Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Chaps 4-8: Word Census Ringside at the Miracles Parables: Telling but Teasing Do These Shun These

3/10/2009 1:49 PM; 5300ww
Chapter 4

The text of the four evangelists consists of some 78,000 words. If we apply the printer’s rule-of-thumb of roughly 350 words per page, they add up to a slim book, around 220 pages. Simple, straightforward, right? That’s what many people think. But might they not be working off hazy recollections or mere fragments?
From the outset, common experience confirms that the Gospel has not been an easy story or text to grasp. What is it? History? Biogra­phy? Apologetics? Revelation? For one thing, it’s sketchy more often than not; then some scenes or lessons are surprisingly rich in detail. Du­pli­cations abound, even some discrepancies, then unaccounted for gaps. Though written some 2000 years ago, its literary form and flavor are unlike any other classical document. It can be plain and na­ïve, only on the following page to soar on mystical wings. There are many “hard” say­ings, yet the overall color is one of consola­tion and mercy. The protagonist can alternately be “too much” or too little, certainly hard to pin down. Was ever there a character more misunder­stood and maltreated? Yet somehow the victim provoked and embraced his own death….
Besides, none of us comes to the Gospel fresh and open. We may have first peeked at the last chapter, so to speak, spoiling the suspense and story line. That explains in part the pet as­sumptions we bring to our superficial, selective reading of the rest, if read it we do. Moreover, its pages are overlaid with two thousand years of reactions and interpretations. Espe­cially in the two past centuries, “higher” biblical scholars have taken the text apart and rid it of “myths.” With what result? Jesus is shrunk down to a well-meaning secular humanist mouth­ing selfless maxims. But doesn’t he—and we—deserve something better? How about letting the four evangelists speak their piece, from start to finish? We could do worse than to begin at the beginning, with the text.[1] Besides the words themselves, let’s also look at the punc­tuation and sen­tence length and structure.
By the Numbers[2]
In fact, let’s start counting. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John (hereafter MMLJ) contain 3876 sentences (average length: 20.5 words). Of these, 79% (3071) close with a period; 5% (195) end with an exclamation point; and 16% (610) conclude with a question mark. For the sake of com­parison, the present author looked at some critical reading passages from recent SATs. The sample consisted of 217 sentences, averaging 16 words in length. Of the SAT sentences 88% ended with a period; the remaining 12% were evenly distributed between question marks and ex­clamation points. The big discrepancy between the two writings has to do mainly with the num­ber of questions raised: MMLJ’s 16% vs. SAT’s 6%. If we analyze the former’s questions, we find that 328 were posed by Christ, while 282 questions came from all others.
Now a further look shows that only 22% (72) of Jesus’ questions were of the type expecting an answer (e.g. how many loaves? what do you want?). Nearly four out of Christ’s every five queries were rhetorical questions, the kind intended to get one’s listeners to do more than listen, maybe even to think. For in­stance: How are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Why do you trouble the woman? Could you not watch with me one hour? Whatever else Jesus was, he was a teacher with a So­cratic bent. Accordingly, he’s called master or teacher 96 times. Preach and preach­ing occur 36 times. Teach is used 14 times, teaching, 31, and taught, 25. Less au­thorita­tively per­haps, there are 973 instances of said, 238 uses of say and 198 sayings, most coming from the Son of man’s lips. These proportions seem in keeping with the gospels’ con­tents: a mix of narration, teaching and interaction.
How many different words are used? Slightly over 2800 different terms ap­pear in the com­bined text.[3] While 838 words (28%) appear only once (mostly nouns and verbs), 68 distinct words (2.4% of 2800) make up over 65% of the text.
1000 & Up
Which words appear the most? Both and and the appear more than 4700 times each. The prepositions to (2788) and of (1972) are next on the list. How would these frequencies dif­fer from word usage in, say, the New York Times? Our sample from the newspaper consisted of an article of 6610 words. In the Gospels and appears more than three times as often; the, nearly twice. To occurs in MMLJ five times for every four in the Times. The fre­quency of of is identi­cal in both. In keeping with the gospels’ sketchy, rough nar­rative, an unusually large number (1195 or 31%) of its sentences begin with And (vs. 2.7% in the Times). Not to put too fine a point on it, the gospel reader straightaway finds declarative sentences loosely strung to­gether with and.
Seven more words occur more than 1000 times each. Four of these are pronouns: he (1949), you (1907), him (1556), they (1029). The rest are infinitives with all their derivatives: to be (4211), to say (1433) and to have (1213). So far no surprises, nor are there yet any substan­tial leads to MMLJ’s distinctive content. How about examining the parts of speech of the 78,000 gospel words?
The Roles Words Play
There are 218 adjectives in all, used 7102 times. Among the ten most frequent, eight refer to number (many, some, any, first…); one refers to quality (good) and another refers to compari­son (like). Interestingly enough, of all the adjectives only 4 refer to religion; namely, holy, eter­nal, heavenly, sacred. Nineteen adjectives imply a standard against which something is judged: good, evil, right, true, worthy, righteous, lawful, just, better, worse, bad, straight, perfect, dis­honest, pure, unjust, crooked, unrighteous and unworthy, in that order. Colors barely make an appearance: white=9, purple=5 and green=2. What about beauty? Beautiful is used three times: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness” (Mt 23:27). “But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, ‘Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me’” (Mt 26:10 Mk 14:6). Then there is an allied adverb. “What then did you go out to see?” Jesus asks with regard to John the Baptist. “A man clothed in soft clothing? Behold, those who are gorgeously appareled and live in luxury are in kings’ courts” (Lk 7:25).
Adverbs: a total of 97 appear in the Gospels. They account for some 5191 words (not quite 7% of the total). Of these, over one-fifth alone are negatives: not (882), no (248), never (49), no­where (4). That’s a rather high proportion. Such frequency is probably due to Christ’s teaching role. If Jesus is out to get people to make right choices, he must first get them to make distinc­tions: this—not that….
Likewise, the itinerant preacher must highlight main ideas or themes. He does so with such terms as truly (110),[4] indeed (21) and really (2)—much as we do. The Gospel story is also shot through with a sense of urgency. This is conveyed by such adverbs as immedi­ately (63), quickly (9), suddenly (5) and speedily (1). When we add in such prepositional phrases as at once (20) and with haste (3), over 100 actions are said to be carried out promptly. How many times, on the other hand, do such adverbs as slowly or deliberately appear in the account? None. The re­maining adverbs seem unexceptional. Among the most frequent are out (314), then (273), there (240), up (208), also (141), again (100), so[5] (99), well (47), and only (44).
Moreover, two kinds of adverbs are conspicuous by their relative absence; namely, wholly (only once, but no entirely, completely or absolutely) and thus (only 25 times, but no therefore, consequently or accordingly.) Why the latter sparseness? Jesus was no philosopher with drawn-out reasoning calling for such deductive adverbs. It was with miracles—not arguments—that he sought to get his audiences to think. It’s almost as if the Galilean were to muse: “Now that I have your attention, think: was this feat beyond known limits to human powers? And if so, what does it tell you about the deed’s author?”
Twenty-nine kinds of prepositions are found in the Gospel text, where they make up 12% of the word total. They don’t seem to call for any particular commentary. The same could also be said of the Gospels’ articles, conjunctions and interjections. These four categories account for 22,000 words (28% of text). To them could be added over 12,000 pronouns, which make up some 15% of the whole text.[6] In all, such “func­tional” words contribute nearly 44% of the text. They’re so called, because, when they’re re­moved from their context, they lose meaning and di­rection. Them, as, though, at are examples of such func­tional (or “structural”) words, which take on meaning from neighboring words.
The most popular parts of speech are nouns (1285 used 12,363 times) and verbs (656 roots[7] be­getting over 19,000 uses). Combined, they add up to 31,579 words, or 40% of the text. Since MMLJ’s 43 pronouns are used in lieu of nouns (12,401 replacements), we can add them to the noun tally. Thus, the revised total rises to 43,980 nouns and verbs, or 56% of the total text. Among other uses, nouns mainly provide us with the subjects and objects of actions, conveyed in turn by verbs. The frequency of these building-block words means we’re in the presence of good, if plain, writing. A speaker or writer (or translator) can use a generic noun or verb, but for greater precision and understanding such a general term usually requires a qualifying adjective or adverb. Two sentences of our own crafting that make this point: Weed tells us less than dande­lion. Dispatch is equivalent to send off promptly and efficiently, but why re­sort to five words when one will do?
The ‘Stuff’ of 65% of Text
We have designated as “most frequent” those words appearing 155 times or more. The nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs listed below total 38 words and are used 19,515 times. They represent nearly a quarter of the total text. Also below are four kinds of “structural” words: prepositions, conjunctions, articles and pronouns. Thirty of their “most frequent” words account for an added 31,725 uses. All 68 of the “most frequent” words represent a total of 51,240 uses, thus making up 65% of the total text.
In other words, nearly two-thirds of the Gospel’s sentences are constructed in large part by various combina­tions of these frequent words. Imagine a kaleidoscope made up of just these words; with each shaking, you get a different combination—all with slightly distinct meanings.
On the other hand, there are terms used only once: nouns=427; verbs=339; adjectives=52; ad­verbs=18; plus two others; they total 838 words (and uses). If we subtract both the most fre­quent and those used only once, remaining are 1900 distinct terms used anywhere from twice to 153 times each. On average each is used 13 times.
Here are the 68 most popular Gospel terms arranged by their respective part of speech:
Nouns [5]: Jesus=576, God=309, disciples=214, Lord=202, Father=192; sum: 1493.
Verbs [18]: to be=4211, to say=1433, to have=1213, to do=822, to come=625, to go=519, to see=368, to take=282, to give=277, to know=247, to hear=214, to answer=204, to tell=204; to sit=184, to speak=174, to enter=167, to send=160, may=156; sum: 11,460.
Adjectives [8]: that=858, his=763, this=486, one=455, your=414, all=367, my=352, their=197; sum: 3892.
Adverbs [7]: not=882, when=510, out=314, then=273, no=248, there=240, up=208; sum: 2675.
Prepositions [10]: to=2788, of=1972, in=993, for=884, with=550, from=415, on=390, at=278, by=270, into=212; sum: 8752.
Articles [2] the=4703, a=939; sum: 5642.
Conjunctions [4]: and=4756, but=744, as=320, so=175; sum: 6094.
Pronouns [14]: he=1949, you=1907, him=1556, they=1029, I=926, them=834, who=750, it=746, me=507, what=342, those=194, which=169, her=165, we=163; sum: 11,237.
Gospel Players
Jesus is even more central to the Gospel than the 576 direct mentions just noted. The ambigu­ous Lord appears a total of 202 times; one third of those refer to God or the Creator. Otherwise it is equivalent to sir or sire. Over half (107) of the remaining Lords refer to the workman from Nazareth. Son of man appears 82 times; it’s Jesus’ favorite way of refer­ring to himself. Christ alone appears 49 times (Jesus Christ, together, crops up only 6 times). As noted earlier, Jesus is called teacher and master 48 times each. Son of God and Son of David crop up 26 and 16 times, respectively. Twice he’s called the Messiah, the Aramaic form of “anointed one,” which besides in Greek is rendered as Christ. Only once is he named Emmanuel, which in Jesus’ tongue means God-with-you. These various names total some 900.
Moreover, according to a sample,[8] 1267 uses of he (65% of a total of 1949) refer to Christ. Je­sus speaks of himself in the first person singular (I) approximately 750 times (81%) out of a total of 926 occurrences of I (some two-thirds occur in John’s Gospel alone). According to the same sample, 191 uses of you (equivalent to thou) refer to Jesus as a subject. These pronouns (excluding him as the indirect or direct object of either verbs or prepositions) alone add up to some 2,200 references to Jesus. In sum: Jesus is named over 3,000 times, mostly as the subject of verbs in independent or dependent clauses.
Who are some of the other main players? God=309, (heavenly) Father=192[9] and Lord (in the sense of God or Creator)=67: these add up to 568. The generic disciples (students, follow­ers) appears 214 times in the text. There are 108 other “fathers” in the more usual sense, though one-third of these alone are employed in Matthew’s genealogy of Christ. The next most com­mon name is John, appearing 106 times; 82 of these apply to John the Baptist, four to Peter’s fa­ther and the rest to John the evangelist. However, the references to Peter, with his various names,[10] are even more numerous, totaling 122.
How do the other apostles rank? John, the youngest apostle, is the next most commonly named. Besides the 20 times just mentioned, three times he’s alluded to as the disciple “whom Jesus loved.” The name James appears 30 times, though only 20 refer to the apostle James, John’s older brother. The traitor Judas Iscariot is also mentioned 20 times. Philip the apostle is named 15 times (12 of those in the Gospel of John). Peter’s brother Andrew is named a dozen times; Thomas, 10. James the son of Alphaeus is the hardest apostle to pin down. As Alphaeus’ son, he’s mentioned thrice; as Christ’s “brother” (cousin), twice; as having “Mary the mother of James,” 4 times. If these are all the same person, James, also known as “the younger,” is named nine times.[11] Also referred to nine times is Bartholomew-Nathaniel (Nathaniel being the Greek form of Bartholomew). Then there’s Jude/Judas/Thaddeus: in fact, he’s never called Jude. Rather he’s named as Thaddeus, once, and as “Judas,” 4 times.[12] Matthew merits four mentions. So too does Simon the Cananaean, if the two references to Simon as one of the Lord’s “brothers” in fact point to the same person.
Who are Old Testament figures whose voices survive into the New? Unsurprisingly, Moses leads the pack with 38 mentions; David, Herod and Elijah make, respectively, 35, 34 and 27 ap­pearances; Isaiah (14), Solomon (8) Isaac (8), Jonah (7), Noah (4), Jeremiah (3)….
How about Jesus’ relatives and friends? Mary (Miriam in Aramaic) was a popular name back then, with 51 uses in the Gospels. Jesus’ mother is named 18 times, followed by Mary of Bethany with 13 mentions, Mary Magdalene, with eight, and assorted others. Joseph, Christ’s foster father, is named 15 times (though never quoted), plus two of his predecessors. Others so named were Joseph of Arimathea (6) and one of Christ’s “brothers” (2). The older sister of Mary of Bethany, Martha is mentioned 13 times, their brother Lazarus 12 times. The name of Zebe­dee, the father of James and John, is also cited 12 times. Zechariah and Elizabeth, parents of the Baptist (and cousins of Mary, Christ’s mother), make 12 and 9 appearances respectively. Far from a friend, Herod is named 35 times. So much for personal names.
And what about those who were opposed to Christ, at least occasionally? The Pharisees lead with 88 mentions; next come Jews with 80; then, scribes (60), demons (39), elders (24), de­mon (21), Satan (16), devil (14), unspecified enemies (11) and Sadducees (9).
Few Abstract Nouns
Of all the parts of speech, nouns lead the way with nearly 1400 different words and over 13,000 uses. Yet their most striking characteristic is their concreteness. The Gospels overflow with very particular things: clothing; youngsters; means of livelihood; places; kinds of relatives; parts of the human body; domestic ways and means; civic and social references; nature’s ani­mals, vegetables and minerals; and a bunch of generic terms, ranging from hour to reward, from sword to dot and toll. Abstract nouns, however, are scarce. Nature occurs but once; absent are such as essence, humanity….In English at least, abstractions are often conveyed by such suffixes as -age (lineage), -ness (craftiness), -ance (abundance), -ity or -ty (opportunity), -ment (amaze­ment), -tion (tradition), -hood (falsehood) and -ship (stewardship). Even though such suffixed words are not always seen as abstractions, their rate of occurrence is only eight out of every 100 nouns.
Even Verbs Concrete
In all their forms, over 19,000 verbs are used throughout the four books. Above we noted three verbs occurring more than a thousand times each. The next most popular is to do, used 822 times. To come and to go total 1144 uses, roughly equal in number. They’re succeeded by to see (368). Each of the following verbs is used 200 times or more: to take, to give, to know, to hear, to answer, to tell. Rounding off the list are verbs occurring between 184 and 160 times each: to sit, to speak, to enter and to send.
Now independ­ent and dependent clauses account for only some 6,400 verbs. What about the remainder? A lion’s share is used as auxiliary verbs.[13] The rest are infinitives[14] and partici­ples, present and past. Parti­ciples are often used alone, playing the role of adjectives, though we have counted them as verbs. The following sentence (Lk1:17) speaks of John the Baptist and contains five italicized verbs: “[A]nd he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fa­thers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” So, before you know it, the various verb deriva­tives soon add up.
Many of the text’s 663 different verb families also shy away from abstraction. (For ease of handling, let’s exclude for now 312 of those verb stems occurring thrice or less, since they ac­count for less than 3% of the actual verbs used.) The 351 verb families remaining are rather eve­ryday and practical. The senses and appetites account for 30 kinds; the mind, heart and soul are engaged in some 46 distinct ways. Gaining and losing take 36 different forms; making and being generate 55 differ­ent verbs. There are 94 verb roots for expressing emoting, resting, command­ing and diminish­ing. Motion, however, comes in 84 varieties, from cast to shake, from surround to winnow. The six not grouped above are may, can, let, should, must and ought.
Religious Terms
Another category of words calls for some observations. We refer to religious terms other than personal names, except for a few exceptions. These are adjectives, verbs and nouns[15] in as­cending order of frequency. Even by including terms not always understood or employed in a religious sense, we’re compelled to note how few there actually are. A total of 165 of these are used 2450 times (a mere 3% of the whole text). Religious adjectives[16] number 14 (evil, eternal, heavenly, sacred, etc.). The 23 verbs[17] range from believe to profane, from heal to re­deem, from forgive to curse. Most numerous by far are the 128 religious nouns, further di­visible into eight kinds (things, people, places, relationship, teaching, deeds, misdeeds, enemies). Noteworthy is that all but four of these stem from the Jewish religion and vocabulary. The ex­ceptions are Gos­pel, resurrection, baptism (derived from the ancient Greek verb meaning “to dip”) and cross (the practice of crucifixion was a common form of capital punishment in the pre-Christian world, if developed and spread far by the Roman Empire). These words first appear in MMLJ.
Why so many nouns in particular? Not exclusive to Jewry, the human spirit tends to sur­round it­self with sacred things and times, with teachings and prohibitions, with externals and le­galism. This will be explored at greater depth later on. For now, let’s remark that Jesus reserved his greatest ire for those who hypocritically appeared to be righteous by wrapping themselves in religious trappings, but inside were “ravenous wolves…whitened sepulchers.” His was a call for a change of heart, apparently the only thing that could radically “fulfill the law and the proph­ets”—a mission he claimed as his own.
Emotional Echoes
Finally, let’s scan the Gospels for emotional expressions. Most of these are reactions of the crowd to what Jesus said and did. There are 111 references to fear, largely triggered by miracles or other supernatural events. Also unsurprising are some hundred mentions of love in various tenses and persons. However, 15 of these are used in a pejorative sense (love of riches, etc.). Christ is said to love others (rich young man; Martha, Mary and Lazarus; un­named apostle) a total of 7 times. Nearly 50 of the references to love are found in John’s gospel alone, including 38 at the Last Supper. Somewhat parallel with fear, wonder, awe, amazement and such occur a total of 48 times. There are 47 words synonymous with joy, in keeping with what the Good News is all about. Most of the references to anger (46) apply to persons other than Christ, though he rebukes 13 times, waxes indignant and manifests anger once apiece.
How about sadness? There are over 30 such terms. Two of the seven tear-shedding inci­dents involve Jesus: he wept over Jerusalem and over his dead friend Lazarus. Lots of people shout or cry out (20)—something Christ did on only three emphatic occasions. In its various forms there are 20 mentions of pain or suffering in all.
* * * * *
What has this detour through the Gospel text achieved? Lots of numbers, to be sure. Above all, it can contribute to a realistic background for any subsequent interpreting of Christ’s person, deeds and message. Indeed under that and some seven other titles, Jesus is clearly the main subject, referred to some 3000 times. At least in his public life Christ does a lot of teaching, when not healing. Much of it is figurative, but laced with life’s most ordinary things in nature or at home. Again, no friend of abstractions or subtleties, the Son of man is fond of very particular nouns and concrete verbs, few of which can be considered religious.
When Christ seeks for images of the “reign” he’s initiating, weddings and banquets and feast­ing are what come to his lips, in fact, well over a hundred times.[18] Speaking of speech, Jesus must have had a strong voice to be heard by his audiences, described 279 times as crowds and throngs. On at least one occasion they numbered even into the “thousands.” But even more of­ten (some 330 times) does he huddle and converse with his closest followers: disciples, friends, apostles, the twelve….That said, can we now move on to his message and mission?

