Matthew 14 is a jam-packed chapter. It begins with the beheading of John the Baptist. Next, Jesus feeds the large crowd of 5000. Finally, Peter walking (and sinking) in water occurs in Matthew 14: 22:36.
The miracle of Jesus walking on the sea waters is astonishing by itself. But it takes on a whole new and deeper meaning when looking at the events leading up to it.
Jesus was in a state of mourning. His cousin and friend, John, was murdered by King Herod. Christ is fully God AND fully human. In his human nature, Jesus experienced human emotions. Losing John the Baptist most certainly caused him deep sadness.
How have you reacted when a family member or friend dies?
When my grandpa passed away a few years ago I needed a bit of alone time to process his death. And I also needed time to pray.
Likewise, Jesus sought solitude to properly grieve. Saint Matthew tells us, “Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself” (Matthew 14:13). The evangelist doesn’t detail how long Jesus stayed alone but the crowds followed Christ in the next verse. Experiencing hunger and there not being enough bread to feed everyone, Jesus intervened and multiplied the loaves and fish to satisfy the people’s hunger pains.
According to Matthew 14: 22-23, “Immediately, He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away.23 After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone.” Jesus persisted in seeking a time and place to pray to God the Father. He still needed time to pray.
That’s the context leading up to Jesus (and Peter) walking on water. Later this week, I will go over a few of the insights I gained from this Gospel story during Mass and my priest’s homily.
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on May 22, 2017.
I was sitting in the pew of Saint Lambert’s Catholic Church listening to our priest deliver the Gospel reading for the 4th Sunday of Easter—this is rare since I am usually out in the hallway with my finicky 1 year old! —when I noticed a strange verse in the reading. St. John quotes Jesus as saying, “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father (John 14:12 New American Bible). Throughout the rest of that Mass and every day since I have pondered Jesus’ meaning. Today I want to share some of my thoughts on how I interpreted this peculiar passage!
Greater in Quantity Not Quality
According to the dictionary, the word greater is defined as large in number, notable, highly significant, and distinguished to name a few definitions. I want to highlight the first definition—large in number. It makes senses for the works of Christians done in Jesus’ name to be larger than Christ’s miraculous deeds done on Earth simply because 33 years is significantly shorter than the over 2,000 years in Church history. It is also important to read verse 12 in context with the rest of the passage.
Immediately following Jesus’ odd statement in John 14:12, he talks about the sending of the Holy Spirit after he ascends to the Father. Jesus declared, ““If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate* to be with you always, 17 the Spirit of truth,* which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you (John 14:15-17 NAB). It is through cooperation with the Third Person of the Holy Trinity that Apostles and saints are graced through the ages to produce miraculous works.
Father, Son, Holy Spirit= Distinct but Equally God
God is ultimately above humanity’s total comprehension. St. Thomas says that man must have a certain type of agnosticism about the full knowledge of God. According to John Courtney Murray in The Problem of God, “In the end, our presence to him, which is real, is a presence to the unknown; ‘to him we are united as to one unknown,’ says Aquinas (p. 71). Because of this ineffable complete understanding of God, it makes sense that some peculiar and seemingly paradoxical passages in the Scriptures exist.
John may have struggled with how to properly describe the relationship of the Trinity. He might even have shared similar questions as myself. However, despite this struggle, as a Catholic I believe John to be a trustworthy firsthand witness to the teaching of Jesus.
John makes it crystal clear in his prologue to his Gospel that though the Persons of the Trinity as Distinct they are equally God. Knowing this religious truth, when I go back to read John 14:12 I know that Jesus cannot possibly mean the works done by the Holy Spirit as greater than His works since the Son and the Holy Spirit are equally God!
Think about the Holy Trinity
Now the feast of the Holy Trinity (my favorite liturgical feast 😊) is arriving soon, and I hope to be sharing more of my thoughts and reflections on the mystery of the Holy Trinity leading up to that Sunday. Until then, I will leave you to ponder Jesus’ mysterious words again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father”.
May we all be grateful for the gifts of knowledge and understanding given to us by the Holy Spirit and pray for a deepening of these gifts especially as we draw nearer to the Feast of the Holy Trinity
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on July 4, 2018.
Having taught high school Old and New Testament in the past and being a cradle Catholic, the newness of the Good News found in the Bible sometimes gets taken for granted. During the Liturgy of the Word for Sunday’s Mass, the Gospel reading actually penetrated my theological torpor and liturgical listlessness. Mark 5:21-43 details two healing stories in one gospel proclamation. The evangelist began with a synagogue official named Jarius pleading to Jesus to save his daughter near death.
