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Wednesday of Holy Week

John 13:21-32

Not only is the Johannine Jesus in this text depicted as having the foreknowledge of which of the twelve disciples will “betray” him, the Johannine Jesus is portrayed as in a sense mandating that betrayal by saying to Judas Iscariot, “That which you are going to do, do it soon.” Various interpretations have been given to this saying within Church history. One is that Judas was predestined by God to betray Jesus so that God’s plan of salvation would be accomplished. Personally, I have never felt comfortable theologically with that interpretation. I think that a much better interpretation within the context of the Fourth Gospel is that here as throughout the Fourth Gospel, but not in the Synoptics, Jesus is portrayed as being in charge, in command of the entire situation, as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world from the beginning of the Fourth Gospel until he dies on the cross with the words in John 19:30, “All that I have come to do has been done!” The Johannine Jesus directs the orchestra, he is the producer and the director of the play, he is the coach who calls the plays on the field.

Hebrews 12:1-3

The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews has a Christology that uses words that differ considerably from the words used by the Johannine writers. Nevertheless, the Christology is similar in many respects to that in John. For the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, as in the Fourth Gospel but not in Mark and Matthew, Jesus is completely in charge of God’s salvation drama. In the Epistle to the Hebrews, Jesus himself goes into the most holy place in the Temple and offers his own blood as a sacrifice to God for sin, not for his own sin but for the sins of other people. Here in Hebrews 12:1-3 Jesus is presented as the founder, the pioneer, the one who makes our Christian faith perfect, the one who is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Isaiah 50:4-9a

The ideal prophet to the writers of the Isaiah tradition is given directions each morning by the Lord God. Therefore, the ideal prophet is able to stand up with confidence against those who are evil and to help those who are in need. For those of us who are Christians, Jesus the Risen Christ is like that and even more than that. This does not mean, however, that our interpretation of Isaiah 50:4-9a is the only valid interpretation. Our interpretation was certainly not the original and was not the earliest interpretation, and Jewish interpretations will always remain valid and helpful to us, as well as valid and helpful to Jews.

Psalm 70

For anyone who is suffering distress, whether because of adversaries or because of illness, the cry to God for help at the earliest possible moment expressed by the writer in this psalm is certainly understandable. Since this cry for help contrasts with the situation of the Johannine Jesus more than it complements it, Psalm 70 would be more appropriate in a Christian lectionary when the Gospel reading is from Mark or Matthew rather than from John. Within our message on this Wednesday of Holy Week, we can apply Psalm 70 to us, but hardly to the Johannine Jesus.

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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