GOSPEL, FIRST READING & PSALM TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
All these people are following Jesus. Jesus is teaching them about the scriptures. He’s teaching them how to live, and so this professional biblical scholar asks Jesus a question, not because he’s actually interested in the answer, but because he is trying to test Jesus to see what Jesus knows. Now I know it’s hard to imagine professors and academics being kind of arrogant and asking questions that aren’t really designed to find the truth, that are just to show off how much they know and make other people look stupid, but it happened in the ancient times in the 1st
Century. Just try to imagine it for a little bit.
So anyway, this kind of arrogant teacher here wants to put Jesus to the test, see what he knows and he says “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus flips it right around back on him when he says “Well, what’s written in the law? What do you read?” or “how do you read?” Now that’s an interesting point. What does it mean, “How do you read?” Well it’s critical to remember that the interpretation of
(of the law, of the scriptures), was hotly debated by scholars in the 1st
Century as today. Sometimes my students will get aggravated with me when they say, “What does this passage mean?”And I’ll say, “Well, it’s debated.” Oh, yeah, another debated passage. Some people say this, some people this, some scholars think that, some Fathers think that. Why? Because human language is open to different interpretations, and this is especially true in the Hebrew text, because in the Hebrew text there were no vowels written into the Hebrew language. Ancient Hebrew was unpunctuated without vowels, so it would just be a series of consonants. So literally, you could have a debate about how to interpret a passage based on the way you read it. In other words, did you think that certain vowels should be inserted into this text making it mean a certain word, or other vowels. You could literally read the text out loud in different ways. So how a person reads a text is a very technical way of saying, “How do you interpret it?”
So Jesus is speaking to this doctor of the law in the language of ancient Jewish scholarship and ancient Jewish interpretation of the Torah.
And so the lawyer, the doctor of law, he responds to Jesus by quoting two Old Testament texts. He says “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and soul, and mind, and then love your neighbor as yourself.” Now, I like this passage because it shows that those two commandments (the love of God and the love of neighbor) are not something that Jesus made up. Sometimes Christians will kind of assume that the two greatest commandments, being the love of God and the love of neighbor, was like a novelty; this was something Jesus came up with. It’s not, it’s part of ancient Judaism. It was in the core of the Old Testament, it’s in the Pentateuch. The commandment to love God with all your heart and soul and mind is from Deuteronomy 6. This is a basic Jewish prayer that is said several times a day. It’s called the Shema,
from the Hebrew word “hear”. “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. The second commandment, “love your neighbor as yourself” is from Leviticus 19, in which it says “you should love your neighbor as yourself.”
Now watch, this is important. In context, the question is “Well, what does it mean when it says love your neighbor? Who does the category of ‘neighbor’ include?” If you go back to Leviticus 19:18, the verse that is quoted by the doctor of the law here is the 2nd
half of the verse: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you back up and read the whole verse, listen to what it says: “You shall not take vengeance or bare any grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” That’s Leviticus 19:18. So notice there, in context, does neighbor simply mean “the sons of your own people”? In other words, fellow Israelites. It could be interpreted in an inclusive way, meaning anyone who is a neighbor to you, or it could also be interpreted exclusively as saying, “The only neighbor who I have to love as myself are the sons of my own people.” So there is an ambiguity there and if you read the whole text in its even broader context, it mentions your servants, it mentions the deaf, it mentions the blind, it mentions the poor and the great, and so there’s this whole question that arises: “Exactly who is my neighbor in context? Is it just the sons of my own people or is it broader than that?” And so in that context, back up to the gospel and you can understand, the lawyer here, the doctor of law, appears to be asking Jesus in a sense, “What’s your take on the exact meaning of who my neighbor is?” And so Jesus responds to that question (Who is my neighbor?) with the parable of the Good Samaritan. So I hope you can already see how Jesus is answering a specific exegetical question about the love of neighbor from the book of Leviticus by means of this parable of the Good Samaritan.
So in the parable of the Good Samaritan, as we just saw, there are three categories of people..
SECOND READING TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
Second, in addition to theology of creation, there's also, or we're already getting into this, a theology of Christ, a Christology that's implicit in this hymn, and that's really in a sense the center of it. So on the one hand, you'll see that the hymn depicts Christ as human. Now, it doesn't use the word human, but it implies it when it refers to him as the image of the invisible God. The Greek word there for image is icon. It's the same imagery that's used in the book of Genesis, the Greek translation of the book of Genesis, to describe Adam and Eve. So Adam and Eve in Genesis 1:27-28 are created in the image and likeness of God. They are icons of God. In other words, what an icon does, it's a visible material image that allows you to see beyond it to some invisible reality. So if we have an icon of the risen Christ, the icon itself is not the Christ, but it points to Christ. Or if you have an icon of a Saint, like Saint Augustine or Saint Luke or something, those visible icons point to the invisible, glorified immortal souls of the saints in heaven.
