Immediately ahead of us in the Church year is a ‘watershed’. The Church Year goes from essentially following the life of Christ—and there are the two parts to this: ‘The Time of Christmas’ and ‘The Time of Easter’, and then the year goes to what, to many, seems to be a step down or a step away, that of ‘The Time of the Church’. Ahead of us is the season of Pentecost.
It is easy to picture what is ahead of us as a step in the downward direction, away from Christ and toward a focus on His Church. But as I look at the words of Jesus when he gave his so-called ‘Farewell Discourse’ in the Gospel according to John, I do not see a step down. I see an earnest desire for his significant and gracious presence to continue among his followers. I see essentially the same focus that there was there before. Jesus was close to his followers; he was concerned for his followers. And he certainly did not want them to think of his departure as a step down or a step away from him.
I also think that the whole of this gospel account has been moving in that direction of resolving the issue of Christ’s presence. In chapter one, the writer states that this ‘Word’ has ‘set up a tent’ (in verse 14, it is the word ‘dwelt’) with us. Jesus is around with his disciples. He talks with them. He talks with some others—a great variety of people. And he talks a lot about his presence. The special ‘I am’ statements that he gives connect his gracious presence to things that are frequently around them. And then he blesses those who have not seen and yet believe (20:29).
So, as that end comes near, within that Farewell Discourse, Jesus identifies himself as someone who has, literally, been ‘called alongside’—literally in Latin, an Advocate—but also a Counselor, a Helper, a Comforter—you cannot go wrong with any of those translations. When someone significant has been called to your side, there are so many positive ways to describe it!
Within this discourse, Jesus makes it clear, several times, that there will be ANOTHER ‘who is called alongside’. This is the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth (16:13).
As I look at this discourse as a whole, I see a pattern within it. (Certainly there are many who do not see the discourse as a whole. Especially, near the middle—and the end of chapter 14, Jesus says, ‘Rise, let us go from here,’ and this is an opportunity to see a break within the continuity. But there is also a chance to see a meaningful progression within the discourse.)
There are four verbs that this second ‘Advocate’ will do. He will teach all things (14:26); he will remind the followers of all things Jesus told his followers (14:26); he will witness concerning Jesus (15:26); and he will convict/convince the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment (16:8). There are obviously a lot of things going on here. But there seems to be a pattern when you compare and contrast those verbs with each other.
The first two emphasize what is taught. The teaching happens, and then there is a reminder of what is taught. The second two seem to have a positive and negative theme. A witness concerning Jesus would be a positive thing, just as a witness supports the truth that is spoken in court. But the convicting or the convincing of the world is definitely a negative thing, a negative truth that also needs to be spoken. (The world needs help—that is why God loved it in John 3:16!)
These days, when I hear that there is a list of four things, I cannot help but compare it to the four gospel accounts—just as the number five in the New Testament probably relates in some way to the first five books of the Old Testament. There are four ‘corners’ of the earth, there are four rings to the ark of the covenant (see Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule II, XI), there are four living creatures on God’s throne—one on each side, and so, there are also four gospel accounts. Four is an important number.
Many will probably be unfamiliar with this fact, but there is another order to the four gospel accounts (rather than Matthew, Mark, Luke, John), and this order, historically, makes much more sense than the one we currently have. The order of what is sometimes called the ‘Western’ text is that of the authors who were of the original twelve disciples are first, and then, those who were secretaries of Jesus’ followers are second (with the longer work of each pair before the shorter one): Matthew, John, Luke, Mark.
With this order, I see some connections between these four verbs and the four gospel accounts. Matthew and John both focus on teaching, with John functioning more as a reminder. (John does not have many of the ‘basics’ about Jesus, but he brings up some of the important things about Jesus and his work of salvation.) Luke is a good, positive witness, to Jesus’ work. Within that account, Jesus is the obedient one, in the temple when he is young and all through the account as he heads toward Jerusalem that last, final time. From Mark’s perspective, Jesus seems to be a bit more negative. He is sometimes difficult to deal with, even for his disciples! (We will see that in much more detail this coming year.) With Luke and Mark compared to the living creatures of an ox and a lion (respectively), there is power within both of those creatures. Within an ox, it is power to help (to plough a field, for example); within a lion, it is power to cause some chaos.
I would encourage you not to look at the variety within the four gospel accounts solely due to the variety of the authors or even due to the variety among their original recipients. The reason for the variety could also be that God has one very important message to get out to ALL people, and he wants to get it out in four slightly different ways.
