Friday, June 6
Matthew 24:36-42: The second illustration, in the extended exhortation to vigilance, is the example of Noah at the time of the flood. All the signs of impending danger were present, but only Noah was able to read them. According to the Epistle to the Hebrews, "By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith" (11:7).
But Noah not only lived in righteousness; he also proclaimed righteousness. The Apostle Peter referred to him as "a preacher of righteousness" (2 Peter 2:5), and late in the first century Clement of Rome wrote that "Noah preached repentance, and those who heeded him were saved" (7.6).
This picture of Noah as a righteous preacher of repentance came to the early Christians from Jewish lore about that famous builder of the ark. Flavius Josephus wrote of Noah’s relationship to his contemporaries in this way: "Noah was most uncomfortable with their actions, and, not at all happy with their conduct, he persuaded them to improve their dispositions and their actions. Seeing, nonetheless, that they did not obey him but remained slaves to their own wicked desires, he feared that they would slay him, together with his wife and children, as well as the spouses of the latter, so he departed out of that land" (Antiquities 13.1).
Unable to convert his contemporaries, Noah then followed the divine leading to build an ark for the delivery of his family. He knew that God intended to flood the earth and destroy its wicked. This is what things will be like, says our Lord, at the end of the world.
The similarity between “days of Noah” and the “advent” (parousia–verses 3,27,37,39) of the Son of Man consists in the suddenness of the crisis. Not until it is actually upon them do men realize what is happening. It is literally a kataklysmos (verses 38,39), from the verb klyzo, “to wash over,” “to wash away.” The people in Noah’s time, like those at the beginning of The Plague, by Albert Camus, were living what they thought were normal lives, not expecting the catastrophe about to befall them. This is how it will be when the Son of Man returns.
Among those people living normal lives will be believers. They will be living with the unbelievers, working in the fields, grinding at the mill (verses 40-41). Yet, God will distinguish between the believer and the unbeliever. He will take the one and leave the other.
This distinction, or judgment, already introduced in the parables of the tares and wheat (13:24-30,38-42) and the good and bad fish (13:47-50), is not taken up thematically. It will appear in the parables of the good and bad servant (verses 45-51), the wise and foolish virgins (25:1-13), and the sheep and goats (25:31-46). God’s judgment means that some men be saved, others lost. Holy Scripture gives no evidence of any other conclusion.
Saturday, June 7
Matthew 24:45-51: Matthew’s third metaphor for the last days is drawn from common social experience—namely, the vigilance necessary to prevent the entrance of a burglar into the home (verses 43-44). This image of impeding thievery appears often in the New Testament, not always as a quotation from Jesus. In his very first epistle, nonetheless, St. Paul explicitly presumes that his readers are already familiar with it (1 Thessalonians 5:2). Matthew and Luke (12:39-40) are nearly identical in their preservation of this wording of this parable. The warning to the Church at Sardis is very similar in its wording (Revelation 3:3). Second Peter 3:10 and 1 Thessalonians 5:2 both add “in the night” after “thief.” The metaphor appears again in Revelation 16:15.
This image of the household in danger introduces the parable distinguishing the wise, good, and loyal servant from the lazy, dissolute, and wicked one (verses 45-51). This is the first of three consecutive stories in Matthew, in which the passage of time is integral to the testing of God’s servants. The next two are the parables of the ten virgins (25:1-13) and the talents give to three servants (25:14-30). Although Matthew encapsulates the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world into a consistent set of images, it would be wrong to interpret too literally the word "immediately" in verse 29. These next three parables, in fact, suggest that the end of the world may still be some way off.
Nonetheless, the Lord’s return in judgment must be constantly looked for, and the anticipation of it becomes a formal principle of Christian morality. Hence, this parable distinguishing the loyal and unfaithful servant is the first of four parables about the final judgment. All four end in punishment for those who are unfaithful (verse 51; 25:12,30,41,46).
In this first parable Jesus describes as “faithful and wise” (verse 45). In the present context “faithful” (pistos) probably bears the meaning of “loyal” rather than “believing.” Several times St. Paul uses this very adjective to describe the ideal pastor, missionary, or Christian leader (1 Corinthians 4:1-12; Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 1:7; Titus 1:9). In the present text, we observe that the vocation of this servant is to feed the others in the household (verse 46).
