Lesson: Exodus 20:1-17
1 Then God spoke all these words:
2 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; 3 you shall have no other gods before me.
4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, 6 but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7 You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
8 Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy. 9 For six days you shall labor and do all your work. 10 But the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son, or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore, the LORD blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.
12 Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
13 You shall not murder.
14 You shall not commit adultery.
15 You shall not steal.
16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
17 You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
The Book of Exodus is the second book of the Torah/Pentateuch and covers the period from the slavery in Egypt under Pharaoh (around 1250 BCE, if the account is historical), the Exodus itself, and the early months in the Wilderness.
Today’s reading is set at Mount Sinai (“Horeb” in other parts of Exodus and in Deuteronomy) during the time in the Wilderness. In it, YHWH (“LORD” in all capital letters in the NRSV) gave the Decalogue – the “ten words” (v.1) – often called the Ten Commandments. The LORD is stated to be the author of the Ten Words. Implicit in this attribution of authorship is the notion that the LORD is the “king” of Israel – just as kings were the lawgivers in other ancient societies.
The structure of the Decalogue was a covenant: YHWH recounted what had been done for the Israelites (v.2) and then directed reciprocal obligations of the people (vv.3-17). Verse 3 does not command monotheism (there is only one God), but states that the people shall not worship any other gods, a belief system called “henotheism.” The worship of an imageless God (v.4) distinguished the Israelites from its neighbors. Verses 5 and 6 presented perceptions of God as “jealous” and “punishing those who reject me” but showing steadfast love to those who love the LORD and obey God’s laws. Commentators suggest that the notion that God is “jealous” is an anthropomorphism and that “jealousy” is the feeling that a faithful spouse (God) expects their spouse (Israel) to be faithful as well.
This is one of three versions of the Decalogue. It is called the “Priestly Decalogue” because it refers to the Priestly account of creation in which God rested on the seventh day. Other versions of the Decalogue appear in Exodus 34:11-26 (the “Ritual Decalogue”) and in Deuteronomy 5:6-21. In the Deuteronomic version, wives do not “belong” to men (Dt. 5:21), and the rationale for observing the Sabbath is the liberation of the Israelites from Egypt rather than God’s resting on the seventh day of creation.
Epistle: 1 Corinthians 1:18-25
18 The message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
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.
In today’s reading, Paul criticized of the “wisdom of the world” and asserted that “God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom” (v.25). He explained that selfless love (the cross) is foolishness to those who rely on the so-called wisdom of the world (v. 18, 20). As he often did, Paul paraphrased (and modified) verses from the prophets. Verse 19 is loosely based on Isaiah 29:14.
God’s wisdom (v. 21) is the plan of salvation and includes the crucifixion of the Christ/Messiah/Anointed One of God. For Jews, a crucified Messiah was indeed a “stumbling block” (v. 23) because a Messiah who suffered was not a generally accepted notion in First Century Judaism. Because crucifixion was a particularly painful and degrading Roman form of execution, it was also inconsistent with the secular wisdom of the Greeks that expected kings and wise persons to overcome their enemies.
Gospel: John 2:13-22
13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15 Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 18 The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking of the temple of his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
The Fourth Gospel is different in many ways from the Synoptic Gospels. The “signs” (miracles) and many of the stories in the Fourth Gospel are unique to it, such as the Wedding at Cana, Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well, and the Raising of Lazarus.
The chronology of the Fourth Gospel is also different. In the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus made one trip to Jerusalem as an adult just before the Crucifixion. In the Fourth Gospel, he made three trips. In the Synoptic Gospels, the Incident in the Temple occurred after Palm Sunday and is presented as the “last straw” for the Romans and the Temple Authorities. In the Fourth Gospel, the Incident – usually referred to as the “Cleansing of the Temple” – occurred in Jesus’ first trip to Jerusalem.
The introductory phrase “the Passover of the Jews” shows that the author of the Gospel considered it necessary to explain this feast to some of the Gentile audience. The designation “the Jews” is a shorthand reference used by the author of the Fourth Gospel for the Temple Authorities and the Pharisees. It is not a reference to the Jewish people, especially since Jesus was a Jew, and his disciples were Jews.
Because animal sacrifice was performed in the Temple until 70 CE when the Romans destroyed it, and because the Temple tax had to be paid in the official half-shekel, it is not clear that the activities being conducted in the Temple were improper. Jesus’ actions reported in all four gospels can be seen, however, as fulfilling the prophesy in Zechariah 14:21 that on the Day of the LORD, there would no longer be traders in the house of the LORD. In verse 17, the saying about zeal for God’s house is taken from Psalm 69:9.
In verse 22, the author was saying that, after the Resurrection, the disciples treated Jesus’ statements during his lifetime as “the word” and the equivalent of scripture.