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Welcome | Introduction | Prayers | Today's Reading | "Biblog" | Q&A | Index | Downloads

Q&A on March Readings

Note: The questions alone (with a link to their answers) are listed above the line in the opposite order that they were received, which means the most recent questions are at the top of the page. Below the line, questions and answers are given in the readings' order of the verses that prompted the question.

Q: The women who went to the tomb to embalm Jesus and found the tomb empty were told by the angel to go tell the disciples that Jesus was alive. In Luke’s account the women did this (Luke 24:9, 22-23), but Mark’s account says the women fled and were too frightened to talk (Mark 16:8). What are your comments on these different scenarios? Answer

Q: In Luke 20:16, who are “they”? Is it the people listening to the parable? Why would those say, “God forbid” about the justice the tenants richly deserved? (Yes, I know we deserve it, too, but these listeners have had law drummed into them, even if they didn’t understand Gospel. Sometimes it seems like a large part of the Old Testament is a clamoring for justice—when it isn’t a complaint because they got some!) Answer

Q: In reading Luke 11:4 on the website, which says it is KJV, I wondered about the wording of the Lord’s Prayer, “And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us.” This sounds strange. Is there a different word for “sins” in the first clause than for “indebted” in the second? Is that really the KJV or is it something like the ESV? I have noticed other differences, but they were not different enough to ask. I know Matthew’s account of the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:12) is a little different (“debtors” twice). From where does The Lutheran Hymnal’s “trespass” wording of the Lord’s Prayer come? Answer

Q: What is this about “the third year” in Deuteronomy 26:12? I assumed the tithe was given every year, for the Levites and for charity, as it says. Does it perhaps mean that the first tithe was given when the Israelites had been in possession of their land three years? Have I forgotten something you have said? Answer

Q: In Deuteronomy 8:15, Moses says the Lord gave the people water out of, according to one translation, a “rock”, but another translation says “hard rock”, and yet another a “rock of flint”. I read a little on the web, and the best place to get water seems to be sandstone or limestone. If “flint” is what the original says, it underscores the miracle because nobody would reasonably expect water from flint. Answer

Q: In Luke 22:47-51, why do you suppose Simon Peter chose Malchus, the slave of the high priest, to go after (cut off his ear)? Was he probably one of the main front men there to capture Jesus? And I would have thought that when the "crowd" saw Jesus heal Malchus, they would have been convinced that Jesus was the Son of God and left Him alone. (Although I know all of this was necessary to fulfill God's plan!) But, you would think that Jesus' healing Malchus would have gotten some type of reaction. Answer

Q: Why does Jesus refer to Himself in the third person in places such as Luke 18:31-33? Answer

Q: In Luke 12:50 and Mark 10:38, why does Jesus refer to His crucifixion as a "baptism"? Answer

Q: With Jesus in Luke 9 giving the Twelve the power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases, didn't this confuse the people? Didn't those that saw the Twelve performing miracles think that maybe one of them was the Savior? Answer

Q: I found Luke 5:36-39 and your Biblog comment interesting: "people are set in their incorrect ways and are unwilling to receive the correct religious teaching." Can you expound on this illustration that Jesus is using? Answer

Q: In Deuteronomy 14’s list of clean and unclean animals, there are a couple I did not recognize, such as the “coney” in verse 7 and the “hoopoe” in verse 18. What are these animals? Answer

Q: In Deuteronomy 24, why would Moses condone divorce, or even make it an option, if this was something never intended by God? I don't see the correlation you suggest with Matthew 19:8; so because people were turning away from God, Moses allowed them to divorce? What is the LCMS position on divorce? Matthew 19:9 - WOW! Answer

Q: Something that has been kind of weighing on me in these past chapters we’ve been reading, such as Deuteronomy 22:22-29, is how the polygamy and rape (or forced relations) seem to be excused. At this point in time I would think that there are enough people on the planet that God would start saying, “enough already with the multiple wives”. Instead, Moses just seems to give the people directions on how to handle these things. I know you have addressed the polygamy issue before, but the Old Testament sure gives a lot of credence to those that want to practice this. Answer

Q: In Deuteronomy 24:1-4, what exactly does the “defiling”? Can you comment more about why the woman might go back and forth the way the passage describes? Answer