I would also encourage you to see the four accounts as four different ways to approach the throne of our heavenly Father in worship. Each of them has the authority of the Father. And, as Jesus relates in this discourse, each of them has been breathed out or inspired by the Spirit, the other one who has been called alongside to help.
The connection between these four verbs and the four accounts may be one of the reasons that these four accounts, as a whole, were accepted by the Christian community so very early. Something else to keep in mind is that there is a ‘break’ in between the second and third verbs, and this is where the break in the narrative comes. (‘Rise, let us go from here.’) In John 15, Jesus is talking about a vine growing somewhat wildly, if it were not pruned, and this fits well with the transition between authors who were some of the original twelve followers and those who were only secretaries (of, admittedly, important people—Peter and Paul). The book of Acts certainly describes a wild ride, but, in the end, the Lord is still in charge of things (see Acts 28:31).
Perhaps this has been a helpful perspective. Perhaps it has been a bit confusing. Please feel free to comment.
The Gospel text for the Seventh Sunday of Easter is always a part of what has been called Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer. This is, of course, a great prayer. And, as always in the Gospel according to John, this prayer is filled with a number of things that could be discussed.
A brief ‘Sabbath Day’s Journey’ with this text is almost impossible unless I pick just one thing to write about. I am going to try that, and it will even be something that I focused upon in last year’s blog.
For this year, the text is from John 17:11b-19, and last year’s text included the first part of verse 11. In that part of the verse there is this amazing statement of Jesus: ‘I am no longer in the world.’ I call that statement ‘amazing’ because of the many other things that seem to be connected to it.
I may have mentioned before that the other gospel accounts use the Jewish system of time, but the Gospel according to John uses the Roman system, and that system starts counting the hours much earlier than the others; it starts at midnight.
It is thought that this gospel account was written many years after the others, and that is why it has such a huge emphasis on the divinity of Christ. It would also have been written when the message about Christ was going all over the Roman Empire—and thus the reason for using the Roman time system. But the reason for the different time system could be more literary than chronological.
This gospel account could also be significantly different because there is a different way to view Christ’s authority. If one considers this account to be connected to the eagle (one of the four symbols on God’s throne), there is a good reason for Jesus to say that he is no longer in the world, even when he is still in this world. From his perspective, he knows what is coming.
This earlier ‘departure’ of Jesus may also be connected to the fact that the much-talked-about ‘hour’ of Jesus comes earlier than his death on the cross; it comes when some Greeks want to see him (John 12:20-23). Things worked out well for Jesus while he was on earth, and they will work out well after he is gone.
I brought up last week that the issue remains as to whether or not Jesus remains—on earth, that is. In this prayer, Jesus is asking his Father to ‘keep them in your name, which you have given me’ (verse 11b). Certainly this name could be ‘Jesus’. But I would think that it could also be the ‘Word’.
This whole chapter is full of words that Jesus could have said to the Father just a little bit later, after he ascended into heaven. But Jesus stayed down on this earth and said those words so that almost all of his followers would have the fulfillment of joy (verse 13)—in great contrast to Judas, who had the fulfillment of scripture that he would be lost (verse 12).
Jesus seems to be all about words in these chapters, a comforting thing for those in this century who, after hearing many words from many different sources, may think that they are a bit lost. With this One, they will be kept in some important words that will truly last.
The Gospel text for this Sunday continues Jesus’ words from John 15. The text this time is the section of verses 9-17, and, as always with texts from that account, there is a LOT within that text to talk about.
I thought it would be nice to begin by focusing on a new word that Jesus had not mentioned for a while. Jesus brought up the ‘C’ word, ‘commandment’. That word usually has very negative connotations. How are we to understand that word?
It may be helpful to know that there are different words for commandments or commands, and all of them have a slightly different emphasis on that big—and important—topic.
Obviously one of the emphases is a focus on what is commanded. There is even a word that is used when one should pay close attention to the details of those commands. And I do not think you would be too surprised to learn that there is a word used for a command with the implication of a threat involved if the commands are not followed. (It is interesting that the text uses this word when Jesus commands the wind and the waves to be still.)
The emphasis that occurs within this text from John 15—and many others within the Gospel accounts—is an emphasis on the one who is giving the commands. That is something that is all too often passed by quite quickly.