He is also called phronimos, often translated as “prudent” or “wise,” but perhaps better rendered here as “thoughtful” or “reflective.” It is the same adjective used to describe five of the maidens in the next parable (25:2,4,8,9). Matthew also uses it to describe the man who builds his house on a rock foundation (7:24). It is the characteristic that Christians are to share with snakes! (10:16)
The wicked servant, on the other hand, assures himself that he still has opportunity to neglect his stewardship. He is coaxed into this disposition precisely because there appears to be a delay in the return of his master. "My master is delaying His coming," he says to himself (verse 48). That is to say, the sense of a postponement is an essential part of the story. The failure of the servant has to do with his inability to deal with the prolonged passage of time. What he lacks is perseverance. The Son of Man will come when the slackers do not expect him (verses 44,50).
Whereas in Luke (12:46) the punishment of the unfaithful servant places him among “unbelievers,” in Matthew he shares the lot of the “hypocrites” (verse 57). Matthew thus sounds again the repeated condemnation of the hypocrites in the previous chapter (23:13,14,15,23,25,27,28).
Also unlike Luke, Matthew here refers to “weeping and gnashing of teeth” as an element of the final condemnation. This expression is fairly often found in Matthew as a concluding statement of judgment (8:12; 13:42,50; 22:13).
Sunday, June 8
Psalm 24: As indicated in the New Testament, the recorded testimony of eyewitnesses is the basis for the Church’s proclamation of the Gospel and, consequently, for the articles of the Creed (cf. John 1:14; Acts 1:21, 22; 1 Cor. 15:1–8; 1 John 1:1–3). Certain specific events, occurring within time and space, were both the direct objects of empirical observation and the topics of apostolic preaching: “For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).
There are exceptions to this rule, nonetheless, for certain other events, though central to both the Gospel and the Creed, were neither seen nor heard by anyone on the earth; they were not empirically available within time and space, for the simple reason that they did not take place in this world. Such events include the conquering descent of Christ into Hades (cf. Eph. 4:9; 1 Peter 3:19) and His glorious entrance into heaven. These two events are celebrated on Holy Saturday and Ascension Thursday, respectively, the days at either side of that period during which the risen Lord “presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).
Relative to the Lord’s Ascension, we may say that the Church saw Him “going” (Luke 24:51; Acts 1:9) but not “arriving.” That triumphant arrival in heaven, nonetheless—Jesus’ crowning as “Lord of all”—is explicitly affirmed in the New Testament (cf. Mark 16:19; Phil. 2:9; 1 Tim. 3:16).
The heavenly glorification of our Lord Jesus Christ is not simply an aftermath to our redemption, but rather an essential component of the very sacrifice of the Cross. His Ascension is integral to our Lord’s priesthood. Indeed, if Jesus simply “were on earth, He would not be a priest” (Heb. 8:4). The atoning sacrifice of Christ did not end on Golgotha, but was rendered perfect and complete by His definitive entrance into the eternal Holy of Holies: “But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. . . . For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us” (Heb. 9:11, 24).
Psalm 24 (Greek and Latin 23) is a celebration of the Lord’s entrance into that heavenly sanctuary and royal court: “Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.”
This “blessing from the Lord,” this “righteousness from the God of his salvation” is the eternal redemption won for us by the sacrifice of Jesus at His heavenly glorification: “Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption” (Heb. 9:12); “But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God” (10:12).
This King of Glory comes to the entrance of heaven with the blood of the conflict still fresh upon Him (cf. Is. 63:1–6; Rev. 19:13), and a kind of dialogue takes place as the angels call for the opening of the portcullis at the approach of the returning Warrior: “Lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.”
The moment, however, is most special and most to be prolonged. Indeed, the moment is eternal, and the angelic dialogue goes on: “Lift up your heads, O you gates! Lift up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory.”
By virtue of the redemption, all of creation belongs to this Jesus, King and Priest, for God “raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Eph. 1:20–23). Thus, our psalm begins: “The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein.”
