There are many methods of teaching the Bible, and not all of them are created equal. My name is Joe Miller and in this episode of the 10 Minute Teacher, I introduce you to the Expository-Narrative Method of sermon preparation which is a Community-centered approach to preaching. I pray you are challenged to experiment with and equipped to be more discerning as you seek to strengthen your preaching of God’s Word to His people.
As I was preparing to lead a devotional today on John’s story of the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, I noticed Jesus has a very missional moment with his disciples. Read my translation of the passage and pay close attention to the words in bold type.
John 4:25-27; 35-38
The woman says to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (the one called Christ); “whenever he comes, he will tell us everything.” 26 Jesus says to her, “I, the one speaking to you, am He.” 27 Now at that very moment His disciples came back. They were shocked because He was speaking with a woman. However, not one of them said, “What do you want?” or “Why are you speaking with her?”…
35 [Jesus says] “Don’t you say, ‘There are still four more months until the harvest comes?’ Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes to see that the fields are already white for harvest! 36 The one who reaps receives pay and gathers fruit for eternal life, so that the one who sows and the one who reaps can rejoice together. 37 For in this instance the saying is true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I have already sent you to reap what you did not work for; others have labored and you have entered into their labor.”
Look at v. 38. Did you notice how Jesus said, “I have already sent you.”? In the Greek, this verb ‘sent” is ἀπέστειλα (apostellō)—an aorist, active, indicative verb. The aorist verb tense is used to present the action of a verb as a “snapshot” event and when used in the indicative mood, it most often denotes past time. So in other words, Jesus is saying to his disciples, “there is a point in time where I have already sent you into the harvest field to reap, but you have done nothing. Now, you are about to reap a harvest in which you have not sown. So sit back, watch, and learn!”
But how is this possible? When did Jesus send them?
The following commentary is one of the few I have read that address directly the meaning of “sent” and yet it seeks only to dismiss it as meaningful only for the immediate context.
The interpretation of v 38 has been rendered needlessly complex through stumbling at the aorist ἀπέστειλα, “I sent.” It is pointed out that no mention has been made of Jesus sending the disciples on mission. They have not been sent to Samaria; nor can they be said in this context to be reapers. Either then Jesus projects himself into the future and looks back on the mission on which they will engage (Schnackenburg, 1:452), or the statement is a post-Resurrection utterance, made perhaps in the light of the mission to Samaria by Philip and other Hellenist Christians (Cullmann, The Early Church, 186). That the Evangelist will have had in mind the later Samaritan mission is entirely probable; but the pressing of the terms in v 38 is illegitimate, for the Evangelist has almost certainly brought together from various contexts sayings relating to the kingdom and the mission. (emphasis mine)
George R. Beasley-Murray, vol. 36, Word Biblical Commentary : John (, Word Biblical CommentaryDallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002), 64.
Just like the disciples, many of today’s commentators are lost in the crumbs and cannot see the Bread—but there is more than cake in this passage! The common assumption made when reading this passage is that Jesus had not previously sent his disciples and therefore other reasons must be given for why Jesus says, “already sent.” Far too many people get confused by Jesus’ words and keep asking the wrong questions, “He did not already send us? What is our Rabbi talking about?”
Now look back with me to verse 8 and see what John tells us, “for his disciples had gone off into the town to buy food.” Jesus had sent the disciples into the Samaritan town to buy food; they came out with bread but they never took the time to tell the lost people of Sychar about the Bread of Life. So what does Jesus do? He enlists a Samaritan woman to be his messenger. She goes into the city and sows the seed the disciples did not sow. The disciples were so hung up on their physical need for food, they forgot that these despised half-breed Jews also needed a Savior.
As the Samaritan people come out to meet Jesus, He tries to show the disciples what they missed. They are about to reap a harvest of souls, but they themselves did not sow. The disciples just met the people of this town, but it took the testimony of a sin-impoverished woman of Samaria to reach them. The disciples were confused about the Bread and the woman was confused about the Water; yet she still took time to sow the Seed.
I wonder, when did the disciples actually get it? Did they understand what it means to sow when Jesus gave them His final commission, “as you go along the way, make disciples of all peoples.”?
You may not realize it, but you, and everyone else reading this, has already been sent by Jesus into the mission’s field.
- Jesus has sent us into our workplaces where people go to earn a living, but do we share with them how God’s riches are far better.
- Jesus has moved us into neighborhoods where people seek shelter, but have we helped them know that God is the only house of refuge.
- Jesus has placed is in earthly families where people long for acceptance, but have we shown them by example that God’s family is the only way to find true love.
- Jesus has sent us into our local Safeway where they sell, “ingredients for life”, but have we held back from sharing our secret ingredient for Life Eternal?