Q: The March 8, 2006 Biblog post said to watch the “utter destruction” of passages like Deuteronomy 2:34 and that sometimes it means “devotion”. Can you explain that more? Answer

Q: Psalm 89:48 “seemed” like a reminder of Christ’s death, although the psalmist has seemingly no confidence in resurrection. What do you think? Answer

Q: The March 6, 2006 Biblog post said that in Psalm 89:38-45 the psalmist almost accuses God of being unfaithful. Would you say that’s as Christ “almost” does on the cross? Answer

Q: Psalm 89:10 mentions “Rahab”. The March 6, 2006 Biblog post said, “‘Rahab’ is another name for a ‘mythical monster of the deep’, which is also sometimes called ‘Leviathan’.” The notes in the margin of my KJV and AAT equate “Rahab” here with Egypt! Answer

Q: After reading Numbers 20, I was shocked to read that after all Moses and Aaron had done in following God’s commands that God would now tell Aaron and Moses that they would never see the Promised Land because of Moses’ sin. That seems pretty harsh for Moses’ slight variation from God’s command! Answer


Q: After reading Numbers 20, I was shocked to read that after all Moses and Aaron had done in following God’s commands that God would now tell Aaron and Moses that they would never see the Promised Land because of Moses’ sin. That seems pretty harsh for Moses’ slight variation from God’s command!
A: To be sure, Moses and Aaron had followed a great deal of God’s commands. Not just their striking the rock but also their lack of full faith in this case and the resulting disregard for God’s holiness had the given consequences. Perhaps also involved were the words Moses spoke, which might be taken as giving Moses and Aaron credit for the provision of water. We usually call striking the rock “Moses’ sin”, but clearly Aaron was involved (if nothing else by not preventing Moses from sinning): the Lord commanded them both (Numbers 20:8), and they both were involved in carrying out the Lord’s command (Numbers 20:9-11). The Lord’s rebuke (Numbers 20:12) is addressed to both of them (“you” masculine plural in the Hebrew). The consequences may seem pretty harsh to us, but we are not in God’s place of judgment. And, if it is any consolation, while Aaron did not enter or see the Promised Land, Moses got to see it, even if he didn’t get to enter it (Deuteronomy 34:1-4). Back to Top

Q: Psalm 89:10 mentions “Rahab”. The March 6, 2006 Biblog post said, “‘Rahab’ is another name for a ‘mythical monster of the deep’, which is also sometimes called ‘Leviathan’.” The notes in the margin of my KJV and AAT equate “Rahab” here with Egypt!
A: A note on my electronic KJV makes the same comment. The word can mean pride (how one commentator translates it here) and refer to the Nile crocodile and, perhaps on both accounts (see Isaiah 30:7, clearer in the ASV), also symbolize the Egyptians, as it did in Psalm 87:4. Another place where “Rahab” seems to be the same as the Leviathan is Job 9:13. (Leviathan as the “mythical monster” is mentioned in Psalm 74:14 and 104:26.) If, as is said, verses 9-10 borrow imagery from creation myths common in the ancient Near East, the “mythical monster” meaning definitely fits here. However, a reading where God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt is referenced is not completely ruled out. In fact, one might suggest the question is one of translation or interpretation. Either way, the “Rahab” of Joshua 2 is a different “Rahab”, spelled differently in the Hebrew. Back to Top

Q: The March 6, 2006 Biblog post said that in Psalm 89:38-45 the psalmist almost accuses God of being unfaithful. Would you say that’s as Christ “almost” does on the cross?
A: Are you thinking of Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34 and Jesus' use of Psalm 22:1: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Jesus no doubt felt the full force of being abandoned by God on account of our sins. If Jesus were fully using His omniscience, He would surely know that the Father is being faithful, and then His statement would be more of a rhetorical question reflecting His profound separation from the Father. However, we can say that Jesus on the cross was at the "lowest" point of His state of humiliation, in which He did not always or fully use His divine attributes; so, in a sense He may not have known that the Father was being faithful. Furthermore, we usually say that the words of all the psalms, 22 and 89 alike, are most at home on the lips of Christ, so in at least that sense we could say Christ with this psalm does “almost” accuse God of being unfaithful and we would locate His “speaking” these words on the cross. Back to Top