Commands are not simply something that we do. Commands are not simply something that God says we should do. These commandments were given by the very special One who laid down his life for his friends (see verse 13). That puts things in a significantly different perspective.
It is a different perspective because it is essentially a new definition to the word ‘love’. Earlier within the discourse, Jesus said that this was a NEW commandment to love one another, but that command was already in the Old Testament—to love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18). Jesus is new, and so his love is new. But how will that love show or remain?
This point ties into the topic that I brought up last week. If Jesus is about to leave, how is it that he will remain? If the disciples keep his commands, it sounds like Jesus’ love will remain (see verse 10). But what would that look like?
If he is about to lay down his life, if he is eventually to be raised to life again, if he is eventually to ascend into heaven, how will he ‘abide’? In John 1:14, the writer promised that Jesus would only be here a short while, in a ‘tent’.
Obviously a close reading of the texts is important. Jesus, especially in this account, seems like he knows everything that is going on and is not bothered by anything. In the Gospel according to Mark, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus falls on the ground and asks his Father to find another way (Mark 14:35). In the Gospel according to John, Jesus’ enemies are the ones who are falling on the ground (John 18:6)! Jesus has this salvation stuff all under control.
We will stay in this gospel account for at least two more weeks, so I hope, within these writings, to bring this topic of “Jesus’ remaining—and loving (perhaps commanding?)—presence” to an adequate resolution.
The Gospel text for this week (John 15:1-8) contains another ‘I am’ statement of Jesus. It happens to be the last ‘I am’ statement in the Gospel according to John. And that is saying something significant.
It is significant, perhaps, because people have counted a total of seven ‘I am’ statements in this gospel account. That number should not surprise you. It might be helpful to see the progression within the statements, especially since last week I wrote about the structure of the gospel account’s connection to the Jewish liturgical year rather than to seven so-called ‘signs’.
I have the seven ‘I am’ statements to be as follows: In John 6:35, Jesus is ‘the bread of life’. In John 8:12 and 9:5, Jesus is ‘the light of the world’. In John 10:7 and 9, Jesus is ‘the door of the sheep’. In John 10:11 and 14, Jesus is ‘the good shepherd’. In John 11:25, Jesus is ‘the resurrection and the life’. In John 14:6, Jesus is ‘the way, the truth, and the life’. And, in part of our text for this Sunday, in John 15:1 and 5, Jesus is ‘the true vine’.
To support a coherent structure throughout the work, I think it is important to see, within these seven statements, a connection to the previously mentioned structure of the Jewish liturgical year. The festival of Passover included a special meal to remember Israel’s ‘exodus’ from Egypt, and Jesus talks about being the bread of life. The feast of Tabernacles or Booths reminded Israel of a time of wandering in the wilderness, when they were following Yahweh’s pillar of cloud/fire. And the comparison of Israel to wandering sheep during this time is not unreasonable, and so there is a connection to Jesus being the gate and good shepherd, as well as the light to lead them.
Starting in John 11, Jesus seems to take the ‘I am’ statements to a new level. And the connections to the Jewish year are at an end in the previous chapter (with the Feast of Dedication--of that special temple). So, as Jesus gets closer to his own death and resurrection, it is appropriate to see it in these statements.
So why is his last ‘I am’ statement about him being the true vine? This seems almost as if he takes a step back, that it is something less than him being the resurrection, way, truth, and life.
Reading through the whole of the ‘discourse’, from John 13 to 17, there is a significant emphasis on Jesus’ going away. How he goes away and how he comes back is critical to understanding this text and, I believe, the entire gospel account. And I think that this is at the heart of what this 'I am' statement is getting at.
Jesus' going away was a significant blow to his followers. But we do not remember that by going to church on Thursday, the day of his ascension. We celebrate what he did by usually going to church on Sunday. His death/resurrection was his most important task. And it is important that we not lose our focus.
Jesus as the vine, the true one, is as important a comparison as the rest. He is THAT close to his present-day followers, giving away his gifts to his branches. The giving out of those gifts is as important as the gifts being won.
Anyone who thinks that the Gospel according to John does not reference Holy Baptism or Holy Communion has not done a close reading of the text.
The theme for many on the Fourth Sunday in Easter is well-loved, that of the Good Shepherd. The Gospel reading for the three-year series is always some part of John 10. And it is certainly helpful to have a context for that chapter.
Sometimes in these writings I like to focus on a particular word. This time I am focusing on a particular account.