- Jesus has sent us into the world where we demonstrate compassion by giving food, money and medicine, but have we forgotten about the spiritual need for nourishment and healing in Jesus?
Jesus has already sent you to sow and reap a harvest, did you miss it?
In my first post, I outlined both the Goal and Purpose of Bible translation. In part 2, I shared my first two translation keys. In this 3rd and final post, I will give the last key translation feature.
Key Translation Features (cont.)
3. Textual Keys
a. Textual Authority
Modern scholarship has contributed much to our understanding of Scripture, but in some specific cases the Majority text is still superior in both clarity and authority. This paradigm will be reflected in the content of a good translation on a case by case basis.
EXAMPLE: Compare these two translations:
Matthew 19:16–17 (ESV)
19:16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”
19:17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”
These textual tradition simply makes no sense when you compare Jesus answer with the actual question being asked. In contrast, the textual tradition for the Majority text is far more comprehensible.
Mark 10:17–18 (AV 1873)
10:17 And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?
10:18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.
b. Old Testament Quotes
In all cases where the New Covenant quotes the Old, the text has been bolded, italicized, and CAPITALIZED to look like THIS.
EXAMPLE: Matthew 2:13-18
2:13 Now, after they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph saying, “Get up, take the Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to kill Him.”
2:14 That night Joseph left for Egypt with the Child and Mary, His mother,
2:15 He stayed there until Herod died. In this way what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet was fulfilled: “I CALLED MY SON OUT OF EGYPT.”
2:16 Herod was furious when he learned that the wise men had outwitted him. And sent soldiers to kill all the boys from age two and under, according to the time he had ascertained from the wise men, who lived in and nearby Bethlehem.
2:17 Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled, saying,
2:18 “A CRY OF ANGUISH IS HEARD IN RAMAH — WEEPING AND MOURNING UNRESTRAINED. RACHEL WEEPS FOR HER CHILDREN, REFUSING TO BE COMFORTED — FOR THEY ARE DEAD.”
c. References to the Torah
When the New Testament refers to the Torah, I propose the English translators use a capitol “L” for “Law” (Torah). In instances where another law is in mind, a lower-case “l” should be used. In addition, when referencing the Torah, translators should resist the urge to use the definite article ‘the’ when it is not used in the Greek. By changing this translation paradigm to use a capital ‘L’ and excluding the definite article ‘the’, the translation does create a mild linguistic awkwardness for the English reader but it ultimately heightens awareness to the original meaning of the text by creating a stronger contrast between governmental law and OT Law (Torah).
EXAMPLE: Galatians 3:21
Is Law then opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that was able to give life, then righteousness would certainly have been based on Law.
d. The Historical Present
One of the most mistranslated potions of the New Testament are passages which use a historical present narrative. See this example from the book of Matthew.
EXAPLE: Matthew 8:18-23
8:18 Now when Jesus saw the great crowds around Him, He gave instructions to cross over to the other side of the sea.
8:19 But a certain scribe came to Him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”
8:20 And Jesus says to him, “Foxes have dens, and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.”
8:21 And another of the disciples said to Him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”
8:22 But Jesus says to him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”
8:23 Now when He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him.
Note the words in red. These words are written in the present, active, indicative and commonly translated in the past tense to conform to modern English sensibilities. However, this does not take full advantage of the artistic, and poetic, imagery within these narratives. Notice in contrast how the words in blue are in the context of the aorist, active and are translated using the past tense. The disciples “said”, but Jesus “says.” This mixed use of tenses may seem odd at first to the English reader (and that is why most translations don’t do it), but in an age where the narrative is all important, a proper translation of the preset active indicative in juxtaposition to the aorist active can help bring the words of Jesus to life and help transport the reader into the very presence of Jesus’ in history. Read the text out loud to yourself, or have someone read it to you, and you will feel the difference.
This is a good starting point, but there is a lot of work that should be done. I cannot promise a reply to every comment, but I am open to reading your ideas
Today, Americans around the world are gathering in backyards, gravesides, union halls, and parks to celebrate the sacrifice of our military veterans.
Memorial Day is a Celebration of Sacrifice
The most familiar tradition of this day is the commemoration of those military men and women who sacrificed their life in battle for the love of family and call to service on behalf of the Unites States of America. Susan McConnell writing for the Jacksonville Daily News says,
On Memorial Day, take time to reflect on the sacrifices made by our military for the freedoms our citizens enjoy. Every life given in the pursuit of defending our liberties deserves tribute from those who live to enjoy it.
This Memorial Day, take time to thank a veteran, current military personnel, and military family members. Fly the American flag proudly. Pray for our nation’s political leaders and troops serving to defend our freedom. Make a pledge to uphold the freedoms granted in our Constitution and find ways to improve life in local communities.
The sacrifice of our military should never be forgotten.