Random or Intentional Detail in the Gospel of Mark?
On the way toward Jarius’ residence, Mark inserts a random tangent. He tells of the woman afflicted with a hemorrhage for a dozen years! Jesus heals this poor woman, and the passage concludes with Jesus raising Jarius’ daughter from the dead.
Reflecting on this passage the following questions invaded my mind:
Why does Mark insert a seemingly random story within a healing story? Could he not simply detail the healing of the hemorrhaging woman after completing the passage on the healing of Jarius’ daughter?
Does this Gospel reading contain the strangest sentence uttered by Jesus: Who has touched my clothes? Is he not omniscient and all-knowing as God?
Power flowing from Jesus…what a peculiar way to describe the healing incident?
These questions initially perplexed me, however, when I had time to think about the passage and re-read the evangelist’s words and interpret in light of the teaching of the Catholic Church I learned of the deeper more spiritual meaning hidden within Mark 5:21-43 and how it relates to my life today.
Christ Willing to Save All—Social Status does not matter
Sandwiched between the beginning and the end of the healing of Jarius’ daughter, Mark inserted Jesus’ encountered a woman suffering from a blood disorder. After careful review, I noticed the juxtaposition between the two individuals. Below is a chart that showing the differences in how Jarius’ daughter and the unnamed woman came to learn about Jesus.
Woman Suffering Hemorrhage
Father’s Intercedes Actively
Passive Request for Healing
John Paul II declared, “[O]nly in Christ do we find real love, and the fullness of life. And so I invite you today to look to Christ.” Certainly, Mark 5 demonstrates people who recognize the importance and power of Jesus.
Encountering the Power of God
According to the evangelist, “And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone forth from him, immediately turned about in the crowd, and said, ‘Who touched my garments?’” Obsessed with superheroes, I recently received Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game from my wife for Father’s Day. Along with my passion for this geeky deck-building game, I have rented a slew of comic books from the library as well.
While my fandom seems random to the discussion of Mark’s Gospel, I need to provide a little backdrop to my thought process after hearing the priest read Mark 5:30. The first thought that popped into my head, “I did not know Rogue made an appearance. Sapping or draining of power is the hallmark of that X-Men character. Marvelously [no pun intended], merely grazing the cloak of Jesus healed the woman right away.
Joking aside, the healing power of Jesus is quite amazing. Previous consultation with doctors failed to ease the woman’s suffering. The passage that may be interrupted as a “power loss” of Jesus is not meant to infringe on his divine nature. On the contrary, Mark, like the other Synoptic Gospels, never dispute the divinity of Christ, he was utilizing language that his audience would be able to understand.
Jesus—Hope in Face of Despair
Mark 5:21-43 also focuses on hope in a seemingly hopeless situation. After healing the woman with a hemorrhage, Jesus arrived too late—at least that was what the crowd thought! Urging Jarius to accept his daughter’s fate the onlookers declared, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” Men of little faith and tenacity would have resigned themselves to start the grieving process. Yet Jesus urged the synagogue official to not be afraid.
According to Saint Pope John XXII, “Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.” From the onset of this Gospel reading Jarius actively sought the aid of Jesus and pleaded for the return of his daughter to life when all looked hopeless as she appeared to linger in the shadow of death. Below is a link to a story about Jesus providing miraculous healing to another young daughter—prematurely born!
Uniqueness of the Individual
A final thought that crossed my mind when reflecting on Mark 5:21-43 was that Jesus focuses on the present moment with grace, love, and resolve. Even on the way toward healing a prominent religious official’s child, Christ paused to listen to the needs of an ordinary, poor woman. Saint Mother Teresa said, “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.” Do not worry about the past nor the future only concern about the need of God’s children in front of you.
This is exactly what Jesus did in Mark 5:25-34. He noticed the presence of the sickly woman. And Christ stopped to show mercy the person in need at the present moment.
As a father of four young children, my focus is frequently divided between juggling the various needs and adventures of my kids growing up. What I learned to devote my attention and time to the present moment and act with love instead of worrying about the various needs and whether it will be adequate or not.
The genius of the Gospel message centers on the individual first. Siphoning sanctity cannot occur as love multiplies not divides when more and more individuals come into your life.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on October 12, 2015.
