20 March 2017
John 7: 14-36
The Bishop of Limerick and Killaloe, the Right Revd Dr Kenneth Kearon, has issued a Lent Challenge to this diocese. The challenge is to use a form of Daily Prayer every day during Lent this year . In the diocesan magazine, Newslink, he has provided an order for Daily Prayer, together with Daily Readings and Collects.
We are invited to find a quiet time each day in a comfortable chair, to pray and to read a Bible reading, either alone or with someone else.
The challenge began on Ash Wednesday [1 March 2017], with the lectionary reading for that day (Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-21), and has continued each day since, with readings from Saint John’s Gospel.
I have invited parishioners to the Rectory in Askeaton, Co Limerick, each Monday evening in Lent, to look at the bishop’s suggested Bible reading for that day, and to pray using his suggested form of prayer.
Last Monday [13 March 2017], we looked at the story of the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4: 5-42, and on the previous Monday [6 March 2017] we looked at the story of the Wedding at Cana (John 2: 1-12).
In our Bible study this evening [20 March 2017], we are looking at John 7: 14-36, where the authority of Jesus is challenged.
John 7: 14-36
14 Ἤδη δὲ τῆς ἑορτῆς μεσούσης ἀνέβη Ἰησοῦς εἰς τὸ ἱερὸν καὶ ἐδίδασκεν. 15 ἐθαύμαζον οὖν οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι λέγοντες, Πῶς οὗτος γράμματα οἶδεν μὴ μεμαθηκώς; 16 ἀπεκρίθη οὖν αὐτοῖς [ὁ] Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν, Ἡ ἐμὴ διδαχὴ οὐκ ἔστιν ἐμὴ ἀλλὰ τοῦ πέμψαντός με: 17 ἐάν τις θέλῃ τὸ θέλημα αὐτοῦ ποιεῖν, γνώσεται περὶ τῆς διδαχῆς πότερον ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐστιν ἢ ἐγὼ ἀπ' ἐμαυτοῦλαλῶ. 18 ὁ ἀφ' ἑαυτοῦ λαλῶν τὴν δόξαν τὴν ἰδίαν ζητεῖ: ὁ δὲ ζητῶν τὴν δόξαν τοῦ πέμψαντος αὐτόν, οὗτος ἀληθής ἐστιν καὶ ἀδικία ἐν αὐτῷ οὐκ ἔστιν.
19 οὐ Μωϋσῆς δέδωκεν ὑμῖν τὸν νόμον; καὶ οὐδεὶς ἐξ ὑμῶν ποιεῖ τὸν νόμον. τί με ζητεῖτε ἀποκτεῖναι; 20 ἀπεκρίθη ὁ ὄχλος, Δαιμόνιον ἔχεις: τίς σε ζητεῖ ἀποκτεῖναι; 21 ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Ἓν ἔργον ἐποίησα καὶ πάντες θαυμάζετε. 22 διὰ τοῦτο Μωϋσῆς δέδωκεν ὑμῖν τὴν περιτομήν οὐχ ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ Μωϋσέως ἐστὶν ἀλλ' ἐκ τῶν πατέρων καὶ ἐν σαββάτῳ περιτέμνετε ἄνθρωπον. 23 εἰ περιτομὴν λαμβάνει ἄνθρωπος ἐν σαββάτῳ ἵνα μὴ λυθῇ ὁ νόμος Μωϋσέως, ἐμοὶ χολᾶτε ὅτι ὅλον ἄνθρωπον ὑγιῆ ἐποίησα ἐν σαββάτῳ; 24 μὴ κρίνετε κατ' ὄψιν, ἀλλὰ τὴν δικαίαν κρίσιν κρίνετε.
