Proper 24B (OT 29)
Kind of feel like this one preaches itself.
What does lectionary skip? Last week we ended at v. 31, today we pick up at v. 35
v. 32-34 On the road to Jerusalem, those following were both amazed and afraid. Then he takes 12 aside and again predicts his death and Resurrection, which will culminate in a clash with chief priests in Jerusalem.
Rolf Jacobsen: What if we stopped calling this the prediction, and instead called it an announcement, or a mission statement.
In other words, Jesus’ very mission is understood to be one of sacrifice and service. From the start, It is not about triumphalism. It is immediately after this teaching the James on John “call shotgun.”
James and John’s Request:
After this teaching about impending death, James and John approach Jesus and ask, “We want you to do whatever we ask.”
Seriously strange request.
Interesting to note that in Matthew, it is their mother that asks this question.
You don’t know what you’re asking
I am going to suffer a great deal, I don’t think this is the joyride you’re expecting.
J and J: Yes we can.
Jesus’ Second Response:
Shotgun is not mine to grant. There is someone else driving this car.
Other 10 get mad
Their anger demonstrates they are no better. They’re mad at James and John for trying to finagle a better place. They still think of the ‘better place’ in the traditional way.
They’re probably just mad that they didn’t think of it first.
Jesus Third Response:
Leadership is different now.
Power in the Kingdom of God is not defined in the way it always has been. Power is not about control and coercion. Instead, it is about service.
“James and John have fully embraced the wonder and power of Jesus. But they seek to turn his promise and power to their own advantage. In doing so, they show how badly they have misconstrued his intentions. In one of his most remarkable utterances, Jesus reverses field and redefines the largeness of the gospel.” (Charles Cousar, Texts for Preaching, Year B, p. 549)
Reverses common understanding of what power is.
Redefines the patronage system, turning it on its head.
Continues the themes from last week, especially how it ended.
James and John do not lack ambition. It is not their ambition that Jesus has a problem with. He redirects their ambition to match the Kingdom, as opposed to their own glory.
He never says “no.” He simply warns them that honor and glory only comes through service and sacrifice.
“Maybe the greater sin in the seminary and the church is not misplaced ambition but complacency and lack of ambition altogether. Where ambition exists, it can be redirected and purified. But where it is entirely absent, mediocrity takes hold, the status quo hardens, and professors and committees debate endlessly about methodology and procedure. Yes, it is too easy to demonize James and John; their act of stepping forward matters more to Jesus than their immediate reasons for doing so.” Stephen Chapman, Christian Century, Oct 17, 2006)
NRSV: Ransom vs CEB: Liberate
“At the same time, Jesus' mention of a "ransom" indicates that his death will be more than just an inspiring example or a martyr's tragic protest against an unjust system. The word in question (in Greek,lytron) indicates that his death does something; it secures a release. This verse often sparks lively debates, and it has a history of, in my opinion, being misunderstood by those who take the notion of a "ransom" to mean a specific type of payment. In those readings, Jesus' death is transactional, a payment made to satisfy the penalties accrued by human sin or to repay something owed to God. “
Jesus’ mission is “to serve and to give his life to liberate many people”
Thoughts and Questions
What is the place for ambition in the Church? Can ambition be pointed in the right direction? Is mediocrity a recipe for disaster?
When new people come into our church, are we honest about what they’re getting into? If the church is simply a place to come and feel good, meet friends, and be encouraged for the rest of the week, then there is really no need for a warning (and no need for a church). Is the church doing anything that would get us crucified? Is the church taking any chances? Is there a prophetic voice, a move for justice?
If Jesus’ prediction of his death and resurrection isn’t a prediction, but instead a mission statement. What does that mean?
He’s redefining messiah.
He’s redefining power, greatness, and honor.
He’s redefining God, and God’s mission in the world.
Oct 21, Hebrews 5:1-10 - Christ is High Priest
Oct 28, Hebrews 7:23-28 - Eternal nature of Christ’s Priesthood
Nov. 4, Hebrews 9:11-14 - Comparing sacrifice of Jesus to sacrifice of priests
Nov 11, Hebrews 9:24-28 - Jesus is the sanctuary too
Nov 18, Hebrews 10:11-25 - Christ’s role is written onto hearts of believers.
Thomas Long: “The Preacher knows that he is on marshy ground here, that this is the crucial theological and pastoral issue for his congregation. They know without a doubt that Jesus was weak - anyone with eyes to see could know that - but is this Jesus also genuinely strong enough to help? They are all well aware that Jesus was a fellow sufferer… but the question for them was whether this weak and suffering Jesus is truly the divine Son who, in ways that eyes cannot see, stands in graceful glory at the beginning and end of time, and in the middle of time is even now redeeming the creation and bringing the children of God home.”
The Preacher then answers this question by naming Jesus as the High Priest, and in a chiastic structure, spells it out
The function of the High Priest (v. 1, 9-10)
Serves as mediator between God and humanity.
Carried out sacrifices to atone for sin.
Jesus’ priesthood is one-time and eternal.
The person of the High Priest (v. 2-3, 7-8)
Ordinary human beings who were subject to human frailty and error. This gave them a sympathetic pastoral authority.