As a cradle Catholic, I grew up hearing the story of the Rich Young Man in Mark 10:17-31 several dozen times. However, it was not until this past year where I was able to truly understand the meaning of this passage. During this last year, I have encountered God through my suffering and specifically showed me have I often display the attitude of the rich young man. In today’s post, I will briefly talk about 3 ways I lacked what Jesus desires from each of us.
I believed that I was a good-goody Catholic
What I mean by this statement is that I often thought of how holy I was because of my support for traditional Catholic values: I vote pro-life, I don’t commit adultery, I always go to Mass on Sundays, and I definitely committed no major sins. I truly believed that because I was a good person that was enough to encounter Christ in a satisfying way. Let’s reflect on Mark’s words in 10:20, “Teacher, all of these [commandments] I have observed from my youth”. His thought process sounds eerily similar to mine! But that brings me to my second reason for being just like this young man.
I could not give up control of “control over situations”
I always interpreted Jesus’ response to the man (see Mark 10:21) in a purely materialistic light. I felt that because I could control the amount of my physical possessions that I could not possibly fit into the same category as this unfortunate youth. I am actually a neat-freak. I hate clutter and am OCD about junk and cleanliness. I live in moderation and don’t live outside my means. But the problem is that I did not give up MY CONTROL. I always wanted to be in control of the situation and though I followed all Catholic doctrine I truly was not letting God in control.
I possessed a certain despair just like the Rich Young Man after his encounter with Jesus
I thought that I knew my path in this life. Even when I got my dream job teaching in a Catholic school, I still felt despair. When I encountered Christ, I still could not give up control of my situation.
During this past year my family and I suffered immensely:
Our son was abused at the first daycare we took him to in our new city
Our daughter suffered from multiple ear infections,
We lost our 10-week unborn child.
I was driven to grief counseling I had sunk so low in my faith.
Encountering Jesus Lead to Transformation
Here is where my story changed for the better. Amid this intense and painful suffering, God showed me the greatest love possible. He wanted for me to rely on Him fully. When this happened, I was finally able to do something the Rich Young Man in Mark’s Gospel never did. I gave up all my “possessions” and control I totally relied on God for His love to envelope me. See, I still maintained the sacraments and belief in all Catholic teaching, but the difference is that I had faith IN GOD to help me in my situation. Previously, I tried to be simply a “good person” and seek a joyous life. It is impossible to have authentic joy in this life without encountering God and ultimately accepting Him as your savior.
I finally realized in my heart what my mind already knew. To truly be holy I needed to follow God’s commandments AND ask Him to help me on a daily basis. To paraphrase a personal hero of mine, St. Francis de Sales, “Work as if everything depends on you and pray as if everything depends on God”.
I am still on my pilgrim journey toward Heaven, but God made me realize that my dream to teach the faith will be fulfilled—just not in the ways I expected. And I hope to continue writing my story on a regular basis to draw fringe Catholics to the Church. I truly want people to experience true joy in their life!
The Sacred Scriptures contain truth and wisdom from God. These truths are eternal and ever relevant— and practical. When you live in accordance with the Word of God everything in your life is ordered. This doesn’t mean you will be free of struggles and suffering. However, you will experience an otherworldly joy and peace more often than when you don’t follow the Word of God.
One of my favorite books of the Bible is the Letter of Saint James. Despite being a short epistle (five chapters) it’s rich in wisdom and practical advice. Chapter 3 is especially relevant for my battle against sin. Saint James details out the importance of how your words can guide your spiritual life. The old adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me” is false. Words matter. How you phrase something helps or hurts people. The Apostle gives a few tangible examples in chapter three of his epistle showing how speech helps or hinders the spiritual life.
Bridle the Tongue
How many times this past week have you said something you regretted? Emotions get high in stressful situations. This year (it still feels like 2020 right?) has tossed enough curveballs at us to last ten lifetimes. Pandemic. Social unrest. Inflation. And other unimaginable situations hit you. Even something simple as workplace conflict with a coworker can set your tongue shooting verbal fireworks.
Saint James writes, “If anyone does not fall short in speech, he is a perfect man, able to bridle his whole body also (James 3:2). The word bridle refers to headgear placed on a horse (including reins and a mouth-bit) to help restrain the animal from running too fast—knocking a rider off. It helps allow the rider to communicate with the horse. Synonyms include check, curb, tame, rule, or govern. The saint tells his readers the perfect man can govern his whole body when he keeps his words in check.
