Lectionary Commentaries for October 25, 2020
Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost

from WorkingPreacher.org


Commentary on Matthew 22:34-46

Raj Nadella

The Pharisees and the Sadducees have been taking turns, as if by design, trying to trap Jesus.

This time it is the turn of the Pharisees to test Jesus in the hope of trapping him in his own words and thereby demonstrate their superiority over him.

Jesus had just exposed the Sadducees’ false understanding of resurrection when they tried to trap him with a question about marriage (Matthew 22:23-33). Given the Pharisees’ vehement disagreements with the Sadducees on theological issues such as resurrection and political issues such as the Roman rule, one might have expected them to celebrate Jesus rendering the Sadducees speechless. They had a lot more in common with Jesus theologically and politically than they did with the Sadducees. So, why would they try to trap him again?

The Pharisees, the interpreters of the law, had positioning themselves as advocates for the people even as they have been promoting practices such as the purity laws that were at odds with the interests of many ordinary people. Jesus has been interpreting the Law, as did the Pharisees, but his ability and proclivity to interpret it with clarity, integrity and commitment to needs of the people at the margins made him a forceful voice and a threat to their authority and popularity.

In this instance, their question about the greatest commandment is seemingly straightforward but it is far from one. They have been presenting their emphasis on tradition and purity laws as an expression of their love of God and their commitment to the greatest commandment articulated in Deuteronomy 6:5. If they can get Jesus to admit that the commandment to love God was, in fact, the greatest commandment, they can claim that they have been right all along and silence Jesus. If he refuses to admit that it was the greatest commandment, they can accuse him of sacrilege.

Jesus quickly make it clear that a sophisticated and responsible interpretation of scriptures cannot be reduced to a simplistic understanding of the greatest commandment. Being religious cannot be compressed into a single goal. He quotes the commandment from Deuteronomy—Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind—and rightly calls it the greatest commandment. And he quickly adds the qualifier “first.” The qualifier clarifies that there is more to it and anticipates a second commandment from Leviticus 19:18—Love your neighbor as yourself.

While the first commandment represents the vertical dimension of one’s faith (human-divine relationship), the second commandment represents the horizontal dimension (human-human relationship). The second commandment is comparable to the first in emphasis and significance.

The quick succession and the manner in which Jesus states the two commandments highlights a complementary and symbiotic relationship between the two. The second builds upon the foundation of the first but the first manifests itself through the second. While second is built upon the first, the first is not complete without the second. Loving our neighbors is, to a great extent, an act of loving God in whose image the neighbors are made. One cannot claim to love God unless one does everything in one’s capacity to love one’s neighbors.  

Jesus has already been highlighting the horizontal dimension—love your neighbor as you love yourself—and that continues to be central to his mission. However, since one’s ability to attend to the horizontal dimension is engendered by one’s understanding of the vertical dimension, Jesus will not emphasize the horizontal alone. On the other hand, if he only emphasizes the vertical dimension, he would be undermining the integrity of the nature of his mission. He cannot emphasize the first commandment to the exclusion of the second nor can he fulfill the second without attending to the first.

Within the context of Jesus’ mission in Matthew’s gospel, the vertical commandment (Deuteronomy 6:5) cannot be substituted for the horizontal commandment (Leviticus 19:18). It should invariably translate into horizontal relationships. One’s love of God should extend itself to love and care for one’s neighbors. Jesus had already confronted the Pharisees on such matters, specifically about how their emphasis on the sabbath laws was indifferent to the basic human needs such as hunger (Matthew 12:1-8). He also criticized them for their insistence on maintaining certain traditions that were lacking in empathy and care for the vulnerable (15:1-10).

In chapter 23, Jesus offers a series of woes against religious leaders, specifically the Pharisees. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness.” (Matthew 23:13) His words are a forceful indictment against religious leaders who have been undermining the interests of their vulnerable neighbors using religion as a cover.