* * * * *

Scattered throughout the unpretentious sketches of Jesus of Nazareth left us by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are the makings, in nearly equal propor­tions, of six main themes.
First are the incidents and teachings that make up the Son of man’s so-called public minis­try. He cured the sick and wrought other wonders. Also he instructed the invariable and awe-struck throngs largely with parables. These topics account for 30% of the text.
Second are Jesus’ moral teachings, most of which are original only in their interior depths and heights. He warned about misdeeds to be avoided: greed, ambition, anger, injustice, lust…largely in that order of coverage. Much greater was the itinerant preacher’s insistence on positive dispositions and self-righting (think, believe, trust, pray, become childlike, be merci­ful and vigilant…). In all, Jesus’ recommendations on how to get oneself ready for the kingdom occupy nearly 28% of MMLJ.
Third are passages echoing a negative reception: the gathering opposition to Christ of both religious and secu­lar authorities that eventually spelled Calvary. These again make up over one-fifth of the Gospel contents.
Fourth are Christ’s exhortations, challenges and endearments to those who would follow in his footsteps: the apostles and other disciples. At times one almost gets the impression that the public life was but an occasion for Je­sus to weave deep friendship with the men and women who seemingly couldn’t get enough of him. These passages add up to nearly 24% of the narrative.
Fifth are the passages personal to Christ, ranging from his conception and birth, through three decades of obscurity, to his brief public life. Throughout, he drops hints in both deeds and words as to who he is. This self-revelation provokes his passion and death (and eventual resur­rection), which account for nearly 28% of the pooled passages.
Sixth are gathered references to the past (John the Baptist, among other prophets), to the future (prophecies of both perse­cutions and the world’s final days) and to the invisible (God, the Father, the Advocate, angels, heaven). Such passages account for a fifth part of the Good News.
Anyone keeping track of these percentages soon realizes that these bunched passages tally 152% of MMLJ. The reason is simple: they overlap. For example: At the threshold of the pas­sion, Christ in the garden of Gethsemane tells the apostles, “Pray, lest you enter into tempta­tion.” The scene and quotation are thus related to three of the major themes (italicized).
There’s another sense in which the evangelists overlap. Quite often the first three gospels recount the same happenings or teachings. Thus, for example, the same cure or the same parable, often in the same words, occurs in two of the books, if not in all three.[19] This is to be expected, since each author is trying to present a complete case for the Good News. Does this mean that Matthew, Mark and Luke copied from one another? Sure. Why not? Also by the time they wrote (within two or three decades after the fact), there had probably arisen a prized collection of Jesus’ sayings and doings whispered or shouted eureka-like from one to another. Such oral transmissions were commonplace in the Middle East, especially since the vast majority of people couldn’t read. With its inclusions and exclusions, this tradition established a minimum of facts, beliefs and hopes required of those desirous of pledging their allegiance to Christ. It also served as a touchstone to reject fanciful fabrications concerning the Son of man, which indeed did crop up even during the apostles’ lifetimes.

1/26/2009 12:01 PM; 6858 words
Chapter 5
Ringside at the Miracles

How best to proceed? Let’s start with the outskirts of Jesus’ public ministry. That’s where the vast majority of Jews first encounter him. Once we’ve gathered plenty of circum­stantial evidence, then we’ll be in better conditions to figure out who this “Son of man” is. So, what does Christ most manifestly do? He seeks to make known his message of repentance and discipleship to the Jews throughout Judea and Galilee, as promised in the Old Testament. To do so, he often beams his words, usually figurative, to large gatherings, which delight in hearing him speak “with authority.” On other occasions he uses his followers as intermediaries to spread the message in outlying vil­lages. What are the credentials for doing so? Both his and the disciples’ announcement are backed up by quite ex­traordinary feats, which seem to call for some explanation, not to mention divine cooperation.
The Gospel speaks over 100 times of large gatherings of people attracted to Christ. Some of the scenes are repeats of the same event in other gospels (parallel passages). For dramatic effect, among other reasons, we list the references separately. Similarly, the text speaks of how they relate to his words, deeds and person with amazement, fear, awe, surprise….Just to list the mass gatherings and their re­actions speaks volumes, even discounting the evangelists’ tendency to exaggerate a bit here and there. Here are the 16 instances in Matthew:

4:24-25: [H]is fame spread throughout all Syria…great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Je­ru­salem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan.
7:28: [T]he crowds were astonished….
8:1: [G]reat crowds followed him….
8:34: [A]ll the city came out to meet Jesus….
9:8: [T]he crowds…were afraid, and they glorified God….
9:26: [T]he report…went through all that district.
13:1: [G]reat crowds gathered…the whole crowd stood on the beach.
13:54-57: [T]hey were astonished…and they took offense at him.
14:13: [T]he crowds…followed him on foot from the towns.
14:35: [T]hey sent round to all that region and brought to him all that were sick….
15:30-31: [G]reat crowds came to him…so that the throng wondered….
19:2: [A]nd large crowds followed him….
21:9-10: [T]he crowds spread their garments on the road….
21:46: [T]hey feared the multitudes, because they held him to be a prophet.
22:22: When they heard it, they marveled….
22:33: [T]he crowd…were astonished at his teaching.

Following are the 31 references in Mark:

1:22: [T]hey were astonished at his teaching….
1:27-28: [T]hey were all amazed….at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region….
1:33: [T]he whole city was gathered together about the door.
1:37: “Every one is searching for you.”
1:45: [S]o that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in the country…and people came to him from every quarter.
2:2: [M]any were gathered together, so that there was no longer room for them, not even about the door….
2:13: [A]ll the crowd gathered about him, and he taught them.
2:15: [M]any tax collectors and sinner were sitting with Jesus…for there were many who followed him.
3:7: [A] great multitude from Galilee followed….
3:9-10: [H]ave a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they should crush him…all who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him.
3:20: [T]he crowd came together…so that they could not even eat.
4:1: [A] very large crowd gathered about him….
5:17: [T]hey began to beg Jesus to depart from their neighborhood.
5:21: [A] great crowd gathered about him….
6:2: [A] great crowd gathered about him….
6:2-3: [M]any who heard him were astonished…they took offense at him.
6:31: [M]any were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.
6:33-34: [T]hey ran there on foot from all the towns, and got there ahead of them…a great throng….
6:54-55: [T]he people recognized him, and ran about the whole neighborhood….
7:36-37: And he charged them to tell no one; but the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well; he even makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.
8:1: [A] great crowd had gathered….
9:14-15: [A] great crowd…were greatly amazed, and ran up to him….
10:1: [C]rowds gathered to him….
10:32: [T]hey were amazed, and those who followed were afraid….
11:8-9: [M]any spread their garments on the road…spread leafy branches…those who went before and those who fol­lowed cried out, “Hosanna!”
11:18: [A]ll the multitude was astonished at his teaching.
12:12: [T]hey tried to arrest him, but feared the multitude….
12:17: And they were amazed at him.
12:34: [A]fter that no one dared to ask him any question.
12:37: [T]he great throng heard him gladly.
14:2: “No [arrest] during the feast, lest there be a tumult of the people.”