Words are manifestations of thoughts. In my life, I tend to lash out verbally at my family or at work when I internalize negative thoughts. Short-staffing issues at work has drained everyone in my workplace. Add increased demands and it is a potential emotional powder keg. How am I going to control my negative feelings amid a stressful situation? How can you prevent your tongue from steering you off the path of holiness?
Rudder of the Mouth
Saint James calls the tongue rudder of the mouth. Boats were a common mode of travel in ancient times. The rudder is the part of a ship that steers—gives direction for the boat’s journey. So too, your words can guide how your daily travels with go. During the stressful storms (of a Monday or frantic weekend shift) how do you react? How do you show your frustrations?
While words (thoughts externalized) steer your attitude and have a big impact on your day don’t lose hope if you begin the day “sailing” away from your destination. The Holy Spirit is always present to help redirect you on the holy path. If you’ve ever sailed on a boat, you know how the impact airstreams are and how you need to adjust your sails. God sometimes allows you to suffer setbacks for you to realize you aren’t always in control. You need help. Asking for help doesn’t mean you’re weak—it’s a strength and sign of humility.
Words are Fire (of Love or Hate)
The third image Saint James compares the tongue to is fire. Fire is often associated with being a destructive force. I remember teachers and my parents cautioning me against playing with flames. Stop. Drop. And roll. “Only you can prevent forest fires.” These words are imprinted into my memory forever. I stayed away from fire out of love and obedience to my teachers and parents. Saint James writes, “The tongue is also a fire. It exists among our members as world of malice, defiling the whole body and setting the entire course of our lives on fire, itself set on fire by Gehenna (James 3:6). Words have the power to set tempers ablaze. You don’t have to search far on the Internet to know how true this is.
But there’s another aspect of fire you might not immediately realize—healing. The Catholic Church’s doctrine of purgatory compares the process of being purged from impurities as painful. Saint John Vianney wrote, “The fire of Purgatory is the same fire as the fire of Hell; the difference between them is that the fire of Purgatory is not everlasting.” What a thought-provoking quote! To tie-up this point (before I fall into a theological rabbit-hole), fire is in one sense destructive, but in another a means to purify. God’s love is all-encompassing and fervent it sometimes it feels painful.
From Apostle to Doctor of the Church (A Brief Aside)
Saint Catherine of Siena often referred to the Holy Trinity’s love as a fire. Writing to Brother Matteo di Francesco Tolomei of the Order of the Preachers, Catherine offers words of encouragement that hope is founded in the love of God, “kindled by the fire of divine charity.” In another letter, to religious sisters, she longed for the passing of their suffering in saying,
Dearest mother and daughter in Christ sweet Jesus: I Catherine, servant and slave of the servants of Jesus Christ, write to you in His precious Blood: with desire to see you so clothed in the flames of divine charity that you may bear all pain and torment, hunger and thirst, persecution and injury, derision, outrage and insult, and everything else, with true patience; learning from the Lamb suffering and slain, who ran with such burning love to the shameful death of the Cross (emphasis mine).
Going back to Saint James’ letter, the apostle wanted to remind his fellow Christians how important words can harm or help in the spiritual life. Amid stressful situations you may have to bridle your tongue against harsh language. The mouth is a rudder of the body and sins like gossip, anger, calumny, and lying can steer you off course. Finally, his imagery of the tongue being akin to a fire ablaze in a forest teaches how words can build up (or tear down) your relationship with God and others.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on May 31, 2017.
Cherry-picking, prior to me taking philosophy courses, was a term I associated with a fun fruit activity aimed at selecting delectable berries from an orchard on a warm summer afternoon. I have since learned that words contain a slew of meaning and context is everything in determining the meaning and authorial intention of a particular passage in a fiction or non-fiction work. The same may be said about cherry-picking evidence to build up the Scriptures or to tear them down. Between the erroneous stances of biblical fundamentalism [taking everything literally to be true] and modernism which jettisons truth from the Scriptures is the middle ground of the Catholic interpretation of the Bible.
Cherry-picking isn’t the Catholic Approach to Scripture
Each of my previous works in the Why Catholic Must Have Bible A.D.D. series I stress the importance of reading the Old Testament and the New Testament as a whole instead of fragmenting and pitting passages against one another. The Old Testament prepares the way for the New Testament and the New Testament perfects the Old Testament. Today I want to tackle a commonly misunderstood and difficult text to reconcile with the Christian faith—Abraham’s attempted sacrifice of his son Isaac. I will look at contextual evidence within the book of Genesis in the chapters leading up to this troublesome event, evidence from the New Testament, and interpretations from Catholic Church Tradition on how to understanding the meaning of Genesis 22:1-19.
