Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Sending of the Spirit, "Another Advocate": Readings for the Sixth Sunday of Easter

We are about the celebrate the last Sunday before the Feast of Pentecost. The lectionary readings for this Sunday, therefore, are meant to lead us to reflect on different aspects of the Spirit's work.

This Sunday's readings are also important for understanding Catholic sacramental theology, in particular, the sacrament of confirmation. Indeed, confirmation (or chrismation) is closely linked to Pentecost. Quoting Pope Paul VI, the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that, confirmation "in a certain way perpetuates the grace of Pentecost in the Church" (no. 1288; citing Paul VI, Divinae consortium naturae, 659).

I would suggest, then, that the readings this Sunday help us prepare for Pentecost Sunday by, in part, drawing upon passages that in Catholic tradition are closely related to the sacrament of confirmation. In this, as we approach the feast celebrating the outpouring of the Spirit upon the disciples, we are reminded that we share in that Pentecost experience in the sacramental life of the Church.

With that as background, let us briefly explore these readings.

FIRST READING: Acts 8:5-8, 14-17
Philip went down to the city of Samaria
and proclaimed the Christ to them.
With one accord, the crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip
when they heard it and saw the signs he was doing.
For unclean spirits, crying out in a loud voice,
came out of many possessed people,
and many paralyzed or crippled people were cured.
There was great joy in that city. 
Now when the apostles in Jerusalem
heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God,
they sent them Peter and John,
who went down and prayed for them,
that they might receive the Holy Spirit,
for it had not yet fallen upon any of them;
they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Then they laid hands on them
and they received the Holy Spirit.
The Relationship of the Samaritans to the Jews. At the beginning of the reading we read that Philip, one of the seven deacons appointed in Acts 6:5 (not the apostle), "proclaimed the Christ" to the people of Samaria. Much could be said about this from a salvation history perspective. Specifically, it is important to know that backstory of the Samaritans to appreciate the significance of this story. Let us consider that briefly.

Under kings David and Solomon, all of the tribes of Israel were united. This period represented, in many ways, the golden age of the Old Testament. Through the Davidic kingdom God reigned over Israel as well as the nations. The Chronicler thus describes the kingdom of David in terms of, "the kingdom of the Lord in the hands of the sons of David" (2 Chr 13:8).

After Solomon's death, however, the northern tribes revolted against the kingdom of David. They turned away from the Lord and began to worship golden calves. A rebel kingdom was set up by the northern tribes. Its first king was Jeroboam, a descendant of the tribe of Ephraim. The capital of the northern kingdom was eventually established in Samaria.

Samaria thus became associated with the northern tribes' rebellion against the Davidic kingdom.

As is well known, in Jesus' day, the Samaritans were despised by Jews. However, it wasn't simply their rejection of the Davidic king that caused this. In fact, things got quite complicated for the Samaritans.

First, in the eighth century B.C. the Assyrians carried off many of the northern tribes into exile. According to 2 Kings 17:18-41, not only did the Assyrians send many northern Israelites into exile, they also repopulated the cities of Samaria with captives from other nations who brought with them the worship of their own pagan gods. In Jesus' day, therefore, the Samaritans were seen as corrupted. [1]

Nonetheless, the Samaritans were still apparently seen as part of the people of Israel by Jews in the Second Temple Period. 2 Maccabees seems to describe the Jews and Samaritans as belonging to one "people" (2 Macc. 5:22-23). What really scandalized the Jews, then, was not the Samaritans' questionable genealogy, it was something else.

Specifically, the Samaritans were problematic above all else because they rejected the Jerusalem temple. They identified Mt. Gerizim--not Mt. Zion--as the place of correct worship. In fact, Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well discuss this disagreement in John 4. This--the question of right worship--was the central dividing issue among the Jews and the Samaritans. Nothing was more important than the question of what constituted proper liturgical worship.

Josephus tells us that some Samaritans even attempted to defile the Jerusalem temple in the time of Coponius (A.D. 6-9), sneaking into the temple courts and placing human bones in the sanctuary (A.J. 19.29-30). In short, the Jews seem to have despised the Samaritans because the Samaritans were hostile to the temple in Jerusalem.

In fact, one ancient rabbinic text makes it clear that though the question of worship was at the heart of the dispute, the rabbis did believe they could one day be restored to the people of God:
"When shall we receive the Samaritans back? When they renounce Mount Gerizim and acknowledge Jerusalem and the resurrection of the dead. When this happens, he that robs a Samaritan shall be as one who robs an Israelite." (Massekhet Kutim 2:8).[2]
Notably, this text also suggests that the Samaritans also rejected the hope for the resurrection of the dead. The element worth pointing out here though this this: there was a hope for a reunification with the Samaritans among the rabbis.

