Re the Daily Office Readings September 19 Anno Domini 2020

Achior testifying before Holofernes by Philip Galle

The Lessons: Judith 5:1-21; Acts 17:16-34; John 12:44-50

Judith. “No Ammonite or Moabite shall be admitted to the assembly of the LORD. Even to the tenth generation, none of their descendants shall be admitted to the assembly of the LORD” (Deut. 23:3). Perhaps this text has functioned twice like the proverbial grain of sand in the oyster, for in our canon we have both the Book of Ruth (from Moab) and the Book of Judith with its attention to Achior (of Ammon), who at the book’s end is received into Israel.

Acts. “…nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things.” This is bedrock for Paul, and for both Testaments. Yes, both Testaments speak of God’s servants—as further testimony to God’s generosity.

John. John (the Evangelist) is interested in witness. The noun ‘witness’ (marturia) 14x in John, 4x in the other Gospels; the verb ‘to witness’ (martureō) 31x in John, 2x in the other Gospels. Many commentators think chapter 12 wraps up a major part of the book. Today’s text: Jesus describing the logic of his witness. I wonder: is this also a description of the readers’ witness? They say what they’re commissioned to say. Their task is not to judge, but to save. We could have saved ourselves a good deal of grief had we heard the text in these terms.

Jesus’ description also reframes the question. While there is obvious overlap, the question is not Jesus but God. Who is this God really that the Jews have been worshipping for centuries, and what is this God up to? And—the overlap—to receive Jesus’ testimony is to move from darkness to light (recall John’s prologue!).

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