Q: Psalm 89:48 “seemed” like a reminder of Christ’s death, although the psalmist has seemingly no confidence in resurrection. What do you think?
A: The verse’s immediate context in Psalm 89 has to do with the futility of human existence. No simple human being on his or her own can live and not see death or save him or herself from the power of the grave. Jesus, by virtue of being God and man, could have lived and not seen death, but He took our sins upon Himself. Jesus could and did save Himself from the power of the grave, rising again on the third day to demonstrate His victory over death and the grave. I don’t so much see the psalmist’s statement as lacking confidence in the resurrection but, on the contrary, knowing he needs God’s help and seeking that help from God. Back to Top

Q: The March 8, 2006 Biblog post said to watch the “utter destruction” of passages like Deuteronomy 2:34 and that sometimes it means “devotion”. Can you explain that more?
A: The Hebrew word used in Deuteronomy 2:34, charam, can mean “ban”, “devote”, or “destroy utterly”. The translation generally depends on whether the passage refers to something that is supposed to be or is actually destroyed. In Deuteronomy 2:34, the towns, men, women, and children are all destroyed, but in 2:35 the livestock and plunder are carried off. Such devoted items supported the religious ceremonies (Numbers 18:14; Ezekiel 44:29) and could not be redeemed (Leviticus 27:28). The NIV text translates appropriately and usually includes the note, “The Hebrew term refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the Lord, often by totally destroying them.” In the case of Sihon, the main narrative of the events is in Numbers 21:23-26, and you can see the connection between devoting to the Lord and the killing of the people in Leviticus 27:29. The people did not always do as God commanded. Achan not only stole, but he stole that which was devoted to the Lord and brought consequences upon himself and the whole people of Israel (Joshua 7). Saul did not destroy the Amalekites and their livestock as he was supposed to, and that disobedience contributed to his losing his throne (1 Samuel 15). For reasons that are not always immediately clear to me, God’s commands regarding either destruction or devotion sometimes differed from one situation to the next; the difference could possibly have been in the balance between the supply of and the demand for livestock for the religious ceremonies. Back to Top

Q: In Deuteronomy 8:15, Moses says the Lord gave the people water out of, according to one translation, a “rock”, but another translation says “hard rock”, and yet another a “rock of flint”. I read a little on the web, and the best place to get water seems to be sandstone or limestone. If “flint” is what the original says, it underscores the miracle because nobody would reasonably expect water from flint.
A: The Hebrew word modifying the rock in Deuteronomy 8:15 is challamiysh, which is used in the Old Testament only five times. The King James three times translates the word “flint”, once as “flinty”, and once as just plain old “rock”. The idea certainly seems to be that of a hard rock (one commentator says “the hardest of rock”), which, as you say, does definitely intensify the miraculous nature of the Lord’s provision. We might also think of how in Baptism God with water turns our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh, and how as a result of faith given in Baptism we can confidently set our faces like flint (Isaiah 50:7). Back to Top

Q: In Deuteronomy 24:1-4, what exactly does the “defiling”? Can you comment more about why the woman might go back and forth the way the passage describes?
A: As I indicated in the Biblog post on March 15, 2006, the section in my Master’s Thesis dealing with Deuteronomy 24:1-4 covers 23 pages (the body of the report totals 350 pages), so there certainly is more I can say about the passage. The first part of your question has to do with to what “after that” in verse 4 refers, and the basic answer is “remarriage”. The KJV and ASV do not necessarily serve us well here; the NIV and NASB are a bit better. Verses 1-3 set up a series of “if” clauses joined together and leading to the first part of verse 4’s statement, as I translated it, “after that her first husband who sent her away will not be able to reverse, to take her to be to him for a wife: she has been defiled”. According to these verses of Deuteronomy, a divorced woman is defiled by remarriage, though the Lutheran church traditionally has made an exception in the case of the so-called “innocent” party. In the Thesis, I point out that there are at least five somewhat different understandings of this text; each has various suggestions regarding the motives about which you ask in the second part of your question. One suggestion is that the first husband may have kept the dowry (or “bride price”, the money given him by the woman’s family in connection with the marriage) after the first divorce, but the wife may have kept the dowry and possibly a settlement after the second divorce. Thus, a remarriage would twice enrich the first husband and, presumably, the wife. All of that suggestion is a little too speculative for my tastes. The primary point of the passage is to protect the land from the abomination brought about by such a remarriage. We must avoid the temptation to do as the Pharisees and read more into the passage than it will support.Back to Top