Monday, June 9
1 Samuel 24: When Saul’s jealousy and dangerous behavior drove David from the royal court, he was obliged to wander, much like an outlaw, in the desert regions in the south of Judah. Harassed and pursued by the army of the increasingly deranged king, David was constantly on the move, he and his small band of friends, hiding here and there as chance provided, often hungry and always exposed to danger. Saul had put a price on David’s head, moreover, so there was the added peril of betrayal; the king’s spies might be anywhere.
David’s plight was dire indeed: “in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness,” “being destitute, afflicted, tormented,” while wandering “in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth” (2 Corinthians 11:27; Hebrews 11:37-38).
It was apparently during this period that David composed some of those many psalms on the themes of persecution and treachery. For example, the ancient titles of the Psalms assign Psalm 52 (51) to the time of Doeg’s betrayal of David (1 Samuel 22:9), Psalm 54 (53) to the incident when David was sold out by the Ziphites (23:19), and Psalm 57 (56) to David’s seeking refuge in the cave of Adullam (22:1).
The present reading tells the story of David’s concealment in another cave, this one at En-gedi, just west of the Dead Sea, where Saul had led a military detachment to apprehend the young fugitive. The circumstances of this encounter draw attention to two features of the story, both of them typical of this whole period of David’s desert wandering.
First, there is the quiet, subtle working of Divine Providence, whereby the Lord protects David from capture and delivers his enemy into his power. This theme will be repeated in the next two chapters, the story of David and Nebal, and a second encounter with Saul.
Second, David shows mercy to Saul, whom he yet regards as Israel’s rightful king. This trait of mercy will also be manifest (and put to the test) in the two chapters that follow.
Throughout this period of great hardship and relentless persecution David learned by experience that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). God has “called” David to become the next and better king, and David must bide God’s time and pleasure to reveal that call.
Tuesday, June 10
Matthew 25:31-46: The story of the Last Judgment, which closes Matthew’s fifth great discourse and comes immediately before the account of the Lord’s Passion, was chosen by the Orthodox Church to be read immediately before the start of Lent each year. This custom places the Last Judgment as the context for repentance.
This parable makes it very clear, if we needed further clarity, that "a man is justified by works, not be faith alone" and that "faith without works is dead" (James 2:24,26).
It is imperative to observe that the last activity ascribed to Christ in the Nicene Creed is that "He will come again in glory to judge." This is Matthew’s fourth straight parable about the parousia of the Son of Man for the purpose of judgment. He had introduced this theme of final judgment much earlier, among the parables of the Kingdom (13:41), and in the coming trial before the Sanhedrin in the next chapter the Lord will speak very solemnly on this subject by way of warning to Israel’s official leaders: “I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven” (26:64).
Let us also observe that the Son of Man does not return to earth alone. He is accompanied by the angels, who have a distinct function in the coming trial (verse 31; 13:41,49; 16:27; cf. Zechariah 14:5; 1 Thessalonians 3:13).
The Son of Man will sit in judgment over “all the nations”–panta ta ethne (verse 32; 24:14; 28:19). Israel is numbered among these nations. As in any trial, a verdict will be given, leading to a division, the latter symbolized by the sheep and the goats.
The Son of Man is identified as the King (verses 34;40), an image that goes back to the beginning of Matthew’s narrative (1:1,20; 2:2,13-14) and will appear again at the Lord’s trial and crucifixion (27:11,29,37,42).
The elect are addressed as the “blessed of My Father” (verse 24). The inherited Kingdom has been planned and prepared since the beginning of Creation; it had been in the divine mind all along.
Then comes the criterion of the judgment, in which we recognize the components of Luke’s parable of the Good Samaritan (10:29-37)
Especially to be noted in this parable is Jesus’ association with all mankind, especially the poor, the destitute, and the neglected. To serve the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the sick, and the imprisoned is to serve Jesus, who identifies Himself with them. This is the basis for all Christian service to suffering humanity. This is not a negligible aspect of the Gospel; it pertains to the very subject matter of the final judgment.
The dominant idea of this parable, in fact, is the divine judgment. God really does judge. He really does discriminate. He will not confuse a just man and an unjust man. He discerns the difference, and that difference means a great deal to Him. He does not take difference lightly. He assigns eternal destinies to men on the basis of that difference.
This is what we see in the present parable: Sheep and goats are spread asunder, just as wise and unwise maidens are separated one from another, and wheat is distinguished from chaff. In this world the generous and the mean have existed side by side, but at the judgment it will be so no more.