Jesus ends his exchange with the Pharisees by calling upon what they would have known too well—the Law and the prophets. The Law requires righteousness as an expression of commitment to God’s will. The prophets demanded justice for people at the margins. The Greek word dikaiosuney that lies at the motifs of righteousness and justice has the connotation of being in right relationships—with God and with the people. Accordingly, righteousness and justice are intrinsically connected and are predicated upon being in right relationship with the divine and with fellow human beings. One cannot be in right relationship with God unless one does everything possible to be in right relationship with one’s neighbors as well.

Loving God should be at the core of one’s faith but is incomplete by itself. If one’s love for God does not translate into love for neighbors—near and far—or, even worse, prevents one from loving neighbors, it is a façade designed to cover up indifference and hostility towards one’s neighbor.

The text is a reminder that our identity as people of faith is dependent on our ability and willingness to ensure justice for our neighbors who are denied the most basic rights. But commitment to justice is never an abstract idea but should manifest itself in concrete contexts. Similarly, while we are called to pray in situations of oppression, our prayers seeking justice for the oppressed should become a catalyst for action rather than a substitute for action.

First Reading

Commentary on Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18

Kathryn M. Schifferdecker

“I never realized I could fall asleep on a treadmill until I did so while trying to read Leviticus,” said one of my students in a Pentateuch class years ago.1

His testimony to the tedium of reading Leviticus will surprise no one, I’m sure. Many a resolution to read the whole Bible from cover to cover has foundered on Leviticus’s arcane details about sacrifice and skin disease.

And yet, there is more to Leviticus than meets the eye. It takes work on the part of the reader (or preacher). This book is not narrative; it is law code and ritual. But the person who is willing to enter into the book with imagination, and with an eye for detail, will find profound insights there.2

Take chapter 19, for instance. It begins with an oft-repeated refrain in Leviticus: “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy” (19:2).

Holiness is a matter of great concern to the priestly writers of Leviticus. Not because of a need to “earn” personal salvation (a concept foreign to ancient Israel) but because holiness was an attribute of God, in fact, the attribute of God. And in order for this holy God to dwell in the midst of an unholy people, a certain order needed to be maintained.

Think of the tabernacle, the visible sign of God’s presence, as a sort of electrical power plant, a source of unimaginable power. If you approach that power carelessly, without the necessary preparations, you will be hurt, not through any malice on the part of God, but because God is wholly other, wholly holy (cf. 2 Samuel 6:1-10). So, the necessary preparations need to be made and a certain order needs to be maintained in order for this holy God to dwell in the midst of the people without destroying them.

Samuel Balentine discerns two beliefs that underlie this priestly worldview:

God has created the world with a capacity to be “very good,” and that goodness is maintained by the order that God has built into creation, setting boundaries, for instance, between light and darkness, earth and sky, sea and dry land (Genesis 1). When those boundaries are maintained, life can flourish. When they are crossed, chaos ensues.

Human ritual order mirrors and helps maintain this cosmic order. The priest, according to Leviticus, is to distinguish (hivdil—the same verb used of God when God “separates” things in Genesis 1) “between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean” (Leviticus 10:10). When the priests maintain this ritual order, mirroring God’s cosmic order, the holy God is able to dwell with Israel.

Balentine sums up the priestly worldview this way: “[T]he ritual order, like the cosmic order, establishes the boundaries and categories that enable a holy God to dwell in the midst of a world vulnerable to sin and defilement.”Hence, the priestly concern with sacrifices and skin disease. It’s not about personal holiness. It’s about maintaining right order so that life can flourish, chaos is kept at bay, and God can dwell with God’s people.

It’s important to note that Leviticus is addressed not just to priests but to the whole people. Particularly in chapters 17-26, which is called by scholars the Holiness Code, instructions are given to all Israel about how to maintain holiness in the community. And in these chapters, there is no distinction between what we might call “religious” concerns and “secular” concerns. All of life matters to God—what we eat, how we do business, who we sleep with, how we care for the land, our relationships with family, neighbors, and strangers—all of it matters to God. We might even say, in this strange book of Leviticus, that matter matters.