Here’s how Luke presents his 33 gatherings:
2:47: [A]ll who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.
4:14-15: [A] report concerning him went out through all the surrounding country…being glorified by all.
4:22: [A]ll spoke well of him, and wondered at the gracious words….
4:28: [A]ll in the synagogue were filled with wrath.
4:32: [T]hey were astonished at his teaching…with authority.
4:42:[T]he people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them.
5:1: [T]he people pressed upon him to hear the word of God….
5:9: [H]e was astonished, and all that were with him, at the catch of fish….
5:15: [T]he report went abroad concerning him; and great multitudes gathered to hear and to be healed….
5:26: [A]mazement seized them all, they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen strange things today.”
6:17-19: [A] great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of the people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the sea­coast of Tyre and Sidon….all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came forth from him and healed them all.
7:16-17: Fear seized them all; and they glorified God….this report…spread through the whole of Judea and all the sur­rounding country.
7:29: [A]ll the people and the tax collectors justified God….
8:4: [A] great crowd came together and people from town after town….
8:25: [T]hey were afraid, and they marveled….
8:40: [T]he crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him.
8:42: [T]he people pressed round him.
8:45: “[T]he multitudes surround you and press upon you!”
9:11: [T]he crowds learned it…followed him….
12:1: [S]o many thousands of the multitude had gathered together that they trod upon one another….
13:17: [A]ll the people rejoiced at all the glorious things….
14:25: [G]reat multitudes accompanied him….
15:1: [T]he tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.
18:15: [T]hey were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them….
18:43: [A]ll the people…gave praise to God.
19:3: [H]e sought to see who Jesus was, but could not, on account of the crowd, because he was small of stature.
19:36-37: [T]hey spread their garments on the road….the whole multitude…began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty words that they had seen.
19:48: [A]ll the people hung upon his words.
20:19: The scribes and the chief priests…feared the people….
20:26: [T]hey were not able in the presence of the people to catch him….
21:38: [E]arly in the morning all the people came to him in the temple to hear him.
22:6: [A]n opportunity to betray him…in the absence of the multitude.
23:27: [T]here followed him a great multitude of the people….

Finally, John has the 22 following crowd scenes:
1:11: He came to his own home, and his own people received him not.
2:11: [T]he first of his signs…manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him
2:23: [M]any believed in his name….
4:39-40: Many Samaritans…believed in him…asked him to stay with them….
4:45: [T]he Galileans welcomed him….
6:2-5: [A] multitude followed him….was coming to him….
6:24-26: [T]hey themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus….”[Y]ou seek me…because you ate your fill….
6:41: The Jews then murmured at him….
7:11-12: The Jews were looking for him….much muttering about him among the people….
7:15: The Jews marveled at it….
7:31: [M]any of the people believed in him….
7:43: [T]here was a division among the people over him.
7:46: “No man ever spoke like this man!”
8:2: Early in the morning…all the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them.
8:30: As he spoke thus, many believed in him.
10:19: [A]gain a division among the Jews because of his words.
10:42: [M]any believed in him there.
11:45: Many of the Jews…believed in him….
11:56: They were looking for Jesus….
12:12-13: [A] great crowd…had come to the feast… took branches of palm trees…crying, “Hosanna!”
12:18: The reason why the crowd went to him was that they heard he had done this sign [restoring Lazarus to life]….“You see that you can do nothing; look, the world has gone after him.”
12:42-43: Nevertheless many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not con­fess it, least they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.

Some commentators suggest that most, if not all, of these stunning feats only seemed miracles. Accordingly, they attribute them, on one hand, to mass hysteria and, on the other, to personal psychological suggestion. Who’s to deny that may be the case in some instances? In fact even in our days faith healings seem to crop up with relative frequency. But to make that interpretation global just doesn’t seem to square with the crowd phenomenon detailed above. If only the cranks and psychosomatic cases were healed, why would those beset with objective physical deformities or sicknesses trample each other to be able to reach and touch Christ? Such futile striving makes little sense. Indeed the avid presence of the psychologically challenged, healed or not, would likely militate against—not in favor of—crowds forming.
Yet, despite the crowds, Jesus was shy when it came to most miraculous deeds. He tried very hard to get the beneficiaries of the cures to keep quiet about them. Writes Frederick Faber: “[Jesus] did not seem to court notice. On the contrary he shrank from it. His very first instinct was an impulse to hide himself, and even to fly when he was sought; and the whole of the three and thirty years gives us the impression…as if he never overcame this propensity, did violence to himself when­ever he acted otherwise, and afterwards settled back to the hidden life as if it were a center of gravity to his character. He came for the express purpose of manifesting himself, and he did nothing but hide him­self” [emphasis added]. The reasons were probably various.
For one, he didn’t want to stoke further messianic expectations, lest this lead to rebellion against the Romans and even the religious establishment. Then, when Christ expressly sought to teach, being mobbed by miracle-seekers was probably the last thing he desired. Thirdly, the attempt at imposing quiet was probably aimed at stirring some overdue reflecting by those cured. Then again they may also point to Jesus’ being someone more—or less!—than human. Somewhere C. S. Lewis coins a telling analogy. Let’s suppose you gave a sizeable alms to a street person, and he in turn called you a “saint,” how would you react? Most of us would probably say most emphatically, “Don’t say stupidities! I’m anything but a saint!” However, if the response were “Hush! Don’t blab that about!” the attempt at cover-up would likely mean that we are saints—or at least see ourselves as such. The only scenario that validates the second injunction would be our actually being saints, when not more. We should keep this in mind when surveying the texts where Jesus seeks, usually in vain, to get miracle recipients to keep si­lent. Here are the most obvious, 15 of them.

Mt 8:4: And Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to any one; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to the people.”
Mt 9:30-31: And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly charged them, “See that no one knows it.” But they went away and spread his fame through all that district.
Mt 12:15-16: Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all, and ordered them not to make him known.
Mt 16: 20: Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
Mk 1:43-44: And he sternly charged him, and sent him away at once, and said to him, “See that you say nothing to any one; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to the peo­ple.” But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.
Mk 3:11-12: And whenever the unclean spirits beheld him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” And he strictly ordered them not to make him known.
Mk 5:43: And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.
Mk 7:36: And he charged them to tell no one; but the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.
Mk 8:23-26: And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the village; and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands upon him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” And he looked up and said, “I see men; but they look like trees, walking.” Then again he laid his hands upon his eyes; and he looked intently and was re­stored, and saw everything clearly. And he sent him away to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.”
Lk 5:14-16: And he charged him to tell no one; but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to the people.” But so much the more the report went abroad concerning him; and great multitudes gathered to hear and to be healed of their infirmities. But he withdrew to the wilderness and prayed.
Lk 8: 56: And her parents were amazed; but he charged them to tell no one what had happened.
Lk 9:18-21: Now it happened that as he was praying alone the disciples were with him; and he asked them, “Who do the people say that I am?” And they answered, “John the Baptist; but others say, Elijah; and others, that one of the old prophets has risen.” And he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.” But he charged and commanded them to tell this to no one.
Jn 7:1-14: After this Jesus went about in Galilee; he would not go about in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill him. Now the Jews’ feast of Tabernacles was at hand. So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples may see the works you are doing. For no man works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” For even his brothers did not believe in him. Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I tes­tify of it that its works are evil. Go to the feast yourselves; I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” So saying, he remained in Galilee. But after his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly but in private. The Jews were looking for him at the feast, and saying, “Where is he?” And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, “He is a good man,” others said, “No, he is leading the people astray.” Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him. About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught.
Jn 11:54: Jesus therefore no longer went about openly among the Jews, but went from there to the country near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim; and there he stayed with the disciples.
Jn 12:36: “While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” When Jesus had said this, he departed and hid himself from them.

Now let’s concentrate on the miracles themselves. The word only means deeds evoking wonder, awe, admiration. The Gos­pels re­late 37 specified miracles; of these 21 are healings, including 3 re­suscitations. Five times besides does Jesus put an end to apparent diabolical possession via exorcism. And then 11 others manifest Christ’s power to suspend or modify nature. Most of the benefi­ciaries are Jews, but at least 5 Gentiles are restored to health.
Where the miracles are done is also interesting. We’re told 2 took place in Jerusalem, 3 more elsewhere in Judea or Perea, and 2 beyond Gali­lee (the cure of the Syrophoenician’s daughter and the exorcism of the Gerasene wild man precipi­tating the loss of some 2000 swine). The remaining 30 “signs,” the term used by John in his gospel, happened in Galilee. For failing to heed these miracles, Jesus lambastes the city which served as the hub of his Galilean campaign: “And you, Capernaum will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it shall be more toler­able on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you” (Mt 11:23-24).
Only one of these startling events is strictly de­structive: Jesus curses a fig tree, which soon withers, for having only leaves (Mt 21:19 Mk 11:22). Ten other feats also display mastery of nature. Christ’s very first miracle is to turn water into choice wine at a country wedding. Twice he feeds thousands by multiplying bread and fish. Also included here are Jesus’ transfiguration and paying the Temple pence with a coin found in a fish’s mouth. The rest fittingly involve the Sea of Galilee, since that’s where at least 4 of the apostles ply their trade. Twice do Peter’s nets fill with fish to the breaking point. On another occasion the awakened Jesus is called upon to still Gennesaret’s roiling waters. Then the Son of man also walks on its troubled waters, as does temporarily the rash Peter. Then, as soon as both are hauled into the boat, the vessel immediately reaches the opposite shore. So much for the specified miracles.
Apparently these detailed signs are but the tip of an iceberg. On at least 13 occasions the evangelists refer generi­cally to almost mass-produced miracles. Seven of these times are recorded by Matthew alone: 4:23-24; 8:16; 9:35; 14:14; 14:35-36; 15:30-31; 21:14 [texts are given below].
Mark has only 2 mentions of multiple miracles on single occasions, both from his first chapter (32-34, 39). “That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with de­mons….And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, be­cause they knew him….And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.”
Luke refers to 3 mass miracles. “Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any that were sick with various diseases brought them to him; and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them. And demons also came out of many, crying, ‘You are the Son of God!’ But he rebuked them” (4:40-41). “…[A]nd the power of the Lord was with him to heal” (5:17). “When the crowds learned it, they followed him; and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God, and cured those who had need of healing” (9:11).
John has 7 miracle accounts and only one involving crowds seeking cures. “And a multi­tude fol­lowed him, because they saw the signs which he did on those who were diseased” (6:2).
Let’s assume that the accounts of collective miracles appearing in both Mark and Luke are the same as the 7 separate ones given by Matthew, including one in Jerusalem. To which we can add the sole mass miracle of John, just before Christ’s Eucha­ristic discourse in Galilee. How many are healed on these 8 mob occasions? I have 2 friends whose professions take them often to third world countries, when not worse. They estimate that 6-10 per­cent of their populations would qualify for the kind of miracles described above. If, let’s say, the average size of those 8 “great crowds” or “throngs” was 350, and eight percent are cured, we’re talking, conservatively, of some 220 added healings.
Christ also deputizes his apostles and disciples twice to cure the sick and possessed in preparation for his visit. The first circuit takes place in Galilee and involves 6 pairs. “And he called to him the twelve, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits” (Mk 6:7). Six verses later we’re told how they fared: “And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.” The second such mission involves Judea and perhaps Perea. He sends out 35 paired teams towards the end of his public ministry. “After this the Lord appointed sev­enty others, and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to come” (Lk 10:1). Implying a stay lasting several days, he adds, “Remain in the same house…do not go from house to house…heal the sick in [the village] and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near…’ The seventy returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!’” (Lk 10:7, 9, 17). How many healings do the apostles and disciples leave in their wake?
First we must assume that some villages were non-welcoming; let’s say one out of 4. Let’s suppose each visit to responsive cities and towns lasted 3 days and one person was healed per day. Ac­cording to the timeline set forth in chapter 3, the first mission’s twelve are gone a month, visiting only Galilean towns and hamlets. If each pair visits 12 distinct villages and heals 3 in each of the 9 receptive towns, the es­timated total would be over 160 cures in some 70 different places. How about the later mission in Judea, consisting of 35 two-man teams? If we assume that each pair is gone 2 weeks and performs 3 cures in each of 4 welcoming cities and towns, the Judean sum reaches over 420 miracles in some 175 locales. In all, between Galilee and Judea, Jesus’ followers may have healed some 580 persons.
If the total Palestinian population is pegged at one million, 580 cures represent well under one percent of those physi­cally disabled or diabolically troubled. But there’s more.
As we’re told, Jesus also passes through many of the estimated 200 cities and towns visited earlier by either the apostles or disciples. If he gets to two-thirds of them and exorcizes or heals, say, 5 in each, his tally alone would go beyond 650. If we add in the 237 detailed and mob healings mentioned earlier, Christ’s miracle total comes to about 860. Overall, it would seem that nearly 1500 extraordinary occurrences took place during the 26 months of Christ’s public ministry. Even then, less than 2 per­cent of the sick or troubled would have been cured by either Jesus or his representatives. That proportion seems about right, enough to explain the crowds and to attest to the teaching authority of both Jesus and his disciples.
Yet, even then, how well did these mighty deeds do their job? We just estimated a total of 1500 miracles, to which we can add the 9000 fed at the two multiplications. Let’s estimate that each of those 10,500 miraculous beneficiaries belonged to a nuclear family consisting of, say, 5 members. Thus, there were some 52,000 direct and indirect beneficiaries. And that means that more than 1 out of every 20 dwellers in Israel was a witness to a miracle. How were these Jews affected? The Gospel evidence is sparse. Only two healed people—“Legion,” the Gerasene wild man, and the sight-restored Bartimeus—volunteer to accompany Christ. And only the former is allowed to do so. “Legion” is sent back to his own people (Greek colonists north of Galilee) in these words (Mk 5:19-20): “But [Jesus] refused, and said to him, ‘Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.’ And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him; and all men marveled.”
Surely there were anonymous others who swelled the ranks of the approximate 100 or so who habitually ac­companied Jesus in his comings and goings, especially during the last year. And the rest? Only one scene gives us clues: that of the ten lepers cleansed on their way to the priest. “Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then said Jesus, ‘Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ And he said to him, ‘Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well’” (Lk 17:14-19). It’s also likely that Christ sent home others made sound, much as with “Legion.” But still the overall impression is one of such jubilation at their restored health that those cured easily fell into selfish ingratitude.
That good will is required to reading miracles aright is confirmed in one of Christ’s sternest parables: that of a rich man and a poor beggar named Lazarus (Lk 16:19-31). The rich man, once consigned to Hades, pleads for someone to warn his five brothers. “But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead’” [emphasis added]. As John Henry Newman claims, miracles are opaque to both agnostics and atheists.
Why then, if almost all of the miracles failed to change recipients’ hearts at least initially, did Jesus seem intent on multiplying them? He doubtless wanted to show on a broad scale his very human compassion for others’ suffering and misery. Further, he desired to give them a chance to glimpse his extraordinary power to remedy their ills. The miracles thus testify to some degree of divine backing. Moreover, so many unrequited cures and such point probably to God’s unconditional love for, and commitment to, his creatures. Human unfaithfulness may have at least one good spin-off: it can serve as a magnifying glass for God’s fidelity.