How can we know where we stand with respect to that judgment? In a sense, we cannot know. In a sense, it is not important that we know. We might become complacent. God will not have a Christian feel so secure that he neglects his duties in this world.
In the present parable the just are not preoccupied with themselves. They are preoccupied with the needs of the poor. Their lives are spent addressing those needs. They have neither the leisure nor the inclination to think about themselves, even about their “eternal security.” They are too busy doing God’s will with respect to their fellow men.
Thus, at the final judgment, they arrive unaware that they have ever served Christ at all. They imagined all along that they were taking care of the poor, simply because the poor needed to be cared for. At the judgment, then, the righteous are even surprised that they have been serving Christ all along. Their thoughts have been solely for the crying needs of their fellow men. They have had neither time nor opportunity to think about themselves.
As for the unrighteous, they are condemned to “eternal fire” (verses 41,46), this image apparently identical to the “fires of Gehenna” in 5:22. This fire also appeared in the parables of the Kingdom (13:30,40,42,50). This fire was not intended for human beings but was “prepared for the devil and his angels.” In this respect, heaven and hell are very different, because heaven was “prepared for you from the foundation of the earth? (verse 34). It was never God’s intention that men should be damned. He predestined no soul to hell. Men choose that fate for themselves when they join themselves to “the devil and his angels.”
The condemnation of the unjust—“Depart from Me”—is the direct antithesis of the invitation offered to everyone through the Gospel: “Come to Me” (11:28).
Each of the four parables of the last judgment (24:45—25:46) ends with an emphasis on condemnation. The negligent servant is condemned after the faithful servant is rewarded (24:46-48). The five foolish maidens are condemned after the five prudent ones have been rewarded (25:10-12). The slothful steward is condemned after the industrious stewards have been rewarded (25:21-26). The goats are condemned after the sheep have been rewarded (25:40-41).
Two things are to be inferred from this sequence. First, it shows that the parables serve chiefly as warnings. The promised reward is spoken of first, in order to set up the warning. Second, it suggests that God’s punishment is an afterthought, as I have already suggested. It was not part of His original plan, so to speak. Punishment was not part of God’s original plan for mankind.
The same adjective, aionion (“eternal” or “everlasting”), is used to describe both heaven and hell. This parallel points to the confusion of those who deny the eternity of hell. One cannot logically deny the eternity of hell without denying the eternity of heaven.
Wednesday, June 11
The Feast of Saint Barnabas: Although the history of Christian iconography may give us an idea of what some early saints looked like (the very primitive sketch of Peter and Paul in the excavations under the Vatican, for example), it is generally hard to gain knowledge of this sort from the New Testament. It is true that, unless the expression “of short stature” in Luke 19:3 refers to Jesus (which is grammatically possible), we know that Zacchaeus the tax collector was not tall, and we are probably justified in suspecting that Mary of Bethany was blest with ample tresses (cf. John 11:2; 12:3). On the whole, however, the New Testament is not a copious source for such information.
It differs, in this respect, from the Old Testament, which more often remarks on the physical characteristics of this or that individual. We are told, for example, of David’s handsome complexion (1 Samuel 16:12;
17:42), Saul’s unusual height (9:2; 10:23), and the density of Absalom’s hair (14:26; 18:9). We learn too, with no little distress, that Esau’s skin felt like a goat’s (Genesis 27:16–23), and of Elisha we are informed, not only that he was bald, but that he was more than slightly sensitive on the subject (2 Kings 2:23–24). Regarding the women of the Old Testament, the reader may lose track of how many are described as beautiful.
If the New Testament is less satisfactory in providing these engaging details, there is a major exception in the case of Barnabas. We really do have a good idea of what Barnabas looked like, because some ancient devotees of Zeus mistook him for the object of their devotion.
It happened in the city of Lystra, where Paul had just healed a lifelong cripple. In immediate response to this marvel, the citizens of the city “raised their voices, saying in the Lycaonian language, ‘The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!’” After that, matters got very much out of hand. In the enthusiasm of the moment, “the priest of
Zeus, whose temple was in front of their city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, intending to sacrifice with the multitudes.” Because of the language barrier, which apparently required them to speak through an interpreter, it took several minutes for the two apostles to put a stop to the business, but they eventually did so, proceeding then to preach one of the shortest sermons in history (three verses). Even then, says the text, “with these sayings they could scarcely restrain the multitudes from sacrificing to them” (Acts 14:8–18).