Like other sections of the bible that have duplication, many have suggested sources for such a unique perspective. One of the theoretical sources for the Gospel according to John is the so-called ‘Signs Gospel’. People have counted seven signs in the Gospel according to John.
Now I am certainly not against seeing the importance of that number in the scriptures. There are seven words in the first statement of the bible and fourteen in the next one. And the seven-day week was entirely God’s idea, not ours.
Given the literary evidence, I would like to make a slightly different emphasis. Taking into account the similarity of the first three accounts and the great difference of the fourth, I would like to suggest a sort of ‘blessing’ structure to that fourth account, similar to a benediction at the end of a church service. After the first three accounts are laid out before a person—all of them ultimately pointing to Christ, that person is (hopefully) ready to receive a blessing.
The typical position for blessing contains two basic parts: hands are raised and, then, words are given out. And so, as there are two signs clearly designated within the text (at 2:1-11 and 4:46-54), these may correspond to two hands being raised. And then, for most of the rest of the account, you have Jesus giving out his words of blessing.
As the figurative hands are raised, the blessings that are given out are that certain people now believe. This is emphasized at the end of both signs (2:11 and 4:53). And, at the very end of the entire account, the writer speaks to the reader and states that ‘these are written that YOU may believe….(20:31)’ In a way, the hands are still raised.
Certainly blessings are given out in the rest of the account, but it does not seem like the words of Jesus and the words of the writer point to signs as much as the writer did in the beginning. The writer seems to make a deliberate switch to focusing on a year of Jewish festivals.
He starts by mentioning a ‘feast’, without any specifics (5:1). And, at that festival, Jesus gets into serious trouble with ‘the Jews’, and they want to kill him (5:18). Then, in spring, there is Passover (6:4). In autumn, there is the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles (7:2), and, in the winter, there is the Feast of Dedication (or Hanukah; 10:22). Jesus continues to run into some serious (and, eventually, deadly) trouble.
The Jewish festivals are an opportunity for the Lord’s words to be spoken in a variety of settings, for further blessings to be given. Jesus obviously handles each festival—and each person he meets—differently. And, at each festival, there are those who go in another direction than the way of Jesus. And, then, there are those who continue to follow Jesus.
It is interesting that the topic of Jesus as the shepherd appears, in the seasonal year, right before winter. That is when you can tell that a shepherd is serious about his work. It is easy to stay with the flock during the warm summer months. But sticking it out during the cold winter months shows some commitment.
Jesus, therefore, speaks about laying down his life, not once, but twice within the text (v. 11 and 15). He is a serious shepherd for us, an EXTREMELY good shepherd.
The Gospel text for this week in Easter comes from the Gospel according to Luke (24:36-49). I enjoy this account because it connects so closely to the things in Acts. Matthew looks to the past; Mark looks to the present, and Luke looks to the future.
So one of the reasons I like looking at Acts is its close similarities to the life of the Christian Church today. And one of the special characteristics of both Luke and Acts is the comparatively large number of interruptions that happen throughout the texts.
You can read about this in other places, but, in general, ‘interruption science’ has declared that interruptions are, almost always, bad. And the fact that they are frequent within this gospel account, as well as within Acts, is, in my opinion, good.
This is an imperfect world. We all have interruptions, and we can call them ‘bad’ or ‘good’, but, if they are connected to Jesus, there WILL be some good in the end. So an interruption is basically a hidden miracle.
At the beginning of this text, Jesus’ followers who were going to Emmaus had come back and were talking to the other disciples, but the word for ‘talking’ here can also mean just making sounds (BDAG, p. 582). Now I certainly do not think that is what they were doing, but I do think that what they said could have been better.
So Jesus shows up. He interrupts what is going on. And things get significantly better. This gets much clearer when the text that says that he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. When he does that, he goes all the way back to Moses, saying that the fulfilment all points toward him.
Now even a short summary of that would be too big to cover at this point in time, but I hope you can see at the end of some of the books which end some of the sections in the Old Testament—Genesis, Deuteronomy, 2 Chronicles, and, of course, Malachi—these leave the reader hanging in some way. The story of Israel is not finished until it comes to Jesus.
Jesus interrupted the history of the world. Some people took it badly. Many were significantly changed because of it. Jesus is a hidden miracle, even in the ways that he shows up today.
At the end of the text Jesus promises to send a promise to them, a promise that his Father made. This interrupts their lives even more, but, of course, there is a purpose behind this.