Jesus knew suffering and the fragility of humanness. This gives him a sympathetic pastoral authority.
Jesus’ humanity did not tarnish his obedience. He did not lack for compassion or falter from his purpose. So, unlike human priests, he is perfect in his priestly authority.
The appointment of the High Priest (v. 5-6)
Not self-appointed. Only God-ordained.
Quotes Psalm 2:7 and Psalm 110:4
Not only appointed to Priesthood, but to Sonship, which is an even higher order than Priest.
Main theme of Hebrews: Jesus is supreme and perfect high priest.
Might be difficult to grasp without more complete understanding of the role of high priest. From JewishEncyclopedia.com “The distinguished rank of the high priest is apparent from the fact that his sins are regarded as belonging also to the people (Lev. iv. 3, 22). He was entrusted with the stewardship of the Urim and Thummim (Num. xxvii. 20 et seq.). On the Day of Atonement he alone entered the Holy of Holies, to make atonement for his house and for the people (Lev. xvi.); on that occasion he wore white linen garments instead of his ordinary and more costly vestments. He alone could offer the sacrifices for the sins of the priests, or of the people, or of himself (Lev. iv.); and only he could officiate at the sacrifices following his own or another priest's consecration.”
Jesus and High Priest alike = Selected by God, vulnerability, function as the one who removes the sins of the people.
Jesus and High Priest disalike = Human is inherently flawed. Jesus has perfect relationship with God, and thus superior. “Even as the contrast emerges between Jesus and other priests, highlighting the superiority of Jesus, the high priests of Israel are not demeaned in any way.” (Beverly Gaventa, Texts for Preaching, Year B p. 554)
Jesus’ vulnerability is what made him the perfect high priest. His ability to identify, and walk alongside us in our suffering because of empathy makes him perfect.
Like Gospel theme of coming not to be served, but to serve; here Hebrews shows that Jesus’ greatest strength was on display when he was vulnerable and weak.
Caveat: Do not imply all suffering is good.
Who is Melchizedek?
“a figure of importance in biblical tradition because he was both king and priest, was connected with Jerusalem, and was revered by Abraham, who paid a tithe to him. He appears as a person only in an interpolated vignette (Gen. 14:18–20) of the story of Abraham rescuing his kidnapped nephew, Lot, by defeating a coalition of Mesopotamian kings under Chedorlaomer.”
“Psalm 110, in referring to a future messiah of the Davidic line, alludes to the priest-king Melchizedek as a prototype of this messiah. This allusion led the author of the Letter to the Hebrews in the New Testament to translate the name Melchizedek as “king of righteousness” and Salem as “peace,” so that Melchizedek is made to foreshadow Christ, stated to be the true king of righteousness and peace (Heb. 7:2)”
Verses 7-10 When Jesus was human, he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane to ‘take this cup away,’ but he was nonetheless obedient. In his obedience to the mission, he was made perfect.
Jesus’ obedience to the mission of God is what made him perfect.
He became the source of salvation for all who obey him.
To obey Jesus is to obey God.
To obey Jesus, you must know what he commanded.
Thoughts and Question
In American churches, we may need to be reminded that Jesus suffered. We seem to get the triumphant Jesus easily - because triumph is all we have known. But the suffering Jesus is much more difficult to stomach.
How can a suffering Jesus actually be a source of strength to a culture that values nothing more than winning?
You can read all of 1-41, but it is just a litany of examples of things God does that Job has no ability to comprehend.
Interesting phrasing of questions:
Who are you?
Where were you?
What do you know?
Is God giving Job a new perspective? Is this way of God telling Job that these are only “first world problems”?
Is there any satisfactory answer God can give Job?
The Sovereignty of God vs the Goodness of God
Accept that God is both all powerful and all good and you simply cannot comprehend this rational paradox
Basically Job’s response is the correct response which is repent for questioning the might and goodness of God
Process Response: Omnipotence is a Theological Mistake rooted in the book of Job
God is the root of all power
God chooses to limit God’s power out of love for creatures which allows them to freely respond to God’s love and grace
Creation’s rejection of God’s love and grace is the root of “evil” and suffering
However, the goodness of God is maintained as God lures all of creation into loving, interdependent relationship
James Gustafson response: Our theology is too anthropocentric (human focused)
As we learn more about the cosmos, we learn that humans are far from the “center of the universe”
We learn more about the vastness of what we do not know
Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s brain bomb about no intelligent life on earth
While human goodness may be rooted in our understanding of God, God is not bound by that human notion what is good because the very nature of God is beyond our meager comprehension
Thoughts and Questions
Can we hold to the notion that God is both all powerful and all good? If so- then how do we address issues of deep tragedy without simply saying “it is a mystery” or “this is for the greater good”?
What can we know about God given the rhetorical questions presented in this passage? Can we still serve and love God and one another without being able to answer the theodicy question of why the innocent suffer?
How do we maintain both empathy in listening to one another’s concerns, while also providing helpful perspective on what matters?
Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com,@pomopsalmist). Thank you to Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Misirlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Sunday Morning”,"Real Ride"and“Summertime”) and Bryan Odeen for our closing music.