This is apparent in chapter 19. Here we find an odd variety of laws. Many of the Ten Commandments are here: prohibitions on idols, stealing, false witness, profaning the name of God; injunctions to keep the Sabbath and to honor one’s mother and father. But we also find laws against sowing your field with two different kinds of seed or wearing clothing made of two different materials (verse 19).4 All of life matters, from seemingly trivial issues to matters of life and death.

Here in chapter 19 we find the most famous verse in the whole of Leviticus: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (verse 18). When asked what the greatest commandment is, Jesus, who is a good Jew, quotes this and Deuteronomy 6:5, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”

What does it mean to love your neighbor? Well, if we take the context of this verse into account, then loving your neighbor has more to do with action than with emotion. You must be honest in your business dealings—don’t put your finger on the scale (verses 35-36). You must not defraud your neighbor or slander him (verses 13, 16). You must render just judgments (verse 15).

When you harvest your fields and your vineyard, you must not strip the land bare, but leave enough for the poor and the foreigners to glean and support themselves (verses 9-10; cf. the book of Ruth). In short, “loving your neighbor as yourself’ means not just refraining from hurting your neighbor, but also willing your neighbor’s good and working for it.

In its original context in Leviticus, the term “neighbor” probably refers to a fellow Israelite. Jesus expands the definition in Luke 10 with the story of the Good Samaritan. But even within this chapter in Leviticus, a more universal understanding is also apparent. Just a few verses later, we read, “When a foreigner resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the foreigner. The foreigner who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the foreigner as yourself, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God” (19:33-34).

Love your neighbor as yourself. Love the foreigner as yourself. Be holy, as God is holy. This book is more than a list of sometimes arcane rules and customs. It is a profound theological statement about life with God. The laws and rituals are grounded in the reality of who God is and who God has called us to be: “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.”

Holiness is not something we can achieve ourselves, of course, and when we try to do so, we often fall into sin, adopting a “holier-than-thou” attitude. Holiness is the work of God in us, for the sake of Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit. Gilbert Meilaender puts it well when he speaks of “God’s commitment to make us people who will want to live in his presence—to make us what he says we are. Hence, God’s promise is embedded in his command: “‘You shall be holy.’”5

“You shall be holy.” It is both command and promise. And to believe that promise is to begin to be formed into the people God calls us to be, a people living out in our day-to-day lives genuine love for God and for our neighbors.


  1. Commentary first published on this site on Oct. 26, 2014.
  2. My favorite chapter in Leviticus is chapter 25, which speaks of the Jubilee, when all debts are forgiven and slaves are set free. This vision of Jubilee inspired Jubilee 2000, a movement calling for the forgiveness of third world debt by the year 2000. The Jubilee movement continues today.
  3. Samuel Balentine, Leviticus (Interpretation; John Knox, 2002), 4.
  4. The latter laws probably have to do with the distinction between the holy and the profane. Mixtures of cloth were reserved for the most sacred people and places in Israel: the clothing of the high priest and the curtain of the Holy of Holies, for instance [Jacob Milgrom, Leviticus 17-22 (Anchor Bible 3A; Doubleday, 2000), 1660].
  5. Gilbert Meilaender, “Hearts Set to Obey,” in I am the Lord your God: Christian Reflections on the Ten Commandments, ed. Carl Braaten and Christopher Seitz (Eerdmans, 2005), 274.

Alternate First Reading

Commentary on Deuteronomy 34:1-12

Vanessa Lovelace

Deuteronomy 34 recounts a major transitional period in biblical Israel’s history.

In the final chapter of the book of Deuteronomy, God’s servant Moses has died, but God did not leave the people leaderless. God appointed Joshua son of Nun as Moses’ successor to guide the next generation into the promised land.

