Proper 25B (OT 30)
Voice in the WILDERNESS: Susan Presley & Max HAzell
Psalmist: Richard Bruxvoort Colligan
Excellent lecture by Grace Imathiu at the 2013 Festival of Homiletics, she used this text as an example of interactive preaching and preaching prep- you can probably find the audio online- we’ll include some thoughts below
Bookend of healing- give “sight” to the blind- should be tied to Mark 8:22-26 the healing at Bethsaida
Bookends - Between Mark 8:22-26 and Mark 10:46-52 (the two stories of healing) there are many stories of “spiritual blindness”:
Peter doesn’t see what it means for Jesus to be the Messiah,
Peter James and John don’t see the importance of the Transfiguration and want to stay on the mountain,
the disciples cannot see the importance of prayer in healing the boy w the unclean spirit,
they do not see that to be greatest is to be least,
they do not see the importance of the little children and
they don’t see that we need to be served
Jericho - a pit stop on Jesus’ preaching tour. Jericho is so uneventful that the moment Jesus arrives he leaves again.
The focus is not Jericho - oldest city in the world, city where the Israelites entered the promised land, city of Joshua, city of Rahab, city of Herod’s winter palace, city where the Romans were very present - despite all of the political, historical and theological high points of Jericho, in the end what isn’t what matters
What matters? A blind man on the side of the road
Marginalized of the marginalized - blind (strike 1), beggar (strike 2), Bar-Timaeus lit. son of the defiled/unclean (strike 3)
“Son of David” - Political declaration - dangerous declaration - heralds Jesus as the Messiah and heir to the throne of David
Bartimaeus sees what the other cannot - like the demons he knows that God has arrived and will act
By virtue of being the Son of David- Jesus should care for Bartimaeus
They urge Bartimaeus to be quiet
What he is saying is dangerous & seditious (Mark is written in the midst or right after the Jewish Revolt was quashed by Rome) - “be quiet or we will all get killed”
Bartimaeus is not worthy to call out to Jesus (like the children)
Similar to the mainline churches who urged King to tone down his rhetoric
He is not willing to remain by the side of the road
He is unwilling to accept the situation and demands that God act
He approaches Jesus naked- all pretensions and clothing removed- literally bared before God
Once healed- Bartimaeus follow Jesus
He has been transformed not just from blind to sight, but from a “road sitter to a Jesus follower”
He has courage to leave Jericho
Thoughts and Questions
What are our spiritual blind spots? Where do we need to have our sight restored?
How often do we overlook the important moments of life in favor of what we think should be important? eg: The brief encounter before church, The person we bump into at the grocery store, the gas station clerk on the way to church. Life happens in the “pit stops” and sometimes the most inconvenient interruption can be transformative and life changing.
Are we willing to leave Jericho? The relative safety and security of the status quo for the unknown trials, betrayal, persecutions and agony of Jerusalem? Jericho is bad (but at least it is known), Jericho is bad but it gives us a paycheck at the end of each month.
Sometimes it is very difficult to leave a known bad situation for an unknown calling
Are we willing to speak out against untenable situations (rampant gun violence and school shootings)?
Hebrews continued. Keep big picture in mind:
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.
More on High Priest (guess what, it’s next week, too)
Focuses on eternity and timelessness of Christ, as compared to mortality of the High Priests.
Cuts out v. 22, which can be problematic for Jewish relationships (refers to Jesus as the ‘better covenant’).
Jesus is in the Order of Melchizedek, which is older and higher than anything from Abraham. That was introduced last week, and belabored in previous chapter. Now, the Preacher is moving onto something else. Even if you ignore the Melchizedek stuff, Jesus is like a High Priest, but better because Jesus is permanent and Jesus is timeless.
Permanence and timeless are similar, but nuanced. Jesus is both of these things because of his eternal nature with God, his perfect life while on earth, and evidenced through his resurrection and eternal glory.
V. 23-25 Jesus is permanent
“Readers ever minimally aware of Israel’s traditions will recall the importance of the sacrificial system for many forms of Judaism in this period.”
If this is after the Temple destruction, this could be a way of lessening that blow to Jewish Christians, since Christ has rendered the Temple unnecessary anyway.
“The priesthood of Jesus is not simply a ‘new and improved priesthood,’ but a priesthood that brings an end to the need for human priests.” (Charles Cousar, Texts for Preaching, Year B, p. 563)
“First, the Levitical system has many priests involved. His point here seems not to be the many priests who serve throughout the temple, but the succession of High Priests. His point could be an example of the ancient preference for the “one” over the “many” or it could be more focused upon the reason for the succession of priests, namely that they all die.” (Amy Peeler, Working Preacher)
John Wesley’s notes: “That is, he ever lives and intercedes. He died once; he intercedes perpetually.”
