Lectionary Commentaries for July 3, 2022
Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

from WorkingPreacher.org


Commentary on Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

Jeannine K. Brown

In Luke, the extension of Jesus’ mission is not placed in the hands of a chosen few. Instead, Luke envisions the mission of the kingdom carried out by many of Jesus’ followers. The third Gospel alone narrates the ministry of the seventy-two (Luke 10:1-20). Luke has already told his audience about the mission of the twelve focused on healing and kingdom proclamation (9:1-6; see also 10:11), and now he extends that same ministry to a wider group of followers. They are sent ahead to prepare for Jesus, and they are sent out in pairs (10:1). 

In earlier passages, Luke leaves clues suggesting the inclusion of both men and women among  the seventy-two. An important moment comes at 8:1-3, where the twelve apostles and many women are described as being “with [Jesus]” (8:1; a point somewhat obscured by the English word order). These women and men who had committed to following and supporting Jesus are the natural group from which to populate the seventy-two (Brown, p. 54). 

Jesus’ metaphor of his mission as a harvest sets the tone for the instructions to follow. The metaphor implies both that many will respond to the kingdom’s announcement and that there is a pressing need for disciples who will proclaim the good news of the kingdom (see also 4:43). The sense of urgency implicit in the harvest metaphor is clarified in Jesus’ prohibition against taking purse, bag, or sandals, or greeting anyone along the way (10:4; see also 9:3). These instructions communicate a hurriedness to preparation and travel, especially when heard in light of an echo from 2 Kings 4, where the prophet Elisha gives somewhat similar instructions to his servant to make haste and go ahead of him on a mission: “Don’t greet anyone you meet, and if anyone greets you, do not answer” (2 Kings 4:29). 

Jesus adds a more disquieting metaphor—he is sending them out “like lambs among wolves” (10:3). This picture indicates the opposition that the seventy-two will experience (as Jesus himself has; see also 4:28-29), in addition to welcoming responses. The dual reality of reception and rejection for the ministry of the seventy-two sets up the particular instructions we read in 10:5-11. In their mission, the seventy-two are to take their cues for their own actions from the hospitality they receive or are denied in the homes they visit (see also 9:1-6).

The missionary pairs are to announce “peace” to a household, a greeting that in Jewish contexts expresses wellbeing and restoration (shalom). Jesus goes on to say that if there is someone in the house who promotes peace (idiom: “a child of peace”), the peace offered will rest on that person. Luke often defines “peace” (eirēnē) in terms of God’s arriving salvation (1:76-79; 2:14, 29; 19:38, 42; Green, 413). So, at 10:6, Jesus highlights that anyone aligned with God’s salvific purposes will be receptive to the message of God’s good news. Salvation will come to their house (see also 19:9). If no one promoting peace is present, God’s peace will find no place to take hold. 

The pairs being sent out are told to stay at the first home they enter in any particular town, whether they are fully received or not (10:7; see also 9:4). They can freely accept the hospitality they are given in that home and that town because “the worker deserves [their] wages” (10:7-8). The importance of the gospel message they bring should compel the people in that locale to provide for them. If welcomed, the missionaries are instructed to heal and to announce the arriving kingdom (10:9; see also 9:2, 6). If rejected, they are parabolically to announce judgment by wiping the dust of the streets off their feet—a reference to the Jewish practice of removing the dust of foreign soil when returning to Israel (see also 9:5; Acts 13:51).

This first part of the lectionary text ends with a decided emphasis on the soon-to-be-arriving kingdom, which provides the sense of urgency (10:2-4). God’s reign is arriving in this world through Jesus’ ministry and, ultimately, in his death, resurrection, and exaltation. In this way, “The kingdom of God has come near” (10:11). 

At this point, Luke includes Jesus’ announcement of future judgment on Galilean cities rejecting his message (10:12-16; see also Matthew 11:20-24), fitting the ongoing theme of welcome and rejection. Then Luke returns to the interaction between Jesus and the seventy-two, where the lectionary reading resumes. They return to Jesus “with joy” (a Lukan theme in, for example, 1:14; 2:10; 24:41, 52) because in their healing work they have seen even demons subdued (10:17). Jesus interprets their experience of power by articulating an apocalyptic vision of Satan falling from heaven (10:18). 