Q: Something that has been kind of weighing on me in these past chapters we’ve been reading, such as Deuteronomy 22:22-29, is how the polygamy and rape (or forced relations) seem to be excused. At this point in time I would think that there are enough people on the planet that God would start saying, “enough already with the multiple wives”. Instead, Moses just seems to give the people directions on how to handle these things. I know you have addressed the polygamy issue before, but the Old Testament sure gives a lot of credence to those that want to practice this.
A: Reporting something should never be confused with approving. In the beginning God instituted marriage as the union of one man and one woman, but their sin lead to all sorts of corruptions of the perfect relationship. Bigamy, adultery, rape, or incest—there are examples of God’s people sinning in all of these ways but also of God working through such circumstances to bring about good. God knows that His people sin and repent of their sin, and so He gives ways of dealing with His people in their fallen state to preserve as much as possible justice, faithfulness, holiness and righteousness. With the new HBO polygamy show “Big Love” and the gay agenda linked to polygamy, Christians have all the more reason to witness to the truth by letting God keep real marriages together by His enabling, through Word and Sacrament, sinful men and women to live together in the forgiveness of sins. Back to Top

Q: In Deuteronomy 24, why would Moses condone divorce, or even make it an option, if this was something never intended by God? I don't see the correlation you suggest with Matthew 19:8; so because people were turning away from God, Moses allowed them to divorce? What is the LCMS position on divorce? Matthew 19:9 - WOW!
A: Moses is not condoning divorce. Divorces were likely practiced in Egypt and came out of Egypt with the Israelites in the Exodus. God wants sinful people to forgive one another as He forgives them, and Jesus seems to say that divorce comes about when people are so hard-hearted (impenitent, unbelieving) that they resist the Holy Spirit’s work leading them to forgive one another. At God’s direction, Moses “suffered” the divorce process, Jesus says, correcting the Pharisees’ notion that he commanded it. In Old Testament times, as in New Testament times, there was a sense in which unbelievers remain mixed with believers in the community, and, as noted in this Q&A, God deals with people in their fallen state but tries to preserve justice and righteousness as much as possible. These days I think identifying one LCMS position on divorce would be difficult, since everyone tends to do what is right in their own eyes (Judges 17:6; 21:25), but you can find the 1987 Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) document on this topic linked here, though that document itself reflects changes from earlier LCMS positions. I am not exactly sure to what in Matthew 19:9 you are reacting; although that verse presents some challenges to a clear understanding, it, along with Matthew 5:31-32, is the basis for the Lutheran Church’s usual exception that allows the so-called “innocent party” in a divorce the “right” to remarry. Back to Top

Q: In Deuteronomy 14’s list of clean and unclean animals, there are a couple I did not recognize, such as the “coney” in verse 7 and the “hoopoe” in verse 18. What are these animals?
A: I do not really recognize the animals either. The immediate context helps a little, and checking some other resources helps only a bit more (some of the information about the coney, for example, is somewhat contested). Verse 7 tells us the “coney” (KJV, ASV, NIV; “shaphan” NASB) is like the camel and rabbit in that they chew the cud or have a split hoof completely divided. The NIV text note says the coney is a “hyrax” or “rock badger”, and the NASB text note refers to hyrax syriacus, said to be “a small, shy, furry animal … found in the peninsula of the Sinai, northern Israel, and the region round the Dead Sea”. The hyrax syriacus apparently feeds on plants and is eaten by Arabs. This animal appears in the Bible here, in the similar context of Leviticus 11:5, and in Psalm 104:18 and Proverbs 30:26. Verse 18 tells us the “hoopoe” (ASV, NIV, NASB; “lapwing” KJV) is among the unclean birds, with no common reason given for why these particular birds are unclean, although most of them eat flesh or other decaying things. This lapwing is found in Egypt, Arabia, and Syria; feeds on worms and insects; and supposedly makes its nests out of solid human waste products. Though the lapwing’s diet is said to give it a disagreeable smell, some nevertheless eat the bird, as its flesh is supposedly fat and savory in the autumn of the year. This particular bird is only mentioned in the Bible here and in the similar context of Leviticus 11:19. You can find pictures and a little more information about the coney here and the hoopoe here. Back to Top

