Engaging the Word: Readings for 10/18/15 (21st Sunday after Pentecost)

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By Barbara Klugh

 Job 38:1-7,34-41; Psalm 104:1-9,25,37b; Hebrews 5:1-10; Mark 10:35-45. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text. In this week’s readings, God appears to Job out of a whirlwind, the author of Hebrews presents Jesus’ qualification for the office of high priest, and Jesus redefines the meaning of greatness.

God answers Job from the Whirlwind by William Blake (1757-1827). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

God answers Job from the Whirlwind by William Blake (1757-1827). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Job 38:1-7, 34-41: In last week’s reading, Job thought if only he could find God, he could state his case directly to God. God was nowhere to be found and Job sank into hopeless despair.

In this week’s reading, which unfortunately contains only ten percent of God’s magnificent speech, God appears to Job out of a whirlwind. Instead of Job stating his case, or God giving Job some sort of verdict, God tells Job to “Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me.”

God asks Job (and us) a series of rhetorical questions: Was Job present at the creation of the world? Can Job command the forces of nature? Is Job the source of all wisdom and understanding?  Does Job provide food for all the animals and birds?

Humbling, isn’t it? Next week we will read of Job’s response to the overwhelming  majesty of God.

Psalm 104:1-9,25, 37b: Psalm 104 is a stirring hymn of praise to God, who made our beautiful and life-giving universe. It begins, “Bless the Lord, O my soul; O Lord my God, how excellent is your greatness! You are clothed with majesty and splendor.” The psalm ends with a rousing “Hallelujah!”

The Savior of the World by El Greco. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Savior of the World by El Greco. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Hebrews 5:1-10: Last week, Jesus was described as our great high priest who understands us and our earthly trials, and sympathizes with our human weaknesses. In this week’s reading, the author presents Jesus’ qualifications for the office of high priest.

In Jewish tradition, the high priests were chosen to offer sacrifices for both their own sins and those of others. And, because of their own humanity, they should be able to deal sympathetically with others. The position of high priest is not one men should seek; they should be called by God, just as  Aaron was.

Jesus did not seek his position, but was appointed by God, as noted in the psalms: “You are my Son, today I have begotten you” and “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” Melchizedek was an enigmatic figure mentioned in Genesis. His name means king of righteousness, and he is identified as the king of Salem and the priest of God Most High. Since high priests were selected from the tribe of Levi, Jesus didn’t qualify  to be high priest on that account. He qualified because he was appointed by God according to the order of Melchizedek.

Jesus’ qualifications were earned throughout his life by being obedient to God’s will. Because of his  suffering and death, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

Exhortation to the Apostles by James Tissot (1836-1902). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Exhortation to the Apostles by James Tissot (1836-1902). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Mark 10:35-45: In this week’s reading we see that at least two of the disciples still have a thing about status. In our gospel reading just a few weeks ago,  the disciples argued about which one of them was the greatest.

Just prior to today’s reading, Jesus predicted his suffering, death, and resurrection for the third and last time.

Now James and John ask Jesus to do them a favor. When Jesus asks what they want him to do, they said, they wanted to sit in places of honor on either side of Jesus in the Kingdom. But Jesus says, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”  They say they are able. Jesus tells them that they will drink the cup and they will be baptized with his baptism, but that the places where they want to sit is not his to grant; it’s already reserved for others—maybe he means the two criminals  that will be on either side of him at the crucifixion.

The other disciples became angry with James and John for their presumptuousness.  Jesus then spoke to all of them. Jesus told them that his followers are not to imitate the ways of worldly power, but to follow a different path, that “whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

Once again, Jesus redefined the meaning of greatness.

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