25 Ἔλεγον οὖν τινες ἐκ τῶν Ἱεροσολυμιτῶν, Οὐχ οὗτός ἐστιν ὃν ζητοῦσιν ἀποκτεῖναι; 26 καὶ ἴδε παρρησίᾳ λαλεῖ καὶ οὐδὲν αὐτῷ λέγουσιν. μήποτε ἀληθῶς ἔγνωσαν οἱ ἄρχοντες ὅτι οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ Χριστός; 27 ἀλλὰ τοῦτον οἴδαμεν πόθεν ἐστίν: ὁ δὲ Χριστὸς ὅταν ἔρχηται οὐδεὶς γινώσκει πόθεν ἐστίν. 28 ἔκραξεν οὖν ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ διδάσκων ὁ Ἰησοῦς καὶ λέγων, Κἀμὲ οἴδατε καὶ οἴδατε πόθεν εἰμί: καὶ ἀπ'ἐμαυτοῦ οὐκ ἐλήλυθα, ἀλλ' ἔστιν ἀληθινὸς ὁ πέμψας με, ὃν ὑμεῖς οὐκ οἴδατε: 29 ἐγὼ οἶδα αὐτόν, ὅτι παρ' αὐτοῦ εἰμι κἀκεῖνός με ἀπέστειλεν. 30 Ἐζήτουν οὖν αὐτὸν πιάσαι, καὶ οὐδεὶς ἐπέβαλεν ἐπ' αὐτὸν τὴν χεῖρα, ὅτι οὔπω ἐληλύθει ἡ ὥρα αὐτοῦ. 31 Ἐκ τοῦ ὄχλου δὲ πολλοὶ ἐπίστευσαν εἰς αὐτόν, καὶ ἔλεγον, Ὁ Χριστὸς ὅταν ἔλθῃ μὴ πλείονα σημεῖα ποιήσει ὧν οὗτος ἐποίησεν;
32 Ἤκουσαν οἱ Φαρισαῖοι τοῦ ὄχλου γογγύζοντος περὶ αὐτοῦ ταῦτα, καὶ ἀπέστειλαν οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ οἱ Φαρισαῖοι ὑπηρέτας ἵνα πιάσωσιν αὐτόν. 33 εἶπεν οὖν ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Ἔτι χρόνον μικρὸν μεθ' ὑμῶν εἰμι καὶ ὑπάγω πρὸς τὸν πέμψαντά με. 34 ζητήσετέ με καὶ οὐχ εὑρήσετέ [με], καὶ ὅπου εἰμὶ ἐγὼ ὑμεῖς οὐ δύνασθε ἐλθεῖν. 35 εἶπον οὖν οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι πρὸς ἑαυτούς, Ποῦ οὗτος μέλλει πορεύεσθαι ὅτι ἡμεῖς οὐχ εὑρήσομεν αὐτόν; μὴ εἰς τὴν διασπορὰν τῶν Ἑλλήνων μέλλει πορεύεσθαι καὶ διδάσκειν τοὺς Ελληνας; 36 τίς ἐστιν ὁ λόγος οὗτος ὃν εἶπεν, Ζητήσετέ με καὶ οὐχ εὑρήσετέ [με], καὶ ὅπου εἰμὶ ἐγὼ ὑμεῖς οὐ δύνασθε ἐλθεῖν;
14 About the middle of the festival Jesus went up into the temple and began to teach. 15 The Jews were astonished at it, saying, “How does this man have such learning, when he has never been taught?” 16 Then Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine but his who sent me. 17 Anyone who resolves to do the will of God will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own. 18 Those who speak on their own seek their own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and there is nothing false in him.