Moses’ death comes after a forty-year journey in the wilderness when they had come to the plains of Moab. Although God promised to go before the Israelites on their sojourn to Canaan, if it were not for Moses’ leadership and intercession on more than one occasion, the people would have been destroyed by God (Exodus 32:10), perished from hunger or thirst (Exodus 16:1-3; 17:1-7; Numbers 20:2-5), or been killed by their enemies (Exodus 17:8; Numbers 20:14-21; 21:21-35). Yet, Moses would not accompany the people as they prepared to enter the land. Instead, the narrator reports that before dying, Moses is only allowed to view the land from the top of Mount Nebo (also Pisgah) overlooking Canaan. Standing east of the Jordan, the text says that God showed Moses “the whole land” (Deuteronomy 34:1)—the north, southwest, and west. The scope of the details is described according to territorial boundaries by tribe, which have yet to be allotted. God reiterates that this is the land that God promised their ancestors: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

In what is frequently described as the incident at the waters of Meribah in the wilderness of Zin, one of their wilderness stopovers, Moses and his brother Aaron rebel against God. The people complained to Moses and Aaron about the lack of water for them and their livestock to drink. God instructed the two to command water to come forth from a rock in the presence of the people assembled. Instead, Moses strikes the rock with a staff, which displeases God for not properly showing God’s holiness before the Israelites (Numbers 20:11-12). Thus, God pronounces that Moses and Aaron would not be allowed to cross into the Promised Land with the people. While some might find God’s judgment against Moses and Aaron just due to their disobedience, let us recall that God commanded Moses in Exodus 17:5-6 to strike the rock when the people grumbled about not having water to drink. Moses called the place at the time Massah and Meribah because “the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’” Thus, he was doing as he was previously instructed.

Aaron died shortly after the Meribah incident and was buried atop Mount Hor (Numbers 20:22-29). Now we are at the point of Moses’ death and burial in Deuteronomy 34:5-6 in the long narrative arc of the Israelites’ wilderness wanderings. One should read Deuteronomy 34:1-12 alongside Numbers 27:12-23 for a fuller perspective of the events. There also, God sends Moses atop a mountain to view the land that God promised to the Israelites with the declaration that once he had done so, like his brother, he too would die on account of his rebelliousness in the wilderness of Zin. The phrase “to be gathered to your people” is used both for Aaron and Moses to express their deaths. Given that neither man is literally buried among their ancestors in a permanent family sepulcher or grave, this idiom is likely figurative to refer to a spiritual abode where their ancestors were believed to dwell and should not be taken for the New Testament final place of judgment by eternal fire.

According to the account in Deuteronomy 34:5, Moses’ death took place immediately after he viewed the land of Canaan. He was buried in an undisclosed location in a valley in the land of Moab (34:6). The narrator reports that Moses died at the age of 120 with his eyesight unimpaired and still full of vigor, a detail all the more significant given that he was able to climb Mount Nebo on his own accord. This notice is of note, given that Moses declared in Deuteronomy 31:2 that now that he was 120 years old, he was no longer able to get about. He was thus preparing the people for his death and for Joshua’s leadership. The people mourned Moses’ death for thirty days.

Joshua son of Nun is Moses’ successor. Joshua was selected to succeed Moses as the leader of the Israelites at the request of Moses for fear that he would die without anyone to lead the people into Canaan. Moses asked God to appoint someone over the congregation to “go out before them and come in before them” (Numbers 27:16-17) like a shepherd who leads a flock of sheep. God commanded Moses to take Joshua, a man who was filled with God’s spirit, and commission him by laying hands on him before the priest Eleazar and all the congregation (27:18-19). Thus, Moses gives Joshua some of his authority so that the people will obey him after Moses’ death. Deuteronomy 34:9 describes Joshua as having received the spirit of wisdom from Moses, specifying that wisdom rather than the spirit of divination was required as he finally stepped in to follow Moses in office.

The concluding words of Deuteronomy are a fitting eulogy to the man Moses, who was a prophet par excellence. The narrator recounts that there was no prophet like Moses before or since. The notice that no other prophet had the distinction of knowing God face-to-face (Deuteronomy 34:10; see also Exodus 33:11) should not overlook the tradition that the only legitimate prophets were prophets like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15-22). Yet Moses was still regarded as unequaled except to God in the signs and wonders and mighty deeds that he performed in the wilderness (Deuteronomy 34:11; see also Exodus 6:1; 7:3). Whether or not Joshua will meet this standard in the eyes of the people is yet to be seen.