There follow tables listing and categorizing miraculous events plus other happenings seemingly ex­ceeding normal human limitations. In the first set of tables, italics are used to indicate miracles undertaken largely at Christ’s initiative; they number 17. The remaining 20 are triggered by pleas made mainly by the potential recipients themselves or their relatives and even friends.

Summary of Miracles
M1: water made wine at Cana wedding: Jn 2:1-12
M2: royal official’s son cured from distance: Jn 4:46-53
M3: demoniac cured in Capernaum synagogue: Mk 1:23-28 Lk 4:33-37
M4: Peter’s mother-in-law cured: Mt 8:14-15 Mk 1:29-31; Lk 4:38-39
M5: 1st catch of fish: Lk 5:1-11
M6: leper cured in house: Mt 8:2-4 Mk 1:40-45; Lk 5:12-16
M7: paralytic let down through roof cured: Mt 9:2-8 Mk 2:1-12; Lk 5:17-26
M8: withered hand restored: Mt 12:9-13 Mk 3:1-5; Lk 6:6-10
M9: centurion’s servant healed: Mt 8:5-13 Lk 7:1-10
M10: dead youth resurrected outside Naim: Lk 7:11-17
M11: tempest stilled on lake: Mt 8:24-27 Mk 4:37-41; Lk 8:23-25
M12: Gerasene man exorcised; 2000 swine drowned: Mt 8:28-34 Mk 5:1-20; Lk 8:26-39
M13: hemorrhaging women cured: Mt 9:18-26 Mk 5:21-43; Lk 8:41-56
M14: Jairus daughter resurrected: see prior
M15: 2 blind men cured: Mt 9:27-31
M16: possessed dumb man restored: Mt 9:32-34
M17: bread, fish multiplied for 5000: Mt 14:13-21 Mk 6:30-44; Lk 9:10-17; Jn 6:1-14
M18+19: Jesus walks on water; boat to shore at once: Mt 14:22-33 Mk 6:45-52; Jn 6:15-21
M20: cripple cured at Probatic pool (Jerusalem): Jn 5:1-16
M21: Syrophoenician woman’s daughter healed: Mt 15:21-28 Mk 7:24-30
M22: deaf and dumb man restored: Mk 7:31-37 Mt 15:29-31
M23: bread, fish multiplied for 4000: Mt 15:32-39 Mk 8:1-10
M24: blind man cured in 2 stages: Mk 8:22-26
M25: Christ’s transfiguration: Mt 17:1-8 Mk 9:1-7; Lk 9:28-36
M26: epileptic boy exorcised: Mt 17:14-21 Mk 9:14-29; Lk 9:37-42
M27: temple pence paid with coin in fish’s mouth: Mt 17:23-26
[henceforth, except for last, all miracles in Judea or Transjordania]
M28: man blind from birth cured, brouhaha (Jerusalem): Jn 9:1-41
M29: blind-dumb demoniac restored (Mt. Olivet?): Mt 12:22 Lk 11:14
M30: bent woman straightened (Emmaus?): Lk 13:10-17
M31: dropsical man healed (Bethany beyond Jordan?): Lk 14:1-4
M32: 10 lepers cured (Scythopolis?): Lk 17:11-19
M33: Lazarus resurrected (Bethany): Jn 11:1-44
M34: Bartimaeus’ sight restored (Jericho): Mt 20:29-34 Mk 10:46-52; Lk 18:35-43
M35: fig tree withers (Mt Olivet?): Mt 21:18-22 Mk 11:20-22
M36: Malchus’ severed ear restored (Gethsemani): Lk 22:50-51
M37: 2nd catch of fish (Lake Gennesaret, Galilee): Jn 21:1-24

Exorcisms [5]:
M3: demoniac cured in Capernaum synagogue: Mk 1:23-28 Lk 4:33-37
M12: Gerasene man exorcised; 2000 swine drowned: Mt 8:28-34 Mk 5:1-20; Lk 8:26-39
M16: possessed dumb man restored: Mt 9:32-34
M26: epileptic boy exorcised: Mt 17:14-21 Mk 9:14-29; Lk 9:37-42
M29: blind-dumb demoniac restored (Mt. Olivet?): Mt 12:22 Lk 11:14
[Mary Magdalene…]

Christ dominates or tames nature [11]:
M1: water made wine at Cana wedding: Jn 2:1-12
M5: 1st catch of fish: Lk 5:1-11
M11: tempest stilled on lake: Mt 8:24-27 Mk 4:37-41; Lk 8:23-25
M17: bread, fish multiplied for 5000: Mt 14:13-21 Mk 6:30-44; Lk 9:10-17; Jn 6:1-14
M18+19: Jesus walks on water; boat to shore at once: Mt 14:22-33 Mk 6:45-52; Jn 6:15-21
M23: bread, fish multiplied for 4000: Mt 15:32-39 Mk 8:1-10
M25: Christ’s transfiguration: Mt 17:1-8 Mk 9:1-7; Lk 9:28-36
M27: temple pence paid with coin in fish’s mouth: Mt 17:23-26
M35: fig tree withers (Mt Olivet?): Mt 21:18-22 Mk 11:20-22
M37: 2nd catch of fish (Lake Gennesaret, Galilee): Jn 21:1-24
Note: Aside from the 2 multiplications, the other 9 nature-taming miracles above directly benefit only the disciples or apostles.

Specified healings [21]:
M2: royal official’s son cured from distance: Jn 4:46-53
M4: Peter’s mother-in-law cured: Mt 8:14-15 Mk 1:29-31; Lk 4:38-39
M6: leper cured in house: Mt 8:2-4 Mk 1:40-45; Lk 5:12-16
M7: paralytic let down through roof cured: Mt 9:2-8 Mk 2:1-12; Lk 5:17-26
M8: withered hand restored: Mt 12:9-13 Mk 3:1-5; Lk 6:6-10
M9: centurion’s servant healed: Mt 8:5-13 Lk 7:1-10
M10: dead youth resurrected outside Naim: Lk 7:11-17
M13: hemorrhaging women cured: Mt 9:18-26 Mk 5:21-43; Lk 8:41-56
M14: Jairus daughter resurrected: see prior
M15: 2 blind men cured: Mt 9:27-31
M20: cripple cured at Probatic pool (Jerusalem): Jn 5:1-16
M21: Syrophoenician woman’s daughter healed: Mt 15:21-28 Mk 7:24-30
M22: deaf and dumb man restored: Mk 7:31-37 Mt 15:29-31
M24: blind man cured in 2 stages: Mk 8:22-26
M28: man blind from birth cured, brouhaha (Jerusalem): Jn 9:1-41
M30: bent woman straightened (Emmaus?): Lk 13:10-17
M31: dropsical man healed (Bethany beyond Jordan?): Lk 14:1-4
M32: 10 lepers cured (Scythopolis?): Lk 17:11-19
M33: Lazarus resurrected (Bethany): Jn 11:1-44
M34: Bartimaeus’ sight restored (Jericho): Mt 20:29-34 Mk 10:46-52; Lk 18:35-43
M36: Malchus’ severed ear restored (Gethsemani): Lk 22:50-51
[Simon the leper @ Bethany…]

Miscellany on Miracles:
a-Of the 30 specified miracles found in the Synoptics, John repeats only 2: 6:11 (1st multiplication) & 6:19 (Christ walks on water).
b-On the other hand, Jn gives 5 more exclusive to him: 2:1-11 (Cana); 4:46-54 (royal official’s son); 5:1-9 (38-year crip­ple at Probatic pool); 9:1-41 (man born blind); 11:33-44 (Lazarus).
c-Mt 26:6-13; Mk 14:3-9; Jn 12:1-8: mention meal at which Mary anointed Christ for burial; only Mt & Mk name host as Simon the leper whose cure isn’t mentioned.
d-Mk 16:9: Mary Magdalene “from whom he had cast out seven demons” though exorcism isn’t reported [other references to Mag­da­lene: Mt 27:56, 61; 28:1; Mk 15:40, 47; 16:1; Lk 24:10; Jn 19:25; 20:1, 11-18]

Miracles in synagogue:
M3, M8, M30

Miracles eliciting hostility:
M8, M15, M16, M20, M28, M29, M30, M31, M33

Miracles with person named or identified:
M4 (mother-in-law), M14 (Jairus), M33 (Lazarus), M34 (Bartimaeus), M36 (Malchus’ ear restored)

Miracles with non-Jewish beneficiary
M2, M9, M12, M21, M32

Miracles performed in Jerusalem
M20 & M28 (both in Jn); mass miracle in Mt (21:14 below; at start of Holy Week)

Mass Miracles:
#1: Mt 4:23-24: And he went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them.
Mk 1:39: And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.

#2: Mt 8:16: That evening they brought to him many who were possessed with demons; and he cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick.
Mk 1:32-34: That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered together about the door. And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. Lk 4:40-41: Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any that were sick with various diseases brought them to him; and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them. And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them, and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ.

#3: Lk 5:17: On one of those days, as he was teaching, there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem; and the power of the Lord was with him to heal.

#4: Lk 8:2-3: [A]nd also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.

#5: Mt 9:35: And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every infirmity.
Mk 6:5: And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands upon a few sick people and healed them [he strikes out in Nazareth].

#6: Mt 14:14: As he went ashore he saw a great throng; and he had compassion on them, and healed their sick.
Lk 9:11: When the crowds learned it, they followed him; and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God, and cured those who had need of healing. Jn 6:2: And a multitude followed him, because they saw the signs which he did on those who were diseased.

#7: Mt 14:35-36: And when the men of that place recognized him, they sent round to all that region and brought to him all that were sick, and besought him that they might only touch the fringe of his garment; and as many as touched it were made well.
Mk 6:54-56: And when they got out of the boat, immediately the people recognized him, and ran about the whole neighborhood and began to bring sick people on their pallets to any place where they heard he was. And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or country, they laid the sick in the market places, and besought him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment; and as many as touched it were made well.

#8: Mt 15:30-31: And great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the maimed, the blind, the dumb, and many others, and they put them at his feet, and he healed them, so that the throng wondered, when they saw the dumb speaking, the maimed whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.

#9: Mt 21:14: And there were blind and lame men who came up to him in the Temple, and he healed them.

Mission of the 12: Mt 10:1-4 (instructions: Mt 10:5-42) Mk 6:7-13; Lk 9:1-6.
Mission of the 70: Lk 10:1-16; their return: Lk 10:24.

There are besides some 33 other occasions that point to a more-than-natural causality. Some might call them miracles. If so, most are “small miracles” for various reasons. Some are slanted to a reduced audience, even but one person; bystanders in fact might not be aware. Others are usually limited to a short span of time. Still others betray knowledge of the future or of the imperceptible present, though at the time this unusual knowledge may go over people’s head. If in fact this awareness is acknowledged, people might could chalk it up to mere coincidence.