19 “Did not Moses give you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why are you looking for an opportunity to kill me?” 20 The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is trying to kill you?” 21 Jesus answered them, “I performed one work, and all of you are astonished. 22 Moses gave you circumcision (it is, of course, not from Moses, but from the patriarchs), and you circumcise a man on the sabbath. 23 If a man receives circumcision on the sabbath in order that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because I healed a man’s whole body on the sabbath? 24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”
25 Now some of the people of Jerusalem were saying, “Is not this the man whom they are trying to kill? 26 And here he is, speaking openly, but they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Messiah? 27 Yet we know where this man is from; but when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.” 28 Then Jesus cried out as he was teaching in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I am from. I have not come on my own. But the one who sent me is true, and you do not know him. 29 I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.” 30 Then they tried to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him, because his hour had not yet come. 31 Yet many in the crowd believed in him and were saying, “When the Messiah comes, will he do more signs than this man has done?”
32 The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering such things about him, and the chief priests and Pharisees sent temple police to arrest him. 33 Jesus then said, “I will be with you a little while longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. 34 You will search for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.” 35 The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? 36 What does he mean by saying, ‘You will search for me and you will not find me’ and ‘Where I am, you cannot come’?”
This evening’s reading begins naturally at verse 14. In the immediate verses before this passage, Jesus’ brothers (see Mark 6: 3, where they are named as James, Joseph, Judas and Simon), challenge him to declare himself to the world by joining them and the pilgrims at the feast, where people are looking for him, asking: ‘Where is he?’ (verse 11).
Some people are saying Jesus is a good man, others are saying he is leading the people astray (verse 12), but no-one is speaking openly. His claims (discussed in Chapters 5 and 6) must be verified in Jerusalem.
The feast being celebrated is the Feast of the Tabernacles or Festival of Booths (Sukkot), which usually takes place around late September or in October (see Leviticus 23: 33-36; Deuteronomy 16: 13-15). It marks the end of harvest time, and is one of the three Pilgrimage Festivals, along with Passover and Pentecost.
Despite the urgings of others, and despite saying ‘I am not going up’ (verse 8), Christ travels in secret to Jerusalem (verse 10), and this secret journey might be compared with a later public journey (see John 12: 12-15).
This is Christ’s third visit to Jerusalem in Saint John’s Gospel; the first was at Passover (see John 2: 12-25), after the Wedding at Cana; the second visit to Jerusalem provides the setting for the healing at the pool in Bethzatha (John 5: 1-18).
Unlike, the first two journeys to Jerusalem, this next one we are reading about this evening is in secret. Apart from the fact that Christ knows that people are plotting to kill him, the reasons for this journey being secret are found in verse 8 (‘my time has not yet fully come’), compared with the reasons for his next journey being public (see 12: 23, ‘the hour has come’).
On the fourth day of the festival (‘about the middle of the festival,’ verse 14), Christ arrives in the Temple and begins to teach. But we are not told here what was the content of his teaching on that day. Instead, we are told about the reactions to his teaching.
People begin to marvel and to ask where the authority of Jesus to teach comes from, because he has not been trained in a recognisable or official rabbinical school (verse 15). This is similar to the reaction to Jesus in the synoptic Gospels when he teaches in the synagogues (see Matthew 7: 28-29; Matthew 13: 54; Mark 1: 22; Mark 6: 2; Luke 4: 22, 32).
Is Christ merely offering his own opinion? Is he competent to teach? Jesus’ teaching comes from the Father, not from himself, a fact that can be recognised by anyone who wishes to do God’s will (verse 17).
The law of Moses condemns their desire to kill Jesus for healing on the sabbath (5: 18), for it enjoins circumcision, even when the eighth day falls on the sabbath (Leviticus 12: 3), why should not healing not take place on the Sabbath too?
First Jesus’ authority to teach has been challenged. Now the possibility that he is the Messiah is denied because people know his origins is known, whereas it was believed at the time (according to Justin, the rabbinical sources and apocalyptic writings) that the Messiah’s origins would be mysterious, and that he would not be known until he was anointed by Elijah.
Everyone knows where Jesus is from, and who is family are. His human origin is apparent, but not his true origin in God, by whom he was sent and whose authority he bears.
The chief priests (Sadducees) and the Pharisees were polar opposites and inveterate enemies. But here they unite in sending the Temple police to arrest Jesus. This leads Christ to speak of his death.