Q: What is this about “the third year” in Deuteronomy 26:12? I assumed the tithe was given every year, for the Levites and for charity, as it says. Does it perhaps mean that the first tithe was given when the Israelites had been in possession of their land three years? Have I forgotten something you have said?
A: You haven’t forgotten anything I’ve said about this, as I don’t think I had previously noticed the special collection in the third year, neither here in Deuteronomy 26:12, nor in Deuteronomy 14:28. At the latter verse my study Bible’s note explains that every year the Israelites tithed, that all the Israelites ate a part of that tithe in a related festival, that the Levites got the rest, and that every third year the tithe was gathered, stored, and later distributed to Levites and the less-fortunate (such as the sojourners, fatherless, and widows). Elsewhere I read that these “third-year” tithes were rendered according to the seven-year Sabbath-year cycle, thus coming in the third and sixth years. In those years the tithes did not go to the Temple but stayed in the towns for the Levites and poor there. If you look at Deuteronomy 14:29, you will see how the people were to be blessed for keeping such provisions of the Covenant. Back to Top

Q: I found Luke 5:36-39 and your Biblog comment interesting: "people are set in their incorrect ways and are unwilling to receive the correct religious teaching." Can you expound on this illustration that Jesus is using?
A: Jesus’ ministry was noticeably different in externals from that of John and the Pharisees, and that prompted questions of and answers from Jesus (as in Luke 5:33-35 and 7:31-35). The parable in 5:36-39 teaches that people are somewhat set in their ways. Already-washed and shrunk clothing would rip if patched with a piece of a new garment that has not yet shrunk, leaving both garments damaged. Likewise, old wineskins that are already stretched out cannot stretch more from the expansion of new wine but will burst, ruining the wineskin and spilling the wine. Similarly, old wine tastes better than new wine. The common thread here, if you will pardon the pun of sorts, is the emphasis on new. Jesus brings the new era of salvation—new in both time and nature—that is not compatible with the old. Trying to fix Judaism with the Gospel or fit the Gospel into Judaism will ultimately destroy both. The final statement about the old and new wine summarizes the preceding statements: the Jews were happy with what they had and were not willing to try the new that, in the usual turnabout of the New Testament, really was better. In the broader context of Luke 5:29 and verses following, Levi, the tax collector, tasted the new wine of the Gospel and had table fellowship with Jesus and his fellow sinners, but the Pharisees preferred the old wine of Judaism and clung to its old, wornout cloth and wineskins. Back to Top

Q: With Jesus in Luke 9 giving the Twelve the power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases, didn't this confuse the people? Didn't those that saw the Twelve performing miracles think that maybe one of them was the Savior?
A: You ask a good question! If the Twelve were performing miracles on their own authority surely people would have thought one of them was the Savior. We have good reason to think, however, that the demons were being cast out and the diseases healed in Jesus’ Name—see Luke 9:49-50 in the immediate context and the practice of Peter and John in Luke’s second book (Acts 3:1-10), but compare what Luke tells happened in Lystra and Derbe (Acts 14:8-18). Back to Top

Q: In reading Luke 11:4 on the website, which says it is KJV, I wondered about the wording of the Lord’s Prayer, “And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us.” This sounds strange. Is there a different word for “sins” in the first clause than for “indebted” in the second? Is that really the KJV or is it something like the ESV? I have noticed other differences, but they were not different enough to ask. I know Matthew’s account of the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:12) is a little different (“debtors” twice). From where does The Lutheran Hymnal’s “trespass” wording of the Lord’s Prayer come?
A: The version of the Bible linked on the Grace website is, as it says, a King James Version of the Bible, although the ESV does read similarly, “and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.” I say our website has “a” King James Version because, as you have detected, some versions of the King James Version differ slightly. Although not necessarily pertaining to this verse, I have noticed differences in the past between the electronic version of the KJV I have on my computer, the printed KJVs I have on my shelf, and the KJV we use in the lectern at Grace. In the case of Luke 11:4, my copy of the original 1611 KJV has essentially the same wording as the modern versions of the KJV, although with older-English spellings. There are in fact, as you suspected, different Greek words being used: hamartias for “sins” and ofeilonti for “indebted ones”. (The root word of the second word is the basis for both words used in Matthew’s account.) The ASV and NASB translate Luke 11:4 similarly to the KJV (and NKJV), although the NIV uses “sins” and “sin against us” (confer Beck’s AAT), which is in some ways closer to the wording we know and use not just from TLH, but also from Lutheran Worship and the Lutheran Service Book. As near as I can tell, the Lord’s Prayer as we use it liturgically comes from St. Matthew’s account. Although the KJV (even the 1611 version), ASV, NIV, and NASB all use “debts” and “debtors” in Matthew 6:12 (Beck renders similarly to his translation of Luke’s account, and the NEB in Matthew 6:12 has “the wrong we have done” and “those who have wronged us”), the KJV (even the 1611 version and the NKJV) and ASV of Matthew 6:14-15 uses “trespasses” to translate paraptomata (the NIV translates “sins”, and the NASB renders “transgressions”). An expert on the history of the English Bible tells me that William Tyndale’s 1535 English Bible translated “trespasses” in Matthew’s version of the Lord’s Prayer, which translation may have influenced subsequent reading “primers” and devotional works, which in turn may have influenced the 1549 first edition of the Book of Common Prayer, which certainly influenced our English liturgies, at least in other ways. Back to Top

