Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Crafting of a Sermon - #5

Val Fowler made these cookies for our anniversary.
Thank you Val!
I'm at it again - working on my John 20:11-18 sermon, to be given this coming Sunday. Today is our 37th wedding anniversary. Linda and I have spent it together, and then we had our Home Group over for dinner. Now it's late Wednesday evening, and I'm doing what I love best - studying, reading, preparing, God-seeking, simmering in the text...

I'm opening up Andreas Kostenberger's wonderful commentary on John. Kostenberger is Prof. of New Testament and Biblical Studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also heads up Biblical Foundations, a nice website for anyone interested in New Testament studies. I also like his name - "Andreas Kostenberger." Thank God he turned out to be a scholar!

Now I'm digging deep...  into John 20...  I'm going to go as deep as I can...  bring up buried treasure... and present it to my people this coming Sunday morning.

John 20:11-3
  • The disciples went back to their homes. Mary of Magdala stood outside the tomb crying. The term κλαίω (klaio) "denotes the loud wailing typical of people in the Ancient Near East." (Kostenberger, John, 567) Mary is wailing outside the tomb. (Note: I took two years of biblical Greek while in seminary. I know enough Greek to look words up, understand and read some sentences, but because I have not kept up with my Greek it's not what it could be. Here's the Greek Bible website I use.)
  • Mary of Magdala is wailing, not because Jesus has died, but because his body has disappeared. "Abuse of the dead was considered an abhorrent offense." (Ib.)
  • I love the way Kostenberger continues: "In what follows the Johannine narrative turns the attention away from the possibility of grave robbers to the reality of the invasion of God's power, with angels adduced as witnesses to the activity of the Father." (Ib.) From grave robbery to an invasion of God's power - nice! This is the kind of thing that is true and preachable.
  • Kostenberger adds nothing new for me re. the two angels, so I read on.
  • 10:17 PM - Kostenberger says "Mary's failure to recognize Jesus continues the pattern of misunderstanding that characterizes [John's] portrayal of Mary throughout this chapter up to this point." (Ib.) The stone rolled away + the angels inside the tomb + the risen Jesus himself fails to remove the misunderstanding. In spite of this Mary does not give up searching for answers.
  • When Jesus addresses Mary as "woman" is neither particularly endearing nor harsh.
  • Jesus asks her, "Who are you looking for?" But of course Jesus knows who she is looking for. How odd it would be if he did not know the answer to his rhetorical question.
  • It's early morning. Other mourners could be there. Gardeners attending to the grounds would have been the only other people around. Mary thinks Jesus is a gardener. Kostenberger quotes, nicely, Francis Moloney: "The one whose body she is seeking is asked for a solution to the mystery of the empty tomb." (Ib., 568) That would be like you coming up to me and asking me where I am. In all of this it's important to keep in mind how distressed Mary is. She has just been agonizing and wailing.
  • Next comes the tender, intimate moment. Jesus says, "Mary." Mary answers, "Rabbouni!" John writes the Aramiac word, which serves to "create a heightened sense of intimacy." (Ib.) Kostenberger says that, because Mary calls Jesus "Teacher," she has not yet come to terms with the reality of Jesus' resurrection. Jesus is her teacher, but he is far more than that. We must keep in mind the fact that Jesus had saved Mary from a "dire condition." (Ib.; when Jesus cast out 7 demons)
  • Kostenberger interprets Jesus' words "Don't hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father," to refer to "the awkwardness that surrounds the interim between the resurrection of Jesus and the sending of the Spirit." (Ib., 569) This is a transition period. The disciples are not to act like it's the goold old days with Jesus. They cannot get a hold of "the nature of the new spiritual relationship with their Lord that soon will be mediated to them by the Holy Spirit." (Ib.) OK. Keener looks at these words differently. A preaching decision will have to be made by the time I step up to the plate on Sunday. Right now Keener has the hermeneutical edge.
  • Had Mary already touched Jesus? Keener believes so. Scholars have debated this. Pause now and note: Scholars have so studied the Gospels in the minutest details that they've even spent big time effort trying to decide whether or not Mary of Magdala had already physically touched Jesus. If so, then Keener makes sense. Witherington, Raymond Brown, et. al. also think so. So... when Jesus said "Do not hold on to me," he said this because Mary was at that time holding on to him.
  • Jesus says what he says because his permanent being-with her (abiding with her) in the near future is not to be physical, but in the Spirit.
  • Jesus has not yet ascended. Kostenberger writes: "Jesus is not yet in an 'ascended' state; his process of glorification has not yet been completed. By salvation-historical necessity, Jesus must move on; the Spirit will take his place." (Ib., 570) This is helpful. I'll ponder it and re-word it, translating the scholarly language into language most will understand. This is but one of the ongoing challenges of preaching; viz., to take deep ideas and make them available to the common person. ("Common person" does not mean "ignorant person," but rather, in this case, "theologically untrained person," or non-scholar in this area.)
  • For Jesus this is not the time for holding on to him; it's "not the time for sentimentalities." (Ib., 570) It's time for action. Jesus entrusts Mary with this very important message. Now watch how Kostenberger puts this: "The message to be conveyed by Mary to Jesus' disciples is that Jesus is 'in the process of ascending' to God the Father. That's beautiful! And, to be explained...
Tomorrow I may print out the notes I have so far and take a long walk with them. Many times I walk from my home to our church buidling - 2 1/2 miles. I stroll with my sermon notes. Along the way, as God speaks to me, I stop and write it down. If you're riding on Telegraph Road or North Custer tomorrow and see a man walking and reading, or stopped and writing notes on paper, it's me.