Other supernatural (SN) events:
SN1: The angel Gabriel appears to Zachary, who loses his power of speech: Lk 1:1-4
SN2: Gabriel similarly visits Mary, who agrees to be Jesus’ mother: Lk 1:26-38
SN3: An angel appears to Joseph to encourage his marrying Mary: Mt 1:18-25
SN4: The unborn Baptist leaps in Elizabeth’s womb at Mary’s visit: Lk 1:41
SN5: Zachary regains his voice: Lk 1:64-79
SN6: An angelic choir heralds Christ’s birth outside Bethlehem: Lk 2:8-15
SN7: The shepherds find the babe as told: Lk 2:16-18
SN8: Simeon, Anna in Temple relate revelations regarding infant: Lk 2:25-38
SN9: The wise men from the Orient, star-guided, adore child: Mt 2:1-12
SN10: An angel bids sleeping Joseph flee to Egypt: Mt 2:13-16
SN11: An angel bids Joseph in dream to return: Mt 2:19-20
SN12: An angel warns Joseph in dream against settling in Judea: Mt 2:22-23
SN13: Thunder and dove attend Christ’s baptism at the Baptist’s hands: Mt 3:16-17
SN14: Jesus knows Nathaniel beneath a fig tree: Jn 1:45-51
SN15: Christ knows the number husbands of the Samaritan woman at the well: Jn 4:7-28
SN16: The Lord knows what enemies think: Mt 9:4 Mk 2:8; Lk 5:22.
SN17: The Master knows Simon Pharisee’s thoughts: Lk 7:39-40
SN18: Jesus is aware that paralytic at Probatic pool had waited long time: Jn 5:5-6
SN19: The Lord can read their thoughts (Lk 11:17)
SN20: The Son of man knows in himself that his disciples murmured: Jn 6:61
SN21: Jesus knows Lazarus has died: Jn 11:13-15
SN22: Christ knows Zacchaeus’ name: Lk 19:5
SN23: The Master prophesies finding colt for Palm Sunday: Mt 21:1-4 Mk 11:1-6; Lk 19:29-36
SN24: The Lord prophesies man with water leading to cenacle: Lk 22:9-13
SN25: Christ foretells Judas’ betrayal: Mt 26: 20-25 Mk 14:18-20
SN26: Jesus prophesies Peter’s denial: Mt 26:33-35 Mk 14:28-31; Lk 22:31-34; Jn 13:38
SN27: The veil is rent; tombs are opened and dead revive: Mt 27:51-53 Mk 15:38; Lk 23:44-45
SN28: The risen Christ appears to Magdalene: Mt 28:1-19 Mk 16:4-11; Lk 24:2-6; Jn 20:11-17
SN29: Jesus appears to disciples en route to Emmaus: Mk 16:12-13 Lk 24:13-35
SN30: Christ appears in cenacle, with doors locked: Mk 16:14-18 Lk 24:36-45
SN31: The Master re-appears a week later: Jn 20:26
SN32: Christ knows Thomas’ skepticism: Jn 20:27-29
SN33: Jesus ascends into clouds: Mk 16:19-20 Lk 24:50-53

SN1-12: during Christ’s first 2 years
SN1-20: take place outside Judea; the rest, in Judea or Perea
SN28-33: these 6 occurrences follow on the resurrection
SN1-3, 6, 10-12: these 7 events involve the appearance of angels
SN4-5, 9, 13, 27-31, 33: here are 10 extraordinary physical happenings
SN14-22, SN32: these 10 events stem from Jesus’ knowing hidden things (clairvoyance)
SN7-8, 23-26: these 6 prophecies imply Christ’s foreknowledge (prescience)

2/20/2009 5:05 PM; 3140ww
Chapter 6

Christ’s Galilean ministry lasts some 18 months. During the first half-year he draws growing crowds. They are captivated by his personality, eloquence and miracles. But their ideas have not changed. They must, then, be taught to think, to reason and so to understand and embrace his “kingdom.” Yet he must also exercise caution and care in describing it, because of false pictures in his hearers’ minds. Did he tell them in plain language what his kingdom was to be (the call of the Gentiles, his passion and death, to name but two features), they would reject him at once. That tension is what gives rise to the parables. There the truth is, but hidden. The crowds will puzzle over and remember these picturesque stories when many other sayings of his have been long forgotten. In the course of time, those who are rightly disposed will see and understand. In the meantime he can continue his instructions before the very eyes of those Pharisees out to catch him in his words and so bring about his death. But that’s not all.
If many of the parables dress up the kingdom, might they not also have to dress up the king? What notions of God did the Jews and their Gentile contemporaries then possess? Not exactly the images believers today may associate with God. It’s all too easy to project unwittingly mental pictures onto the past. Something similar was brought dramatically home to the author lately when I noticed in our nation’s capital a bumper sticker that read: “I ♥ Allah.” Fear and revere him, Yes; so too obey him, even to kowtow to him. But love? That’s not the most likely sentiment a good Muslim is inclined to nestle.
Now the Jews, especially then, were not far behind. God was the Lord eternal of the universe, the Maker of everything visible and invisible, infinitely above and beyond Nature. Who would dare pronounce or write his name? What couldn’t the Almighty do, as betokened in the treatment meted out to all of Pharaoh’s chariots and charioteers? Yet the Jews also knew that “their” God was not indifferent to “his People.” Somehow he will come to rescue them, as promised in so many revelations. Yet even among the most religious Jews at Christ’s hour, we detect a sense of formality and distant awe in their divine relations. From John the Baptist’s father, Zechariah, we have a beautiful canticle, rehearsed perhaps during those 9 speechless months:

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all who hate us; to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant, the oath which he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life. And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God, when the day shall dawn upon us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace [Lk 1:69-79].

Shortly thereafter when Jesus is presented in the Temple, the ancient Simeon prays in these reverent terms:

Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel [Lk 2:29-32].

To be sure, the Jews were not unaware of the divine precept—the “greatest”—to love God above all things, entrusted to them originally with the Ten Commandments. The dictum to love God was further echoed in more than 20 other references throughout the Old Testament. But how to go about it? Weren’t the people of the covenant almost smothered already by some 600 other prescriptions handed down by Moses? And that’s not even counting all the rabbinical add-ons. Moreover, the Jewish religion often did not engage the heart. Old Testament students might beg to differ. The author is well aware of the scriptural case that could be made for loving the all-loving God. But one has to keep remembering that, long before printing came along, most Jews only knew smatterings of the text by hear-say.
The vast majority of the chosen but ordinary people viewed their relationship with the Lord to be collective, ethnic and external. It would take a huge and abiding injection of charity to transform those dealings into something more personal, universal and internal. In fact, their religious problem in a nutshell was to come up with an image of God much more fetching than that of the usual warrior God. How otherwise could they be spurred to pull off such a transformation?
Now let’s turn elsewhere in the Mediterranean world to survey how the Gentiles stood with regard to God. We won’t bother with the pantheon of drunken Elysian gods who deserved no little derision. Now it’s generally recognized that Plato had quite a love affair going with the Ideas. But for the sake of simplicity let’s limit our search to his successor, Aristotle, with his Unmoved Mover. That’s about as close as Athens’ philosophers got to the Supreme Being. He (or It) spends all eternity admiring his own peerless perfection. And to the extent that we can catch glimpses of it, we should feel moved to do the same, thereby perfecting our own reasonable nature. There’s no notion of creation; the universe finds itself in perpetual and perhaps cyclical flux. At best the Unmoved Mover lets itself be known and loved, but couldn’t care less about any and all underlings. There’s simply no proprietary interest. He didn’t make them; they’re on their own.
So it turns out that the best ancient philosophers had a notion of God even more chilling than the Jews. The latter could have gone ahead, but failed to exploit the revealed datum of God as Creator, who even now holds everything in existence. Neither had actually acceded to an image of God’s love that could even match the best of parental love, let alone surpass it.
And so, we might expect that with his parables the Son of Man will devote no little imagery to enriching the Jews’ then current notions of God. We should also expect him to disentangle authentic religion from its pharisaical distortions. And, thirdly, Christ will probably use this figure of speech to warn the religious establishment of their ultimate fate.
First let’s review and summarize the 14 Galilean parables in their roughly chronological order. But by way of introduction, hear out Jesus as he explains to his closest followers the purpose of the parables.

Mt13:10-17: Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to him who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah which says: ‘You shall indeed hear but never understand, and you shall indeed see but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are heavy of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should perceive with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and turn for me to heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” [Also Mt 13:34-35; Mk 4:10-13, 33-34.]

P1: new wine into new skins, leaving old ways aside: Mt 9:17, Mk 2:22, Lk 5:36-38.
P2: self-blinded Jewish leaders lead the blind: Lk 6:39.
P3: Jews misinterpret exorcisms: Mk 3:23-30.
P4: don’t hide lamp: hidden to be revealed: Mk 4:21-22; Lk 11:33-36.
P5: sowing seed: 3 bad (and 3 good) responses: Mt 13:1-23; Mk 4:2-20; Lk 8:4-15.
P6: seed grows on hidden resources: Mk 4:26-29.
P7: wheat and weeds grow together, separated at end: Mt 13:24-32.
P8: dragnet’s good and bad fish to be separated at end: Mt 13:47-51.
P9: mustard seed only starts tiny: Mt 13:31-32; Mk 4:30-32; Lk 13:19.
P10: leaven disappears in dough to become bread: Mt 13:33; Lk 13:20-21.
P11-12: sell all to possess hidden treasure or large pearl: Mt 13:44-46.
P13: evil thoughts and deeds defile—not ritual impurities: Mt 15:13-20; Mk 7:14-23.
P14: human mercy to echo divine—not that of forgiven merciless steward: Mt 18:23-35.

The Galilean parables tend to be shorter, simpler and somewhat elementary.
Six of them have to do with launching the new kingdom of God. Its novelty should not be voided by minds closed to all but the Old Testament (1). To develop and thrive, the new kingdom counts on hidden resources (6). No hothouse plant, the new “realm” grows, despite the temporary presence of mediocrity and even enmity (7-8). In its case humble beginnings (9-10: mustard seed, yeast) paradoxically give rise to robust growth.
Whether aimed at the Jewish leaders or at the rank-and-file, 4 parables point to pitfalls. How can the Jewish leaders lead the blind, since they are equally unseeing (2)? The same scribes in effect rape reason and thus place themselves beyond the pale of forgiveness, when they ascribe Christ’s exorcisms to the doings of Satan himself (3). While rich soil yields harvests up to a hundredfold, its properties are not explained. Not so with seeds landing on paths, rocks or amid weeds: such are rendered ineffectual by the “devil,” “temptations” and the world’s “cares, riches and pleasures” (5). The more strictly observant Jews had multiplied settings, foods and actions that would trigger ritual impurity. Rather, what defiles someone, Christ clarifies, is what comes from within: “evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness” (13).
On the other hand, Jesus makes 4 positive recommendations to his Galilean followers. What they hear from Christ is not to be hoarded, but conscientiously shared (4). Further, the kingdom the Master is making known through word, deed and his person is priceless, worth any sacrifice (11-12). Finally, individuals are to forgive their offending peers always, as God does with the former—not “just seven times” (14). Thanks to these parables, the divine image begins to wax. Everybody needs to hear about and assess the new depth in this vital relationship. What could be better news than to learn that God’s love is unconditional: undeterred by human sinning? Could being a herald of this unbounded divine pity make of the miracle-working Jesus more than God’s envoy? Think, O Galileans, think, think, Jesus seems to be saying, as he departs definitively for points south.

P15: good shepherd, unlike mercenary, ready to die for his sheep: Jn 10:1-18.
P16: with no ethnic ties Good Samaritan proves true neighbor: Lk 10:30-37.
P17: keep praying: insistent neighbor overcomes householder and gets bread: Lk 11:5-9.
P18: if bad parents give their children good gifts, how much more God? Mt 7:9-11; Lk 11:11-13.
P19: foolish, rich farmer: ‘eat, drink, make merry’: Lk 12:16-21.
P20: be vigilant: God comes unexpectedly: Lk 12:35-40.
P21: barren fig tree: just 1 more chance: Lk 13:6-9.
P22: housemaster refuses entry to those he “knows not”: Mt 7:22-23; Lk 13:23-33
P23: original invitees excuse selves from great supper and forfeit their places: Lk 14:16-24.
P24-25: tower builder, warring king: count resources before committing: Lk 15:1-32
P26: determined shepherd goes after lost sheep: Mt 18:12-14; Lk 15:3-7.
P27: widow scouring for lost coin evokes heaven rejoicing over 1 penitent: Lk 15:8-10.
P28: Prodigal Son: Father’s mercy unrationed, unlike older brother’s: Lk 15:11-32.
P29: wasteful but crafty steward: Lk 16:1-9.
P30: Dives and Lazarus: if law and prophets unheeded, miracles do no good: Lk 16:19-31.
P31: again, pray always: importuning widow overcomes unjust judge: Lk 18:1-8.
P32: Pharisee and publican: God spurns proud, welcomes humble: Lk 18:9-14.
P33: vineyard laborers: length of service no guarantee: Mt 20:1-16.
P34: 10 pounds: use gifts wisely, unlike lazy, wicked servant: Lk 19:11-26.
P35: 2 sons: deeds count—not words or election: Mt 21:28-31.
P36: wicked husbandmen will kill last envoy: Mt 21:33-41; Mk 12:1-11; Lk 20:9-18.
P37: spurned calls to wedding banquet spell ultimate rejection: Mt 22:2-14.
P38: reading aright signs of last days: Lk 21:29-31.
P39: be vigilant and ready, unlike 5 foolish virgins: Mt 25:1-12.
P40: faithfulness in husbanding talents wins big reward—and vice versa: Mt 25:14-30.
P41: unwitting charitable deeds and omissions determine fate at last judgment: Mt 25:31-46
P42: vine and branches: followers yield fruit only if united to Christ: Jn 15:1-11.