One thing I had not noticed before is that they were to be sitting in Jerusalem, waiting for this promise. Now did you know that was exactly their position in Acts 2? Good job guys! It is also interesting to note that the tongues of fire are described as sitting on them.
So to focus on the disciples at any time would be missing the point. At this point, they become like a chair for someone much more important.
One of my teachers used to say, ‘To be ordained is to be rendered irrelevant.’
The Gospel text for this Sunday is the familiar ‘doubting Thomas’ episode from John 20. And, while looking at the text again, I was reminded that sometimes it is an important thing for the reader to try to figure out what would be normal for the writer to write, and then the reader should take note of what actually appears within the text. By the way, this is not always an easy task!
Having four different gospel accounts can give you some ideas of what could have been written. But this account in John 20 is unique. And the style of the writing is also slightly different. In the Gospel according to John, the smallest words can have the biggest significance. As I have said before, it is like drinking out of a firehose.
When Jesus calls the disciples ‘brothers’ in verse 17, that is a significant designation. And if you keep looking at those designations of that particular group of people, there are more surprises to come.
In verse 24 Thomas is called ‘one of the Twelve’. Now that is a rarity. The only other time this happens in this account is in John 6, in the small section of verses 67-71.
At the start of that text, many of Jesus’ disciples did not want to follow him anymore. Jesus asks the twelve if they wish to go as well. Peter has the good confession that Jesus has the words of eternal life. And Jesus responds that one of the twelve is a devil.
Now the order of the last few words of the text is interesting—and different from the typical translations: In a very literal order, the text of verse 71 goes this way: ‘Now he spoke of Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, for ‘this’ was about to betray him, one of the twelve.’ (By the way, it is interesting to note that, in this account, there is a very positive connotation to the word ‘that’.)
The next time the twelve are mentioned is in John 20. And it is also interesting that it is used this one last time, especially since Judas is basically nowhere to be found. He did his job of betraying Jesus, and now he fades into the background … and dies.
I would think that this is not too favorable of a perspective with some people, but I see a definite connection between Judas and Thomas.
Judas betrayed Jesus to his enemies. And Thomas betrayed Jesus to his friends, his brothers. He let down his friends, not believing their words. He let down his Savior, not believing his promise to rise again.
Obviously Jesus could have been much harsher with Thomas that next Sunday. Jesus comes across as being very patient with Thomas—and with us!
Jesus lets Thomas do exactly what he wanted to do—see, touch, perhaps even poke! (If you have never seen Caravaggio’s Doubting Thomas painting regarding this, I would highly recommend it.) The followers of Christ do not always get that option of getting what they want. For something as important as the proof of the resurrection of our Savior, exceptions can be made. And, as a result, we are blessed. (See John 20:29)
I think that the Gospel according to Mark has a wonderfully appropriate ending. The last verse of the text for Easter Sunday—and of the entire account—goes this way (in the ESV): ‘And they [the women] went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.’
If you take the Gospel according to Mark as a whole, it is certainly an appropriate ending. The beginning of this account was just as abrupt.
Jesus had already grown up; there are just a few verses about John the Baptist and his immense popularity. When Jesus shows up, the heavens are ripped open, and he is called God’s Son. I think that even more important is the fact that Jesus starts to tell people to repent and believe in the gospel.
This is an extremely early quotation of what Jesus said. It is important to note that the word ‘gospel’ is extremely important to him.
The first verse of the entire account states that this is the BEGINNING of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is certainly not the end.
When this gospel account is in its normal spot as the second of the four accounts, this short ending is certainly appropriate. In some manuscripts, though, this gospel account is the last of the four.
With this account as the last of the four, the two apostles who wrote are first (Matthew and John), and then the two secretaries who wrote are second (Luke and Mark). Also, the longer account is put first, and that is the normal ordering as well for that time period.
Having the four accounts ordered in such a way makes some sense. It focuses your attention more on the reliability of the work as a whole. And it also makes some sense to have, at the end of such a massive work, a better ending than the women leaving the tomb and not saying anything to anyone.
The ending that appears in some manuscripts, 16:9-20, has components from the other gospel accounts, and that is okay as well. I would encourage you not to think of these four accounts as written by four people in four different areas throughout the Roman Empire to be read in front of four different churches.
The four different accounts are meant to be four different perspectives of an extremely gracious God. And THAT is a good point to end on for ANY Sunday of the year.