Q: In Luke 12:50 and Mark 10:38, why does Jesus refer to His crucifixion as a "baptism"?
A: The whole context of 12:49-12:53 is important to understanding the greater meaning of the passage, but I will focus in on your specific question. Jesus' ministry began in the Jordan River with John baptizing Jesus with water (Luke 3:21-22), where He took upon Himself all of God's wrath that all people deserve, including you and me. Jesus' ministry ends on the cross with a bloody "baptism" where he satisfies that wrath of God for all people, including you and me. Water and blood can thus be said to "frame" Jesus' ministry, as they also flow from His side on the cross (John 19:34-35), which the Church has understood as symbolizing the foundational and closely related Sacraments of the Church, Holy Baptism and the Lord's Supper, which "testify" to Jesus (1 John 5:6-8). St. Luke's divinely inspired account brings water and blood close together with Jesus also in the Garden of Gethsemane (22:44). Converts to Christianity who for some reason were not baptized by water before they died a martyr's death were sometimes said to have undergone a baptism by blood. These two "baptisms" were not different for Jesus, and they are not different for Christians under normal circumstances. In Romans 6:3-4 you will find St. Paul refer to Holy Baptism connecting us to Jesus' death and thereby being our death to sin; similarly Holy Baptism connects us to Christ's resurrection (Colossians 2:11-13).Back to Top

Q: Why does Jesus refer to Himself in the third person in places such as Luke 18:31-33?
A: Jesus refers to Himself as the "Son of Man" some 25 times in St. Luke's Gospel account and a total of 81 times in the four accounts combined. The expression is based on Daniel 7:13-14, where it is related to Divine authority, glory, and power. In St. Luke's account, Jesus seems to use the expression in the context of His present ministry, suffering of the Messiah, and His future role judging. The first use in Luke's account is in 5:24, where it is somewhat obvious that Jesus is referring to Himself, amazing the people but troubling the Pharisees so that they will ultimately accuse Jesus of blasphemy and put Him to death. In some ways we must ponder over these references as we do with the so-called "Messianic secret": people know Who Jesus is, and, yet, He tries to not have it be so widely known that He cannot carry out His work. Back to Top

