Tag Archives: Passion Narrative

Matthew 27:15-31 Bloody Words

Antonion Ciseri, Ecce Homo (Behold the Man) Between 1860 adn 1880

Matthew 27:15-31

Parallel Mark 15: 6-20; Luke 23: 17-23; John 18:39-40, 19:1-3

15 Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. 16 At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called JesusBarabbas. 17 So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you, JesusBarabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18 For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. 19 While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.” 20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. 21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22 Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” All of them said, “Let him be crucified!” 23 Then he asked, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”

24 So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood;see to it yourselves.” 25 Then the people as a whole answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” 26 So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters,and they gathered the whole cohort around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

The crowds and the soldiers are unable to accept Jesus’ identity but this scene continues the pattern of individuals and groups ironically bearing witness to the truth of who Jesus is. A reader who approaches with a faith that is open to Jesus’ identity will hear in this series of encounters between Pilate, the people, and the soldiers with Jesus  will hear a deeper meaning behind the words and actions of the people who desire Jesus’ death. Examining Matthew’s narration of this scene immediately before the crucifixion it is helpful to look at not only the intended impact of the words and actions by both those acting on behalf of Rome and those acting on behalf of Jerusalem but the theological resonance of those words and actions within the symbolic world of Matthew’s gospel. By looking at both we can see how the most Jewish of the gospels could utter words that were used for millenia as an excuse for the persecution of the Jewish people and to reexamine how Matthew intended for the hearer of his gospel to hear these words and interpret these actions.

Although all four gospels narrate that the people ask for the release of Barabbas, several early versions of Matthew’s gospel include that Barabbas is also named Jesus. There is a choice between two men called Jesus, one called the Christ or Messiah and one called Barabbas ‘son of a father.’ One is a notorious criminal and the other, in Matthew’s view, is innocent and righteous.  Barabbas is likely a person whose violent actions have been against Roman forces but we don’t have any information beyond the gospels. Matthew calls Barabbas a notorious criminal, Mark and Luke include that he was a rebel who committed murder during the insurrection and John simply call Barabbas a robber or bandit. Despite the resonance in name and titles, the people choose the wrong Jesus to be released. The guilty man goes free at the crowd’s demand and the innocent man suffers and dies.

Only Matthew’s gospel gives us an insight into the conversation between Pilate and his wife who reports that she has suffered because of a dream about Jesus. While it is unlikely that the author of Matthew would have insight into the personal life of Pilate and his wife, the addition does continue to reinforce the message of Jesus’ innocence. Even Pilate, in Matthew, will reinforce the innocence of Jesus by asking what evil he has done. Perhaps the choice between the notorious Barabbas and Jesus was a genuine attempt to sway the crowd to accept the lesser threat of Jesus called Christ, but the little we know of Pilate from Josephus and the Gospels in addition to his long term as the Roman procurator over Judea indicate he was a shrewd if sometimes brutal administrator. Yet, Pilate’s actions demonstrate a political conception of justice that has little to do with innocence of guilt and is primarily concerned with maintaining the interests of the empire which benefits from a peaceful and subdued population. As Warren Carter can memorably state we have a case of “Roman justice all washed up.” (Carter 2001, 145)

A reader with an attentive ear to the Hebrew Scriptures will also hear an echo of Deuteronomy in Pilate’s action of washing his hands to attempt to absolve himself of responsibility in the crucifixion of Jesus. As mentioned previously the concept of bloodguilt is very important in Deuteronomy and here, as happens frequently in Matthew’s gospel, it is an outsider who models something (even if imperfectly) while the leaders among the covenant people do not. Deuteronomy 21: 1-9 deals with how a community is to deal with an unsolved death that occurs near a town. In the event that justice can not be rendered to the dead person because the guilty party remains unknown:

All the elders of that town nearest the body shall wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken by the wadi, and they shall declare: “Our hands did not shed this blood, nor were we witnesses to it. Absolve, O LORD, your people Israel, whom you redeemed; do not let the guilt of innocent blood remain in the midst of your people Israel.” Then they will be absolved of bloodguilt. Deuteronomy 21:6-8

Instead of the elders in Jerusalem attempting to purify themselves ritually of innocent blood that will be shed, it is Pilate’s action which more closely models a concern for blood guilt. Yet, Pilate cannot separate himself from the responsibility of a death which his soldiers will preside over. Nor is there the breaking of the heifer’s neck as an act of atonement by the community and the priests are the one encouraging the people to call for the release of a notorious criminal and for the death of innocent blood. Of course, the provisions in Deuteronomy would only apply to an unsolvable death and what occurs here is a public execution.

