Sunday, October 21, 2018

Proper 25B (23 Pentecost 2018) Readings & Commentaries

Jesus and his disciples are on their way to Jerusalem.  The incident in this story is the last time in Mark’s Gospel that Jesus performs a healing.  It must be significant that the subject of the healing is named. 

1st Reading (Track 1):  Job 42:1-6, 10-17
The Book of Job ends with a capitulation on Job’s part:  he admits that he has been talking without the deeper knowledge of God.  He repents, which he had rested doing through all the long speeches of his friend.  There is a disconnect here, because earlier God had rebuked his friends.  Some scholars believe this last chapter is an attempt by a later editor to “tidy things up,” or that the original story included only chapters 1-2 and 42, since they seem to come out of a worldview that is different from the chapters in-between.

42:1 Then Job answered the Lord:  2 “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. 3 ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. 4 ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you declare to me.’ 5 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; 6 therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
[10 And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he had prayed for his friends; and the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. 11 Then there came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and they ate bread with him in his house; they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him; and each of them gave him a piece of money and a gold ring. 12 The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; and he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand donkeys. 13 He also had seven sons and three daughters. 14 He named the first Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch. 15 In all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job’s daughters; and their father gave them an inheritance along with their brothers. 16 After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children, and his children’s children, four generations. 17 And Job died, old and full of days.]

Psalm 34:1-8, [19-22] (Track 1)
Psalm 34 is an acrostic poem (in its entirety) in the wisdom tradition.  It begins with the praise of God, rejoicing in God’s role of deliverer from fear and evil.  The optional verses sing the praise of God who can be trusted to deliver the righteous and punish the evil.

1     I will bless the Lord at all times; *
              his praise shall ever be in my mouth.
2     I will glory in the Lord; *
              let the humble hear and rejoice.
3     Proclaim with me the greatness of the Lord; *
              let us exalt his Name together.
4     I sought the Lord and he answered me *
              and delivered me out of all my terror.
5     Look upon him and be radiant, *
              and let not your faces be ashamed.
6     I called in my affliction and the Lord heard me *
              and saved me from all my troubles.
7     The angel of the Lord encompasses those who fear him, *
              and he will deliver them.
8     Taste and see that the Lord is good; *
              happy are they who trust in him!
[19 Many are the troubles of the righteous, *
              but the Lord will deliver him out of them all.
20   He will keep safe all his bones; *
              not one of them shall be broken.
21   Evil shall slay the wicked, *
              and those who hate the righteous will be punished.
22   The Lord ransoms the life of his servants, *
              and none will be punished who trust in him.]

1st Reading (Track 2):  Jeremiah 31:7-9
Our first reading is a vision of the return from exile.  It comes from the brief section of Jeremiah called “the Book of Consolations.”  Unlike the rest of Jeremiah, which is predominantly gloomy and judgmental, chapters 30-33 speak words of hope to the people.  The return will be inclusive: those who live in struggle and those who live in joy; they will make “a great company.”

31:7 Thus says the Lord:  Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, and raise shouts for the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, “Save, O Lord, your people, the remnant of Israel.” 8 See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north, and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, those with child and those in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here. 9 With weeping they shall come, and with consolations I will lead them back, I will let them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble; for I have become a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.

Psalm 126 (Track 2)
Psalm 126 is one of “Songs of Ascents,” pilgrim songs for the journey to Jerusalem for the major festivals (Psalms 120-134 have this title in the Hebrew text).  Psalm 126 is a prayer for deliverance for the nation.  It begins with a glad memory of Israel’s restoration from exile.  The image of weeping at sowing time, and joyfully bringing home the harvest seems to come from an ancient proverb:  “You must not laugh when you sow, lest you weep when you harvest.”

1     When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, *
              then were we like those who dream.
2     Then was our mouth filled with laughter, *
              and our tongues with shouts of joy.
3     Then they said among the nations, *
              “the Lord has done great things for them.”
4     The Lord has done great things for us, *
              and we are glad indeed.
5     Restore our fortunes, O Lord, *
              like the watercourses of the Negev.
6     Those who sowed with tears *
              will reap with songs of joy.
7     Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed, *
              will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.

2nd Reading:  Hebrews 7:23-28
In our second reading, the writer makes two arguments as to why Jesus’ priesthood is superior to that of the priesthood of Aaron or the Levites.  First, Jesus’ priesthood is permanent, eternal. Second, it is better given Jesus’ character and his status as the Son of God.  Jesus’ ministry of constant intercession for us is a significant theme of Hebrews.  The phrase “separated from sinners” is problematic, given Jesus continued statements that he came to call not the righteous but sinners (see, for example, Mark 2:17).

7:23 Furthermore, the former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office; 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. 26 For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27 Unlike the other high priests, he has no need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for those of the people; this he did once for all when he offered himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests those who are subject to weakness, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.

Gospel Reading:  Mark 10:46-52
Jesus and his disciples are on their way to Jerusalem.  The incident in this story is the last time in Mark’s Gospel that Jesus performs a healing.  It must be significant that the subject of the healing is named.  That has not been true in any of the prior stories.  Perhaps it is because Bartimaeus becomes a disciple, following Jesus “on the way.”  This is unique in Mark’s Gospel as well.  There is a contrast with Jesus’ previous healing of a blind man (8:22-26) where Jesus makes mud from spittle and rubs it on the man’s eyes.  Here there is a simple word.

10:46 They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” 50 So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” 52 Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

The Scripture readings (except for the psalm) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission.  All rights reserved.  The Psalm translation is from The Book of Common Prayer.  Commentaries are copyright © 2018 Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843. All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for group study with this attribution.  Bulletin inserts are available by subscription. For more information go to our website.

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