But Jesus says that later, when people will seek deliverance in the Messiah, they will not find him, for he will have ascended to where they cannot come because they are unbelievers (contrast 8: 21 with 12: 26 and 17: 24).
They miss the point about where he is going. Instead they speculate about whether he is going to the Jews dispersed among the Greeks (the Gentiles), the Diaspora.
For seven days during this Festival, water was carried in a golden pitcher from the Pool of Siloam to the Temple as a reminder of the water from the rock in the desert (see Numbers 20: 2-13), and as a symbol of hope for the coming Messianic deliverance (Isaiah 12: 3).
There is a reminder too of yesterday’s Gospel reading (John 4: 5-42), when Jesus says on the last day of the festival: ‘Let anyone who is thirst come to me.’
He is the true water of life, who turns symbols into reality (Isaiah 44: 3; 55: 1). Believers become channels of life to others, through Christ's Spirit given at Pentecost after he was glorified (crucified, risen, ascended). The gift of the Spirit is a mark of the Messianic age (Joel 2: 28-29; Acts 2: 14-21).
And this evening’s readings leads us naturally to the reading next Sunday (John 9: 1-41), and the story of a man born blind who receives sight.
Discussing the passage
The passage ends with a series of unanswered questions about Jesus: what are his intentions, where is he going, what does he mean?
They really do not understand who Jesus is. But then, neither did his brothers in the verses before this passage.
Who do we say Jesus is for us today?
Who is Christ for you?
This is a question each and every one of us must ask ourselves anew time and time again.
He must be more than a good rabbi or teacher, because the expectations of a good religious leader or a good teacher change over time.
Who is the Messiah for you?
Again, many people at the time had false expectations of the Messiah.
We may see the difference between how John, near the end of his ministry, describes Christ, and how the disciples, at the beginning of answering Christ’s call, describe Christ.
But who is Christ for you?
George Fox, the founding Quaker, challenged his contemporaries: “You may say Christ saith this, and the apostles say this, but what canst thou say? Art thou a child of the Light and hast thou walked in the Light, and what thou speakest is it inwardly from God?”
Who is Christ for you?
Is he a personal saviour?
One who comforts you?
Or is he more than that for you?
Who do you say Christ is?
It is a question that challenges Saint Peter later in Saint Matthew’s Gospel (see Matthew 16: 15, which is part of the reading on 24 August 2014, the Tenth Sunday after Trinity, Matthew 16: 13-20). Not who do others say he is, but who do you say Christ is?
Next week, Monday, 27 March 2017:
Mothers’ Union Service in Saint Mary’s, Askeaton.
Next Bible Study: Monday, 3 April 2017.
(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Priest-in Charge, the Rathkeale and Askeaton Group of Parishes. This essay is based on notes prepared for a Lenten Bible study in Askeaton Rectory on Monday 20 March 2017.
I was through Glin and Foynes a number of times at the weekend, on my way between the churches in Askeaton and Tarbert.
Foynes is a small town in west Limerick, on the south bank of the Shannon Estuary, is best known for the Foynes Flying Boat Museum and as the place where Irish Coffee was first served 75 years ago by chef Joe Sheridan in 1942.
Although Foynes has a population of only 500 to 600, this is the second largest sea port in Ireland, and Foynes Island in the estuary helps to shape and shelter the natural deep-water harbour.
Although the importance of Foynes faded with the subsequent development of Shannon Airport on the other side of the estuary, there are still memories of Maureen O’Hara, Charles Lindbergh, the first flying boats and the world’s first duty-free shops established by Brendan O’Regan.
I wanted to see the ruins of Mount Trenchard Church, which is still part of my group of parishes, and the churchyard, which is associated with the O’Briens of Tarbert Island, and the Spring-Rice family of Mount Trenchard.