Now the curious point here is that the crowd, persuaded that the gods had just arrived in town, took Barnabas for Zeus. It was somewhat natural, given their premise, that they thought Paul to be Hermes, the messenger god, “because he was the chief speaker.” Indeed, it was Paul who had healed the lame man with a simple command. But why Barnabas as Zeus? It must have had something to do with his appearance. These folks would never have taken an average-looking guy to be Zeus.
Now it happens that we know exactly what sort of fellow those people thought Zeus, should he ever come to visit his temple, would look like, because Zeus is portrayed in dozens of extant old art works and described in scores of ancient texts. This “father of gods and men” was massive in height and powerfully muscular in bulk. His great brow extended broad and serene over clear, far-seeing eyes, and a full majestic beard lay upon his barrel chest. Brother to Poseidon, god of the sea,
Zeus, when he condescended to speak, spoke with the deep rumblings of oceanic authority. Now this . . . this is what the citizens of Lystra saw in Barnabas! No wonder they were impressed.
In fact, they never quite lost their awe in the presence of Barnabas. A few days later, when some Jews from Iconium arrived and stirred up the crowd against the two apostles, it was Paul that they stoned, nearly to death. Nobody dared throw a stone at Barnabas! (14:19–20)
The impressive appearance of Barnabas was matched by his generosity and nobility of soul. He made one of the first large financial donations to the Christian Church, and it was the trusted Barnabas who could introduce the recently converted Saul of Tarsus to the frightened Jerusalem church, oversee the new ministry at Antioch, lead the first mission to Cyprus and Pisidia, and later restore young John Mark to the mission field (4:36–37; 11:22–25; 13:2–14; 15:36–39). Reassured even to be in the presence of this huge, competent, and gentle human being, all Christians knew Barnabas as the “Son of Consolation.”
(From P. H. Reardon, Christ in His Saints)
Thursday, June 12
The Gospel of Mark Outlined: In the Saint James Daily Devotional Guide, the Gospel of Mark is outlined section by section. The full outline is given here:
Introduction (1:1-13): Jesus is introduced to the reader as God’s Son, especially in verses 1 & 11.
Part I. The mystery of Jesus as Messiah is progressively revealed to the others in the story, first the demons and then the disciples (1:14—8:3). In this section there are three parts, each beginning with a summary, containing a pericope about the disciples, and ending with some mention of unbelief, called blindness or hardness of heart. This first half of the Gospel of Mark closes with Peter’s Confession of Jesus as Messiah, which leads immediately into the second half of the Gospel.
A. Jesus with the crowd and the Jewish Leaders (1:14—3:6)
1. Summary of the Gospel (1:14-15)
2. The Call of the First Disciples (1:16-20)
3. The Teaching of Jesus With Power and Miracles (1:21-45)
4. The First Disputes With the Enemies (2:1—3:5)
a. Forgiveness of the Paralytic (2:1-12)
b. The Tax Collectors (2:13-17)
c. The Question of Fasting (2:18-22)
d. Lord of the Sabbath (2:23-28)
e. The Man With the Withered hand (3:1-5)
5. The Unbelief of the Pharisees (3:6)
B. Jesus and the Disciples (3:7—6:6a)
1. Summary of Healings and Exorcisms (3:7-12)
2. The Choice of the Twelve (3:13-19)
3. Jesus Withdraws With His Disciples (3:20-35)
4. Jesus Teaches His Disciples
a. By Four Parables (4:1-34)
b. By Four Miracles (4:35—5:43)
5. The Unbelief of Jesus’ Compatriots (6:1-6a)
C. The Messiah is Revealed to His Disciples (6:6b—8:26)
1. Summary of Healings (6:6b)
2. The Mission of the Twelve (6:7-13)
3. Jesus and John the Baptist (6:14-29)
4. The Bread Cycles in Parallel (6:30-
a. The First Cycle (6:30—7:37)