Before I begin with my analysis I will briefly outline Genesis 22:1-19 [traditionally referred to as the Akedah or binding of Isaac]. Genesis 22 starts with God testing Abraham. He charges the patriarch to take Isaac to Mount Moriah and “offer him there as a burnt offering”. Interestingly, Abraham does not argue with God’s command [I will explain why I think this in the case in my analysis soon]!
Arriving at the sacrificial site on the mountain Abraham raises his dagger and is just about ready to slay Isaac as an offering when the angel of the Lord intervenes. God saves the day by sending a ram caught in a thicket to be the substitute sacrifice in place of Isaac. Countless unbelievers find this passage deeply troubling and even Christians themselves struggle with reconciling Abraham’s faith with his willingness to kill his son. I too wrestled with the binding of Isaac until I discovered the following information.
Contextual Clues in the Chapters Leading Up to the Binding of Isaac
Randomly opening up the Old Testament and reading Genesis 18 really opened my eyes to the mysterious test God gave Abraham four chapters later.
Promise Not Meant to be Broken
Chapter 18 begins with a son [Isaac] being promised to Abraham and Sarah. This was a miraculous birth due to the elderly status of the couple. Sarah was thought to be barren so she laughed at the claim delivered by the angels. Because of this, the baby name was Isaac whose name means “laughter”. God does not make promises only to break them. Viewing the test of Abraham in light of the birth of Isaac is evidence that Isaac’s life was never in jeopardy.
Abraham tests God
The second half of chapter 18 sets the stage for God’s test of Abraham. Less than a chapter before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham fervently appeals to God to spare the sinful city of Sodom. Abraham questions God,
“Will you really sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24Suppose there were fifty righteous people in the city; would you really sweep away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people within it? 25Far be it from you to do such a thing, to kill the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike! Far be it from you! Should not the judge of all the world do what is just?” (Genesis 18:23-25).
God replies, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city I will spare the whole place for their sake” (Genesis 18:26). Abraham continues his interrogation of God with the same question substituting a smaller number of people from 45, 40, 30, 20, and eventually a mere 10 hypothetical righteous people. God answer remains the same. Despite the vengeful power of God his mercy always accompanies his judgment!
God’s test not arbitrary
Re-reading Genesis 22:1-19 I now see that God’s test to Abraham is not simply a game that he is playing with his son Isaac. Our faith is increased through testing but God already hinted at the outcome of the binding of Isaac through his merciful response to Abraham’s interrogation in Genesis 18.
Christ’s Sacrifice on the Cross
Reading the binding of Isaac within the greater context of Genesis helps us understand the purpose of the event but the fullness of this test is not revealed until the Crucifixion of Jesus on the Cross. Cardinal Jean Danielou in his masterful work From Shadows to Reality: Studies in the Biblical Typology of the Fathers, spends a chapters on the binding of Isaac viewed through a typological purview. The early church interpreted the akedah of Isaac as a prefiguration of Jesus’ death on the cross.
Ram as Sacrifice
The ram caught in the briar thicket is a type of sacrifice that foreshadows Jesus as the sacrificial Lamb. According to St. Augustine, “What does this [ram caught in thorns] prefigure, if not that Jesus, before being sacrificed, was crowned with thorns?” (From Shadows to Reality p. 127).
Way of the Cross
Isaac like Jesus both carry the wood [of the cross] on the journey to the sacrificial site [which was both on a mountain!].
Miraculous births and innocent victims
Another connection I noticed between Isaac and Jesus is their conception is considered miraculous. Sarah laughed at the absurdity of being pregnant since she was considered too old and barren to conceive. Mary was on the other side of the spectrum. As a young woman she conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit and was likewise surprised by the angel’s news (see Luke 1:34).
Tradition of the Catholic Church
The early Church Fathers viewed the New Testament events as fulfilling the Old Testament type. According to St. Athanasius, “When Abraham offered his son her adored the Son of God, and when he was forbidden to offer Isaac, he saw in the lamb Christ who was offered to God” (From Shadows to Reality p. 129). Theodoret also recognized the reality hidden in Genesis 22 when he said, “All these were shadows of the economy of our salvation. The Father offered his well-beloved Son for the world. Isaac typified the divinity; the ram the humanity: even the length of time is the same in both cases, three days and three nights” (From Shadows to Reality p. 130). Cardinal Danielou states that specifically the birth and sacrifice of Isaac foreshadow the fullness of the Incarnation in the New Testament ((From Shadows to Reality p 121).