Only Matthew’s gospel has the line which has often been used to label the Jewish people as ‘Christ killers’: “His blood be on us and on our children!” As I have mentioned frequently Matthew’s gospel is the most Jewish of the gospels, and yet through the history of the church it has also been used to justify the persecution of the Jewish people and religion. Even though Matthew’s community may wonder at the lack of faith[1] exhibited by the people in Judea and the Jewish people throughout the diaspora I doubt Matthew intends for these words to demonstrate a permanent breach between the covenant people and their God. I think it is important to slow down with these words because they have such a long history of use in ways harmful to the covenant people of God and attempt to understand what Matthew intended the message of these words to be. To explore this I will bring up three interlocking perspectives: listening to the resonance of these words with the Hebrew Scriptures, looking at the historical context and looking at the structural clues of how these words resonate within Matthew’s gospel.

One critical passage of the law which echoes throughout the scriptures is called the thirteen attributes. This list, which appears fourteen times in scripture and is echoed in many others places, (Myers 2005, 264) first appears in Exodus 34:

The LORD, The LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation. Exodus 34: 6-7

This familiar passage, which occurs for the first time in the aftermath of the Golden Calf, is the identity that God chooses as God renews the broken covenant with the people of Israel. Actions continue to have consequences, consequences which may impact generations to come, but God’s steadfast love and faithfulness endure long beyond those consequences. Yet, scripturally, the limit to the consequences is the third and fourth generations.

Historically, Matthew’s gospel is probably written after the Jewish War of 70 C.E. where the city of Jerusalem and the temple are destroyed. Matthew probably understands the rejection and crucifixion of Jesus by the Jewish leaders and people being connected with the destruction of that time. These words and others in Matthew’s gospel may help his community to make sense in the midst of the trauma of this war and the dislocation of many early Christians from Judea and Galilee because of this conflict. This conflict which takes place approximately forty years after the crucifixion of Jesus would fit within the timeframe of the third and fourth generation.

Matthew does not consider the crucifixion the end of the story, and I do not believe that Matthew considers the destruction of the Jewish war as the end of the story between God and the covenant people. From the beginning of Matthew’s gospel, we have heard the story of Jesus as a Jewish story that is connected to the story of the nations, and yet, as the angel tells Joseph in Matthew 1:22, “he will save his people from their sins.”  Matthew strengthens this linkage in the Lord’s Supper when he speaks of the cup saying, “for this is the blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” It is likely that Matthew, who so frequently weaves in both explicit and implicit references to the scriptures, expects his hearers to hear a connection between the blood of the new covenant poured out for many and the blood called for here. Just as Moses anointed the people with the blood of the covenant at the giving of the law in Exodus 24:6-8, now ironically something similar is happening with the new covenant. As Richard B. Hays can state:

But as readers we may wonder whether there is a deeper intentionality at work here, not the intentionality of the hostile, fickle crowd, but the intentionality of the God who has sent Jesus to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. (Hays 2016, 135)

Although many Christians throughout history attempted to turn the LORD the God of Israel into a God who visits iniquity for a thousand generations on the Jewish people, a God whose steadfast love and faithfulness no longer available to them, we are finally seeing a reevaluation of this in the aftermath of the Holocaust. There have been a number of theological attempts to reconcile the continuing presence of a Jewish community who remains unable to see Jesus as anything more than a teacher or a prophet, but perhaps Matthew’s option is to understand that these words may not be primarily about bringing bloodguilt upon themselves but instead is about cleansing, binding the covenant, and forgiveness of sins. Perhaps Pilate, in attempting to avoid bloodguilt, also avoids this cleansing, forgiveness and sealing of the covenant that Matthew may see occurring here.

The scene transitions abruptly as Pilate flogs and hands over Jesus to be crucified. Crucifixion in the Roman world is about killing both the person and their reputation. The attempt to destroy Jesus’ reputation began in the trial in the courtyard of Caiaphas and now continues with the mocking of the soldiers. These actions which mockingly imitate the dress and bearing of a king are used to ridicule the title of Christ/Messiah, or as the charge placed on the cross will read ‘King of the Jews.’ Yet, the soldiers are just the latest to witness to the truth even in their mocking of Jesus. The hearers of Matthew’s gospel would understand Jesus as one who is worthy to wear a robe, crown, and scepter and yet these soldiers are a part of the cruel mockery of Jesus which is intended to rob him of his reputation and honor as well as his life.  

