Forty-Eighth Day of Easter   13 comments

“Follow Me.”

Friday, May 18, 2018

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Acts 25:13-25 (Revised English Bible):

Some days later King Agrippa and Bernice arrived an Caesarea on a courtesy visit to Festus.  They spent some time there, and during their stay Festus raised Paul’s case with the king.

There is a man here,

he said,

left in custody by Felix; and when I was in Jerusalem the chief priests and elders of the Jews brought a charge against him, demanding his condemnation.  I replied that it was not Roman practice to hand a man over before he had been confronted with his accusers and given an opportunity of answering the charge.  So when they had come here with me I lost no time, but took my seat in court the very next day and ordered the man to be brought before me.  When his accusers rose to speak, they brought none of the charges I was expecting; they merely had certain points of religion, and about someone called Jesus, a dead man whom Paul alleged to be alive.  Finding myself out of depth in such discussions, I asked if he was willing to go to Jerusalem an stand trial on these issues.  But Paul appealed to be remanded in custody for his imperial majesty’s decision, and I ordered him to be detained until I could send him to the emperor.

Psalm 103:1-2, 19-22 (Revised English Bible):

Bless the LORD, my soul;

with all my being I bless his holy name.

Bless the LORD, my soul,

and forget none of his benefits.

The LORD has established his throne in heaven,

his kingly power over the whole world.

Bless the LORD, you his angels,

mighty in power, who do his bidding and obey his command.

Bless the LORD, all you his hosts;

his ministers who do his will.

Bless the LORD, all created things,

everywhere in his dominion.

Bless the LORD, my soul.

John 21:15-19 (Anchor Bible):

When they had eaten breakfast, Jesus addressed Simon Peter,

Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?

He said,

Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.

Jesus told him,

Then feed my lambs.

A second time Jesus repeated the question,

Simon, son of John, do you love me?

He said,

Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.

Jesus told him,

Then tend my sheep.

For the third time Jesus asked,

Simon, son of John, do you love me?

Peter was hurt because Jesus had asked for the third time,

Do you love me?

So he said to him,

Lord, you know everything; you know well that I love you.

Jesus told him,

Then feed my little sheep.  Truly I assure you, when you were a young man, you used to fasten your own belt and set off for wherever you wished.  But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.

(What he said indicated the sort of death by which Peter was to glorify God.)  After these words, Jesus told him,

Follow me

The Collect:

O loving Father, grant that your Church, being gathered by your Holy Spirit, may be dedicated more fully to your service, and live united in your love, according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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Peter had denied Jesus three times before the crucifixion.  And he affirmed Jesus three times after the resurrection.  Yet there is more taking place in the reading from the Johannine Gospel.

The verbs for “love” vary slightly in the Greek language.  Commentaries I have consulted note this fact without assigning any significance to it, stating that these are synonyms, while noting that ancient and modern scholars have understood the different Greek words as being important.  Anyhow, the first two times Jesus and Peter converse Jesus asks if Peter has agape love for him, and Peter replies that he has phileo love for Jesus.  Agape is unconditional, sacrificial love–the kind of love God has for us.  Agape comes from the agapan, which is what John uses in the text.  (Agapan can mean “to prefer or to esteem.”)  Phileo is friendship and affection, which indicates passion, not preference.  The third time, however, Jesus asked if Peter had phileo love for him, and Peter replied that he had phileo love for Jesus.

So, if one assumes that differing Greek words indicate more than the use of synonyms, here is what the Johannine Gospel depicts.  The first two times Jesus asked Peter, “Do you prefer me to fishing and fishing boats?” and Peter’s replies indicated passion in the sense of friendship and brotherly love.  The third time, however, Jesus and Peter referred to phileo love.

Yet, as scholars of the Fourth Gospel indicate, that work uses agape (and its linguistic variations) and phileo (and its linguistic variations) interchangeably.

As a devotional exercise, however, I ask you, O reader, a spiritual question:  Do you have mere affection for Jesus, or do you prefer him to the alternatives in your life?  Follow the question wherever the Holy Spirit leads.

(Thanks to Father Raymond E. Brown’s commentary on John in sorting out Greek words, by the way.)

Both Peter and Paul became martyrs–Peter by crucifixion.  Considering himself unworthy to die as Jesus did, he was crucified upside-down.

The account from Acts becomes more understandable if one knows who these people were.  Herod Agrippa II was a client king within the Roman Empire.  Think of the British rule in India through 1947; London ruled parts of the subcontinent directly and others through natives.  Rome followed the same practice in the Holy Land.  Herod Agrippa II (reigned 53-100) was a great-grandson of Herod the Great (d. 4 B.C.E.), who had ordered the infamous massacre of the Holy Innocents.  Herod Agrippa II “ruled” part of his great-grandfather’s territory and was incestuous with Bernice, his sister, who went on to become the mistress of the Roman Emperor Titus (reigned 79-81).  Also, this Herod appointed the high priest.

Festus was the new Roman governor of Judea.  The author of Luke-Acts depicts him as a conscientious man who tried to follow the letter of the law, rule honorably, and clean up messes inherited from Felix, his predecessor.  Paul did not convince either Festus or Herod Agrippa II of the rightness of his cause, but, as Herod observed, Paul could have been freed if he had not asserted his right as a Roman citizen to appeal to the Emperor, who, unfortunately, was Nero (reigned 54-68).  (Yet Paul had a divine mandate to go to Rome.)  At Rome Paul met his death by beheading, although Acts ends before that event.

Paul preferred Jesus to the alternatives in his life.  And, at his end, so did Peter.

KRT

Published originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 9, 2010

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/follow-me/

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