The kingdom work they have been engaged in—healing, exorcisms, and preaching—has been engaging cosmic powers, and God’s purposes are overcoming these evil forces. Truly, God’s reign is taking hold. Jesus affirms the authority of the seventy-two (derived from his own authority) “to overcome all the power of the enemy” while resting in divine safety (10:19). Yet Jesus redirects: their joy should be grounded, not in what they are empowered to do, but in God’s faithful saving action—God has inscribed their names in heaven (10:20).

The preacher of this passage can highlight any number of themes, including the arriving reign of God and the peace and joy that accompanies it for all those who are receptive. It can also be helpful for congregations to envision the inclusive makeup of these believers sent out in mission, both women and men. Luke will confirm this inclusive portrait at the end of his Gospel when the wider group of disciples who experience the risen Christ includes the eleven apostles along with women and men who were “with them” (24:33; see also 24:1, 10, 50-53; Acts 1:12-15; Gospels as Stories, 60). 

Works Cited:

Jeannine K. Brown, The Gospels as Stories (Baker Academic, 2020).

Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke, NICNT (Eerdmans, 1997).

First Reading

Commentary on Isaiah 66:10-14

J. Blake Couey

Isaiah 66:10-14 is framed by the word “rejoice,” which appears in both the first and last verses. This heart-stirring text offers hope to a disillusioned audience, centered on a powerful pair of images depicting Jerusalem and God as mothers.

Along with other texts in Isaiah 56–66 (“Third Isaiah”), these verses were written in the years following the return of Judean exiles from Babylon to Jerusalem in 538 BCE. It was a difficult homecoming. The rebuilding of the temple was delayed, and the city’s walls remained in ruins for nearly a century, as depicted in Ezra and Nehemiah. Now subject to the Persian Empire, the former capital of Judah regained only a fraction of its prior glory. The text does not deny these painful realities, even as it powerfully declares that a brighter future lies ahead.

Mother Jerusalem and mother God

The second half of Isaiah traces Jerusalem’s fortunes through its destruction by Babylon, the exile of its population, and its resettlement and partial reconstruction. Throughout these chapters, the city—often referred to as “Zion”—is personified as a wife and/or mother. During the exile, she was abandoned by her husband (God) and bereaved of her children (the city’s inhabitants), as depicted in Isaiah 50:1, 49:20, and 62:4. She laments, “The LORD has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me” (49:14). Her distress is only temporary, however. Following the exile, God remarries her (54:5; 62:24-5) and her children return to her (49:20-21; 60:4). 

In the verses immediately preceding today’s passage, Jerusalem remarkably gives birth without even experiencing labor pains (Isaiah 66:8). This maternal imagery extends to verse 11, in which the text’s addresses are invited to “nurse” at Jerusalem’s “consoling breast.” Note the language of abundance: “be satisfied,” “drink deeply with delight,” “glorious.” Verse 12 unfolds the tender image of Jerusalem’s children being “carried on her arm and bounced on her knees.” Having been restored, Jerusalem once again becomes a place of refuge and delight for God’s people.

Isaiah 40-55 also uses maternal metaphors for God. In fact, more feminine images for the deity appear in Isaiah than anywhere else in the Bible. In Isaiah 42:14, God’s strength is like that of a woman in labor. Isaiah 46:3 and 49:15 compare God’s compassion to a mother’s. Earlier in chapter 66, God acts as a midwife while Jerusalem gives birth, “open[ing] the womb” and “deliver[ing]” (verse 9). Then, in verse 13, the image of Jerusalem as mother merges with that of God as mother: “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you.”

These feminine metaphors assume patriarchal gender roles. At the same time, they value and affirm the work of motherhood in its myriad forms. They also take seriously the real-life experiences of women in a context of war and exile. When reflecting on today’s text, we should remember the disproportionate suffering of women and children in such contexts today. Even as we claim its words of comfort for our own lives, how might we act to extend that comfort to, say, bereaved mothers in Ukraine or child refugees at the U.S. southern border?