Commentary on Psalm 1

Patricia Tull

Scripture compares humans to trees far more often than contemporary discourse does.1

Isaiah, for instance, warns the unjust that they will be “like an oak whose leaf withers, and like a garden without water” (1:30). At rumors of an invasion, Ahaz and his royal family “shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind” (7:2).

The Assyrians will dwindle so that “the remnant of the trees of his forest will be so few that a child can write them down” (10:19; cf. verses 33-34). But Judah’s leadership will regenerate as “a shoot … from the stump of Jesse” (11:1). Later prophets in the book of Isaiah said, “Do not let the eunuch say, ‘I am just a dry tree’” (56:3), and “like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be (65:22).

Other Psalms likewise compare people to trees. One says, “I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever” (52:8). Another claims, “The righteous flourish like the palm tree, and grow like a cedar in Lebanon” (92:12), and goes on to speak of their powers to bear fruit even in old age. A third says that the children of the faithful will be “like olive shoots around your table” (Psalm 128:3).

This particular psalm compares the vitality and stability of those who follow righteous paths to the vitality and stability of trees growing in optimal soil, beside flowing streams. Because they are “grounded” in the right place, their leaves and fruit flourish. The wicked, by contrast, are imagined as dried, dead chaff blown abroad by the wind.

The psalm uses these images to describe two distinct paths that people may take — the path of followers of God, and the path of the wicked, the sinners, and the scoffers. But what in actual deeds and actions these two paths consist of is not told us in this psalm. Who exactly are the sinners, and which path are they treading? Where do scoffers sit, and at what do they scoff, so we can see them from afar and avoid them?

And most importantly, if the world is so sharply divided as this Psalm suggests between the righteous who grow like trees and the wicked who are blowing away like chaff, why is it so hard to tell, in real life, the good from the bad? Everything rides on discerning a point that the psalmist doesn’t at all spell out. It’s not as if any of our significant life choices came with clearly printed labels as cigarettes and packaged food do.

If we dig further into the book of Psalms, we discover that, even though the word “righteousness” often makes us think of “self-righteousness,” or at best of personal purity, the lines drawn between wickedness and righteousness in the Psalms have far more to do with social categories than with purity categories. In fact, when the word “righteousness” (Hebrew tsedakah) appears in parallel with a synonym in the Psalms, that parallel synonym is three times more likely to be mishpat, “justice,” than any other word. Being righteous, the Psalms say repeatedly, means being just.

That is to say, when the Psalms discuss the righteous and the wicked, they are not exactly talking about small personal virtues and vices. Psalm 72, for instance, describes in some detail the monarch who rules in righteousness and the moral order he wants to enact:

Give the king your justice, O God,
  and your righteousness to a king’s son.
May he judge your people with righteousness,
  and your poor with justice.
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
  give deliverance to the needy,
  and crush the oppressor.

Righteousness according to the Psalms seems to mean right dealings with people who may be very different from ourselves, whose lives we can hardly comprehend.

This Psalm says that those who are walking on the happy path “delight in the torah of God, and on God’s torah they meditate day and night.” Torah, which means literally teaching, points specifically to the laws given to Moses on Mount Sinai. These laws presuppose a public life in which people are beset by neighbors with their straying sheep and hungry mouths and court cases.

The other Hebrew Scripture reading for the day, Leviticus 19, demands, “You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor” (verse 15), and even, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (verse 18).

If righteousness is tied to justice, and the Torah is filled with exhortations to do justice, the path of the righteous is no easy road. The wicked, the sinners, and the scoffers are not just hoodlums tempting kids to smoke cigarettes behind the schoolhouse. Rather, the temptations are substantial and difficult—how do we know when our judgment is being swayed by deference to wealth and power? How do we know when we are loving our neighbors rightly?

To love God with all one’s heart is, in a sense, easy as long as God remains invisible and can be imagined in whatever likeness we find most loveable. It’s our neighbors, who diligently refuse to be like us, who are so difficult to understand, much less to care for, those intractable others, they are the real challenge. A challenge to our good intentions so tough that the psalmist reckoned it necessary to ponder Torah constantly, day and night, to carry it out.