The Multiplication of the Loaves (6:30-44)
The Boat Trip (6:45-56)
The Dispute With the Pharisees (7:1-1)
A Discourse on Bread (7:14-30)
The Healing of Speech and Hearing (7:31-37)
b. The Second Cycle (8:1-30)
The Multiplication of the Loaves (8:1-9a)
The Boat Trip (8:9b-10)
The Dispute With the Pharisees (8:11-13)
The Unbelief of the Disciples and
A Discourse on Bread (8:14-21)
The Healing of Sight (8:22-26) (cf. 10:46-52)
The End of Part I: Jesus Confessed as Messiah (8:27-30)
Part II. The Sufferings of the Son of Man, and the Resurrection of the Lord
A. Three Prophecies of the Passion and Resurrection (8:27—10:52)
1. The First Prophecy
a. The Passion and Resurrection Foretold (8:31)
b. The Disciples Fail to Understand the Cross (8:32-33)
c. Jesus Instructs About the Cross (8:34—9:1)
d. The Transfiguration and Elijah (9:2-13)
e. The Healing of the Epileptic Child (9:14-29)
2. The Second Prophecy
a. The Passion and Resurrection Foretold (9:30-31)
b. The Disciples Fail to Understand the Cross (9:32-34)
c. Jesus Instructs About the Cross (9:35-57)
d. Marriage, Children, Economy (10:1-31)
3. The Third Prophecy
a. The Passion and Resurrection Foretold (10:33-34)
b. The Disciples Fail to Understand the Cross (10:35-37)
c. Jesus Instructs About the Cross (10:38-45)
d. The Healing of Sight (10:46-52) (cf. 8:22-26)
B. The Revelation in Jerusalem (11:1—12:37)
1. The Messianic Entry (11:1-11)
2. The Fig Tree and the Temple (11:12-25)
3. The Final Disputes With the Enemies (11:27-33)
a. The Priests and Others: The Authority of Jesus
b. The Herodians and Pharisees: Tribute to Caesar (12:13-17)
c. The Sadducees: The Resurrection (12:18-27)
d. The Scribes: The First Commandment (12:28-34)
e. Jesus Raises a Question About David (12:35-37)
f. Jesus Denounces the Enemies (12:38-40)
g. The Widow’s Mite:
Link With the Next Discourse (12:41-44)
C. The Eschatological Discourse (13:1-37)
D. The Death of the Son of Man (14:1—16:8)
1. The Plot, Anointing, and Betrayal (14:1-11)
2. The Last Supper (14:12-25)
3. The Agony in the Garden (14:26-52)
4. The Trial by the Sanhedrin (14:53-65)
5. The Denials of Peter (14:66-72)
6. The Trial by Pilate (15:1-15)
7. The Way of the Cross and the Death of Jesus (15:16-41)
8. The Burial of Jesus (15:42-47
E. The Resurrection of the Lord (16:1-20
1. The Empty Tomb (16:1-8)
2. The Post Resurrection Appearances (16:9-20)
Friday, June 13
Acts 8:26-40: The conversion of the Samaritans, who may be described as half-Jewish, was a step toward the universalizing of the Gospel. Now, however, we come to the case of someone of completely Gentile blood, one of the many Gentiles who maintained some active interest in Judaism without joining it.
It should be noted that this first completely non-Jewish person to become a Christian was from Africa. He was a governmental official of “Candace,” which is not a proper name but, like the word Pharaoh, the title of an office, in this case the queen of Ethiopia (the kntky of Egyptian inscriptions).
This man is obviously reading the Bible out loud (which was the common practice among the rabbis and, with the exception of St. Ambrose, the Fathers of the Church) and is overheard by Philip. The man wants someone to “guide” (hodegein in verse 31) him in understanding Isaiah. Instructed in the Church’s understanding of the Old Testament (cf. Luke 24:27,44-45), Philip interprets the text for him, going on to explain other passages as well.
This exercise terminates in the Sacrament of Baptism. (The Scriptures are intrinsically, and of their very nature, ordered to the Sacraments. All proclamation outside the Church is ordered to Baptism, as in this case. All proclamation within the Church is ordered to the Eucharist; cf. Luke 24:30-35.) Sad as I am to say so (for I love it), verse 37 is a later addition to the text, not found in the older and more reliable manuscripts of the New Testament.