Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Fifth Sunday of Easter - May 2, 2021

Saint Dominic contemplating the Scriptures Saint Dominic contemplating the Scriptures
Author's note:
Sometimes I have material left over when I edit Comments down to fit the available space. This page presents notes that landed on the clipping room floor. Some may be useful to you. While I avoid technical language in the Comments (or explain special terms), Clippings may have unexplained jargon from time to time.

A hypertext Glossary of Terms is integrated with Clippings. Simply click on any highlighted word in the text and a pop-up window will appear with a definition. Bibliographic references are also integrated in the same way.

Acts 8:26-40

Samaria was between Jerusalem and Galilee. The principal place of worship for Samaritans was on Mount Gerazim.

Comments: a eunuch could not be “admitted to the assembly of the Lord Judaism at the time overlooked Isaiah 56:3-5, which says that a faithful eunuch will be welcomed by God. [ NJBC]

Verse 26: “Philip”: He was chosen by the community, as one of seven, to assist the apostles by serving Greek-speaking Jewish Christians: see 6:1-6. These seven were the first deacons: the word translated as serve is diakoneo. They were to serve at tables, but in the following verses, Stephen (who was one of them) proclaims the good news, as does Philip in Chapter 8 – so it appears that they were not limited to serving at tables. Further, CAB points out that serving on tables can mean keeping accounts . A scholar has told me that the word for table (trapeza) means a counter for money in some contemporary secular writings.

Verse 26: “Gaza” was destroyed in 93 BC and 66 AD, so “wilderness” (or deserted) may refer to the city and not the road; however this road eventually met the great desert separating Palestine from Egypt. [ NJBC]

Verse 27: “Ethiopian”: At the time, this term meant Nubian . [ NOAB] “Ethiopian” is probably meant to evoke a far distant land, as in Amos 9:7. Perhaps his presence in Jerusalem is possibly meant as a fulfilment of Psalm 63:31: “... let Ethiopia hasten to stretch out its hands to God”. [ JANT]

Verses 30-35: Early Christians saw in Isaiah many prophecies of Christ. In the Septuagint translation of Isaiah 52:13, the Greek word translated in Acts 3:13 as “servant” is used for the suffering servant of Yahweh. Isaiah 53:7-8 foretells the suffering of the “servant”. Acts 4:27 and 4:30 speak of “your holy servant Jesus”. The fourth Servant Song is Isaiah 52:13-53:12. The other Servant Songs are Isaiah 42:1-4; 49:1-6; 50:4-11. Matthew tells us in Matthew 8:17 that Jesus’ actions fulfill this prophecy. [ NOAB] The passage the eunuch reads recalls Luke 4:16-21, the passage Jesus reads in the synagogue. [ NJBC]

Verses 35-36: Note the parallel with the walk to Emmaus in Luke 24:13-35. Both stories have sacramental outcomes. [ NJBC]

Verse 36: The eunuch questions as the ideal non-Christian should, but only the Christian reader can. [ NJBC]

Verse 37: The King James Version includes this verse, the eunuch’s confession of faith. Of the ancient manuscripts, only an old Western text ( Irenaeus) includes this verse. It is a baptismal dialogue from the time of Irenaeus. [ NJBC]

Verse 39: “snatched ... away”: The Greek verb is from the vocabulary of heavenly assumptions: see also 2 Corinthians 12:2 (“caught up to to the third heaven”); 1 Thessalonians 4:17; Revelation 12:5 (“snatched away and taken to God and to his throne”); 2 Kings 2:16 (Elijah).

Verse 40: “Caesarea”: 21:8 tells us of Paul staying with Philip the evangelist at his home in Caesarea Maritima. [ NJBC] The town was an important Palestinian seaport where the Roman procurator had his headquarters. [ NOAB]

Psalm 22:23-31

Verses 1-2: Cry for help. [ NOAB]

Verse 1a: Jesus quoted this half verse on the cross: see Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34. [ NJBC]

Verse 2: In 18:41, a psalmist says of his enemies: “They cried for help, but there was no one to save them; they cried to the Lord, but he did not answer them”. [ NJBC]

Verse 3: NJBC suggests either You sit enthroned among the holy ones [the divine council] or in the holy place [the divine council].