Q: In Luke 20:16, who are “they”? Is it the people listening to the parable? Why would those say, “God forbid” about the justice the tenants richly deserved? (Yes, I know we deserve it, too, but these listeners have had law drummed into them, even if they didn’t understand Gospel. Sometimes it seems like a large part of the Old Testament is a clamoring for justice—when it isn’t a complaint because they got some!)
A: Luke 20:1 identifies the chief priests and teachers of the law as the most immediate specific people whom Jesus is addressing, although in 20:9 there seems to be a change in the audience addressed, if not the audience present (confer 20:16, although the “people” the NIV puts there is not in the Greek). Still, 20:19 makes it clear the teachers of the law and chief priests remain in the audience (as if Jesus is talking to the crowd about them), and I think they were the antecedent for the pronoun “them” in 20:17 (Jesus’s statement seems to be targeted at the leaders, anyway). (You might confer and compare the audiences as Matthew 21:33-46 and Mark 12:1-12 describe them.) One commentator suggests, in part on the basis of Matthew 21:41, that Jesus ended the parable with the rhetorical question and that someone in the crowd, either a Passover pilgrim or one of the chief priests and teachers of the law, answers it with the statement about the man destroying the tenants and giving the vineyard to others. The exclamation “God forbid!” or more literally “May it not be!” could be a response from the chief priests and teachers of the law, or it could be a response from one of the pilgrims. Precisely what the exclaimer is wanting not to happen also is not clear; the thing God is asked to forbid may be the punishing of tenants and/or the handing over of vineyard to others, or it may even be the killing of the heir that leads to the punishing and handing over (the choice of several commentators, although at least one thinks all three events are in view). We might lose a little clarity in the telling of the story to us, but clearly those present understood what was happening (Luke 20:19, and confer Matthew 21:45 and Mark 12:12). As for the matter of justice, you are right that the people in the Old Testament, as we ourselves today, seem to want justice to be carried out against others but never against us. Still, God in His mercy and grace directs the wrath we deserve to Jesus and gives, not leases, the vineyard to us by faith (Luke 12:32). Those who refuse to repent and believe are those who fall and break like a pot dashed against a stone, even as that same stone falls on the devil and for us crushes his head (Luke 20:18; Genesis 3:15). (See further the discussion here.) Back to Top

Q: In Luke 22:47-51, why do you suppose Simon Peter chose Malchus, the slave of the high priest, to go after (cut off his ear)? Was he probably one of the main front men there to capture Jesus? And I would have thought that when the "crowd" saw Jesus heal Malchus, they would have been convinced that Jesus was the Son of God and left Him alone. (Although I know all of this was necessary to fulfill God's plan!) But, you would think that Jesus' healing Malchus would have gotten some type of reaction.
A: You have done your homework or remember from John 18:10 that it was Simon Peter who struck with the sword and that Malchus was his victim, though, while all four Gospel accounts report the cutting off of the ear, only the account of the "beloved physician" (Colossians 4:14) reports its healing. None of the accounts, moreover, say that Peter "chose" Malchus, and with the Temple guard and other types of "soldiers (Luke 24:52; John 18:3), I think it unlikely that Malchus was a man up front, if he was even armed! The leaders of the Jews had seen many miracles of Jesus but persisted in their unbelief, so I guess I am not at all surprised that the healing of Malchus' ear does not faze them. The healing actually had very little to do with Malchus; he was not healed on account of his faith but rather because of Jesus' compassion following Peter's error, the result of Peter's still not understanding Jesus' mission. Back to Top

Q: The women who went to the tomb to embalm Jesus and found the tomb empty were told by the angel to go tell the disciples that Jesus was alive. In Luke’s account the women did this (Luke 24:9, 22-23), but Mark’s account says the women fled and were too frightened to talk (Mark 16:8). What are your comments on these different scenarios?
A: You have identified one of what are called the “seeming contradictions” between the Gospel accounts. On this particular matter, you might also confer or compare Matthew 28:8-11, John 20:1-18, and the so-called “longer ending” of Mark (16:9-13). Without getting into all the discussion of the textual evidence for or against the various endings of Mark, let’s just focus on two possibilities. The first possibility is that, intentionally or unintentionally, Mark’s account ends at verse 8. If verse 8 is the final word on what the women did, then there is a problem with the other accounts. However, we know that the Spirit-inspired Holy Scripture cannot contradict itself (the usual “proof-text” is John 10:35), so there must be some other explanation. One such “other explanation” is that the women did not initially say anything, and another explanation is that the women did not say anything to anyone else, other than those to whom the angels directed them to speak. (There are still other explanations.) The second possibility I want us to focus on is that if Mark’s account ends at verse 20, as Luther held and we are arguably confessionally bound to hold, then we don’t have to look at the other accounts to find a seeming contradiction—we’ve got one right there between Mark 16:8 and Mark 16:10. In this case, too, however, there are a number of plausible explanations, including the two that were just mentioned—the women not saying anything initially or not saying anything to anyone else. Either of those works for me. Generally, since there are plausible explanations for all such seeming contradictions, I pray the Holy Spirit to keep these kinds of things from bothering me.

For more on harmonizing the resurrection accounts as discussed in Adult Bible Class at Grace, see Harmonizing the "early morning" resurrection accounts and Solving the Gospel accounts' "Easter Enigma". Back to Top

 


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