Monday, November 5, 2012

Daily Bible Reading: Ezekiel 24-25 and John 19

Ezekiel 24  Ezekiel, who is in Babylon, prophesies that the city of Jerusalem is now under siege and shall suffer complete destruction and death of the population by the sword – all because of its unfaithfulness.

Ezekiel’s telling of the history of Israel, from its beginnings, is one that focuses only on the failures of faith and continual passions for unwholesome customs and idolatry. Here the message is more that God has continually had to punish Israel for the sake of his name and reputation – to show that He is Lord, and to show this to all the world, not just to Israel. Like Jeremiah, he sees Babylonian power as a tool of God in dealing with his unfaithful partners in the Covenant.

In the coming 8 chapters, Ezekiel prophesies against the nations that surround his beloved – Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia, Tyre, Sidon and Egypt. Lawrence Boadt says Ezekiel is here referring to the “seven peoples” referred to in Deuteronomy (7:12). God’s defeat of these “foreign nations” will be the beginning of God’s “new covenant” when he returns his people to their lands.

Only when all is lost does Ezekiel turn to the future and God’s plan to return the exiles and purify their faith. There will be a new David to lead the flock and new hearts in the people

Ezekiel 25 – Oracles against Ammon, Moab, Edom and Philistine:
Ammon - The Ammonites together with the Israelites and the Moabites were considered the Aramaean branch of the Semitic race. They were descended from Abraham’s nephew Lot. If you want to learn more about each of the “nations” Ezekiel writes about here, you can check out articles at the Catholic Encyclopedia site at When I last checked there was an election day message you may not like, but the articles are good.

While the Israelites did not take their land, they and the Moabites were banned forever from serving in the Temple even when they converted to the worship of Yahweh. They worshipped the god Milcom or Moloch.

Ezekiel prophesies that because they were happy at the desecration of Israel’s Temple, they shall be handed over to the Arab nomads who will invade. “I will reduce you to nothing, and so you will learn that I am Yahweh” (25:7).

Moab – Moabites were also incestuously descended from Lot.

For seeing the House of Judah as in no way special, she too will be handed over to these “sons of the East” (25:10) and will be forgotten.

Edom – Idumaea – the name comes from the red color of its sandstone cliffs.

For taking revenge on the House of Judah, she shall be reduced to a desert.

Philistine - For taking revenge on God’s people and trying to destroy them, Philistine will suffer terrible acts of vengeance so that they learn that the Lord is Lord.

John 19 – Pilate has Jesus flogged. The soldiers mock him by putting a crown of thorns on his head and dressing him in a purple robe. They strike him on the face and say, “Hail, King of the Jews!” Pilate gives him back to the people, telling them again he finds “no case against him” (19:4).

The crowd demands his crucifixion. Pilate tells them to take him. They tell him by their law he has incurred death for claiming to be the Son of God. This frightens Pilate. He questions Jesus again, asking him “Where are you from?” Jerusalem Bible note points out that the whole point of the gospel is to show how everyone is confronted with this mystery of Jesus’ origins—the people of Cana, the Samaritans, the apostles, the multitudes, the Jewish leaders and now Pilate. But now Jesus says nothing. Pilate can’t believe he is not going to answer him, seeing the power he (Pilate) has over his fate. Jesus says to him, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin” (19:11).

Pilate wants to release him, but the Jews threaten to impute disloyalty to the emperor to him if he does. He takes Jesus outside and sat on the judge’s bench at Gabbatha (The Stone Pavement). It is about noon of the day of Preparation for Passover. The crowd again demands he be crucified. Three times Pilate has let the crowd know he finds no case against Jesus, but three times the crowd demands that Jesus be put to death, ultimately making it look that if Pilate releases him, they will make it plain to the emperor that Pilate’s loyalty to Caesar must be in question. Pilate finally hands him over to the crowd, or maybe to the chief priests (19:15) to be crucified.

They take him to the Place of the Skull where they crucify him along with two others. Pilate had an inscription placed over him that said, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” It is written in Hebrew (Aramaic), Latin and Greek. The chief priests don’t want it written that way. They prefer, “This man said, I am King of the Jews.” But Pilate keeps it as it is. When the soldiers finish placing him on the cross, they took his clothes and divided them among them (into four).  His seamless tunic, they cast lots for—all of this according to Scripture [Ps 22:18]. The high priest’s robe was supposed to be seamless.

Near the cross stand his mother, his mother’s sister and Mary Magdalene (three Marys). When Jesus saw his mother next to the discipline whom he loved, he said “Woman, here is your son..  . .Here is your mother.” Use of the term “woman” might allude to the greater identity John sees in Mary as the new Eve according to Jerusalem Bible notes. The disciple takes Mary into his home.

Jesus knows it is finished. He says, “I am thirsty”. His words are from Psalm 22:15. Both Matthew & Mark say Jesus cried out the first line of this psalm: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (see Matt.27:46 and Mark 15:34). Luke has Jesus quoting Psalm 31:5 which is very different, more at peace. They give him wine on a branch of hyssop. He says, “It is finished” (19:30) or in the New Jerusalem “It is accomplished.” The translation of this phrase is important in making the link I think is so important to understanding John’s grasp of this moment Christologically.

Because it is the Day of Preparation, they don’t want to leave the bodies on the crosses past sundown. With Pilate’s permission, they break the legs of the crucified men and removed their bodies. Jesus’ legs are not broken because he is already dead (19:33). Instead one of the soldiers pierces his side with a sword and “blood and water came out” (34). All of these things were seen as fulfilling scripture [see Zc 12:10, Nb 21:9 and Rv 1:7].

The Jerusalem Bible says the blood is the blood of the lamb poured out for the salvation of all (6:51) and the water is a symbol of the Spirit. Church Fathers saw the water and blood as symbols of baptism and Eucharist or together “the Church” which was born like a second Eve from the side of the second and perfect Adam.

Joseph of Arimathea, a secret disciple of Jesus’ gets Pilate’s permission to take Jesus’ body. Nicodemus helps by bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes. They place him in a new tomb in the garden nearby.

As I have mentioned earlier in my posts on John’s gospel, I have recently gotten very excited about more recent insights I have had on the connections I think exist between the gospel and several Genesis references. If you want to check out that article, it can be accessed at

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