Yet, there is more to this day than we often consider. Stephen Douglas Wilson & Myriah Snyder describe the history of Memorial Day with these colorful images.
Memorial Day is a Spring Celebration of Life
Memorial Day for most Americans is a day set aside to honor fallen American veterans, but the holiday itself has its origins in the pre-Civil War South when families, and even whole churches, honored the dead in late spring or early summer. Decoration Day occurred in the rural South’s calendar after spring planting, but before long summer days required extensive hoeing and maintenance of the crops and livestock.
Memorial Day is a Christian Celebration of Community
Parts of the rural South still celebrate Decoration Day in its traditional southern form. The literal definition of Decoration Day or “Decoration,” as it is sometimes called, taken from the Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English, is: “An occasion on which a family or a church congregation gathers … to place flowers on the graves of loved ones and to hold a memorial service for them. Traditionally this involved singing, dinner on the ground as well as a religious service.”
Largely surviving in the rural South as a family event, Decoration Day once was a corporate event for rural churches. The day included such activities as cleaning up the church cemetery, placing fresh flowers on the graves, a sermon by the pastor and a dinner on the ground(s). During the sermon, the pastor would recount how those now buried in the plots influenced the life of the church and provided a positive testimony to current church members. Some rural churches today, particularly in southern Appalachia, still continue the corporate celebration of Decoration Day or its variants (“Cemetery Day”).
Decoration Day, whether observed by families or a rural church, is steeped in Christian values and symbolism. Southern Christians, particularly Baptists of the rural South, tended to reject the autumn observances of remembering the Christian dead that focused on All Saints Day or All Souls Day (Nov. 1 and 2) as practiced by some faith denominations. Instead, they placed Decoration Day in the late spring at a time that nature itself symbolized resurrection. Newly decorated graves in springtime, all facing east to meet the Lord for the future resurrection, seemed more appropriate to these rural congregants. The custom of planting cedar trees (the evergreen cedar illustrates eternal life) or flowering trees such as dogwoods or ornamental fruit trees (symbols of resurrection) near gravesites also conveyed aspects of Christian symbolism.
Memorial Day is a Celebration for Families
Fellowship among those who observed Decoration Day reflected the words of Bible in Hebrews 10:25: “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” As they gathered together, living Christians remembered those who nourished them in the faith. Consequently, Decoration Day often provided the opportunity for family members to hold reunions during the Memorial Day weekend. Hardly an entirely somber event, Decoration Day always balanced reflection and celebration. Fellowship and a communal meal took place in tandem with the respectful graveside observance.
Wherever you are this Memorial Day, I pray you are able to both commemorate and celebrate the beauty of sacrifice, the joy of life, the comfort of Divine-community, and the treasure of family.
Jack Fortenberry is the author of a short essay entitled, “Corinthian Elders“. His book was published in 2008 and Fortenberry emailed me to ask if I would review his book for my blog.
The premise of Fortenberry’s book is that leaders in the Church can harm, not help, our relationship with Christ and hinder the Church’s ability to make disciples. Fortenberry supports this thesis by citing Paul’s admonition in 1 Cor 1-4 to not follow after a gifted speaker, but instead on the wisdom of Christ given to each follower through the Holy Spirit (17). Fortemberry writes:
For the church to present one or a few preachers to a passive audience who attend services because they enjoy the sermon or preaching style is a violation of Paul’s commandment to the Church. Do we know better than Paul? (15)… Giftedness, as some consider oratory skills in professional preachers, may in fact be detrimental to a demonstration of the Spirit’s working as indicated by Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:4… (23)
Fortenberry’s main concern is that the system of hiring professional speakers or Elders encourages people to follow after “favorite” speakers instead of the leadership of the Spirit among the saints (32-33) .
Fortenberry’s book goes on to say that consensus leadership is the New Testament model of how the church should be governed (46). Additionally, he concludes, that no Elder should ever receive any money in support of their ministry to the flock (55-56).
I have a respectful disagreement with Fortenberry’s claim that paying Elders is not biblical. (I see this as a “Freedom in Christ” issue left open to the decision of each local Family). Far too much of his argument relies on setting up the reader through rhetorical questions that he never fully answers himself.
I would also like to read a more thorough definition of the term “leadership.” than Fortenberry provides in his book.
- What is biblical leadership?
- Is congregational “leadership” by consensus truly the “biblical” model we see in the New Testament?
- Why does Paul even establish Elders?
Ultimately, Fortenberry’s book overcorrects against the unhealthy models of leadership in the West, but at the expense of the Elder’s unique role as “overseer” and “shepherd” for the congregation.
Overall, if you are a discerning reader, “Corinthian Elders” is a decent contribution to the ongoing reformation of the church in the West. The book’s emphasis on following Christ and allowing the Holy Spirit to teach us is a much needed reminder to the church at large.