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Tuesday of Holy Week

John 12:20-36

All except the final verses 34-36 of this text are used also on the Fifth Sunday in Lent and were commented upon above at that place. There we considered the two symbols that are used in this text to signify the death of the Johannine Jesus. His death is compared to the “death” of a kernel of grain, a change and germination that is necessary in order that new life will result. His death is also depicted in this text as a situation in which the Johannine Jesus is lifted up between the earth and the sky on a Roman cross.

On this occasion, let us look more closely at verse 25, a Johannine explication of the “death” and germination of a kernel of grain as a symbol of Jesus’ death on the cross. Most translations of verse 25 into English indicate that the Johannine Jesus here said that the person who loves the person’s own life loses it, but that the person who hates the person’s life here in this world will retain it eternally, expressing the form of the Greek verb miseo here with the word hates. In most instances of the use of forms of the Greek verb miseo in our literature, the English word hate is appropriate. Here and in Luke 14:26, however, there are better and more nuanced ways in which this Greek form should be expressed in the English language. It is not a good translation here in John 12:25 to say that a person should hate the person’s own life here. In the context of this verb in John 12:25, I suggest that the verse should be translated as I express it in my The New Testament: A New Translation and Redaction (Lima, OH: Fairway Press, 2001) as follows: “The person who selfishly wants to retain that person’s life is going to lose it, and the person who selflessly gives that person’s life to others in this world will actually retain it into life eternally.”

In the three verses (John 12:34-36) that are used here but not on the Fifth Sunday in Lent the Johannine depiction of Jesus as “the light” is used. The idea that the Johannine Jesus will not be physically present within the Johannine community much longer, as expressed more extensively in the “farewell discourses” in John 14-16, is included.

1 Corinthians 1:18-31

In this text the Apostle Paul proclaims Christ crucified as the one whom God, through the resurrection of Jesus as the Christ, made the primary manifestation of the power of God and of the wisdom of God. The word of the cross (Christ crucified) makes us wise, makes us righteous, makes us holy, and redeems us from the power of sin. This is what God does, not what we do. Therefore, we should not boast about what we have done. We should boast about what God in the death and resurrection of Jesus as the Christ does.

Isaiah 49:1-7

In verse 3 of this second of what we as Christians call the Servant Songs of the Isaiah tradition the Servant is identified as “Israel.” This identification was probably added to the text at some point after the initial composition and use of this text. It is difficult to see, however, how the Servant could be Israel when it is written in verse 5 that the Servant is commissioned by God to bring Jacob back to God, to gather Israel back to God and in verse 6 to bring back to life the tribes of Jacob, to restore those who will be preserved in Israel. Our Christian identification of the Servant with Jesus as the Christ does not work perfectly either, unless we make the followers of Jesus as the Christ to be the “New Israel.” When we do this, we should call ourselves at most “a new people of God,” rather than “the New Israel.” When we call ourselves “the New Israel,” we are being arrogantly supersessionistic.

Within the context of the Isaiah traditions, the Servant, and, farther along in the traditions as we have them, the Suffering Servant, should probably best be understood as a composition of poetic expressions by a variety of inspired Israelites of the ideal prophet, the ideal inspired person in that tradition. In that sense, the Servant or Suffering Servant concept can be used both by Jews and by us as Christians today, with neither group preempting the concept.

Psalm 71:1-14

The psalmist, during the “senior years” of the psalmist’s life, calls upon God to rescue the psalmist from those who are cruel and oppressive, from those who are showing no respect. The psalmist affirms that the psalmist has depended upon the Lord God ever since the Lord gave life to the psalmist when the psalmist was born.

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Authors of
Lectionary Scripture Notes
Norman A. Beck is the Poehlmann Professor of Theology and Classical Languages and the Chairman of the Department of Theology, Philosophy, and Classical Languages at Texas Lutheran University
Dr. Norman A. Beck
Mark Ellingsen is professor at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia
Dr. Mark Ellingsen