But, having recently visited Cahermoyle House, which was built by the great Gothic Revival architect James Jeremiah McCarthy for the Smith O’Brien family, and Saint Mary’s Church, Rathkeale, also designed by McCarthy, I decided at the weekend to visit McCarthy’s parish church in Foynes.
The church dedicated to Saint Senanus stands on a site given to the parishioners of Foynes by Thomas Spring-Rice (1849-1926), 2nd Lord Monteagle, who lived nearby at Mount Trenchard.
The church was designed by McCarthy, the original contractor was John Ryan & Son of Limerick and building work began in 1868.
However, McCarthy’s intended transepts, chancel and central tower were never built. Instead, when the church was completed by Ralph Henry Byrne in 1932, a fan-shaped nave was added alongside the south wall of the church, which Byrne then removed, so that the original nave became a re-orientated chancel.
Despite these additions to the rear, the church retains much of its simple form. The surviving original features include the rusticated walls, which contrast dramatically with the finely tooled limestone dressings.
The church has a gable-fronted porch to the north elevation facing the main street in Foynes, while the recent multiple-bay extension is to the south elevation. There is a pitched slate roof with fish-scale pattern, a limestone bracketed eaves course, copings and finial, cast-iron ridge crestings and finial.
The walls are of rusticated snecked limestone and there are buttresses to the porch and the corners, with a canted buttress to the west elevation.
There are paired trefoil-headed lancet stained glass quarry glazed windows to the nave and to the east gable. They have chamfered limestone block-and-start surrounds and above there are quatrefoil stained-glass, quarry-glazed windows.
There are quatrefoil window openings to the east and west gable apexes and at the porch at the east and west elevations.
The oculus to the east gable has a multi-foil quarry glazed window. The rose window on the west gable has inset multi-foil and quatrefoil openings and a limestone surround. The oculi to the west gable have quatrefoil quarry-glazed windows, and there are trefoil window openings to the canted buttress.
The pointed arch opening to the porch has a roll-moulded limestone surround, Corinthian-style columns with carved limestone caps, marble banded shafts and replacement glazed double-leaf doors.
Inside, there is a timber scissors-truss ceiling.
The shouldered-square-headed openings to the west wall have chamfered limestone surrounds. There is a cast-iron gate to the first-floor opening, and a timber battened door to the ground floor.
The church originally cost £1,864.13.9, and over 670 people contributed to its construction. The Munster News on 18 April 1874 gave Sir Stephen Edward de Vere most of the credit for building the church.
However, de Vere was generous in recognising the contributions of others, and wrote: ‘I cannot refrain from recording with gratitude that over £335 has been bestowed by our Protestant fellow Christians to the building of a Catholic church, and that a sum of £420 intended for the establishment of a Savings Bank in Foynes was, on the institution of the Post Office Savings Banks, transferred by a mixed board to the same object.’
McCarthy’s plans for a central tower, transepts, chancel and east end apse were never carried out, and it was estimated that another £2,500 to £3,000 was needed to complete these plans.
Byrne’s additions in 1932 involved removing the south wall of McCarthy’s church, adding a fan-shaped and converting the original nave into a re-orientated chancel.
After Vatican II, a decision was taken to renovate the church. The new work was designed by Sheahan Architects, the work was carried out by Michael Nash, contractors, and Bishop Jeremiah Newman blessed the renovated church and the new extension on 9 March 1975.
Sir Stephen Edward de Vere (1812-1904), who financed the building of the church, was a cousin of Lord Monteagle – the two were educated at Trinity College, Cambridge – and an elder brother of the poet Aubrey Thomas de Vere, who is buried in Saint Mary’s Churchyard, Askeaton.
As a student, de Vere was influenced by the Tractarian movement, and in 1847 he became a Roman Catholic. He was the Liberal MP for Co from 1854 to 1859, and in 1880 he inherited the family title of baronet. Before inheriting near Askeaton, de Vere built a house on Foynes Island in the 1850s. There he wrote poems, political pamphlets and translated the works of Horace.