Many of the 28 post-Galilean parables lack references to time or place. We only know Christ and his followers spend roughly a year in Judea, Jerusalem and Transjordania. Owing to a greater concentration of critics here, the itinerants seldom enjoy a warm reception. For his part, Jesus devotes a dozen of these analogies to exposing the more religious Jews’ errors, especially in the last week or so (19, 21, 22, 23, 30, 33-37, 40, 41). He thus no doubt fans the opposition. In slightly over half of these parables the Master encourages his followers to cultivate good dispositions and usages (16-18, 20, 24, 25, 29, 31, 32, 35, 38-42). These are often contrasted with those of the wayward scribes and Pharisees. This gives rise to 5 dual-purpose parables (18, 32, 35, 40, 41). And then, especially towards the end, the Lord offers a handful of parables designed to enrich his audience’s images of God (15, 18, 26-28, 32).
First, let’s look at Jesus’ 12 attempts to get his enemies to face their prejudices and thus to repent before it’s too late. Don’t be so foolish and short-sighted as the rich farmer who seeks to prolong his merriment indefinitely on the eve of his death (19). The barren fig tree is given but another year, plus digging and manure, to produce; otherwise, firewood (21). He likens God’s kingdom to a grand dinner (23) or to a wedding banquet (37). While the meal comparison reflects positively on the divine host and the eventual guests, it doesn’t speak well of those caught up in secular pursuits who spurn even repeated invitations. Again, worldliness leads Dives permanently astray for disregarding the law and prophets, making himself and such impervious to miracles (30). Another parable features a prayer scene where a presumptuous Pharisee preens his excellence before God, who’s welcomed elsewhere (32). The Jews’ election and length of service (“the last shall be first”) is no guarantee of a special reward, we learn in a scene where vineyard laborers are hired throughout the day yet paid the same (33). Only those who make their gifts yield are welcome to the definitive kingdom (34). In the tale of the two sons (35), obedient deeds are what count—not ineffectual promises or unearned status. In a pointed, provocative swipe at those about to put him to death, Jesus equates them with the wicked husbandmen, who refuse to submit to the vineyard’s owner and even kill his son (36). Again, for failing to prepare themselves, 5 foolish virgins are denied entrance to the wedding party: “I know you not” (39). In another sorting scenario, the man who sat on entrusted money is ejected, while two others who made their allotment yield are handsomely rewarded (40). It’s probable that the last 10 parables, mostly directed at and against the Pharisees and scribes, are voiced in Jesus’ final weeks. This crescendo is deliberate; the Son of Man evidently wants to make sure there is no hitch or delay to his bloody end.
Now let’s review the 15 parables where the Master coaches his disciples in the building blocks of the kingdom. Be ever prepared and wide awake as good servants awaiting their master’s return is the advice (20), since the Son of Man comes unexpectedly (or is always coming?). Another call to good judgment is found in a pair of unusual stories where hefting the cross is deemed necessary to building a tower or undertaking war (24-25). Insistent prayer—“always”—finally wins bread and justice from reluctant sources (17, 26). Apparently God is to be importuned and pestered. After all, if even bad parents know how to give good things to their offspring, how much more will the heavenly Father give to those who ask him (18)? When paired with acknowledgement of sinfulness, prayer likewise obtains justification for a repentant publican (32). The story of the wasteful, crafty steward probably means that, while morally dangerous, riches can be turned to good ends (29). Gifts—“pounds, talents”—should be put to good use; otherwise, rejection beckons (34, 40). Again, Christ returns to the theme of vigilance and readiness in the tale of the 5 wise virgins (39); such dispositions will also help followers read aright the signs of the last days (38).
Similarly, deeds matter in the kingdom—not promises, words or covenants (35). Even apparently unconscious deeds! That seems to be the thrust of the Lord’s last public parable, and one of his longest. It portrays the definitive sorting of the sheep and goats at the final judgment. And what is the dividing criterion? They’re having engaged in—or withheld—what have been traditionally called the corporal works of mercy (such as clothing the naked or feeding the hungry). In doing so, however, they were unawares ministering to the King. He claims: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (41). Such spontaneous generosity is also what makes the Good Samaritan such a true, merciful neighbor, even without ethnic or legal ties (15). Then, Christ’s final parable is appropriately given at the Last Supper. The apostles are likened to branches: they will yield fruit only if united to Jesus the vine (42).
Though God is in the wings, so to speak, in all the parables, he figures prominently in 6 linked to Judea or Perea. One was covered above and seems to be claiming that God cannot stop himself from giving (18). Early in Judea we are introduced to the Good Shepherd. Thanks to John the evangelist, Christ identifies himself with the owner of the sheep: “I am the good shepherd…[he] lays down his life for [‘his’] sheep…but I lay it down of my own accord” (15). All this is complemented by another parable where the shepherd abandons the body of sheep in search of the solitary stray. He seeks out the sick, lame and lost: “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (26). This second parable was provoked by the criticism that Christ “receives sinners and eats with them” (Lk 15:2). God’s unbounded mercy doesn’t just sit there in solitary majesty, awaiting the initiative of broken petitioners. The implication is that God all-merciful has found some way to walk among the haunts of guilty man. How otherwise could they be rescued, and God pleased? This new snapshot of God, reinforced many times over later in the Gospels, is doubtless light-years beyond the Unmoved Mover.
Similarly, the joy of the widow who scours her house to find a lost silver piece evokes heaven’s jubilation over “one sinner who repents” (24). How much God seems to prize his often errant charges! The story of the Prodigal Son vies for popularity with that of the Good Shepherd. His welcoming father’s mercy is unbounded, even profligate in the harsh judgment of the hard-hearted, older brother (28). “He who humbles himself will be exalted” is further proof of how God handles sinners, such as the sorrowful publican, who recognize themselves as such (32).
Christ’s figures of speech, in sum, are all about unveiling, though he leaves the final part of the uncovering to his listeners. He defers to their freedom. If people want to find the true God, Jesus supplies enough clues for them to do so. But if they don’t want to encounter God, he won’t force them to do so. He tries chiefly to manifest more of God the Father and the closer relationship he seeks with his children. Next Jesus exposes the interior contortions of the scribes and Pharisees described as “whitewashed tombs” full of “extortion, rapacity, hypocrisy, iniquity, uncleanness.” Thirdly, Jesus prompts his disciples to discover within whatever may either hinder or foster their participating in the new kingdom. These three main themes will find echoes in the rest of Christ’s public ministry.

3/10/2009 1:56 PM; 6045ww
Chapter 7
Do These

What role does belief or faith play in the Christian message? If Christianity is a plausible inva­sion and deliverance from on high, faith may in fact be the only way to connect with it. Conse­quently, in such a weighty matter, it may be risky to believe too readily or barely at all. Even in less exalted matters, don’t we look askance at the two extremes of gullibility and skepticism as immature reactions?
For now let’s see how belief in its many forms is used in the gospel text. Lurking behind the apparent simplicity of “I believe” may lie some tangled questions.
When, for example, the local meteorologist affirms that the overnight temperature in Nome, Alaska, sank to a record low of -55 degrees, listeners or viewers are really getting only hearsay. To validate the fact, they’d have to track down the original source. First, the frost-nipped Alas­kan had passed the word on to other meteorologists and they in turn to radio and TV announcers. Finally, the latter broadcast the hand-me-down to their respective audiences. Only one person witnesses, but on that say-so hangs a whole network of believers—or not.
At play here is the daily, hourly transaction of trusted communication, a process so frequent that it’s largely unconscious. Most of what we claim to know consists rather of thousands of simple beliefs. By taking in so much unquestioned information, are we therefore gullible? Not necessarily. If we haven’t reason to doubt one or all of the links in the chain of passed-on news, we usually don’t withhold assent. Neither do we bother very much when the news doesn’t di­rectly threaten or even concern us.
We’re not considering such self-evident claims as the sun is shining or that 2+2=4. In the for­mer case we bow to the evidence of the senses; in the latter, to that of the mind. In neither case does the human will get necessarily involved. Since the mind or senses are simply acted on by logic or sensible evidence, no decision is needed. It’s only when the data-gathering is not personal that both the mind and will are called to do their respective tasks and cooperate.
When pushed, the mind can examine how trustworthy are the source and any passers-on, plus how believable the communication itself is. If the verdict is positive, the will then usually bids the mind to agree to the proposition. In other words, to believe something, we must also believe in someone, a trustworthy witness. Belief is only a “leap in the dark” when laziness, recklessness or desperation get in the way. Yet so long as facts are not evident, moral certainty is the best the mind can attain. On the basis of circumstantial evidence, juries reach it every day—or not. The “case” should exclude reasonable doubts. When it does, to abstain from judgment is considered not only unreasonable but wrong. And vice versa. In an ideal world, all our beliefs and unbeliefs can and should be as carefully grounded in facts as possible.
Does the same process hold when the object is not only absent but also perhaps above our in­tellectual grasp? It would seem so. Whether we’re dealing with a possible all-spiritual world or with Einstein’s theory of relativity, wouldn’t the steps to belief or disbelief be similar? There’s one caveat, however. We may have a bigger and more direct stake in the former than in the relativity theory. If so, we owe it to ourselves to proceed with more deliberate caution, but, again, skirting both analysis paralysis and pushover credulity. Much work and study should go into the per­sonal conclusion that betting on the object of religious faith is more reasonable than not.

In the four gospels there are 173 references to belief or faith, making it one of their major cate­gories. Yet nowhere is there any pretense to precise definitions. Such usages have the flexi­bility and even casualness of everyday speech. The verb believe (believed, believes, believing) appears 133 times. John, who likes to feature Christ disputing with religious figures, contains 98 of those mentions, leaving the Synoptics with just 35. The most frequent noun form is faith, in­cluding some derived adjectives,[20] occurring 40 times (though only once in John).
Christ on 11 occasions faults his disciples or others for their “little faith,” but only in the Synoptics. In 19 instances Jesus works a cure as a reward for faith. There are 28 times when the Son of Man complains of not finding faith (12 in the Synoptics; 16 in John). On 75 occasions we find believe (sometimes with an unspecified object) or believe in… (him, me, Gospel, light, his name, scripture, etc.). Most of these occur in John, and they’re about equally split between be­lieve and believe in.

Little faith [6]: 6:30; 8:10; 8:26; 14:31; 16:38; 17:20
Faith rewarded with miracle [5]: 8:13; 9:2; 9:22; 9:28-29; 21:21-22
Unbelief [2]: 13:58; 21:32

MARK [12]
Little faith [1]: 4:40
Faith rewarded with miracle [5] 2:5; 5:34; 5:36; 9:23-24; 10:52
Unbelief [3]: 6:6; 16:11; 16:13-14
Believe in [3]: 1:15; 11:22-24; 16:16-17

LUKE [19]
Little faith [4]: 8:25; 12:28; 17:5-6; 22:32
Faith rewarded with miracle [8]: 1:45; 5:20; 7:9; 7:50; 8:48; 8:50; 17:19; 18:42
Unbelief [7]: 1:20; 8:12-13; 18:8; 22:67; 24:11; 24:25; 24:41

JOHN [96]
Little faith [0]
Faith rewarded with miracle [1]: 4:50
Unbelief [24]: 3:12, 18(X2); 4:48; 5:38. 47; 6:36, 64(X2); 7:5, 48; 8:45, 46; 9:18; 10:25, 26, 37, 38; 12:37, 39, 44; 14:10; 16:9; 20:25
Believe [71]: 1:7, 12, 50; 2:11, 22, 23; 3:12, 15, 16, 18, 36; 4:39, 41, 42, 53; 5:24, 44, 46 (X2), 47; 6:29, 30, 35, 40, 47, 69; 7:31, 38, 39; 8:24, 30, 31; 9:35, 36, 38; 10:38, 42; 11:15, 25, 26 (X2), 27, 40, 45; 12:11, 36, 38, 42, 44, 46; 13:19; 14:1 (X2), 11 (X2), 12, 29; 16:27, 30, 31; 17:8, 20, 21; 19:35; 20:8, 27, 29 (X2), 31 (X2).

Little faith: 6+1+4+0=11
Faith rewarded: 5+5+8+1=19
Unbelief: 2+3+7+16=28
Believe: 0+3+0+72=75
TOTAL: 133