This is not surprising. Indeed, many of the prophets looked forward to the day God would reunite the northern and southern tribes of Israel. For example, speaking specifically of Samaria, Isaiah declares:
Again you shall plant vineyards
upon the mountains of Samaria;
the planters shall plant,
and shall enjoy the fruit. 6 For there shall be a day when watchmen will call
in the hill country of Ephraim:
‘Arise, and let us go up to Zion,
to the Lord our God.’” 7 For thus says the Lord:
“Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob,
and raise shouts for the chief of the nations;
proclaim, give praise, and say,
‘The Lord has saved his people,
the remnant of Israel.’ (Jer 31:5-7)
The Promise of the inclusion of the Samaritans. How does all of the above relate to the reading from Acts?

The book of Acts presents Jesus as the Messiah, the one through whom the twelve tribes would be restored (cf. Luke 22:29-30). Along these lines, in the first chapter of the book, Jesus describes how the apostles will be his witnesses "in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth". In sum, Jesus explains that the messianic age will accomplish the restoration of the twelve tribes of Israel, just as the prophets had announced. Not only will the Jews receive the Gospel--i.e., those in Jerusalem and Judea (="Judeans" or "Jews")--but so will all of the twelve tribes. In particular, Jesus explains that Samaria will be included.

Philip's trip to Samaria is presented as fulfilling this promise.

Christ, the Spirit, and the Samaritans. That Philip preached "Christ" to the Samaritans is also significant given the lectionary readings'  focus on the role of the Spirit.

"Christ" literally means "anointed one". The term came to be understood in terms of the "Anointed One", i.e., the Messiah. In the Old Testament, however, the term had a broader meaning.

Kings and priests were anointed ones--they were anointed with oil. This act was linked with the coming of the Spirit upon the anointed. This is probably most clearly seen in the anointing of David. In 1 Samuel 16 we read: "Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed [David] in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. (1 Sam 16:13)."

Why is Jesus "the Christ"? He is the "Anointed One", i.e., he is the one who comes in the Spirit. 

It is no surprise then that the Gospels especially link the initiation of Jesus' messianic ministry with his baptism. There the Spirit visibly descends upon him. In fact, in Luke Jesus' baptism is followed with an account of Jesus reading Isaiah 61, which states, "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me" (Isa. 61:1; cf. Luke 4:16-18).

Philip preaches that "the Christ", the Messiah, has come. The one who comes in the Spirit has arrived.

Furthermore, we might note that, in a certain sense, the messiah has come in Philip. Philip performs the same kinds of miracles and exorcism Luke describes Jesus performing. Christ is still active in the world only know he acts not through his personal body but through the ministry of the Church, his mystical body. For more on that, go here.

The Sacrament of Confirmation. Notably, then, in Acts 8 the Samaritans receive the "word of the God" and are baptized. However, interestingly, though they are baptized, they do not receive the outpouring of the Spirit. For them to receive that, the apostles Peter and John must go up to Samaria and lay their hands on the believers.

A similar story is also found later in Acts 19. There Paul, passing through Ephesus, finds believers who had been baptized but who had not yet received the Spirit. Paul confers the Spirit upon them through, once again, the laying on of hands (cf. Acts 19:1-7).

The stories in Acts 8 and 19 led to the understanding that there is a second sacrament of initiation after baptism--confirmation or chrismation. Although baptism and confirmation were celebrated together, Cyprian describes the way Christians received a "double sacrament", recognizing early on a distinction between what happens at baptism and what is involved with the laying on of hands--just as what happened in Samaria and in Ephesus.

Note too that this passage is also the reason confirmation is especially linked with apostolic authority, i.e., the bishop. While Philip (the deacon from Acts 6, not the apostle) proclaimed Christ and baptized, it is Peter and John who are dispatched to lay their hands on the Samaritan believers. Thus in our own day confirmation is linked in a special way with the bishop. In the west, the bishop--the successor to the apostles--is therefore the ordinary minister of the sacrament. In the east, the sacrament is conferred through the anointing of the myron blessed by the bishop.

What happened to the Samaritans, then, is a model for Christians. Like them, we are called to turn from sin and experience the grace of baptism. Yet, in addition to baptism, we are invited to receive the laying on of hands, through which we experience a special outpouring of the Spirit.