V. 26-28 Jesus is complete
“Because Christ continues forever, he offers the supreme intercession for humankind.” (Charles Cousar, Texts for Preaching, Year B, p. 563)
Jesus is able to save “for all time” because of resurrection and his own timelessness.
Jesus is able to save “completely” because of his life while on earth was sinless and blameless.
The High Priest had to come with his own sins AND the sins of the people. Jesus however, comes only with the sins of the people.
It is Jesus’ complete obedience that makes him the instrument for complete salvation.
“Jesus’ living and eternal priesthood offers salvation. For the author salvation indicates rescue from death (5:7) -- which Jesus has already experienced -- but which is still future for the audience (1:14; 9:28). In case the audience did not fully understand, the author reiterates that this salvation from death is eternal. Not a prolonged life or a resuscitation, but life forever. Where else would life eternal reside than in the presence of God? What the Levitical priesthood could not achieve, that is access to the true presence of God in heaven, Jesus’ priesthood allows.” Amy Peeler, Working Preacher)
Thoughts and Question
Highly intellectual and theological. Difficult to find inspiration, timeliness, or application for today’s audience.
Preacher was comparing Jesus to a competing understanding of atonement. This sermon makes sense for those who are accustomed to, and lived a life dedicated to, Temple practices.
Either preacher is showing how it’s okay that the Temple is gone, because now we have something better. Or preacher is confirming that the people no longer have to consider themselves tied to Temple practices.
He is building a case that Jesus is greater than the High Priest and Temple.
Question remains: So what?
What do we have to convince people that Jesus is greater than?
If Jesus is permanent and timeless, to what are we comparing him today?
Consumer culture, where everything is disposable?
Consumer culture, where nothing is built to last?
Consumer culture, where customer service is more important than our own duty and accountability?
“And Job lives happily ever after…”
So, Job wins the lottery and everything that was cool about the book of Job seems to be undone.
Maybe the good news of Job is the knowledge that certitude is misguided.
Lectionary skips God reprimanding Job’s friends. Job’s new fortune is built on the contrition of his friends, who “haven’t spoken correctly about [God].”
The Happy Ending Problem
Kathryn Schifferdecker summarizes the problem well: “This epilogue to the book of Job is, for many readers, hard to accept. The whole book up to this point has been (apparently) an argument against the doctrine of retributive justice; that is, the idea that God always rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked. Now, at the end of the book, that belief seems to be upheld: Job is rewarded for his piety (or at least reimbursed for his losses). The friends seem to have been right all along. On top of that, we moderns are understandably troubled by the notion that God replaces Job's ten dead children with ten new children at the end of the book, as if children were replaceable.” (Working Preacher)
Carol Howard Merritt describes the problem with the happy ending, especially for those who find no happy ending in their own lives. She describes the situation of seeing homeless men in Washington DC: “l never got used to seeing the men around, going from bad to worse within four seasons and the individual stories often played havoc with my shiny, happy faith. Verses like “all things work together for good” and “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength” began to sound like refrains for the privileged and didn’t always hold up in the midst of people who had much more of the hardness of life than they could handle. Likewise the book of Job began to frustrate me.” (The Hardest Question)
The Good News of Job?
Job’s friends were repudiated.
Schifferdecker explains: “All English translations of these verses translate God's charge along these lines: "You have not spoken about me what is right." But note that the Hebrew can also be translated, "You have not spoken to me rightly, as has my servant Job." This latter translation points out what was true all along. For all their speaking about God, the "friends" never once in the book speak to God; they never once pray for their suffering friend. Job, on the other hand, moves from speaking only about God to speaking more and more directly to God. The friends theologize; Job prays.”
Job is restored.
Yes, the trite happy ending might feel troublesome, after all it does seem to go back to the idea that God rewards the faithful and punishes the wicked, but couldn’t it be argued that the story of Resurrection is a trite happy ending?
Ultimately, story of Job is about enduring suffering, and finding new life at the other end.
Mystery and relationship, not certitude.
“This book does not seek to answer the question why good people suffer or indeed, why the wicked appear to prosper. It can enable those people who are willing to enter into a relationship with God to have a sense of the mystery and power of God which may help in times of tragedy. God is there to shout at and to be present with us. As Christians we have an added advantage over Job, knowing God suffered through the incarnation of Jesus Christ and what it means to suffer. God does not govern by the principle of reward and retribution, but by a wisdom which is beyond human ken (Scots for knowledge)” .(Anna Grant-Henderson)
Thoughts and Questions
In a culture that values control over almost anything, the idea of self-determination can itself become an idol. Thus, the good news in Job is a reminder that we are not in control. It is reminder that certainty is elusive.
Through enduring suffering, Job has new life.
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.