Earlier we saw that the Gospel text abounds in question marks. Of the 328 questions posed by Christ, roughly 4 out of every 5 are the kind called rhetorical. Though no Socrates, Jesus duly performs as Master by inviting his listeners to go beyond appearances, now with feats, now with queries. Christ warns his disciples not to cast their pearls before swine (see Mt 7:6), yet doesn’t that term sum up all too often his audiences as well as his observers? But lack of success doesn’t appear to deter him.
Similarly, how many times do such words as intelligence, logic or deduction occur in the Gos­pels? None. Neither for that matter do the related words of mind and knowledge appear more than 6-7 times apiece. Usually the evangelists shy away from such generic nouns. If we look, however, at how often “knowing” verbs appear in the combined text, we get a different slant. Overall, they account for 322 actions. Know (plus knew and known) leads with 233 uses. The next most common is understand (plus understood and understands), which occurs in 41 contexts. Rounding off the list are think (20), perceive (18) and learn (10).
If Jesus bids his followers to believe, have faith and trust, he encourages them no less (maybe even more) to think things out. In fact, he steers all comers away from blind faith and unreflective allegiance no less than from close-minded rejection. First he prompts them to ex­amine whether a witness’ words, deeds and character are such as to justify believing its testi­mony to things absent or invisible. Also, calling for further scrutiny may be steps beyond initial beliefs—such as acting on them and even committing oneself to the chief Revealer. Beforehand, however, Christ says throughout, “Count the cost” (Lk 14:28). Look before you leap.
Yet Jesus doesn’t come right out and expose his audience’s unthinkingness. He’s a bit more indirect. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” That’s an admonition echoed at least 6 times in the Gospels (Mt 11:15; 13:43 Mk 4:9, 23; Lk 8:8; 14:25). “You will know them by their fruits” is likewise a common re­frain (Mt 6:16, 7:20, 12:33 Lk 6:44). Once we see Christ leading Peter through the paces by posing ques­tions: “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their sons or from others” (Mt 17:25)?
On the other hand, Jesus sees that his teaching will occasion a kind of watershed. It’s up to his listen­ers’ dispositions whether they understand or not. “To you [apostles] has been given the secret of the king­dom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables; so that they may see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand; lest they should turn again, and be forgiven” (Mk 4:11-12). “Not all men can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given” (Mt 19:11). “For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed” (Jn 3:20).
Interestingly enough, though some have come to believe in Jesus, the feeling is not always mutual: “[M]any believed in his name…but Jesus did not trust himself to them” (Jn 2:23-24). Fair-weather friends seem to dog the man from Nazareth from beginning to end. Yet from the very cross he refuses to answer in kind: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:24).
Which is Christ’s strongest complaint about failing to read the evidence? Probably this one directed at those habitually at his side: “Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not re­member [the two multiplica­tions]?...Do you not yet understand?” (Mk 8:17-21 Mt 16:6-12). Close behind in severity is what he tells the Sadducees: “Is not this why you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God?…[Y]ou are quite wrong” (Mk 12:24, 27).
Even though favored by extra teaching, the apostles are especially dense in the face of the 3 predic­tions of the passion: “But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, that they should not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask him about this saying” (Lk 9:45 Mk 9:30-32). Even when Christ takes pains to “decipher” his figurative language, he meets with only partial success: “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you under­stand all the parables” (Mk 4:13)? Again, “This figure Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them” (Jn 10:6).
Christ draws an analogy from the Jews’ ability to predict the weather: “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, ‘A shower is coming’; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens….You know how to interpret the appear­ance of earth and sky; but why do you not know how to inter­pret the present time” (Lk 12:54-56 Mt 16:1-4)? Another: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees; as soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is al­ready near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near” (Lk 21:29-31 Mk 13:28-29).
Sometimes the disciples claim to understand but really don’t: “‘Have you understood all this?’ They say to him, ‘Yes’” (Mt 13:51). At the last supper they make a similar claim: “‘Ah, now you are speaking plainly, not in any figure! Now we know that you know all things, and need none to question you; by this we believe that you came from God.’ Jesus answered them, ‘Do you now believe?’” (Jn 16:29-31). Whereupon Jesus ironically declares their faith so weak that they will fall away within an hour or two.
Often Christ whets the appetite of onlookers: “…[B]ehold, something greater than Jonah or Solomon] is here” (Mt 12:41-42). Or he calls the crowd to more than ritual purity: “Hear and understand: not what goes into the mouth defiles a man, but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man” (Mt 15:10-11 Mk 7:14-23). Sometimes it is Jesus himself who turns the table on the scribes and Pharisees: How can Christ be the son of David and yet still be his lord? “And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did any one dare to ask him any more questions” (Mt 22:41-46 Mk 12:35-36; Lk 20:41-44).
Sometimes Jesus raises the apostles’ sight: “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes…” (Mt 11:25 Lk 10:21). Again, “…[B]lessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly I saw to you, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it” (Mt 13:16-17). Another in­stance: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (Mt 16:17).
Christ speaks not only in words, but via “mighty works,” or “signs”: “…[M]any believed in his name when they saw the signs which he did…” (Jn 2:23). Yet others shrug them off: “Then he began to up­braid the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent” (Mt 11:20 Mt 12:39-42). “O faithless and perverse generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you” (Mt 17:17)?
Jesus also implies that belief has several steps: “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead” (Lk 16:31). Or “O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken” (Lk 24:25). “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now” (Jn 16:12).
The human heart controls the drawstrings: “Why do you not understand what I say? It is be­cause you cannot bear to hear my word” (Jn 8:43). Just a few verses earlier, Jesus uncovers the obstacle: “…[I]f any man’s will is to do [the Father’s] will, he shall know whether the teaching is from God…” (Jn 7:17). Liv­ing the message brings another benefit: “…[Y]ou will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (Jn 8:32).
Yet the deepest truths are found in personal acquaintance and relationship: “…[N]o one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Mt 11:27). Again, “I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me” (Jn 10:14). Later at the Last Supper Christ explains: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life….If you had known me, you would have known my Father also….Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father…” (Jn 14:6-7, 9). Then a week after resurrecting, the Son of Man gently chides the once-doubting Thomas: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (Jn 20:29).
Best of all perhaps is the reflective bent of Jesus’ mother mentioned twice: “But Mary kept all these things, ponder­ing them in her heart” (Lk 2:19, 2:51).

Sermon on Other Jesus Prays Last Prayer in
Author the Mount Occasions Alone Supper the Garden Total

Matthew 7 5 1 0 5 18

Mark 0 6 2 0 4 12

Luke 1 15 6 1 5 28

John 0 0 0 6 0 6

TOTALS 8 26 9 7 14 64

Praying is another positive practice Christ highly recommends and often lives himself. The four Gospels refer to praying 64 times.* The nouns prayer or prayers account for 13 mentions. Of the 51 remaining, all verbs, nine serve to petition God for someone or something. On 42 other occa­sions the verb pray (prayed, praying) is equivalent to raising one’s mind to God or communing with him.
As shown in the above table, we find 7 references to prayer in Matthew’s all-but-exclusive ac­count of the Sermon on the Mount, which occupies chapters five through seven. Luke outdoes the other evangelists in speaking of prayer on “other occasions” (15) and in reporting on Jesus’ solitary prayer (6). John recounts 6 of the 7 mentions of prayer at the last supper. While John keeps silent, the Synoptics’ treatments of Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane are very similar (Mt 26:36-45 Mk 14:32-42; Lk 22:39-47).
On the Mount Christ unfurls a more spiritual, interior relationship with God (Mt chapters 5-7). Jesus’ followers are to love and pray for their enemies and persecutors (5:44). They should not show off their piety, unlike the hypocrites. Rather “when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…” (6:5-9). Matthew then puts on Jesus’ lips a fetching call to persistent prayer of petition: “For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (7:8). Indeed Christ seems to turn inside out the whole notion of prayer. How human it is to think that only by our meeting a high quota of prayers will we get God to bestir himself. Rather, it would seem that God only awaits humans’ slightest permission to regale them with “good things.” “Or what man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him” (7:9-11)!
Jesus himself was no stranger to solitude and prayer. Matthew mentions one such occasion (14:23) and Mark two (1:35; 6:45), while John has none. Luke, however, employs the term 7 times in the context of Christ’s seeming instinct to huddle alone with the Father, whenever possible.
· 5:16: “But he withdrew to the wilderness and prayed.”
· 6:12: “In these days he went out to the mountain to pray; and all night he continued in prayer to God.”
· 9:18: “Now it happened that as he was praying alone the disciples were with him….”
· 9:28-29: “Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became dazzling white.
· 11:1: “He was praying in a certain place….”

At the Last Supper, the only Synoptic instance of prayer is found in Luke, where Jesus ad­dresses Peter: “…[B]ut I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren” (22:32). John in all has only six passages related to prayer, all from that final meal. Christ will “pray the Father” to send the Holy Spirit (14:15). There is no need for Jesus to “pray the Father for you…” (16:26). The remaining 4 occur while Christ is praying aloud to his Father on behalf of his apostles and of those “who believe in me through their word” (17:9, 15, 20).
Hours later, the action switches to the garden of Gethsemane, where we see Christ praying as never before. Here we reproduce Mark’s account, the longest of the three (14:32-42 Mt 26-36; Lk 22:39-46).

And they went to a place which was called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I pray.” And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch.” And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible to thee; remove this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what thou wilt.” And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to answer him. And he came the third time, and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”

While not an eye-witness, Luke alone gives 2 telling details: “And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down upon the ground” (22:43-44).

Here are the miscellaneous references to prayer found in Luke:
· Three date from his infancy narrative, 2 involving Zechariah (1:10, 13) and the other, the prophetess Anna (2:37).
· A 4th (3:21) shows Jesus praying after his baptism in the Jordan.
· One day the Pharisees accusingly point out that their disciples, plus those of the Baptist, “fast often and offer prayers…but yours eat and drink” (5:33).
· “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (6:28 Mt 5:43-45).
· Jesus says to his apostles: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray there­fore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Lk 10:2 Mt 9:37-38].
· When Jesus ceases to pray, one of his disciples says to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be thy name. thy kingdom come…” (Lk 11:1-2 Mt 6:9-13).
· Then there are two back-to-back parables (18:1-8, 10-13) enjoining prayer: …[T]hey ought always to pray and not lose heart.” The 2nd, with 2 mentions, contrasts the prayer of the complacent Pharisee with that of the contrite publican.
· “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer’; but you have made it a den of rob­bers” (19:46 Mt 21:13; Mk 11:17)
· But watch at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man” (21:36 Mt 24:42; Mk 13:33-37).
· “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren” (22:31-32).

Matthew has only two mentions of prayer exclusive to him:
· 19:13: “Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray.”
· 24:20: “Pray that your flight may not be in winter….”

Mark alone speaks of prayer again twice.
· 9:29: “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
11:24: “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against any one….”

Becoming little

Thinking, believing and praying are three positive steps Christ recommends at length to his fol­lowers. Among other desirable moral qualities are four receiving less attention. They are to strive after childlike trust and self-distrusting watchfulness; no less are they to give others their due and mercifully to go beyond the call of duty. By parts:
Throughout the Gospels we find nearly 110 words identifying the young of age (chil­dren=54, child=48, little ones=6, infants=1). The first 2 chapters of both Matthew and Luke make up the so-called “infancy gospels” (Christ’s conception, birth and early months, plus those of the Baptist). There we find “child” used 22 times and “children” three. Elsewhere, as in life, there are plenty of tykes underfoot in the various scenes. Twice, but only in John, Jesus calls his apostles “children” (21:5), even “little children” (13:33).
The Synoptic gospels have two parallel, practically identical, scenes where the 4 terms are interchangeably used ten times, though not in the sense of physical age. Rather, they deal with protecting callow innocence, on one hand, and with recuperating childlike simplicity, on the other. Here’s how Mark handles them both:
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea” (Mk 9:42 Mt 18:6-7; Lk 17:1-2).
“And they were bringing children to him, that he might touch them; and the disciples re­buked them. But when Jesus saw it he was indignant, and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’ And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands upon them” (Mk 10:13-16 Mt 19:13-15; Lk 18:15-17).
Apparently it’s the simple-hearted—not simple-minded or childish—who can believe in Christ and embrace God’s kingdom as well. Faith—the kingdom’s entry—is particularly vulner­able because of its multiple parts and structure. As with any act of faith, one must be morally sure the witness is worthy of trust, before accepting what’s said. Both steps call for cooperation between an open mind and a disinterested will. If those conditions are weak, undermined per­haps by external scoffing, belief can rarely get to first base.

Vigilance calls for reflection on what is not immediately apparent. Watchfulness is never far from Christ’s lips. Here is one such prompt among many: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles” (Mt 7:15-17)?
Moreover, Matthew (24), Mark (13) and Luke (21) each devote full chapters to Jerusalem’s de­struction (70 A.D.) and the world’s end of time. Sometimes it’s not easy to distinguish one from the other. Each contains many warnings to stay alert. “Take heed…watch…pray…he who endures to the end will be saved….” Therein both Matthew and Mark feature similar parables about the householder being on guard against thieves from without and dissipation from within (see also Lk 12:35-48). Luke’s endtimes parable deals with interpreting well the signs of the final hour. In Gethsemane just before his capture, Jesus, finding his favored apostles sleepy, again pre­scribes vigilant prayer, “lest you fall into temptation” (Mt 26:41 Mk 14:38; Lk 22:46)
While most calls to watchfulness involve the endtimes, it’s not likely that Christ was limiting his injunction to be watchful to such extraordinary events. If the world God inhabits is usually invisible, doesn’t humanity always run the risk of letting immediate duties, worries and pleasures eclipse God’s abiding presence and solicitude? If humans are to be open to all levels of reality, they must strive to stay on the lookout. Since he never leaves, God is always coming, so to speak, at every moment. If so, prayer is not some luxury for the few, but hard-nosed realism.

Exercising Justice and Mercy
When it comes to relating to others, the boundary line between justice and mercy is not all that clear in the Gospel, just as in ordinary life. But then Christ isn’t particularly concerned with definitions, organization charts or such. Part of the problem may be that, at least in his eyes, what we owe others (justice) may be more extensive than we think. We see this in his turning the Golden rule into something positive: “So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets” (Mt 7:12).
Human debts to peers sometimes seem to supersede what one owes to God.
So if you are of­fering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny (Mt 5:23-26 Lk 12:57-59).
Later in the same part of the Sermon on the Mount, Christ takes aim at the oath-taking prevalent among the Jews. Jesus prefers for us to make our Yes and No mean what we say (see Mt 5:34-37).
The slack humans cut others may determine how much slack God cuts them.
Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back….Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye (Lk 6:37-38, 41-42 Mt 7:1-5).

