Lesson: Joshua 5:9-12
9 The LORD said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt.” And so that place is called Gilgal to this day.
10 While the Israelites were camped in Gilgal, they kept the passover in the evening on the fourteenth day of the month in the plains of Jericho. 11 On the day after the passover, on that very day, they ate the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. 12 The manna ceased on the day they ate the produce of the land, and the Israelites no longer had manna; they ate the crops of the land of Canaan that year.
The Book of Joshua is part of the “Deuteronomic History” (Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings), most of which was written from about 650 to 600 BCE. This Book covers the entry of the Israelites into the Promised Land by crossing the River Jordan (Chapters 1 to 5), the swift (and idealized) conquest by Joshua of the people who were in the land starting with Jericho (Chapters 6 to 12), the allocation of the conquered lands among the tribes (Chapters 13 to 23) and concludes with the “Covenant at Shechem” in Chapter 24 by which the people swore (acting as their own witnesses) to be faithful to YHWH. The timeframe of the events in the Book would be around 1225 BCE, if the accounts are historical.
Today’s reading is set just after the Israelites crossed the River Jordan and just before the Conquest began. It is part of a Priestly insertion into the Book and was written in the period from about 550 to 450 BCE. It reflects two major concerns of the Priestly writers – the timing and celebration of the feasts, and circumcision as a separating sign for Jews. The circumcision of all the men is described in the verses preceding today’s reading (vv. 2-8).
The reading recounts the first Passover in Canaan and Israel’s becoming an agrarian society. (Whenever the phrase “on that very day” occurs, it is a “trademark” of the Priestly concern for accuracy in the dates for celebrating rituals.)
The place of the Passover Celebration is Gilgal, which means “the round place” and is a play on words for YHWH’s “rolling away the disgrace of Egypt” (v.9). Scholars surmise that the “disgrace” refers to the fact that (according to the story) Israelite men who were born in the 40 years in the Wilderness had not been circumcised, a matter which would have been of great concern to the Priestly writers. This “disgrace” was “remedied” in the first part of Chapter 5 so that after the men were healed (v.8), they would be allowed to participate in the Passover Celebration and would be proper warriors for YHWH in the upcoming Conquest.
The Passover celebration described here was only of unleavened bread and parched grain (v.11) and there is no mention of the Paschal Lamb. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary suggests that the reference was to the older festival of Unleavened Bread which was later combined with the sacrifice of a lamb to create the Passover meal as described in Exodus.
Epistle: 2 Corinthians 5:16-21
16 From now on, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 17 If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Corinth, a large port city in Greece, was among the early Jesus Follower communities that Paul founded. Its culture was diverse and Hellenistic. Corinthians emphasized reason and secular wisdom. In addition to Paul, other Jesus Followers taught in Corinth, sometimes in ways inconsistent with Paul’s understandings of what it meant to be a Jesus Follower.
Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians was written in the 50’s (CE) and presented his views on many issues that were controversial in this Jesus Follower Community. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians was written in opposition to “false apostles” (11.13). It seems to be a composite of fragments from other letters that have been lost, some of which are referred to in the letter with which we are presented. Some of the statements in the letter are inconsistent with other statements in Paul’s epistles.
Today’s reading emphasized God’s reconciliation with the world through the Christ and urged the Corinthians to be reconciled to God. Being “in Christ” (v.17) is a phrase often used by Paul, and the footnotes to The New Oxford Annotated Bible describe being “in Christ” as “a new creation, the cosmic [or eschatological] reversal of the primordial fall” that is now in progress.
The last verse is difficult and is sometimes better understood as “Because the Christ became a human being [i.e.Jesus of Nazareth] who did not sin we have a relationship with the Christ through which we can be in a right relationship (righteousness) with God.”
Gospel: Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
1 All the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
3 So Jesus told them this parable:
11b “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. 14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16 He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”‘ 20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21 Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe–the best one–and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.
25 “Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27 He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28 Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ 31 Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.'”
The Gospel According to Luke is generally regarded as having been written around 85 CE. Its author also wrote the Acts of the Apostles. Both books were written in elegant and deliberatively crafted Greek and presented Jesus of Nazareth as the universal savior of humanity. Both emphasized the Holy Spirit as the “driving force” for events.
The Gospel followed the same general chronology of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection as the Gospel of Mark, and more than 40% of Luke’s Gospel was based on Mark. The other portions of Luke include (a) sayings shared with the Gospel According to Matthew but not found in Mark and (b) stories that are unique to Luke such as the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Presentation in the Temple, the Prodigal Son, and the Good Samaritan.
Today’s reading is the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Unlike the two parables that immediately precede it (the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin), the parable does not involve searching for that which is lost.
In the Hebrew Bible, the first son was entitled to a “double portion” (Deut. 21:17) of his father’s estate, so if the father had two sons, the younger son would have been entitled (upon the father’s death) to one-third of the father’s estate. Nevertheless, to ask for one’s inheritance while the father was alive was not only deeply disrespectful (“I treat you as dead, father”) but it would have been a severe hardship to liquidate assets to provide this share to the son.
Not only does the son squander the money, he behaves like a Gentile in feeding pigs (v.15).
When he returned, it was not to repent, but for economic reasons – so he could have food (v.17). The father’s running to the son (v.20) would be seen by the hearers as highly undignified behavior by an older person. Robes were worn for ceremonial reasons, and consuming meat (much less a fatted calf) was very unusual (v.23). Shoes/sandals were worn only by free persons; slaves would have been barefoot.
The elder son refused to recognize his brother (“this son of yours” v.30) but the father reminded him that this was his brother (v.32).
On the question of who the older son represents in the story, The Jewish Annotated New Testament correctly notes: “A common reading is the identification of the older brother as the recalcitrant Pharisee, who refuses to welcome sinners. However, if the father is seen as God and the elder as the Pharisee, then the parable necessarily sees the Pharisees as heirs to God’s promises (15.31).”