The Gospel text for this Sunday, Palm Sunday/Sunday of the Passion, is a huge one—essentially chapters 14 and 15 of the Gospel according to Mark. It is like going into one of those Global Market stores and seeing various foods from all over the world (It just so happened that I did that today). Which ones should be my focus this time? Which one is going to be the best? (In some way, they all became famous enough to make it there!)
Unfortunately some people have the idea that the Gospel according to Mark is early and basic, that the more interesting details were added later. Voelz, in his Concordia Commentary, differs from this view significantly. Yes, when a message is just starting out, it may tend to be shorter. But also when a critical event happens, in an emergency, then a message also tends to be significantly shorter. When time is important, you say what is important.
There has been a significant amount of attention given to something unique to this account—that a young man who has been following Jesus into the Garden of Gethsemane, when grabbed by the authorities, runs away, leaving his ‘linen garment’ (14:51-52).
Some people think that this is Mark. That would make sense. But rather than going in the direction of source—who this young man is, I would rather go in the direction of deity—now what does this mean for Jesus, the so-called ‘Son of God’?
This young man in Mark 14 has been compared to the young man in Mark 16 who appears at Jesus’ tomb (on his right, interestingly enough) and tells the women what happened to him. But the one in the tomb has on a white robe.
One other person has on the same ‘linen garment’; it is Jesus, and he was wrapped in it after he died.
It is interesting that he is called a corpse at that time. But that will only be true for a very short time.
Both men are seized; both men are wrapped in a ‘linen garment’, and both men escape. There is too much in common to be a coincidence.
The act of being seized—and the basic word used here means ‘strength’—is a significant one. Jesus has acted like the second living creature, the lion, pretty much all through this account. Now his enemies have shown some strength and fought back, but, ultimately, they fail. And now Jesus has the upper hand—quite literally, if you think about it.
The Gospel for this Sunday is the request of James and John to sit at Jesus’ right and left (Mark 10:35-45). This text comes right after the third and final Passion prediction. And it shows how different Jesus’ kingdom is to ours, how different his definition of glory is.
Those two words, ‘kingdom’ and ‘glory’, are the words the disciples use to describe what they think should be ahead for Jesus. Matthew records the word ‘kingdom’, and Mark, the word ‘glory’. That is not surprising since, when considering the four living creatures and their connections to the four accounts, Matthew is connected to a man—someone who can have a kingdom—and Mark is connection to a lion—an animal that has a high amount of respect when it comes to fighting. It is also not surprising that, in Matthew, the mother of James and John come with the question, and, in Mark, these ‘sons of thunder (Mark 3:17)’ are described as coming on their own.
What I really liked when I compared Matthew and Mark’s rendering is that Mark uses a word that Matthew is quite fond of. It’s found many times in Matthew but only two in Mark. It is the word for ‘to think’ or ‘to suppose’. In Mark 6 the disciples thought that Jesus was a ghost, a phantasm. And, in Mark 10:42, there are those who are thinking or supposing to rule.
The ESV translates this phrase as, ‘…those who are considered rulers….’ And I think that is an okay translation. A king or a queen may THINK that he or she is in power, but it is really the Lord who rules.
I would like to ‘switch gears’ at this time to give you another example of this. I like this example because, at first glance, it is one of the most boring chapters in the entire bible. Genesis 14 mentions a bunch of kings, and then it talks about how Abram (eventually his name is Abraham) saves Lot and his stuff because he was captured by some of those kings.
You might want to read the chapter at this point, but here are some of my observations about the text. It seems like the kings are going out by themselves to fight. Of course their armies are doing most of the work. With this perspective, the kings are seen as powerful people. And, in contrast to these kings (the title of which has not been mentioned in the previous chapters), Abraham is called a ‘Hebrew’ (and this is for the very first time).
The word ‘Hebrew’ is very close to the verb, ‘to cross over’. Abraham follows the promise that God made to him. He is different from the rest. He is different from the other kings.
The real king is God, and this is clearer in what is said about ‘God Most High’ at the end of the account. He is called the ‘Possessor’ of heaven and earth two separate times (Genesis 14:19, 22). This is the same word that Eve uses to name her son Cain when she says, ‘I have gotten a man….’ And this is also the word used when someone buys something. This refers to something that is REALLY yours.
God already possesses whatever we buy. God already has whatever we think we have. God rules over everybody who thinks that they rule. And Jesus is headed in a certain direction, with certain people on his right and his left, to rule over sin, death, and the devil—for all people, for all time.