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September 16, 1994     The Message
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September 16, 1994 The Message --for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana 9 -- Commentary-- Gospel commentary for Sept. 18, 1994, Twenty.fifth Sun- day, Ordinary Time, Cycle B, Mark 9:30.37. Triple prediction: Son of man By FATHER DON DILGER COLUMNIST All four of our canonical gospels contain at least three pre- dictions (some have more) of the sufferings and death of Jesus, pre- dictions made by Jesus. John, the last of our gospels, gives the tradi- tional predictions a considerable facelift by elevating them in vocab- ulary. For John the sufferings and the death of Jesus are not a dis- graceful episode to be explained theologically by describing them as part of God's ternal and mysterious plan to fulfill what was spo- on by Isaiah Jr about 540 B C Jesus does not suf- fer and die shamefully in the C_spel of John. The cross is his throne from which he gloriously reigns. Thus John speaks rather of a "lifting up" of Jesus rather than of being put to death. All the gospels have in common the title "Son of man" used of Jesus in the passion predictions. Strange to say, our oldest New Testament docu- ments, the letters of Paul, never apply this title to Jesus. Either this title did not fit into Paul's theol- ogy of Jesus or it was a title developed and applied to Jesus only in other Christian communities. We find it first in Mark, who we may assume wrote for the Christian community at Rome, a church Paul did not found. Matthew and Luke follow Mark in using this title for Jesus, though they also seem to Use an older source than Mark for this title, a lost gospel we do not have except inso- far as Matthew and Luke pre- served it in their books. It is unlikely that Jesus him- self used this title to refer to him- self, so where did "Son of man" come from? As always, Christian theologians turned to the Hebrew Scriptures (our Old Testament) for ideas, concepts, vocabulary with which to explain Jesus and his ministry. A basic principle for those first theologians was that everything said in the Hebrew Scriptures somehow found or would find its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus and his ministry. That included titles. Son of man originally meant no more than a male human being. The next step might be found in the sixth century B.C. Book of Ezekiel. That prophet is frequently addressed by Yahweh as "son of man." Since our early Christian theolo- gians saw in Jesus a prophet par excellence and the fulfillment of all the prophets and prophecies, Ezekiel's title may have been transferred to Jesus. But there seems to be a more potent source of this title for Jesus. It is found in Daniel 7:13-14. Daniel sees "one like a son of man" com- ing to the "Ancient of Days" i.e. God, and being presented before him. To that son of man God gives "dominion, and glory and kingdom.., an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away and a kingdom that shall not be destroyed." For the author of the second century B.C. Book of Daniel the "son of man" was a symbol of the hoped for empire of the Jewish people. In the follow- ing century both in literature and in popular belief Daniel's symbolic but glorious son of man became a glorified person, a revealer, healer, and judge of hu- mankind. Christian authors picked up on this title and saw its fulfillment or realization in Jesus. Mark uses this title in four ways: Jesus in his ministry on earth teach- ing and healing; Jesus in his suffering on the cross and his death; Jesus in his resurrection and return in glory at the end of time as supreme judge of the universe. The last of these four has its origin in the words of Daniel cited above, but what might be the source of a teaching, healing, and suffering Son of man, even suf- fering vicariously, i.e. for others? The work and suffer- ing of Ezekiel the prophet referred to above may be one source. A second source would be a first century B.C. book, First Enoch, in which the Son of man becomes a revealer and healer. Ezekiel, Daniel, and First Enoch were then combined with the concept of the Suffering Servant of Yahweh in Second Isaiah. All these ele- ments flowed into Mark's portrayal of Jesus as Son of Man. Today's gospel combines some of these ele- ments, Jesus as suffering Son of man and glorious Son of man in his resurrection. In this prediction of suffering, death and resurrection Mark reminds his people that the life of a Christian is not a series of triumphs. Like the life of Jesus our life will be marked by rejection, persecution, betrayal, suffer- ing, sometimes even crucifixion. In the end, how- ever, there is the promise of resurrection and the hope of glory. Readings: Wisdom 2:12, 17-20; James 3:16- Services of Coffees and Teas YOUR TASTE, WE CAN MATCH IT Washington 254-4409 Evansville 422-1833 Main Street Pharmacy 217 E. 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