GOSPEL, FIRST READING & PSALM TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
In any case, Jesus responds to their positive initial reception by saying two things. “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’” Now, this is really interesting because only in Luke is this saying of Jesus preserved. Why is it interesting? Well because as I mentioned in the introductory video to the Gospel of Luke, Luke is identified by Paul as having been a beloved physician, as having been a doctor. So it’s kind of neat that the one text in the gospels that explicitly calls Jesus a doctor is preserved in the gospel that’s attributed to Luke, the doctor. Is it coincidence? I don’t think so. I think Luke is probably attracted to that episode and that saying because he himself is a physician.
And in this case, Jesus prefigures the cross. He’s kind of pointing forward through a riddle to the fact that on his Passion they’re going to say, “Well if you’re the Son of God, save yourself.” And the Greek word for save, sozo, is actually ambiguous. It can mean “save” or it can mean “heal”. But in this verse, Jesus actually uses the word therapeuson, heal yourself. They’re positive and he responds with this weird riddle, you’ll tell me “Doctor, heal yourself” and “do here what you also did in Capernaum.” In other words, they’re going to demand a sign before they believe. So he’s kind of undercutting their initial response by saying, “You’re not actually going to believe in me."
And what’s the second saying? Well the second one’s more famous because it’s in more than one gospel, which is, “a prophet is not acceptable in his hometown” or “in his own country.” So here he just flat out says, “You [unlike Capernaum] are going to reject me. You’re not going to accept me, precisely because to you, I’m just Joseph’s boy.” You know the old saying, “familiarity breeds contempt”? Well it certainly breeds contempt for prophets and messiahs. It’s just too hard to get over the scandal of being familiar with the person, to believe that God has some greater purpose in mind for them — in this case, to fulfill the scriptures as the messiah. Now, none of that would have necessarily generated a “mob response” to Jesus’ words. I don’t think either of those riddles is explicit enough to make the crowd angry. What really makes the crowd angry is when Jesus starts talking about the Old Testament, and he says “there were many widows at the time of Eli′jah, but Eli′jah didn’t go to them.” He didn’t go to the Israelite widows, he went to this pagan widow in the land of Zar′ephath in Sidon. And he says “and there were many lepers in Israel at the time of Eli′sha,” but he didn’t go to any of them, he went to a pagan leper, Naaman the Syrian.
Now I don’t know about you, but whenever I see this passage…if I was sitting in the synagogue and he quoted this, I’d just be like, “Oh. That’s interesting. Na′aman… widow of Zar′ephath… okay.” I would not rise up and want to throw him off of a hill for saying that. So if you don’t understand the crowd’s vehement response to Jesus, it’s obvious that you don’t get the allusion to those Old Testament texts that he’s quoting there. So it’s really important for us to actually go back to those Old Testament passages and look at them in context. Now, we don’t have time to do that in a lot of detail here, but I would refer you to read two key passages:
First, the story of Eli′jah (who’s the older prophet) and the widow of Zar′ephath is in the book of Kings, so 1 Kings 17. What it describes is this widow who’s running out of food. She’s about to die, basically, from starvation because there’s been a famine in the land of Israel for 3 years. And guess who caused the famine? Eli′jah. Well, actually, he didn’t cause it, but he had control, he had power over it because the sins of the people have led God to withdraw his grace and there was a famine. And Eli′jah is going to be the one who, through his prayer, has the power to bring that famine to an end.
So, what happens is, in that context, what Jesus is saying is the Israelites were so wicked at the time of Eli′jah that he didn’t bring the blessing of relief from the famine to any of them, or any of their widows. He brought it to a Gentile widow, who was living in the land of Sidon. Tyre and Sidon, they’re up in the North Western part (northwest of the Holy Land) of the tribal territories of Israel. That was the land of Pagans. It was a land of Gentiles. So what Jesus is saying is, “There were lots of wicked Israelites at the time of Eli′jah.” They were so wicked, he brought God’s blessing to a pagan widow. Then, to add insult to injury, Jesus gives a 2nd example of a time when the Israelites were so wicked that a prophet didn’t bring blessing to them but brought it to a pagan. Here he uses the example of Eli’sha, who was Eli′jah’s successor. In 2 Kings 5 there’s a story of Na’aman, he was a general in the Assyrian army but he was also a leper, and he comes to the land of Israel to seek healing from a prophet of the true God, the God of Israel. And so Eli’sha tells him to go wash in the Jordan River seven times. And when he does, his flesh is healed and he comes out with “the skin of a baby.” He’s completely healed of his leprosy.
So what’s the common link between both of those stories? The common link is that at the time of both Eli’jah and Eli’sha, the tribes of Israel were so wicked that the prophet brought the blessing to a Gentile instead of to Israel. Eli’jah brought the blessing to a Gentile widow, Eli’sha brought the blessing to a Gentile general, an officer in the Gentile army of Syria. So what’s the upshot of Jesus’ quotation of those two passages? It’s that “You, people of Nazareth, are like the wicked Israelites at the time of Eli’jah and Eli’sha. You are going to reject me as a prophet and the blessing and the good news is going to come from me and it’s going to end up going to pagans. It’s going to go out to the Gentiles.” And that’s what makes them mad. That’s what makes them furious.