The wealth of nations

Verse 12 attributes Jerusalem’s restoration to a miraculous influx of economic resources: “I will extend prosperity to her like a river, and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing stream.” Similar language appears in Isaiah 18:7, 45:14, 60:4-17, and 61:5-6. These texts imagine a redistribution of wealth, with larger and more prosperous nations providing resources and labor to rebuild Jerusalem. In some cases, they freely bring their riches to Jerusalem. Isaiah 2:2-4 even depicts them submitting to God’s rule and receiving divine instruction. In other cases, God forces the nations to give up their wealth under threat of divine destruction.

Contemporary readers might be tempted to dismiss these texts as crassly materialistic. The title of Adam Smith’s influential treatise on capitalism, The Wealth of Nations, even comes from this passage (verse 12; compare 61:6). We should remember, however, that many of these same nations were responsible for Jerusalem’s destruction and suffering. We might think of this envisioned economic support as a form of reparations. It would have marked a radical reversal of the political realities when this text was written. As part of the Persian empire, Jerusalem’s own resources were depleted by exorbitant tribute payments to its imperial oppressors, as described in Nehemiah 9:36-37. 

Understood this way, the text resonates with contemporary questions about restorative economic justice. What kinds of support do former colonial powers owe to their one-time subject nations? Should museums repatriate looted objects to the countries where they were discovered? What would constitute just compensation to the descendants of enslaved persons, who never received full benefit from the wealth their ancestors created under duress?

God’s enemies

Given the overwhelmingly comforting tone of today’s passage, the reference to divine wrath in the final line of verse 14 seems jarring: “The power of the LORD is with his servants, and his indignation is against his enemies.” The verses that follow, which are omitted from the lectionary reading, graphically describe God’s judgment against these enemies.

This verse likely reflects the bitter divisions that emerged in the post-exilic worshiping community in the Jerusalem temple. One group of worshipers, who called themselves God’s “servants,” believed they had been disempowered and mistreated by their rival group. Several texts in Isaiah 55-56 reflect their perspective, including Isaiah 65:1-9 as well as this one. Even as it offers them hope, the text testifies to the reality of their pain. Attempts to comfort an oppressed community ring hollow if they do not acknowledge their suffering.

Many contemporary readers may be uncomfortable with biblical language about vengeance or enemies, especially in such an otherwise uplifting text. In a fallen world, however, evil is a persistent reality. We should certainly desire and pray for the redemption of individuals who commit evil, but there can be no truly hopeful future until their capacity to harm others has been taken away.

Alternate First Reading

Commentary on 2 Kings 5:1-14

L. Daniel Hawk

The text for this week is populated by an unusual number of characters, the effect of which is to generate an intricate interplay of perspectives. Hebrew narrative tends toward brevity in describing characters and is typically threaded by the interaction of just two characters. The narrator begins this account, however, in a strikingly unconventional way, that is, with a name and a detailed description. Beginning with the name “Naaman,” rather than the usual wayyahi (“and it was”) that typically opens a narrative unit, directs our attention to personhood and identity, while the following description elaborates the attributes that determine the character’s identity. In quick succession, we learn that Naaman is the general of the Aramean army, a man of considerable esteem, a victorious and heroic soldier, and a leper.

We also meet an anonymous Israelite girl who was kidnapped and enslaved during an Aramean raid, an unnamed Aramean king, an unnamed Israelite king, a group of Naaman’s slaves, and Elisha the prophet, who is identified as “the man of God,” and a messenger.

The story takes place against the backdrop of intensifying aggression by the king of Aram, who has likely seen an opportunity when Israelite power and influence declines after the death of Ahab (2 Kings 6:8-23; 6:24-7:20; 9:14, 32-33, etc.). Naaman, in short, commands the forces that have brought violence, loss of life, homes, and livelihood, and untold suffering to the people of Israel. Naaman is an individual who, we may assume, is feared and hated by the Israelite populace.

The text’s dense multiplicity of characters generates an interplay of perspectives. There is the perspective of kings, who see only adversaries and who communicate with ambivalence. The Aramean king grants an unusual request to a valued general and sends him, with a letter, to a rival monarch. The Israelite king sees the letter as a pretext for goading him into a new round of hostilities. Then there are those at the opposite end of the spectrum, namely, Naaman’s slaves, who express compassion for their oppressor. Thirdly, there is the perspective of the man of God, who facilitates the healing of an enemy. And finally, there are the conflicted perspectives embodied by Naaman himself, whose exploits elevate his status but whose leprosy renders him a shunned outsider.

