Author: Brian Davidson

Isbell and Jesus on Good Friday

I was thinking about what it is I’m trying to do with these recent Jesus posts, and I was reminded of one of my favorite songs. The posts try to do something similar to what Jason Isbell does in “Relatively Easy” (Apple Music).

Even though it’s dark at first, listen:

I lost a good friend

Christmas time when folks go off the deep end

His woman took the kids and he took Klonopin

Enough to kill a man of twice his size

Not for me to Understand

Remember him when he was still a proud man

A vandal’s smile, a baseball in his right hand

Nothing but the blue sky in his eye

His tragic recollection turns into a beautiful portrait of a friend’s face. The dark image of the first several lines fades into something like a nostalgic 1987 Tops baseball card. You see his friend’s face, that “vandal’s smile.” His face shines, and you feel like you know him.

I’m toying with that image of the baseball card. The friend step out of the portrait like the people in Harry Potter pictures. Now, Jesus steps in. He looks through the card and flashes a similar vandal’s smile. His face shines, and there’s nothing but blue sky in his eye. You feel like you know him. The smile is kind, but it’s twisted and smirky and fittingly called “a vandal’s.” He’s not predictable.

He’s about to tear it all down.

“For those overwhelmed with dispear.”

Something like that. That’s what the back of the card would say.

Peter and Jesus on Good Friday

It was the first time they met. Jesus just steps into Peter’s boat and asks him to take him out so he can teach from the boat (Luke 5:3). Why did Peter comply?

Remember that Peter is the same one who, at the end of the Gospels, tried to take someone’s head off with a sword. If in the garden on Maundy Thursday night Peter was willing to take someone’s head off even after spending three years with Jesus, what must he have been like at this point when they first met?

Peter and his crew had been fishing all night and hadn’t caughty anything. That can’t have left him in the best of moods, and surely he was tired. In what way did he listen as Jesus taught the crowds?

Maybe he kept fiddling with his fishing gear and had Jesus on his mental back burner. Maybe he stopped and wiped the sweat from his forehead, shook his head, and entertained him with a “Huh! Look at this guy!” I picture this is a few different ways, but in all of them Peter is going along somewhat reluctantly, just entertaining the teacher man. Maybe he’s too tired to fuss and resist the request.

Even though Jesus is teaching the crowds, it’s no mere coincidence that he is standing in Peter’s boat. He has Peter on the mental back burner as well. When Jesus finishes teaching, he turns to Peter and tells him to put his boat out farther and let down their nets. “You mean the ones we just cleaned?!” Peter didn’t say it, but surely he thought it. The text actually says that when Jesus first saw them that morning they were doing exactly that, washing their nets (5:2). What Peter does says is “Sir, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but at your request I’ll let down the nets.”

Was “at your request” accompanied with an eye roll? Was he frustrated to prolong his work day yet again? This isn’t “Saint Peter”; it’s a first century man who earned a living fishing. I mean, he prefaced his agreement by making known that he and his buddies had already let down their nets all over the palce. They did it all night! Whether at this point Jesus’ teaching had kindled in Peter a glimmer of respect and hope or whether Peter agreed with an eye roll and a sigh, I imagine Jesus’ response was the same. He smiled, maybe smirked.

If your Jesus doesn’t smile and smirk, well, I am writing this for you. Try to imagine with me. And if you think that an eye roll directed at him or a sigh of frustration can turn away Jesus’ smiling face, then please try to imagine with me. The kindest, most irenic person you have ever known is only a reflection of him.

Two boats so full of fish that they started to sink a little. Peter falls to his knees in amazement. Now, what was the nature of the amazement? Maybe Jesus’ gift of such a massive catch said to Peter, “Someone transcendent is here. You are unworthy.” Or maybe it was more like, “This catch is worth so much money. We did it! The night wasn’t wasted. Thank God I’ll make ends meet this month! Oh, my God …”

On their very first meeting, Peter was shown kindness by Jesus — so much so that he fell down and worshipped.

Today, on Good Friday, Peter is in a bad place. You think he thought about this first encounter? You think he can still see that smiling, smirking face. You think he can still hear Jesus laugh as they struggled to get all those silly fish to shore? I doubt it. Not today.

But he will. John 21 is coming. Soon, Peter will sit on the beach by a fire and see Jesus smile at him again. In just a few days, he will hear that kind voice call to him, he’ll jump out of another boat and splash his way to shore like those silly fish. Can’t you hear them laugh, both of them, as Peter walk out of the water dripping wet and sees Jesus smile again?