So the same thing's true about Christ. In his humanity, he's an icon of the invisible God. He makes visible the invisible reality of God. He reveals him. But it also means that he's human. He's the new Adam. And you can actually see this when it calls him the first born of all creation. Sometimes people who want to deny the divinity of Jesus will say, "Aha, look, it calls him the first born of all creation. That means he's not God. He's part of the creation." And the answer is yes and no. Yes, it is true that his human nature is part of creation. It's a created nature. But that doesn't mean he's not God, because the whole point of the incarnation is the union of his human nature that he assumes with his divine nature in the one person of the eternal Son.
So what the Colossians hymn here is doing is revealing a very powerful Christology in which Christ is fully human, he's the image of the invisible God, just like Adam was the image of the invisible God. But he's also the creator, the one through whom and for whom and in whom all things have been made. So it's a both/and not an either/or. And you can see this when it says that he is before all things, very important. Chapter one, verse 17, he is before all things. That refers to the preexistence of the son. If God creates all things and yet the son is before all things, that means that he is divine. He's preexistent. He's on the creator side of the creator creature divide, the line between the two. That's why it can go on to say, he's the beginning. He's preeminent in everything. He is above all things. And why? Here's the key line, verse 19, “For in him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell.”
Now there's a little trick here. Some translations are going to say all the fullness of God. The Greek word there for fullness is plērōma
. And the words of God aren't actually in the Greek of verse 19. So if you actually skip down to chapter two, verse nine of Colossians, Paul uses the exact same expression, but he makes it explicit here. “For in him the whole fulness of deity dwells bodily.” The Greek there is to plērōma tēs theotētos
. You hear the word Theo in there, theology. Theos means God. So in chapter two, verse nine, Paul makes it explicit when he refers to the fullness, he means the fullness of divinity or fullness of deity, fullness of Godhead. So what the translators have done there is add the word of God to chapter one, verse 19, to make clear what Paul means when he speaks about the fullness. So when he says the fullness was dwelling in him bodily, he's implicitly referring to the fullness of divinity. He'll make that explicit a few verses later. So Christ is both, this is important, both fully human. He's adamic. He's a man. But he's also fully God, because the fullness of deity dwells in him bodily. We’ll come back to that a little bit later.
But it's not just that theology of creation or theology of Christ. It's not just protology or Christology. It's also soteriology that's dealt with in this hymn, because it describes the fact that the creation, all things are reconciled to God. How? Through the blood of the cross, through the blood of Christ's cross. And in that, it describes two final mysteries, the mystery of the Church and the mystery of the end, what we call ecclesiology and eschatology. So Christ is the head of the body, the Church, the hymn says, and he's the first born not just of creation which goes back to the beginning, but he's also the first born of the dead. So he's not just the new Adam pointing back to the old creation, he's the one who points forward to the beginning of the new creation with his resurrection.
So look at this, all in this one little hymn, what do we have? Protology, theology of creation, Christology, theology of Christ. We have soteriology, a theology of how we're saved. We have ecclesiology, the mystery of the church, and then eschatology, the mystery of the end. And this is kind of a testament to the fact of just how important sacred music is. People don't often stop to think about this.
If this text is indeed a hymn that was sung by the early Church, one reason you would sing this kind of hymn was that through song, you would teach theology. The book of Psalms is a perfect example of this. If you pray through the Psalms, you read through the book of Psalms over and over again, like those of you who pray the liturgy of the hours will know, you're going to learn that God is omnipotent. He's all powerful. He's omnipresent. He's the creator of the world. He's the savior of Israel. He's the Redeemer. He's full of loving kindness and steadfast love, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, full of mercy. All those characteristics of God, you get that theology from praying the psalter.
So the same thing's going to be true about Christian hymns. You're going to teach Christology through the music, through the hymns that are sung, through the words that are composed. This is why in the early Church, for example, the heretics they knew this well. So Arias during the Aryan crisis in the fourth century, composed songs that denied the fullness of Jesus's divinity, that suggested that he was a creature and not the uncreated eternal son. Because they knew that if they could get the laity to sing the songs, they would imbibe the heresy. So the heretics frequently go after sacred music before they compose long theological treatises. Because the reality of the fact is, whether we theologians like it or not, most people don't read long theological treatises, but everybody sings a hymn at mass. Everyone sings a hymn. Well, not everyone, some people don't sing at all. But you know what I mean, they all have to listen to them. So the same thing was true in early Christian worship and in ancient Jewish worship. Music, sacred music was a principle vehicle for communicating true Christology, true ecclesiology, true protology, true eschatology, true soteriology. Likewise, the songs of the heretics, like Arias, were mechanisms and means to lead people into error about who Jesus was and how he saved and what the world was about and all those kind of things. The same thing's true today.
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So in closing then, let's talk about heresy for just a minute. Because this text from Colossians 1 was one of the principle texts that the Council of Ephesus...