But wait... Don't we receive God's grace in baptism? What happens in the outpouring of the Spirit at confirmation that doesn't occur in baptism?

That's what the Second Reading helps explicate.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM: Ps 66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20
R/ (1) Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.or:R/ Alleluia.Shout joyfully to God, all the earth,
sing praise to the glory of his name;
proclaim his glorious praise.
Say to God, “How tremendous are your deeds!”
R/ Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
R/ Alleluia.

“Let all on earth worship and sing praise to you,
sing praise to your name!”
Come and see the works of God,
his tremendous deeds among the children of Adam.
R/ Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
R/ Alleluia.

He has changed the sea into dry land;
through the river they passed on foot;
therefore let us rejoice in him.
He rules by his might forever.
R/ Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
R/ Alleluia.

Hear now, all you who fear God, while I declare
what he has done for me.
Blessed be God who refused me not
my prayer or his kindness!
R/ Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
R/ Alleluia.
The responsorial psalm is appropriate to the first reading. Through the ministry of the Church the Gospel spreads to Samaria, marking a major milestone in the spread of the Gospel. Christ had declared that his disciples would be his witnesses "in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth". The conversion of the Samaritans is a kind of down payment on the promise of universal blessing.

We might also mention how the psalm uses "new exodus" language, language typically associated with the restoration of Israel in the prophets. Indeed, it is through the preaching of Christ that the new exodus is accomplished as we have observed elsewhere (e.g., here).

SECOND READING: 1 Peter 3:15-18
Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.
Always be ready to give an explanation
to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope,
but do it with gentleness and reverence,
keeping your conscience clear,
so that, when you are maligned,
those who defame your good conduct in Christ
may themselves be put to shame.
For it is better to suffer for doing good,
if that be the will of God, than for doing evil.
For Christ also suffered for sins once,
the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous,
that he might lead you to God.
Put to death in the flesh,
he was brought to life in the Spirit.
The Divinity of Christ. The reading from 1 Peter begins with a clear affirmation of the divinity of Christ. Scholars recognize that the line "sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts" is a re-working of the Greek translation of Isaiah 8:13 (LXX): "sanctify the Lord himself and he will be your fear".[3] Here the "Lord" is clearly identified as YHWH, the God of Israel. By applying this passage to Christ, 1 Peter underscores Jesus' divinity. 

Three aspects of the Christian response to Persecution. In context, this section of 1 Peter is speaking to Christians facing persecution. They are told to do three things.

First, Christians must sanctify Christ, i.e., worship him.

Second, Christians must be able to give an answer for their faith. This verse is often highlighted to urge Christians to learn apologetics, i.e., the art of defending the Christian faith. Indeed, Peter is calling upon Christians to be able to give a "reasoned" explanation of their faith.

Faith cannot simply be an emotional experience. Faith is not simply about the heart. It must also involve the head. 

What must be highlighted though is that it Peter goes on to explain that we must be able to explain our faith "with gentleness and reverence". Proclaiming the faith is not simply about winning arguments. An argumentative Christianity is not an authentic Christianity. First and foremost, Christians must be witnesses for Christ by being like Christ. A witness that is not "gentle" is not not Christ-like, for he himself said he was "gentle and lowly in heart" (Matt 11:29).

Third, Christians must "keep your conscience clear". We cannot witness to Christ effectively if we do not practice "good conduct in Christ". If we are hypocrites, we will be "put to shame" and the truth of the Gospel we have witnessed to will be called into question. 

Imitating Christ. A major theme in 1 Peter is the idea of discipleship as imitation of Christ. In the preceding chapter, we read: "For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps" (1 Pet 3:21). 

For 1 Peter, Christ's suffering provides a model for the Christian. He suffered and we are called to suffer with him. For Peter's original audience this may have entailed the prospect of martyrdom. 

The word "martyr" is the Greek term for "witness". Indeed, inasmuch as all believers must witness to Christ, all believers are called to be "martyrs". Perhaps our witness will not require the spilling of our blood but it may involve the risk of being ostracized or some other more subtle form of persecution. Either way, believers must lay down their lives for Christ and for others as he laid his life for others. 

Strengthened by the Spirit. How will Christians be able to face persecution and the threat of death? The last line of the reading is suggestive: Christ was "put to death in the flesh" and "brought to life in the Spirit."

It is the Spirit who rescued Christ from death. If Christ's passion is meant to provide Christians with an example to follow, Christians also have the hope of deliverance in the same power that saved Jesus, namely, the Spirit. 