On the other hand, we can’t just dismiss the errant. “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be con­firmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church [assembly]; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Mt 18:15-17). Yet justice alone is never enough.
Our usual scope of recognized debts rarely goes beyond respecting others’ property, includ­ing their good name, paying back loans, and making and keeping contracts. But aren’t we also somewhat bound to share with others certain intangibles (say, fundamental truths) they would rarely attain to on their own? And might not doing so benefit both the donor and the recipient, though in different ways? Prompted by at least enlightened self-interest, I may owe it to myself to be honest no less than fair to others. And who’s to say that others, including myself, don’t most need discipline, when not punishment?
If so, doesn’t it follow that all these expanded debts must first be paid off before we can en­gage in charity? Disinterested love, after all, entails freely going above and beyond the call of duty. When, however, these prior debts are skipped over in the name of loving mercy, don’t both the donor and the recipient run the risk of falsifying proper relationships? We’re all famil­iar with the sad case of the doting, spoiling mother, who can’t seem to generate the “tough love” both parties desperately need.
Pity, forgiveness and mercy are positive attitudes and responses to misery and wretchedness, known to frequent the human condition. They also reflect, however dimly, God’s pardoning and compassion. Divine mercifulness occupies front and center in the Gospel pages. The human echo, though spelled out in very demanding terms, makes relatively few appearances, none actu­ally in Mark or John. There’s one reference in the Mount Sermon, another in response to a question from Peter and a third in a later parable separating “sheep from goats.” Two of the three mentions in Matthew are also found in parallel passages in Luke (6:26-36, 17:3-4).
Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:38-48):
You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you….if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also….[I]f any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles….You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than oth­ers? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Luke expresses this last exhortation somewhat differently: “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (6:36).
Simon asks (Mt 18:21-22): “Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.’” According to Jewish usage, the expression means an unlimited number of times.
Parable of the last judgment (Mt 25:34-46):
Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me’….Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink…?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire…for I was hungry and you gave me no food’…Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

This was the last of Christ’s public parables. It echoes 2 of the earlier “beatitudes”: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied….Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Mt 5:6, 9). Much is at stake: “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:20).

3/10/2009 1:57 PM; 2130ww
Chapter 8
Shun These

We’ve just reviewed Christ’s positive recommendations for how his disciples are to behave. He also bids them to shun actions detrimental to either their authors or neighbors. These prohibi­tions are much less frequent, making up but a quarter of his moral teachings. They fall into 3 main categories in roughly this order: first, coveting things or power; second, manifesting ani­mosity to others via anger or by holding back what’s their due; and, third, various kinds of lust and sexual misdeeds.
It seems as if the apostles were often jostling with one another to occupy the top­most posts in the kingdom, even at the Last Supper (see Lk 22:24-27). They weren’t particularly proud of these king-of-the-hill disputes, which they tried to conduct outside of Jesus’ earshot. On his part Christ uses these contentions to drive home the humble nature of true greatness.
One such instance is picked up by all 3 Synoptics (Mt 18:1-5 Mk 9:33-37; Lk 9:46-48). Here’s the shortest in Luke: “And an argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest. But when Jesus perceived the thought of their hearts, he took a child and put him by his side, and said to them, ‘Whoever receives this child in my name receives me…for he who is least among you all is the one who is great.’”
Another lesson echoed in all the Synoptics (Mt 19:13-14 Mk 10:13-16; Lk 18:15-17) shows the apostles rebuking pushy parents for thrusting their babes in arms toward Jesus. Christ in turn rebukes the apostles, as we read in Mark: “But when Jesus saw it he was indignant, and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God…[W]hoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’”
Also, the mother of the sons of Zebedee asks Jesus to seat James and John alongside him in his kingdom (Mt 20:20-28 Mk 10:35-48). Here’s the gist in Mark: “[W]hoever would be first among you must be the slave of all. For the Son of Man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’” Christ also warns banquet-goers against choosing the choicest places at table. “[F]or every one who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk 14:7-11).
The most dramatic such lesson involves Jesus’ washing his disciples’ feet at the Last Sup­per; the sole instance is found in Jn 13:1-17. “If I then…have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”
Noteworthy is the fact that every time Christ confronts self-serving ambition, he replaces it with servant leadership. For him as for his disciples, to reign is freely to enslave oneself to oth­ers’ true welfare. In fact, some of the most beautiful and moving Gospel passages are those above where Jesus paradoxically turns inside out his followers’ notion of the kingdom and where true happiness lies. The Last Supper scene concludes: “If you know these things, blessed [happy] are you if you do them” (Jn 13:17).
Closely aligned with ambition is the itch to gain possessions, especially acute when one has few creature comforts. Such acquisitiveness usually goes by the name of avarice or covetous­ness. Interestingly enough, avarice and ambition alone account for 70 percent of Christ’s moral warn­ings. Again, however, Jesus only seeks to lessen one’s grasp of creature comforts to guide the freed hand to truer, more lasting treasures.
Matthew’s account of the Sermon of the Mount is downright lyrical: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God (5:3)…lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal….For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also….No one can serve two masters….” (6:20-21, 24)
Ten chapters further on (Mt 16:25-26 Mk 8:36-37), Jesus returns to the theme, while up­ping the ante: “For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
All 3 Synoptics report at length on the rich young man’s initially hopeful encounter with Christ (Mt 19:16-22 Mk 10:17-22; Lk 18:18-23). The youth asks about winning eternal life; Je­sus replies, “Keep the commandments.” In the ensuing dialogue the young man claims to have lived these basic precepts “from his youth.” Then, Mark declares, “Jesus looking upon him loved him and said to him, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and come, follow me.’” The youth went away sad, “for he was very rich.” Whereupon the Galilean Master warns about the dan­ger of riches. “For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Lk 18:25).
We’re told this last claim left the disciples “greatly astonished” (Mt 19:25) and “exceedingly amazed” (Mk 10:26). “Then who can be saved” (Lk 18:26)? Still earthbound, the apostles saw themselves as royal pursuivants about to share in the kingly wealth and prerogatives, which would “save” them from poverty. Not content with Christ’s reply, “with God all things are pos­sible,” Peter protests: “Lo, we have left everything and followed you. What then shall we have?” (Mt 19:26-27). Luke then puts in Christ’s mouth: “Truly, I say to you, there is no man who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive manifold more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life” (18:29-30). Was this too much for Peter to grasp? Probably. Set ideas don’t budge too easily.

In the Gospel we find 37 references to anger in its various forms.
Only 3 of these, however, refer to Chris’s ire. The first occurs when Jesus drives the money-changers out of the Temple, though here the emotion behind the whip is implied (Jn 2:14-16). The other 2 are found only in Mark. One (3:4-5) takes place in the synagogue at Caper­naum: “And he said to them, ‘Is it lawful on the sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?’ But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hard­ness of heart, and said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.” The other flare-up (10:14) involves the apostles as they try to keep toddlers away: “But when Jesus saw it he was indignant, and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God.’”
In his teachings Christ speaks of divine wrath in 4 instances. Two of these involve par­ables. Mt18:34-35: “And in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers, till he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” Mt 22:7: “The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.” Early on we find John’s comment (3:36): “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God rests upon him.” Similarly, Christ foretells (Lk 21:23): “Alas for those who are with child and for those who give suck in those days! For great distress shall be upon the earth and wrath upon this people….”
All 7 of the above mentions, it should be noted, are manifestations of due anger. The fail­ings in question are not those of the person expressing anger, but of those deserving it. In the absence of such corrective wrath, miscreants may not otherwise discover the error of their ways. But what about the more usual kind of indignation when someone feels strongly offended by others?
On this common misstep Christ has but one teaching, in the Sermon on the Mount. “You have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever in­sults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be liable to the hell of fire” (Mt 5:21-22).
Of the remaining instances of anger, about half are attributed to the scribes and Pharisees (Mt 21:15; Lk 4:28-29, 6:11, 13:14; Jn 7:23). At least 3 times the apostles wax indignant (Mt 20:24, 26:8; Mk 14:4). So do Herod (Mt 2:16), John the Baptist (Mt 3:7), the prodigal’s older brother (Lk 15:27-28) and the townspeople of Nazareth (Lk 4:28-30).

Many think that the topic of chastity must have figured prominently in Christ’s teaching. In fact, the opposite is the case. Aside from 5 mentions of adultery (some of which are parallel texts), there is but one direct reference to lust and 2 that are more ambiguous. One of each are found in Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount, and both concern the interior world of the “heart.” “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (5:27-28). The allusion occurs earlier: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (5:8).
Four of the references to adultery may be said to relate mainly to the indissolubility of mar­riage. Later on during the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “It was also said, ‘Whoever di­vorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that every one who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (Mt 5:31-32 Lk 16:18).
On another occasion the Pharisees try to bait Christ on the question of divorce. This scene is played out in both Mark (10:1-12) and Matthew (19:3-12). Since it’s more explicit, we pick up the latter.

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall be­come one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” He said to them, “For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and mar­ries another, commits adultery.” The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry.” But he said to them, “Not all men can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it.”

If the reference to eunuchs is to be understood figuratively, then here Jesus seems to be advo­cating male chastity to the point of celibacy, if not virginity. Note that Christ calls re­nouncing all sexual activity (and presumably desire) both a divine gift and a fruit of human effort (“have made themselves”). What apparently makes this complete abstinence desirable and vi­able is active allegiance to enhancing God’s kingdom, seemingly a more spiritual form of pater­nity.
Finally, the Pharisees again try to catch Jesus on the horns of a dilemma in the case of the woman caught in adultery (Jn 8:3-11). Will he revert to Moses’ original severity of stoning her or depart from it? Choosing either extreme would land him in hot water with the religious au­thorities. He lets the original law stand (“do not sin again”), but leaves its execution to the non-existent sinless. Besides celebrating Christ’s astute wisdom, the event proclaims no less his pity in face of human weakness. Mercy, not lust, has the last word—something a lustful world yearns to hear.

[1] Many are the English translations available of the original Greek text, all of which have met with various degrees of official approvals. We here employ, almost arbitrarily, the RSVCE. Our interest is not with the finely sliced nuances of original words. Ours is not an exegetical approach, but rather journalistic, investigative. We’re on the lookout for general patterns and trends. We look at particulars from the perspective of the whole. First we try to figure out what’s going on in the most literal sense; then we try to infer what’s really going on.
[2] The remainder of this chapter is based on four documenting appendices. Appendix A entitled “By the Numbers” is a 13-page inventory of the more than 2800 different words appearing in MMLJ and how often each occurs. Appendix B features “Gospel Nouns” and sorts the nearly 13,000 noun instances into 14 categories, while listing the number of times that each appears. Appendix C named “Gospel Verbs” collects verbs used three times or more and sorts them into 11 varieties. Entitled “Religious Words,” Appendix D offers the adjectives (14), verbs (23) and nouns (133) most often used to refer to God.
[3] Our “active” vocabulary (everyday parlance) ranges from 200 to 2500 words. Linguists tell us, moreover, the average American understands or can figure out nearly 200,000 additional words, those usually encountered in books or learned journals. The latter goes by the name of “passive” vocabulary. Therefore, it’s unlikely that the nearly 3000 words making up the gospel text exceeds the understanding of most readers.
[4] The RSVCE translation used here translates the more usual “amen, amen” as “truly, truly”—perhaps Christ’s most emphatic form.
[5] Adverbs account for roughly one-third of the uses of so, usually meaning in the manner or extent indicated or as synonyms for finally, thus or therefore. The rest are spread between conjunctions and pronouns.
[6] Besides, pronominal posses­sive adjectives (his, yours…) occur 1880 times.
[7] Seek, sought, seeking, seeks are all derived from a single root or stem and reflect both tenses and number. In all, 1185 different verb forms are used.
[8] The sample was limited to the eighth chapter of each of the four Gospels.
[9] Of the total uses, “Father” appears 118 times in John’s Gospel alone.
[10] Peter, the new name given to Simon by Christ and meaning “rock,” alone occurs 76 times. “Simon Peter” occurs 19 times, and Simon alone 27 times. Besides the apostle named Simon, there are 12 other uses of Simon: “the leper” (2), “of Cyrene” (3), the “zealot” (1), the Pharisee (3) and “Simon Iscariot” (3), the father of Judas.
[11] Here are the 9 references: Mt 10:3, Mk 3:18, Lk 6:15, Mt 27:56, Mk 15:40, 16:1; Lk 24:10. “James” is also used to identify the father of Jude.
[12] Twice as Jesus’ “brother”: Mt 13:55 and Mk 6:3; once as “son of James” (Lk 6:16); and once also as “Judas (not Iscariot)” (Jn 14:22).
[13] Auxiliaries, such as was, will, am, plus have, has…are counted separately from participles. Thus, for example, as we read in Lk 5:10: “Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men,” each of the words in italics counts as a separate verb.
[14] When an infinitive occurs, we have counted the “to” separately and counted it as a preposition, which explains in part why “to” is the most numerous of the prepositions (2,788 uses).
[15] Six parts of speech are therefore not included: adverbs, prepositions, articles, conjunctions, interjections and pronouns.
[16] The complete list: evil=45, holy=42, eternal=30, righteous=22, just=16; heavenly=9, preaching=9, faithless=6, merciful=4, perfect=4, faithful=3, sacred=2; unfaithful=1, unrighteous=1.
[17] Again, the entire list: believe=133, heal=97, pray=85, bless=57, forgive=45, baptize=38, crucify=37, glorify=31, sin=25, worship=25, preach=22, reveal=15, prophesy=9, curse=5, blasphemes=4, redeem=4, tempted=4, consecrated=2, sacrificed=2, accursed=1, profane=1, sanctify=1, transfigure=1.
[18] What about another metaphor for the hereafter that perhaps tops all others for sensuous appeal? We refer to paradise, used alone by Christ only once. It’s in response to the crucified good thief’s request to be remembered when Jesus enters his kingdom: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk 23:43). It’s borrowed from the Persian tongue, meaning an enclosed, private oasis, a garden of delights.
[19] If the same leper is healed in two or three of the so-called Synoptic accounts, we counted him for each of his appearances. Our purpose is not numerical exactness, but rather one of highlighting trends or emphasis. Nothing stands or falls because one account tells us that Jesus used spittle to cure a blind man, while the other two refrain from mentioning this medium.
[20] We exclude 11 instances of “faithful,” used in various parables, since the meaning is synonymous with “loyal.”
* Two other irrelevant uses occur in the sentence, “I pray you, have me excused,” found twice in Lk 14:18-19. Beg, a word similar to pray, occurs 18 times, but always as an entreaty directed from one human being to another. Ask, however, is sometimes used in lieu of pray, but for our current purposes it has been excluded.

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