Verses 12-18: A description of the psalmist’s condition.[NOAB]

Verses 12-13: The detractors behave like savage wild animals. [ NOAB]

Verse 12: “bulls of Bashan”: Bashan was a fertile area, northeast of the Sea of Galilee, famous for its fine livestock. “Cows of Bashan” are mentioned in Amos 4:1. [ NOAB]

Verses 14-15,17: A vivid account of the poet’s fever and resulting weakness. [ NOAB]

Verse 16: “dogs”: i.e. enemies. They are called “lion” and “wild oxen” in v. 21. [ NOAB]

Verse 16b: The meaning, in the context of the psalm, is unknown. NJBC says that the Hebrew literally means like a lion my hands and feet . He suggests either they have pierced my hands and my feet or they have picked clean my hands and my feet or the NRSV translation.

Verse 18: The psalmist is so near death that his neighbours have already begun to divide his property. [ NOAB]

Verses 19-21: A prayer for healing and deliverance from slanderers. [ NOAB]

Verse 21: Note that the animals whom the detractors emulate in vv. 12-13 are those from which God saves the psalmist in this verse – in reverse order.

Verse 22: For formal thanksgiving in the liturgical assembly, see also v. 25 and 7:17. The psalmist’s thanksgiving will probably include a sacrifice. [ NOAB]

Verses 23-31: The hymn that will be sung in the Temple on this occasion. [ NOAB]

Verses 29-31: God will not only rescue the psalmist but also all nations and those who have died. [ CAB] The psalmist’s call to all Israelites to join him in praising God now widens to include all humankind. [ NJBC]

1 John 4:7-21

This section takes up the second part of the double commandment. [ NJBC]

Verses 7-12: Christ has shown us God’s love. Love distinguishes the person who “knows God” from the one who does not: see also 2:4-5; 3:1, 11. Christ’s death in expiation of sin is again invoked as the example of the obligation that Christians must follow. 3:16 says: “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us – and we ought to lay down our lives for one another”. [ NJBC]

Verse 9: “revealed among us”: Not only is God’s love revealed to the Christian in Jesus, but it can also be said to be revealed “among” the Christian community, which now has life through that love. In John 5:26, Jesus says “‘For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself’”. See also John 6:57 and 1 John 5:11. [ NJBC]

Verse 10: “atoning sacrifice for our sins”: 2:2 speaks of Jesus Christ in these terms. [ NOAB]

Verse 12a: “No one has ever seen God”: This statement also appears in John 1:18. [ NOAB] This is a general maxim that the Johannine tradition had employed to insist that only Jesus reveals the Father. See also John 5:37; 6:46. [ NJBC]

Verses 13-18: The Holy “Spirit” (v. 13) testifies that “Jesus” (v. 15), God’s “Son”, has revealed his “Father” (v. 14) as love. When his love is “perfected” (matured) in us, “fear of judgement” is allayed: 2:28 says “... abide in him, so that when he is revealed we may have confidence and not be put to shame before him at his coming”. See also 3:21. [ NOAB]

Verses 13-16a: We know God’s love through the Holy Spirit. [ NJBC]

Verses 16b-21: Our confidence: abiding in God’s love. [ NJBC]

Verse 17: “Love has been perfected ...”: 2:5 says “... whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection ...”. [ NJBC]

Verses 19-21: Love originates in God. Failure to love is visible evidence of a breach with the unseen God, and a violation of his commandment. [ NOAB]

Verses 20-21: The double commandment is also found in 3:23. The need for fraternal love on the part of one who loves God is also found in Matthew 25:40. [ NJBC]

John 15:1-8

Verses 1-27: In presenting the pattern of the Christian believer’s life, Jesus defines three dimensions:

  • Vv. 1-11: the believer’s relationship to Christ: “abide” (v. 4)
  • Vv. 12-17: the relationship of believers to one another: “love” (v. 12)
  • Vv. 18-27: the believer’s relationship to the world. [ NOAB]

Has the original order of the Gospel been changed at some time in the distant past? That this chapter opens abruptly suggests, along with other clues, that it has. If this chapter originally followed immediately after the account of the Last Supper, and if the original account included an account of the institution of the Eucharist (now in the discourse in Chapter 6 – see especially 6:53-58), then the reference in v. 1 to the “true vine” would have followed closely on that to the bread of life, and its eucharistic reference would have been unmistakable. [ BlkJn]

Verse 1: “I am”: This is one of seven sayings which begin “I am” and are followed by nouns (e.g. “the light of the world”, 8:12, “the door for the sheep”, 10:7). The absence of parallel passages in other gospels, their occurrence in Hellenistic religious literature, and the fact that these sayings embody some of the most characteristic themes of this gospel, all suggest that these are not strictly sayings of Jesus but of a Christian prophet speaking in his name. [ BlkJn] It is also noteworthy that the exact Greek phrase occurs in the Septuagint translation of Exodus 3:13-14, where God answers Moses inquiry as to what his name is with ego eimi , I am. [ CCB]

Verses 1-11: As “the true vine”, Jesus is the true Israel, fulfilling the vocation in which the old Israel had failed. [ NOAB] For Israel as a vine or vineyard which God has planted, see Isaiah 5:1-7 (the Song of the Unfruitful Vineyard); Isaiah 27:2ff; Jeremiah 2:21; 12:10ff; Ezekiel 17:5; 19:10-14; Psalm 80:8-16. Jesus may well have these texts in mind. [ BlkJn]

Jesus’ (and John’s) audience knew much more about viticulture than most of us do today. Viticulture was very labour-intensive, requiring constant care. Growers even moved to the vineyards before and during the harvest. Pruning is important in increasing yield. Drastic pruning is performed on vines which do not produce grapes. The wood of a vine is useless: it can only be burnt. Wine and grapes were an important export. Israel recognized the vine as a gift from God. For knowledge of viticulture, see Ezekiel 17:7-10.

Verse 1: “the vinegrower”: Jesus used the imagery of the present allegory, for a different purpose, in Mark 12:1-12. [ BlkJn]

Verse 2: “bears fruit”: This is a familiar image for living the Christian life: in Romans 7:4-6, Paul writes: “... you have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God. While we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we are slaves not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit”. See also Colossians 1:6, 10; Mark 4:14-20 (the Parable of the Sower). [ BlkJn]

Verse 3: “cleansed by the word”:Recall Jesus’ words in 14:23: “‘Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them’”. [ BlkJn]

Verse 5: “bear much fruit”: In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul tells us that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control”. The fruit-bearing of the new Israel, i.e. the Church, springs from union (actual incorporation) with Christ. [ NOAB]

Verse 6: “thrown into the fire”: In Matthew 3:10, John the Baptiser warns some of those who come for baptism: “Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire”. See also 13:30. The idea that the ungodly would burn after judgement is found in other contemporary literature, e.g. 2 Esdras.

Verse 7: “my words abide in you”: This is another way of saying “keep my commandments” ( 14:15, 21),”keep my word” ( 14:23, 24). [ BlkJn]

Verse 9: For the love of the Father for Christ, see also 3:35; 10:17; 17:23-24, 26; for the love of Christ for the disciples, see 13:34; 15:12. [ BlkJn]

Verses 10-11: You will achieve unity with Christ and a loving relationship with him by being obedient to his will; being in unity is a joyous experience. Note 4:35-36: “Do you not say, 'Four months more, then comes the harvest'? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together.”

Verse 10: For Christ keeping his Father’s commandments, see also 8:28-30 and 14:31. In 14:31, “I love the Father” corresponds to “abide in his love” here. [ BlkJn]

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