In the context of the lectionary readings, which focus on texts relating to the sacrament of confirmation, we might then suggest that it is especially in confirmation sacrament that Christians receive the power to be Christ's witnesses. Confirmation strengthens us to proclaim Christ even in the face of persecution. 

In short, confirmation enables us to be martyrs. 

Indeed, this fits well with the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which explains that one of the effects of the sacrament is that
"it gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross" (no. 1303).
GOSPEL: John 14:15-21
Jesus said to his disciples:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
And I will ask the Father,
and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always,
the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept,
because it neither sees nor knows him.
But you know him, because he remains with you,
and will be in you.
I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
In a little while the world will no longer see me,
but you will see me, because I live and you will live.
On that day you will realize that I am in my Father
and you are in me and I in you.
Whoever has my commandments and observes them
is the one who loves me.
And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father,
and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”
The Gospel reading is taken from the section of John's Gospel known as Christ's "farewell discourse". Here, prior to his passion, Christ speaks of his coming death, resurrection, and return to the Father. 

Keeping the commandments and the Power of the Spirit. Jesus' teaching, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" could be read indicating that the keeping of the commandments is the way one demonstrates true love for Christ; i.e., keeping the commandments is the way one gives evidence that he or she is really a disciple of Jesus.

However, in his commentary on the Gospel of John, Thomas Aquinas argues against this interpretation by pointing out that it is only by grace that we are able to love God and keep his commandments in the first place. He points out that Jesus goes on to say, "Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one that loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father and I will love him. . ." 

Does this mean that God only loves those he sees keeping his commandments? Is God's love predicated upon whether or not we keep his commandments? That would seem to be problematic. In fact, it would seem to contradict Johannine theology! 1 John 4 relates: "In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins."

In short, we are only able to love because God first loved us, as St. Paul would say, "while we were yet sinners" (Rom. 5:8).

Thomas writes, ". . . one loves, and as a result of this, keeps the commandments" (Commentary on John, no. 1934).

God's love is what empowers us to love him. 

Thus, Jesus goes on to speak of the sending of the Spirit. In other words, Jesus explains, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" because if we love him it will then follow that we will keep his commandments. This reading makes sense in context. For after saying this, Jesus goes on to explain how he will send the Spirit so that we will not be "orphans" but have his assistance.

"Another" Paraclete. The Spirit is then described as the "Paraclete" (paraklétos). What does this word mean? Different options have been suggested. In the second century, Origen suggested it means "comforter" [3], an interpretation that was picked up by later writers, including Thomas Aquinas. In context, this meaning makes sense.

However, the best evidence suggests a different meaning is in view. It seems more likely that the term in John 14 should be understood in terms of a legal "advocate", i.e., a “counselor” or “attorney”. Indeed, John's Gospel uses a number of motifs associated with such a courtroom setting such as the concepts of "witnesses", "testimony", "truth", "judgment", etc. The language of "Paraclete" seems to cohere well with this conceptual matrix.

Here it is helpful to understand the Greco-Roman courtroom model that is probably in the background.[4] In such a setting there was no “public prosecutor”. At a trial there were only private accusers (katēgor, Rev 12:10) who served as witnesses against the accused. Witnesses for the accused served as "advocates". The advocate was the one who defends accused in a courtroom and intercedes for him. It is used in ancient literature synonymously with synēgoros, a term which is the opposite of katēgōr (“accuser”). 

Of course, Scripture uses this kind of legal terminology for the devil. "Satan" is, literally, the "accuser" (cf. Rev 12:10; Job; 1:6ff.; Gen. Rab. 38:7; 84:2; etc.). In Jewish tradition, various figures were associated with the role of "advocate", including Moses [5], Michael [6], God [7], the Logos [8], and the Holy Spirit [9].

The idea then would seem to be that the Spirit is the witness on the side of believers. In fact, this also coheres with what is said later on in John 16:
Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convince the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” (John 16:7–11)
Here the Holy Spirit is described as prosecuting the disciples’ persecutors (John 16:7–11).

Trinitarian Theology. Jesus' promise to send another Paraclete is noteworthy for it implies that Jesus himself is also a Paraclete. In fact, 1 John clearly states that Jesus is a Paraclete: "“My little children, I am writing this to you so that you may not sin; but if any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). 