Kings see things differently than slaves and prophets. The inability of either king to heal Naaman exposes royal pretensions to ultimacy, expressed pointedly by the Israelite king’s exasperated question, “Am I God, able to kill or revive?” The only cords of compassion are struck by the slave girl who tells Naaman about Elisha and the slaves who urge him to follow Elisha’s instructions. The prophet stands in the middle, leaping into action to defuse the Israelite king’s vexation and to alleviate Naaman’s suffering. 

In the course of the narrative, Naaman’s perspective shifts as dramatically as his health does. When the man of God sends a servant to tell him to wash in the Jordan, without showing him the courtesy of talking with him, he leaves in a huff, muttering about the superiority of his own land. He appears oblivious to the possibility that the Israelite prophet does not want to meet a man who has caused so much suffering or that Elisha’s response gives him a dose of his own dehumanizing medicine. Nevertheless, when he follows the urging of his slaves and the directions of the Israelite prophet, his leprosy disappears. 

Naaman is indeed a new man when he exits the Jordan with the skin of a boy. He continues, beyond the boundary of the passage, to relate deep and genuine gratitude both to Elisha and to the God who has done what no earthly power or deity has been able to do. The healed Naaman is deferential rather than prideful: “I now know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel. Please accept a gift from your slave” (verse 15). 

The changes in Naaman’s speech reveal that his mind has been as diseased as his body. Now healthy again, the enemy general expresses gratitude and defers to the prophet. The connection between mind and body is replayed later in striking counterpoint, when Elisha judges his servant Gehazi for fraudulently seeking payment, declaring, “The leprosy of Naaman will now cling to you and to your descendants forever” (verse 27). Enemies may be humanized by healing grace; insiders can be as wicked as enemies.

The story as a whole, then, precipitates a radical shift in the reader’s perspective and humanizes the enemy. Yahweh’s prophet, who will advise Israel’s kings in future battles with the Arameans, here heals an enemy who suffers. As a consequence, we see Naaman, no less than his Israelite victims, as a human being worthy of caring and kindness.

The Gospel of Luke reminds readers of the scandalous import of Naaman’s story. When, in Nazareth, Jesus lifts up Naaman as an illustration of the expansive scope of God’s love, the congregation turns against him (Luke 4:27-28). Later, Jesus heals the slave of a Roman centurion, an officer of another oppressing power (Luke 7:1-10). Another centurion praises God and proclaims the innocence of Jesus at the cross (Luke 23:47). And a third centurion becomes the first Gentile recipient of the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:44-48). 

The Old Testament account does not ignore the horrendous suffering that Naaman has inflicted (see verse 2). Yet, it prompts readers to resist the hateful caricatures and the leprous demonizing of enemies, even when the demonizing is well-deserved. The enemy who perpetrates violence and brutality is no less a human being than those who are its victims. Enemies can be healed, and even victims can fall prey to a diseased soul. Or, as a modern prophet proclaimed1, “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”



  1. Martin Luther King, Jr, “Loving Your Enemies.” The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute. https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/loving-your-enemies-sermon-delivered-dexter-avenue-baptist-church. Accessed March 23, 2022.





Commentary on Psalm 66:1-9

James Howell

Someone, or several someones, stood in front of a throng of Israelites gathered for worship and said or sang or chanted a summons to worship: “Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth.” We may hear an echo of the more familiar Psalm 100. It’s not noisy, but surely with more volume than is generally heard in our churches nowadays. John Wesley’s directions for how to sing a hymn make us chuckle: “Sing lustily … Beware of singing as if you were half asleep… Do not bawl.” Does God ever yawn while we’re wading through offering up our noise to God, which isn’t all that joyful after all?

What’s more startling in that summons is to whom it is addressed. Not just “you guys in this room,” but “all the earth.” Here’s the miracle of worship, and good cause for a joyful noise. We are not alone. We dare to envision that people who don’t know or believe in our God are unwittingly joining us, or at least included even if they didn’t show up. And those who used to worship, or still do on another shore: “Sing, choirs of angels … Sing, all ye citizens of heaven above.” And we urge the earth, all the dazzling wonders of creation, to join us. Of course, the trees, birds, mountains, rivers and clouds are already praising God simply by being. “All the earth worships you” (verse 4).