Perhaps it also illustrates something of the respective societies about the off hand way in which Matthew narrates the flogging and handing over for crucifixion of Jesus. Many cinematographers have focused heavily on the flogging and have given comparatively little time to the actual crucifixion, but Matthew merely as an afterthought can state, “after flogging Jesus.” In the ancient world flogging, and crucifixion for that matter, were known actions that were done intentionally in the public space to draw attention to the consequences of actions against those in authority. Although a person familiar with the action of crucifixion may wonder if the person flogging Jesus was a little too effective since his time on the cross was relatively short prior to death, Matthew is not concerned with this and is more concerned with the something larger that is happening in the humiliation and death of the innocent one Jesus who is called the Christ.

[1] Faith throughout Matthew’s gospel is an awareness or openness to the presence and power of the God of Israel working in and through Jesus and the approaching kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 26:69-75 Peter’s Moment of Faithlessness

Caravaggio, The Denial of Saint Peter (1610)

Matthew 26:69-75

Parallel Mark 14:66-72; Luke 22:56-62; John 18:25-27

69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant-girl came to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” 70 But he denied it before all of them, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.” 71 When he went out to the porch[1], another servant-girl[2] saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72 Again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.” 73 After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you.” 74 Then he began to curse, and he swore an oath, “I do not know the man!” At that moment the cock crowed. 75 Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said: “Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

All four gospels report Peter’s denial of Jesus in the courtyard of the high priest. Peter remains a ‘little faith one.’ He is unable to remain faithful under the threat of persecution and death, even though earlier he proclaimed that even if he must die with Jesus he will not deny him. On the one hand, Peter’s lack of faith in this scene is strongly contrasted with Jesus’ faithfulness throughout the passion narrative. On the other hand, one of the underlying concerns of my work through Matthew’s gospel has been to reappraise the negative view of the disciples and the judgmental view of Jesus that underwrites this. Peter, unlike Judas, is not condemned by Jesus for his inability to hold himself to his own high standard of faithfulness. Jesus never expresses that he expects Peter to remain steadfast in this moment or condemns him. Instead, Peter and the rest of the disciples will not be permanently branded by their inability to remain faithful once their shepherd has been taken away. They will all be intentionally regathered in Galilee by their shepherd at the end of the gospel.

Peter will remain the boldest of the disciples throughout the gospels and often he is the voice that speaks for all the disciples. Previously he is the one who utters the confession that Jesus is the Christ, but also he is bold enough to (wrongly) reprove Jesus when Jesus declares that he will go to Jerusalem and suffer at the hands of the chief priests and the scribes. (16:16-23) Peter is the one who speaks at the Transfiguration (17:4) and gets out of the boat and approaches Jesus in the midst of the storm (14:22-33). Peter, unlike the rest of the disciples in Matthew, has followed Jesus as far as the courtyard of the high priest. His proximity is what leads these servants of the high priest to question his relationship to Jesus. Ironically, Peter’s rebuke of Jesus about his initial declaration about what would happen when they come to Jerusalem as well as Jesus’ declaration of Peter’s upcoming denials bear witness to Jesus’ ability to perceive how events will unfold far more accurately than Peter. Jesus’ words have proven to be accurate throughout the story and they await completion as the story ends.

Matthew continues to relate events using the gifts of an oral storyteller, and this continues with his use of the escalating pattern of three. Throughout this reading, I have tried to illustrate how Matthew tightens this pattern, which is already present in Mark, and here in this scene the three-fold denial moves from a statement to an oath, to a curse with an oath. Peter is contrasted with Jesus who often remains silent before the accusations, but when Jesus does speak his words declare who he is even when the religious leaders consider it blasphemy. Peter responds to each accusation quickly but with words that are untrue. Peter does not model the type of truthful speech that the Sermon on the Mount calls for (5:33-37) and not only swears an oath twice but even invokes a curse. Comparing Peter, or any person, with Jesus invites that person to be viewed negatively as Anna Case-Winters can demonstrate:

The contrast of his cowardice with Jesus’ courage is dramatic. At the very time Jesus stands before Caiaphas and makes a bold confession, Peter caves before a serving girl. Peter’s three denials under pressure are the reverse image of Jesus in Gethsemane. Three times he petitions God to be spared the trials ahead; three times he stands fast in his faithfulness to God and God’s will regardless of the outcome. (Case-Winters 2015, 300)

The community of the faithful is comprised of many who are ‘little faith ones.’ In times of crisis, they may fail to ‘acknowledge Jesus before others’ and instead through words or actions ‘deny Jesus before others.’ Peter is confronted by servants, and particularly ‘servant girls’ and although these servants may have had a lower standing in society than Peter as a male, these ‘servant girls’ were also aligned with the power that seemed to be stronger at the moment. In the courtyard of Caiaphas, the kingdom of heaven probably seemed a distant dream as its Messiah is abused. The disciples of Jesus work towards wholeness, but they are not perfect. Leaders like Peter will continue to need their moments of faithlessness forgiven. They will continue to need the blood of the new covenant poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Peter, and the rest of the community of Christ, are not disqualified by their moments of faithlessness. Instead, the covenant of God and the forgiveness it offers remains stronger and Peter along with the rest of the disciples will reemerge in Galilee on the other side of the resurrection.