In his comprehensive two-volume commentary on the Gospel of John, Craig Keener has compiled an impressive list of the parallels between Christ and the Spirit in John.[10] 

Keener explains, “The discourses are clear that the Spirit, above all else, carries on Jesus’ mission and mediates his presence. . . ”[11] 

Moreover, by describing the Spirit as the Paraclete, the divinity of the Spirit is implied. Elsewhere in John's Gospel Jesus is said to be divine. Speaking of Jesus, John tells us that "the Word was God" (John 1:1) and that he is "one" with the Father (John 10:30). John 5 explains that Jesus taught that God was his Father and thereby made himself "equal with God" (John 5:18). If Jesus is a divine Paraclete and the Spirit is another Paraclete, he would also seem to be a divine person. 

Jesus' description of the Spirit as another Paraclete led the fathers and doctors of the Church to recognize Trinitarian theology in John. If the Spirit is a Paraclete like Jesus and Jesus is divine, the Spirit must also be divine. 

Aquinas on Jesus' comings and on the manifestation of God's love. Jesus explains that he will not leave the disciples "orphans" but that he will come to them. In his commentary, Aquinas highlights three "comings" of Jesus. First, Jesus is coming to the disciples after the resurrection. Second, Christ is coming back at the second coming. Finally, "his third coming is spiritual and invisible, that is, when he comes to his faithful by grace. . ." (Commentary on John, no. 1923). 

Finally, the reading returns to the imagery it began with: love. Above we cited Thomas' teaching that God's love is not given to us as a result of our keeping of the commandments; God loves us whether we keep his commandments or not. This is the teaching of 1 John. In light of that, how can we understand the last line of the Gospel reading: "And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father,
and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” 

Thomas explains: 
Why does he say, I will love, using the future, since the Father and the Son love all things from eternity? We should answer that love, considered as being in the divine will, is eternal; but considered as manifested in the accomplishment of some work and effect, is temporal. So the meaning is: and I will love him, that is, I will show the effect of my love, because I will manifest myself to him: for I love in order to manifest myself. (Commentary on John, no. 1935)
Christ thus reveals himself to the believer through manifesting the effects of his power in the believer's life. By cooperating with God's grace we are empowered to love even more. 

All of this points to Pentecost. There the disciples receive the Spirit are empowered to love God without fear. Let us ask God for the same grace, namely, to love him boldly. 

Moreover, this Sunday, let us also reflect on the grace of the sacrament of confirmation, recognizing how it enables us to love as the apostles did, empowering us to be witnesses--martyrs. Let us ask the Father for the grace to further cooperate with his gifts so that we may grow in our love for him and for one another, recognizing that he has given us another Advocate who empowers us to do so. 

[1] There are some difficulties with using the passage from 1 Kings 17 as background information for those identified as "Samaritans" in Jesus' day. The Hebrew text is not as definite in describing the "Samaritans" as the LXX. See R. J. Coggins, Samaritans and Jews: The Origins of Samaritanism Reconsidered (Atlanta: John Knox, 1975), 9-10; V. J. Samkutty, The Samaritan Mission in Acts (LNTS 328; London: T & T Clark, 2006), 58-59.

[2]. Text from Michael Higger, Seven Minor Treatises (New York: Bloch, 1930), 46; translation taken from Timothy Warlde, The Jerusalem Temple and Early Christian Identity (WUNT 2/291; Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 2010), 103.

[3]. See Anthony Casurella, The Johannine Paraclete in the Church Fathers: A Study in the History of Exegesis (Tübingen: Mohr, 1983), 3–4.

[4]. See Craig Keener, Gospel of John (2 vols.; Peabody: Hendricksen, 2003), 2:957.

[4] Deut. Rab. 3:11.

[5] Exod. Rab. 18:5; cf. T. Sol. 1:7; Deut. Rab. 11:10; etc.

[6] Job 16:19–21; m. ‘Abot 4:22.

[7] Philo, Heir, 205.

[8] Deut. Rab. 3:11.

[9] Adapted from Keener, Gospel of John, 2:965.

[10] Keener, Gospel of John, 2:965


Susan Moore said...

