the Mount: A Foundation for Understanding. Dallas: Word Publishing

Joy in Sorrow

Also see:

Preface to a Life in Tension

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