[1] The Greek pulona is a vestibule which is an antechamber, hall, or lobby next to the outer door of a building.

[2] ‘Servant-girl’ is not present in verse 71, the Greek has simply that ‘another’ saw Peter.

Matthew 26: 36-46 Jesus and the Disciples in the Hour of Testing

19th Century Ceramic from the Rosary and St. Martin Chapel in Bruley, France

Matthew 26: 36-46

Parallels Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46

36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated. 38 Then he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.” 39 And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.” 40 Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? 41 Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial;  the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again he went away for the second time and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 Again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.”

Jesus grieves. God has often been described using Greek philosophical concepts or the enlightenment idea of a detached God, but the God of the scriptures grieves. Jesus does not embrace his upcoming death calmly, like the Greek teacher Socrates, nor is Jesus portrayed as a warrior motivated by honor. Contrary to the Stoics who attempted to live self-control, discipline, and modesty becoming free from passion through apatheia this is the narrative of the passion (pathos) which means it is a narrative of suffering.[1] The God who is with us in Jesus is not a detached God unable to feel but is the God of scriptures who grieves over the situation of the world and God’s people.[2] This window into Jesus’ emotional state and prayers at Gethsemane gives us a strong contrast to the view of the heroic in the Greco-Roman world and instead gives us a look at the life of Jesus and the Father who are wrapped up in the messiness and the suffering of the world.

Jesus has already indicated that he is soon to be handed over to the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders and has also indicated that his closest disciples will all be scandalized because of him and one of the twelve will hand him over to the chief priests. Even Peter, who has insisted he will die if necessary to remain faithful to Jesus, will prove not only to be one who denies that he even knows him but also one who is not strong enough to even keep watch. Jesus goes off alone to pray, but his prayers hang in the air of Gethsemane unanswered. Jesus still refers to God as my Father, but this is a time of testing. Jesus encounters the emotion that the disciples have felt when he has indicated that he would be handed over to the authorities. During their final meal, the disciples were greatly grieved and now Jesus begins to be grieved and distressed.[3] Jesus asks for there to be another way forward. Using the metaphor for the upcoming suffering as a cup that must be drunk, Jesus uses a common image in the psalms and prophets for both judgment and consolation for the people.[4] Yet Jesus subordinates his will to the will of the Father and the option of the cup passing without being drunk remains an unanswered petition.

Peter, James and John have been unable to keep watch, even for the first watch of an hour. They prove that they are not strong enough[5] even to fulfill this request of Jesus, and they are not ready for the time of testing.[6] Jesus encourages them to pray as they keep watch and departs a second time to pray. Only Matthew includes the words to the second petition to the Father, which continues the cup metaphor but indicates that if the contents of this cup must be consumed that Jesus will submit to the will of the Father. Jesus, upon seeing the disciples sleeping on watch again, releases them[7] and departs for a final prayer. This three fold repetition, familiar to those who have read through these reflections on Matthew’s gospel, completes the cycle of prayer and prepares us for the rapid transition to the handing over of Jesus. The transition is abrupt as the disciples are roused with the announcement that the hour has ‘come near/is at hand’ when the Son of Man is handed over into the hands of sinners. It is interesting that Jesus, often accused of being a friend of tax collectors and sinners[8] now turns the accusation towards those who are coming to take him into custody. The transition between the prayers at Gethsemane and the handing over of Jesus has come near with the approach of the disciple who will hand Jesus over.

For a different style of reflection upon this passage and the upcoming crucifixion narrative see my poem Golgotha.

[1] Pathos which is behind both the English word passion and its opposite, apathy, can mean suffering or experience or emotion. When referring to rhetoric pathos was to persuade by emotional means, but when referring to the passion (pathos) narrative it is referring to the primary meaning of suffering. This is also the root of the English word pathetic.

[2] See for example Genesis 6:6, Psalm 78:40, Isaiah 63:10

[3] In verse 22 the disciples are lupeo sphodra (greatly grieved) while here Jesus is  moulupeo kai ademoveo (grieved and distressed/anxious) in verse 37 and peripupos estin e psyche my eos thanatou  (deeply grieved, the psyche/soul of me being like death) in verse 38.