Twitter Discussion on the THGNT Ending of Mark

This post on Twitter, the content of which I wrote up and expanded in a blog post on the Ending of Mark in THGNT, led to an interesting discussion.

In a conversation with Charles Sullivan, Dirk Jongkind provides links to manuscript images in the New Testament Virtual Manuscript Room.

Inepti Graeculi asks a question regarding Eusebius’ position on the ending.

Charles Sullivan asks about the origin of minuscule 1, which leads to …

Some info I found by following the link trail embedded in the hyperlinks of the THGNT apparatus module in Accordance and …

Rick Brannan provides the Virutal Manuscript Room ID for the relevant minuscule.

Jeremiah Coogan offers some very helpful comments here and here.

Fr. Thomas Sandberg questions why the textual note is included in light of the fact that the mansuscripts that include it are from the tenth to fourteenth centuries, and Jeremiah responds.

And by the way, we love this, Dirk.

Morning versus Night

Fernando Ortega’s The Crucifixion of Jesus is a beautiful mix of melodies and scripture reading, all reflecting on the passion narratives. As I listened this morning, the part where Peter confesses his loyalty stood out to me.

Mark 14:29–31

ὁ δὲ Πέτρος ἔφη αὐτῷ· εἰ καὶ πάντες σκανδαλισθήσονται ἀλλ᾿ οὐκ ἐγώ.Καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς· ἀμὴν λέγω σοι ὅτι σὺ σήμερον ταύτῃ τῇ νυκτὶ πρὶν ἢ δὶς ἀλέκτορα φωνῆσαι τρίς με ἀπαρνήσῃ. 31 ὁ δὲ ἐκπερισσῶς ἐλάλει· ἐὰν δέῃ με συναποθανεῖν σοι, οὐ μή σε ἀπαρνήσομαι. ὡσαύτως δὲ καὶ πάντες ἔλεγον.Peter said to him, “Even if everyone falls away, I won’t!” Jesus said to him, “I’m telling you that today, on this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times. But he was emphatically saying, “Even if I have to suffer with you, I will never deny you!” Now, all of them were saying the same thing.

We might ask, “How could Peter be so adamant and then by that very night do the opposite?” But doesn’t our experience make sense of this? How many times in the morning or midday have you thought “Not today,” only to lose the battle at night. Granted, the shift here isn’t really from morning to night but from evening to late night. Nevertheless, I think the point still stands.

It is striking to me how our mentality shifts as the hours pass, and it is striking to see something similar in the passion narratives, too.

Ending of Mark in THGNT

One more comment on Mark: The Tyndale House Greek New Testament has a really interesting textual note at the end. These words appear between the end of 16:8 and the alternate longer ending, verses 9–20:


At the bottom of the page, the apparatus reads as follows:

note as found in minuscule 1: ‘In some of the copies, the evangelist finishes here, up to which (point) also Eusebius of Pamphilus made canon sections. But in many the following is also contained.'”

This is so cool, and it is yet another plus for my favorite GNT — in addition to the beautifully readable typography, the uncluttered page layout, the concise, easy to understand apparatus, the affordable price tag, and the more ancient paragraph breaks.

Check it out for yourself:

Breaking the Fourth Wall

When you read scripture, do any of the characters ever look directly into the camera? I was discussing this phenomenon with a friend once, and he told me the theater term for this is “breaking the fourth wall.”

New Oxford American Dictionary
New Oxford American Dictionary

Mark 14:41 is a perfect example. Here, Jesus and the disciples are in the garden. He has come for the third time and found them sleeping. Jesus is standing over three of his friends as they sleep, and no one else is in the scene.

This time, instead of encouraging them to watch and pray, Jesus says, “Sleep on, and rest. It’s fine.” I imagine him looking down at the disciples because though they are sleeping he is clearly speaking to them. In the next sentence, however, he starts to look up, directly into the camera.

The transition happens as he says, “The hour has come,” and by the next word he is staring directly into your eyes. “Look,” he says, “the son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.” Who else would he be talking to but the reader?

Sure, he could still be looking at the sleeping disciples, but do you really say “look” to sleeping people? It is your attention, no one else’s in the scene, that ἰδού is intended to grab. (That is the word I’m translating “look,” traditionally rendered behold.) If that word is intended by the author to grab your attention, then why wouldn’t you imagine the character who is saying it to be looking at you, the reader?

In the next sentence, Jesus turns back to the disciples and says, “Get up. Let’s go. The one betraying me is here.” For one brief moment in the garden, however, Jesus breaks the fourth wall. With heavy eyes and a heavy heart, no doubt, he invites you the reader to look and watch.