SECOND READING TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
Now, as soon as I say that, it’s important to remember, those definitions are a helpful taxonomy, a kind of ordering, making some distinctions of the kind of different nuances that the word love can have in Greek.
But if you want to really understand how Paul is defining love here in 1 Corinthians 13, you can’t just look at the word agapē
. You have to look at the actual description of love that he gives in the subsequent verses, because he’s going to define it for you precisely by painting a portrait of what agapē
is and what it is not… what love is and what it isn’t. And in this section, it’s really important to recognize that when Paul defines love — although in our English translation we have adjectives — in every case, Paul is actually using the verb. So he’s not just telling you what love is like or what it is, he’s telling you what it does and what it doesn’t do.
This is very important, because again, in contemporary English, we tend to think of love primarily as a feeling or an emotion, but Paul is very clear that love here is an action that chooses to do certain things and chooses not to do other things. So with that basic framework in mind, let’s ask: what is agapē
? That’s the Greek — or Latin, caritas
. What is charity? What does charity do, and what does charity not do? Here’s what Paul says:
Love is patient and kind…
…or it does patience. Love is kind… or does kindness, would be a kind of more concrete, literal Greek translation. Love rejoices…Here we see it more clearly, the verbs…the verbs are in English.
…but rejoices in the right.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends…
So that’s what love is. Beautiful there.
You can even see some of the virtues kind of flow through of faith and hope. Faith being it “believes all things.” So why do I believe everything that God says to me in the Scriptures? Ultimately, because I love Him. Why do I hope for the good of the resurrection and life everlasting in the world to come? Well, because I hope in God, because I love Him.
So hope and faith here, Paul is rooting ultimately in agapē
. Patience, being patient, being kind — all those things flow out of agapē
. Now what about what love is not? He continues. On the other hand:
… love is not jealous…
…or doesn’t do jealousy. I don't do jealously.
… love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude.
Again, put these in verbs. It doesn’t do arrogance. It doesn’t do rudeness.
Love does not insist on its own way…
There we see willing the good for the other, is an act of love — dying to self and choosing the other. Love doesn’t insist on its own way.
…it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong…
So in this parallel — this set of contrasts between what love is and what it isn’t — there we see an emerging portrait of what the way of love actually looks like and what living a life of love looks like.
And there was a wonderful book that came out on this. Ceslaus Spicq — he was a Catholic Biblical scholar in the 20th century. He wrote a three volume work on agapē
in the New Testament — classic work on love in the New Testament. And in his book on love, he says something interesting. He says if you want to understand Paul’s kind of portrait of love, one of the things you can do is you can replace the word agapē
with the name Jesus. And you’ll see that what you get is a portrait of the life of the Savior. Let me just do this for a second to kind of give you an idea.
So Jesus is patient. Jesus is kind. Jesus is not jealous or boastful. He’s not arrogant or rude. He doesn’t insist on His own way. He’s not irritable or resentful. He doesn’t rejoice at wrong but rejoices in the right. Jesus bears all things. He believes all things. He puts His trust in the Father. He hopes all things. He endures all things. What does He endure? He endures the cross.
So you see this powerful portrait of the charity of Christ emerging in Paul’s description of agapē
. It’s very similar to the Beatitudes. Some scholars — Pope Benedict, for example — has pointed out that the Beatitudes are a kind of profile of Jesus Himself, the same thing true here with the love chapter. It’s a kind of profile of the One who is the living love of God made manifest, made in the flesh through the Incarnation.
Now that’s a beautiful way to kind of reflect and meditate on this passage. However, a good friend of mine also gave me another suggestion with this that might be helpful to you, which is to use the same verses in St. Paul on agapē
. And instead of putting Jesus’ name in it, put your own name in it as a way of examining your conscience.
So sometimes it can be easy to examine your conscience, for example, according to the Ten Commandments and come out looking pretty good. I haven’t committed adultery, I haven’t murdered anyone, haven’t worshipped any cows lately — I haven’t committed idolatry. I’m looking pretty good.
But put your name in Paul’s portrait of agapē
and see how am I doing in terms of my growth in virtue. And I hesitate to do this, because I’m going to have strike one right in the beginning. Brant is patient. Oh…no. Brant is kind. Brant is not jealous or boastful. Brant is not arrogant or rude.
Okay, wow. Now as soon as you start to do this, you’ll see, I have a long way to go along the path of love. Has rudeness been rooted out of my life? Has resentfulness been rooted out of my life? Am I patient? Am I kind to others? Do I insist on my own way? Am I irritable? Am I resentful? Am I boastful? Do I rejoice when I see wrongs carried out, when I see other people hurting or in pain or getting what’s coming to them? If I do rejoice at the wrong rather than in the right, if I fail to bear all things or believe all things or hope all things or endure all things, guess what? I still have a long way to go on the way of agapē
, on the way of love.
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