  1. Commentary first published on this site on Oct. 26, 2014.

Second Reading

Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8

Michael Joseph Brown

Paul highlights two events in the experience of the Thessalonians that advanced the gospel: the apostles’ trust in the work of the gospel despite his poor treatment in Philippi and his tender care for the Thessalonians despite his “right” to support as an apostle.1

These two events can only be understood by looking at other places were Paul raises such experiences.

Philippians is one of Paul’s prison letters. He makes this clear when he says, “I want you to know, beloved, that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ; and most of the brothers and sisters, having been made confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare to speak the word with greater boldness and without fear … the others proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but intending to increase my suffering in my imprisonment” (Philippians 1:12-14, 17).

Is this the opposition and shameful mistreatment the apostle is referencing? The word “already suffered” does not imply by itself that the apostle’s treatment was unjust, but he adds, “and been shamefully mistreated” (1 Thessalonians 2:2). In addition to the apostle’s statements in Philippians, we are told in the Acts of the Apostles 16 that Paul and Silas were publicly beaten and cast into prison in Philippi. Being beaten with rods was regarded as a humiliating punishment, one that was forbidden to be inflicted on Roman citizens. Acts maintains that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens: “They have beaten us in public, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison” (Acts 16:37). “[W]e had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition” (1 Thessalonians 2:2).

The word here translated as “courage” denotes boldness or freedom of speech. As the verb “to speak” follows, it may be better to render the clause, “we were confident in our God to speak” or “emboldened to speak.” This boldness or confidence was in our God; that is, on account of our fellowship or union with the Almighty. The “gospel of God,” which denotes the genitive of origin, tells us not only that God was the grammatical object, but that God was the author of the gospel. “[I]n spite of great opposition” alludes to the peril and danger with which Paul preached the gospel in Thessalonica. In other words, Paul is rehearsing the crucifixion-like experience he referenced in last week’s reading (1 Thessalonians 1:1-10).

As I pointed out then, these crucifixion-like experiences are important to Paul’s understanding of the gospel because they confirm in his own experience that he is following the Lord because he is participating in an imitative history of salvation that stretches back to the prophets. Thus, Paul’s imprisonment in Philippi advanced the gospel in the same way that Jesus’ crucifixion advanced the gospel. They are of the same type.

By contrast, Paul’s denial of his authority to demand remuneration as an apostolic emissary connotes a resurrection-like experience in the lives of the Thessalonians. To understand this we must look at Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9:

This is my defense to those who would examine me. Do we not have the right to our food and drink? Do we not have the right to be accompanied by a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? Who at any time pays the expenses for doing military service? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not get any of its milk? Do I say this on human authority? Does not the law also say the same? For it is written in the law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? Or does he not speak entirely for our sake?

It was indeed written for our sake, for whoever ploughs should plough in hope and whoever threshes should thresh in hope of a share in the crop. If we have sown spiritual good among you, is it too much if we reap your material benefits? If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we still more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is sacrificed on the altar? In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel. But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing this so that they may be applied in my case (1 Corinthians 9:3-15, emphasis mine).

The apostle tells the Corinthians that he abandoned his rightful claim to remuneration: “[T]he Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.” Likewise, the apostle did not press his rightful claim with respect to his time in Thessalonica: “[W]e never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed … though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ” (1 Thessalonians 2:5,7). Rather the apostle was “gentle” to the Thessalonians, “like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children” (2:7). In fact, like the Lord, he shared his own self with the congregation.

How is this a resurrection-like experience? Well, it served as an example to the Thessalonians. It encouraged their upright behavior and gave them the ability to lead a life worthy of God (2:12). This expression of love on the apostle’s part allowed the Thessalonians to enter into a relationship with God through Christ. Thus, today’s text follows a pattern similar to what we read last week: the experiences and behaviors of the “example” serve as a foundational experience in the lives of subsequent believers.


  1. Commentary first published on this site on Oct. 26, 2014.