When he died in 1904, he was buried beside the church he financed in Foynes. His title died out and most of his estates were inherited by his nephew Aubrey Vere O’Brien, while Foynes Island went to another nephew, Robert Vere O’Brien (1842-1913).
Near the church and de Vere’s grave, a once-working fountain, topped with a Celtic cross, bears the inscription: ‘This fountain is erected in grateful recognition of the numerous benefits conferred on his native country, on the poor and on this neighbourhood by Sir Stephen Edward de Vere Bart, statesman, philanthropist, poet, through whose generous aid and zealous co-operation in conjunction with contributions from others the Catholic Church of Foynes was built. Died 10 November 1904 aged 92 years.’
Many of his relatives in the Spring-Rice and O’Brien families are buried nearby in the grounds of the former Church of Ireland church at Mount Trenchard.
Today is being celebrated in many parts of the Anglican Communion as the Feast Day of Saint Joseph. This celebration always falls in Lent on 19 March. But because 19 March is a Sunday this year, it has been transferred in most Anglican calendars to today [20 March 2017].
The readings are: II Samuel 7: 4-16; Psalm 89: 26-36; Romans 4: 13-18; Matthew 1: 18-25.
This is a festival in the Calendar of the Church of Ireland, and the ‘Rules to Order Observance of Festivals’ in the Book of Common Prayer state: ‘Festivals falling on a Sunday may be transferred to the following Monday …’ However, in the case of both Saint Joseph and the Annunciation, these rules say: ‘When Saint Joseph’s Day or the Annunciation of our Lord falls on a Sunday in Lent or in Holy Week, they are observed on the Monday following the Second Sunday of Easter or at the discretion of the minister on another suitable weekday in the same week.’
This appears to miss the liturgical point that Saint Joseph is almost always celebrated in mid-Lent, and leaves the Church of Ireland celebrating on a different day than, say, the Church of England, and the Episcopal Church, where this feast is only transferred to the Monday after the Second Sunday of Easter when Saint Joseph’s Day falls between Palm Sunday and the Second Sunday of Easter.
The Lent 2017 edition of the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) follows the theme of the USPG Lent study course, ‘Living an Authentic Life.’
I am using this Prayer Diary for my prayers and reflections each morning throughout Lent. Why not join me in these prayers and reflections, for just a few moments each morning?
In the articles and prayers in the prayer diary, USPG invites us to investigate what it means to be a disciple of Christ. The Lent study course, ‘Living an Authentic Life’ (available online or to order at www.uspg.org.uk/lent), explores the idea that discipleship and authenticity are connected.
This week, from yesterday (Sunday 19 March) until next Saturday (25 March), the USPG Lent Prayer Diary is following the topic ‘Living with Difference.’ The topic was introduced yesterday in an article in the Prayer Diary by the Right Revd Michael Lewis, Bishop of Cyprus and the Gulf, who was a speaker at the USPG conference in High Leigh three years ago in 2014.
In his article, Bishop Michael reflected on being a disciple among communities of diverse backgrounds and asked how we should be disciples.
Monday 20 March 2017,
Pray for Christians in Cyprus, Oman and Iraq who face many challenges, with many fleeing war and persecution (see article)..
God our Father,
who from the family of your servant David
raised up Joseph the carpenter
to be the guardian of your incarnate Son
and husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary:
Give us grace to follow his example
of faithful obedience to your commands;
through our Lord Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
whose Son grew in wisdom and stature
in the home of Joseph the carpenter of Nazareth,
and on the wood of the cross perfected
the work of the world’s salvation.
Help us, strengthened by this sacrament of his passion,
to count the wisdom of the world as foolishness,
and to walk with him in simplicity and trust;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Yesterday’s reflection and prayer
The Anxiety of Saint Joseph’ by James Tissot (1836-1902)