Part 1 of 2.
Beautiful. Thank you.
In my mind it seems John, in writing the Gospel of John, is most concerned about the human emotive responses to Jesus.
It seems John 8 describes how Jesus addresses the human reactions of terror of Him (beginning of that chapter), confusion about His power and nature (His identity as God, addressed in the middle of that chapter), and the rage of the false teachers (at the end of that chapter). By skimming that chapter, a case could be made that Jesus was speaking to the same people the whole time. But after 2.5 years of walking the streets and sharing my testimony of Christ, I do not believe that is the case.
In the last 2.5 years I have learned there are some dogs who come forth aggressively to bite because they perceive me as treading on the territory they are bred to protect, and those dogs will go to whatever means they can think of to remove me from their territory. Those are the false teachers of John 8:33-59.
But some dogs will come near to aggressively bite not because they are defending their territory, but because I have gotten too close and they are afraid my intention is to hurt them. They are responding not offensively, but in self-defense. Both sets of dog behaviors looks the same from the outside, but their motivations are markedly different. The dogs acting out of fear, in self-defense, are the Jews described in John 8:1-11; the Jews with stones in their hands who presented to Jesus the adulterous woman. They were hoping He would give them a reason to accuse Him, for that would have made much easier the legalistic decision about what to do with both her and Him.

Susan Moore said...

Part 2 of 2.
Jesus realized those differences of the heart, and how did He respond to the terrified, but aggressive looking mob who brought Him the woman with stones in their hands? He made Himself look small. He squatted down, looked away from them, and doodled on the ground. This gave them time and relational space to be near Him, and yet reflect on their own reactions in relational silence.
I have been wondering why, when I am speaking to a person and am wondering if that person is quietly freaking out, sometimes I will abruptly turn sideways and sit right down where I am and ‘doodle on the ground’. Usually there is a period of silence, a few pointed questions asked by that person, to which I continue to stare at the ground while giving quiet, concise and simple answers, and then, in essence, the person drops their stone, and quietly walks away. This is not a conscious response on my part, for these people are all strangers –how do I know what is going on in their hearts? I do not know, but must trust the Spirits guidance, for He is everywhere, and knows everything. There is no randomness in God’s creation.
Jesus responded to the Jews who dropped their stones, “I am the light of the world. No follower of mine shall ever walk in darkness; no, he shall possess the light of life” (vs.12).
Then He addressed confusion in vs 13-30. And to the Jews who came to believe in Him He told, “If you live according to my teaching, you are truly my disciples; then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Then He addressed the rage of the false teachers in vs. 33-58 by promising them eternal life, but they were not interested, and picked up stones to kill Him.
The last discourse of John 14 pulls all those teachings together, His revelations of light, truth, and life to us through His sending of the other Paraclete, the Holy Spirit.

Anonymous said...

Blasphemy. They only sing about Jesus doodling on the ground in the history books.

Unknown said...

Susan Moore,

I don't think Jesus had any of the concerns we tend to have in our society about not offending any one or psycho analyzing emotional responses.

The simple fact is that those who are too prideful will take any form of negative outlook on their actions badly. They will be concerned about the person's method of telling them they are wrong than fixing themselves.

Those who are truly humble and fear God will be more concerned about the act they did than the method used by the person pointing out their wrong.

The problem today is that we seem to be building up prideful person all the way from pre-school to their adult age. They have no lack of confidence and pride in themselves and hate anyone who point out their wrongs.

That is really the basic reality that we are trying to sugar coat by speaking about emotive tactics and so forth.

Steve Finnell said...


Question. Can dead Christians intercede for Christians who are living? Is it possible for deceased Popes, the Virgin Mary, and other dead saints to hear prayers and intercede for men who are alive?


Prayer is offered to a person in two ways: one as though to be granted by himself, another as to be obtained through him. In the first way we prayto God alone, because all our prayers ought to be directed to obtaining grace and glory which God alone gives, according to those words of thePsalm (lxxxiii, 12): 'The Lord will give grace and glory.' But in the second way we pray to the holy angels and to men not that God may learn ourpetition through them, but that by their prayers and merits our prayers may be efficacious. Wherefore it is said in the Apocalypse (viii, 4): 'And the smoke of the incense of the prayers of the saints ascended up before God from the hand of the angel' (Summ. Theol., II-II, Q. lxxxiii, a. 4).

There are no Scriptures that instruct men to pray to men, dead or alive. Where in Bible does it say pray to angels? There is no verse in the Bible that would indicate that dead Christians can hear our prayers. Even if they could hear our prayers there is no Scripture that states they could intercede between us and God. There is no Scripture that says dead men can be an advocate for us to God the Father.


Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. (NKJV)


Romans 8:34 Who is he condemns? It is Christ who died, and futhermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercessions for us. (NKJV)

Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit make intercessions for Christians.

Can Christians who are alive pray for other living Christians, of course they can and should. Praying, for, is not the same as praying to someone.

Christians should not pray "to" other Christians. That would be worship. Men are to worship Jehovah God alone.

Praying to dead Popes, the Virgin Mary and other dead saints is worship. God is a jealous God.