At our cathedral in Reno Nevada and on our mural, a lamb proudly sits upon the four rivers of life. To the right is an American working class family. To the left stands John the Baptist with Malachi who holds the scroll, “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” A Basque community resides in Reno. Many Basque folk raise lambs, resulting in many lambs residing in Washoe County. They also bred the Australian shepherd as their sheep dog. Jesus talks about the true shepherd being willing to lay down his life for his sheep.
There are many people in Reno, who know why St. John mentions 153 fish in the readings for the Friday of the Seventh Week of Easter. “This relates to Pythagoras and his mystical theories.” Pythagoras and his mystical theories founded a new religion based upon numbers. St. John and Jesus would tie their religion to a Greek cult? Why would a Jewish teacher talking to Jewish fishermen on the shore be discussing esoteric Greek philosophy?
“Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me more than these?” The Aramaic version reads “Jonah.” Following the Gospel of St. Matthew where Jesus gives St. Peter the keys to the kingdom, Simon Peter is Simon Bar Jonah.” When Jesus says, “Do you love me more than these?” what do “these” refer to? The apparent reference is to the 153 fish. There are no unnecessary details in Torah or Gospel. Study of Talmud shows no cases where 153 is a significant number in Jewish numerology. The reason St. John quoted “153” is lost to history, yet “153” is central to understanding “these” and therefore the passage.
“Simon Bar Jonah,” implies Simon Peter is the acknowledged head of the church. Another point of confusion is St. John 1:1. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Some read St. John in terms of Stoic philosophy. The “λόγος” or word is universal reason, bringing self-control. The Greek ideal is “ἀπάθεια” or “peace of mind.” It transliterates into English as “Apathy.” Most New Testament translators translate ἀπάθεια as, “disobedience,” a valid translation when put in context. Why would Jesus use the Stoic ideal as disobedience if he borrows from the Greek religion and philosophy?
The Aramaic word for “Lamb,” and the Aramaic word for “Word,” is “Omer.” “In the beginning was the Lamb, and the Lamb was with God, and the Lamb was God.”
“Do you love me more than these?” Peter responds, “Yes, Personal Name, you know that I love you.” Jesus commanded, “Feed my lambs.” The Aramaic is “Omer.” Jesus calls Peter, the fisherman and son of Jonah the prophet sent to Nineveh or “Fish City.” His followers are the little sheep who follow him and Jesus the Good Shepherd identifies with his sheep.
The Aramaic word for “Love,” is “Racham.” The Hebrew and Aramaic root is “A woman’s womb.” Jesus asks Simon Bar Jonah if he has motherly compassion for him. Jesus rephrases the question each time to drive home the point; good leaders care for those who work for them. We look in dismay when we read that in 1968 the poorest 50% of the population received 27% of all income, but today only receive 19%. The solution of one political party is to give the richest 20% who receive 71% of all income and who control 85% of all wealth, a free hand to further exploit the poorest 50%.
Deuteronomy 16:20 tells the community following God, “צֶדֶק צֶדֶק” have in your gates. “צֶדֶק” means both “Justice” and “Charity.” The community must have charity for its poorest citizens. This is not optional, but justice. The Jewish gate is where the judges met to decide cases. The story of Ruth gives us the example of judging at the city gate. Judges/leaders have a mandated role to care for the poor, as Psalm 72 and 82 in Hebrew made very clear.
Deuteronomy 17 states, “Set a king over you whom the Personal Name, your Almighty Judge, chooses. Set someone over you from the nearness of your own brothers; do not set over you a stranger, no brother of yours… He will not accumulate silver and gold.”
We must choose leaders like us, not so wealthy as to be the Bane of the world. They must know how much a loaf of bread costs, a gallon of milk, and gasoline. They must know how many homes they own. Their funds must not be at a Swiss bank. Jesus tells St. Peter to be a leader who identifies and takes care of his charges, who represents him as Good Shepherd. Let us hold our leaders: business, secular, public, and religious to the same standard.