Creation is the grand theater for Israel’s and our praise. Notice some of the specifics of praise beyond the earth itself. “Sing the glory of his name.” For Israel, the divine name was unutterable, eliciting a hush, that name that could so easily be taken in vain. We know a bit about the name, revealed through a bush on fire. Lots of mystique shrouding yet unveiling that name, meaning something like I am, I will be, I cause things to be. As Christians ponder “the glory of his name,” we recall that Jesus, yeshua, means “Lord, help!” And he not only joined us in our cries, but is himself that help. His nickname is solid too: Emmanuel. “God with us.” That’s the heart of our reality with God. God is not the fixer, the wish-granter, the personal assistant or titanic warrior. God is with us. Sing the glory of that. 

When God revealed the unutterable name, it was stage one in God’s strategy to liberate the enslaved Israelites from Egyptian bondage. We praise God for creation, for who God simply is, and for all God has done. And particularly, what God did in God’s most spectacular, defining moment: “He turned the sea into dry land; they passed through the river on foot” (verse 6). Dry, but not parched. As they walked, it had to be muddy, and walking in God’s way always has that muddiness about it, doesn’t it? That path was invisible just a few minutes before the waters withdrew. We cannot see the steps to come. But we move forward. Elie Wiesel imagined the story like this: to the panicked people, rushing from Pharaoh in terror, Moses called an abrupt halt: “Wait a moment. Think, take a moment to reassess what it is you are doing. Enter the sea not as frightened fugitives, but as free men.”1

Preachers might invite their people into a dual exercise. First, widen the scope of your place in God’s dispensation. It’s not just you, it’s all of creation, all of history. We are part of something so much larger than ourselves, which is our greatest yearning anyway. And then, take some time to “Say to God, ‘How awesome are your deeds! …’ Come and see what God has done,” that is, remember what God has done in your life. Seems like just a few things, until you reflect, reminisce, rummage through the albums of memory, and you notice so much.

The lectionary fails us in a way by hacking off the latter sections of this lovely Psalm, especially the dramatic turn beginning in verse 13. The preacher has good license to continue beyond verse 9! At 13, the wide angle lens praising God for creation and history unexpectedly zooms in tightly on just one individual, who speaks quite personally of his or her own praise and reasons to extol the wonder of God. It’s sort of a testimony. In Israel, if you were healed or rescued or just survived against the odds, you brought your sacrifice of thanksgiving to the temple, and as you offered the valuable creature to God, you told your story, also an offering to God, and an encouragement to those who listened. We learn God is good and can help when we hear what God has done for others.

Praise and thanksgiving begin by looking back, by recalling what has been, but then looks with confidence into a future that is hopeful, not because we will be smarter or stronger, but because God will clearly continue to be God. Today’s troubles and circumstances are just that: they are today’s, not tomorrow’s. Derek Kidner, commenting on the opening phrases of our Psalm, wryly suggests that “the future does more justice to the facts than the present.”2 This eschatological vision is the only way to make sense of the Bible’s constant refrain, repeated here: God “rules by his might forever” (verse 7). God doesn’t seem to be ruling so well, if the facts as we experience them are the whole story. All of Scripture invites us to live into the hidden plot of things, the other story unfolding, God’s story, known to the eyes and ears of faith, the one true story that will come to its most magnificent conclusion, and is already tracking that way in subtle but marvelous ways. This is why we most assuredly should and can reply to that summons to “Make a joyful noise to God.”


  1. Elie Wiesel, Messengers of God: Biblical Portraits and Legends (NY: Summit, 1976), 193.
  2. Derek Kidner, Psalms 1-72 (Downer’s Grove: IVP Academic, 1973), 252.

Second Reading

Commentary on Galatians 6:[1-6] 7-16

Crystal Hall

In this text readers are eavesdropping on an ongoing conversation between Paul and the Jesus communities in Galatia. History has only preserved half the conversation—Paul’s words—but not what the Galatians may have written back. 

This passage is a bit like listening to someone having a phone conversation. You can intuit what the person on the other end is saying based on what you can hear from the person on your side of the phone. But it’s impossible to know the actual content of what the other person is saying. 