[4] There are too many examples to list all of them, but some representative passages would include: Psalm 75:8, Isaiah 51:17-21, Jeremiah 25:15-28, and Ezekiel 23:31-33.

[5] The Greek iskuo means being strong, powerful, or able and gregopeo means to keep watch. While the disciples do fall asleep, the Greek text focuses more on the disciples not being strong enough to fulfill their task of keeping watch.

[6] Periosmos is the same term used in Matthew 6:13 in the Lord’s prayer.

[7] Aphiemi is a common word in the gospels. It can mean let go, release, but also forgive which has an interesting resonance here.

[8] Matthew 9:10-13, 11:19

Matthew 26:31-35 Scandalized and Scattered Disciples

Domine, quo Vadis? by Annibale Carracci, 1062

Matthew 26: 31-35

Parallel Mark 14:27-31; Luke 22:31-34

31 Then Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters because of me this night; for it is written,

‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’

32 But after I am raised up, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.” 33 Peter said to him, “Though all become deserters because of you, I will never desert you.” 34 Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” 35 Peter said to him, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And so said all the disciples.

The people of God throughout the scriptures have struggled to live as a community faithful to the covenant that they have been invited into. The disciples will continue this pattern during this time where the symbolic action at the Passover meal now become realized in the scandalous crucifixion of their Lord. Even Peter, for all his bold declarations, will continue to be a ‘little faith one’ who doubts, denies, and is unable to bear even the burden of staying awake with Jesus while he prays. Yet, for Matthew, the events that surround the life of Jesus are illustrated in the scriptures of Israel in predictive ways. The scattering of the scandalized disciples when their shepherd is taken from them echoes the relationship between God and God’s people in scripture, and these resonances help wrap the crucifixion narrative in the larger story of God’s relationship with God’s people and the rest of creation.

Many Christians are familiar with God and Jesus being identified as being the faithful or good shepherd of the flock. Psalm 23 may be the most familiar of these images, along with John 10 where Jesus is the good shepherd. Also resonant here is Ezekiel 34, where Israel has been cared for by unfaithful shepherds (leaders) and so God takes on the role of the true shepherd to seek out the scattered sheep. But here, Matthew, like Mark, quotes Zechariah 13:7:

Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is close to me!” declares the LORD Almighty. “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered, and I will turn my hand against the little ones.

In Zechariah, the one struck is close to God, and the scattering of the sheep is because of the shepherd being lost rather than due to the unfaithfulness of previous shepherds. The words of Zechariah now become an explanation for the sheep of the shepherd[1] being scattered. David Garland catches the language of this passage, and its connection with previous imagery in the gospel, well when he states:

They will all be “scandalized” and “scattered” when their shepherd is struck. As Judas has succumbed to the lure of wealth like the seed choked by thorns (13:22), the other disciples will wilt at the first sign of persecution like the seed that landed in rocky soil. (Garland 2001, 255)

With the sudden removal of Jesus, the disciples will become ‘scandalized in’ Jesus[2] and there is within the senseless horror of the upcoming crucifixion as sense, for the gospels, of God’s active direction of this action for the sake of the sheep. Even here the prediction of the disciples’ scandalization because of Jesus’ apprehension, trial, and crucifixion is the promise of his being ‘raised up’ and going ahead of them to Galilee. The scattering of the shepherd’s flock will be followed by their regathering where the flock was initially gathered in Galilee.

Peter, along with the rest of the disciples, do not want to accept that they will be ‘scandalized’ and ‘scattered’ so easily. Peter even claims that even if it is necessary for him to die with Jesus, he will not be scandalized by him, but Jesus replies that this night he will deny him three times. Even though the disciples might seem like seeds that spring up quickly and wilt at the first sign of persecution, they are caught up in a story that is larger than themselves. Their scandalization and scattering are not final and their inability to maintain the level of steadfastness they expect of themselves is not a disqualification from being a part of what God is doing in this scene. They will be regathered together under their shepherd at the end to be led out into the rest of the world.

[1] In Greek the expression is ‘sheep of the shepherd’ rather than ‘sheep of the flock’ as the NRSV interprets. The meaning is ultimately the same.

[2] The Greek scandalize returns here in a passive form. NRSV translates this ‘become deserters.’ Scandalizo is frequently translated ‘stumbling block’ or ‘fall away’ but it is where our English word scandalize comes from. The prepositional phrase en emoi (in me) may seem a little strange in English, which is probably why most translations render this ‘because of me’