God Always has a Plan
I have only been satisfied with the meaning of the Akedah of Isaac when viewed in light of the interpretative key of Jesus’ sacrificial death. Noticing Abraham’s testing of God in Genesis 18 and the mercy of God helped me better understand that God does not make promises simply to break them. I hope that you have found this topic enlightening and I encourage you to continue to question seemingly problematic texts and seek guidance from the Holy Spirit and the tradition of the Catholic Church!
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on May 19, 2017.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church number 128 says, “The Church, as early as apostolic times, and then constantly in her Tradition, has illuminated the unity of the divine plan in the two Testaments through typology, which discerns in God’s works of the Old Covenant prefigurations of what he accomplished in the fullness of time in the person of his incarnate Son.” The New Testament is hidden in the Old Testament and the Old Testament prepares the way for the New Testament. This week’s installment of the Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D. series features a comparison of Joshua and Jesus.
What’s in a Name
According to St. John Chrysostom in his 27th homily on Hebrews, “The name of Joshua [Jesus], was a type. For this reason then, and because of the very name, the creation reverenced him. What then! Was no other person called Jesus? [Yes]; but this man was on this account so called in type; for he used to be called Hoshea. Therefore the name was changed: for it was a prediction and a prophecy. He brought in the people into the promised land, as Jesus [does] into heaven; not the Law; since neither did Moses [bring them in], but remained without. The Law has not power to bring in, but grace”. In fact the Hebrew form of the name Joshua is Yehoshua and is translated as “God saves”—the same meaning as the name of Jesus!
Leading to Promised Land
When I looked up the Old Testament reference to Number 13:16 that St. John is referring to I found something interesting. In the delineation of the spies to be selected to scout the Land of Canaan, the original name of Joshua was Hoshea. Number 13: 16 states, “These are the names of the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land; but Moses called Hoshea the son of Nun, Joshua.” Without the Catholic understanding of seeing the Old Testament prefiguring and preparing for the New Testament, I would totally miss this minor and seemingly vapid sentence.
Joshua’s name is changed to show that he is elected to eventually do something the greater than Moses—lead the Israelites into the Promised Land! Along with leading the Israelites to the land of milk and honey, Joshua is another example of God preparing us for the coming of Jesus. Jesus’ leads humanity toward the Promised Land of Heaven with his victory over death.
Saint Cardinal John Henry Newman points out how Joshua is a type of Jesus in his Sermon 12: Joshua a Type of Christ and His Followers. Like Joshua saving the harlot Rahab through mercy, Jesus too saves sinners that have faith in him and ask for forgiveness (Sermon 12 no. 2).
Significance of The Twelve
Twelve is a significant number throughout the Bible— 12 tribes of Israel and 12 Apostles chosen as the first priests by Jesus. In the fourth chapter of the book of Joshua, hearing the word of God, Joshua urges 12 priests to take up a memorial stone from the Jordan River as a memorial of the covenant with God. Saint Gregory of Nyssa writes,
The people of the Hebrews, as we learn, after many sufferings, and after accomplishing their weary course in the desert, did not enter the land of promise until it had first been brought, with Joshua for its guide and the pilot of its life, to the passage of the Jordan. But it is clear that Joshua also, who set up the twelve stones in the stream , was anticipating the coming of the twelve disciples, the ministers of Baptism (On the Baptism of Jesus Christ).
Warriors Against Evil
Along with leading the Israelites into the Promised Land, Joshua led the charge toward conquering the Canaanites people. Joshua was a warrior! Likewise, Jesus battled evil too! Matthew 4 features a spiritual donnybrook with Satan. Jesus conquered sin and death just like Joshua conquered anything the stood in the way for the Israelites homecoming!
Joshua is one of my favorite Old Testament figures that typologically foreshadow Jesus Christ. Once again God in a surprising turn of events rises up an individual to receive the baton of holiness from arguably the greatest Old Testament prophet ever—Moses! Another thing I learned in my research of Joshua as a type of Christ is the name-change in Numbers 13:16. I am grateful for the wealth of knowledge that I have gleaned from the saints and the catechism on the connections between Joshua and Jesus.