On this side of the “phone” readers are privy to, the conversation is drawing to a close. Paul is giving his regards before he “hangs up”. 

This passage functions within the parenetic section of the letter (chapters 5-6). It’s the “so what” or “why does what I’ve just said matter and what do I now call you to do about it” section. This section wraps up the letter after Paul shares his own story (chapters 1-2). It follows the part in which Paul provides evidence from the Hebrew Scriptures for how all other nations can be included alongside the Judeans in the promises of God. He describes how these nations too are brought into right relationship with the God of Israel (chapters 3-4). 

While it is easy, from a Protestant perspective, to focus on what later became the theological doctrine of justification in a letter like Galatians, this text is equally concerned with ethics as evidenced by this “so what does all this really mean for our daily lives” section. In this letter being brought into right relationship with God by grace through faith in Jesus the Anointed One does not exist in abstraction from the works animated by that faith. 

Faith and works function throughout Galatians as a kind of dialectic, an inseparable pair of opposites no different than how breathing in follows breathing out. That’s why Paul exhorts the Galatians to bear one another’s burdens and fulfill the law of Christ (6:2), why simultaneously each person must bear their own load (6:5), and why Paul emphasizes that a person will reap what they sow (6:7). He exhorts the Galatians to not lose heart in doing good, to not grow weary in the assurance that they will reap what they’ve planted (6:9).  

These words about what the Galatians are to do in response to their faith in this third and final section of the letter include a postscript, which begins about halfway through this passage.  

In 6:11 Paul takes the parchment from the scribe and writes his own P.S. (Letters in antiquity were typically dictated to a professional scribe.) He calls attention to the authenticity of this postscript by writing, “I am writing to you with my own hand.” These words are his last opportunity to drive home his point before the letter is handed over to a courier, likely another Jesus follower. Paul has a last chance here to make these words really count. 

What Paul writes in his own hand in this postscript harkens back to the central controversy that prompted the writing of the letter in the first place. A little backstory is needed here for context. 

Paul founded the churches in Galatia. He spent time among them as the Galatians nursed him back to health while he recovered from an injury. Paul preached among them that both Jews and Gentiles, Jews and all other nations conquered by Rome, are justified or brought into right relationship with the God of Israel, through faith in Jesus the Anointed One. Paul then leaves them to continue his calling to preach the gospel to the nations elsewhere. 

After Paul leaves, other teachers arrive among the churches in Galatia preaching a different gospel, which Paul derides as not even a gospel. These other teachers tell the Galatians that to be in right relationship with God they must be circumcised. They are those “who desire to make a good showing in the flesh [who] try to compel you to be circumcised” (6:12, NASB). Paul calls these teachers hypocrites who don’t even keep the law themselves but want to boast in the Galatians being circumcised (6:13). 

Paul learns what these other teachers are preaching, thinks they are absolutely wrong, and fires off this letter to the churches in Galatia to explain why. He argues through the letter that it’s not “works of the law” like circumcision that bring the believer into right relationship with God. Paul says, on the contrary, come as you are. The only thing needed to be in right relationship with God is faith in Jesus the Anointed. This passing reference to “neither circumcision nor uncircumcision” is shorthand for this conflict that inspired the writing of the letter. 

Paul argues that the reason neither circumcision nor uncircumcision matter, is because what really counts is the “new creation” (6:15) The history of interpretation has typically read “new creation” as the individual believer, that through faith in Jesus a person becomes new. 

While this individualistic reading is certainly possible, Paul’s primary concern throughout this letter is not so much for the individual but for how groups of people can be in right and just relationship with one another within the church. 

Beyond that, the new creation stands in this passage in opposition to the cosmos when Paul writes that he has been crucified to the cosmos, and the cosmos to him (6:14). Not only are communal relationships in view, but that of the entire created order. 

Paul traces here the movement from life in God’s Creation, to death through Jesus’ crucifixion and the call of believers into this cruciform life, to a new creation. In this new creation, the old ways of relating, that one must become something else to belong, that one must exclude others from table fellowship, fall away. What remains instead in the new creation is a new call into right relationship with the other, a call that extends not only to one’s fellow human beings but beyond to God’s Creation itself.