Engaging the Word: Readings for 10/4/15 (19th Sunday after Pentecost)

By Barbara Klugh 

Job 1:1, 2:1-10; Psalm 26; Hebrews 1:1; 2:5-12; Mark 10:2-16. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text. In this week’s readings, Job suffers terribly, but refuses to curse God, the author of Hebrews describes Jesus as uniquely qualified to reveal God, Jesus teaches about divorce and about who the kingdom of God belongs to.

Job mocked by his wife by Georges de La Tour (1593-1652). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
Job mocked by his wife by Georges de La Tour (1593-1652). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Job 1:1, 2:1-10: We’ll be reading from the book of Job for the four Sundays in October—not nearly enough for one of the noblest works of world literature. The book of Job seeks to understand how do we square our belief in a good God when so many bad things happen to good people?

In the opening, God is holding court in heaven and boasts about his servant Job who is blameless and upright. Satan, the adversary (not the demonic character we find in the New Testament), suggests that Job worships God because of all the good things God gives him. He bets God that Job will curse God if he, Satan, is allowed to take away all his possessions. God agrees to the bet. In one day Job gets the terrible news that his donkeys are stolen, the sheep are killed by lightning, and raiders have taken the camels. And then, worst of all, his ten children are dead after a house collapses on them. Yet Job never curses God. He mourned and worshiped, and said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” So God won the bet.

Our reading picks up here. Satan challenges God a second time, and asks permission to harm Job physically, because people will give all that they have to save their lives. God allows Satan to take Job’s health but not his life. Satan inflicted Job with painful sores all over his body, and Job sat among the ashes, scraping his sores with a potsherd.

Job’s wife said that Job should “Curse God and die.” But Job answers, “Shall we receive the good from the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” The narrator observes, “In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” God won the second bet, and Satan is not heard from again. And that is only the prologue to the story of Job.

Psalm 26: In our psalm this week, the psalmist calls on God to acquit him of false charges. “Give judgment for me, O Lord, for I have lived with integrity; I have trusted in the Lord and have not faltered.”

Christ in Glory by Giovanni Battista Gaulli. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
Christ in Glory by Giovanni Battista Gaulli. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12: This week we begin reading  a series from the letter to the Hebrews, although it is often described as a sermon. Written in the first century AD by an unknown author, it was written to encourage Jewish Christians who were suffering for their faith, and describes the person, the character, and the work of Christ.

In this week’s reading, the author argues that in the past God spoke to his people through the prophets, but now,  “in these last days,” God has spoken to us through his Son and heir of all things. Jesus is the one uniquely identified with God because “He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being and he sustains all things by his powerful word.”

Quoting from Psalm 8, the author reminds us that God has given humanity a share of God’s dominion and glory. Jesus became “lower than the angels” for a little while as he took on our human nature. Jesus is crowned with glory because he willingly suffered death to free us from the power of death and to purify us from sin. And, as one who was fully human, Jesus has drawn us into his family and is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters, for we all have the same God and Father.

Detail from Arnolfini Portrait by Jan van Eyck (c.1390-1441). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
Detail from Arnolfini Portrait by Jan van Eyck (c.1390-1441). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Mark 10:2-16: Jesus is now in Judea and speaking to the crowds who had gathered around him.  Some Pharisees came to test Jesus and asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” After some verbal sparring, Jesus introduced a radical view of marriage. Under Jewish law, marriage was understood primarily in legal terms, with the husband having most of the power. The husband had the right to divorce his wife by giving her a legal document.

Jesus said it was God’s intention from the beginning of creation that a man and his wife  “shall become one flesh.” He added, “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Jesus told his disciples that divorce and remarriage constitutes adultery.

Jesus’ prohibition of divorce went against the cultural and religious grain. His radical teaching encouraged the husband to regard his wife not as a possession, but rather as a partner. A husband and wife should live in total commitment to one another no matter what might happen. And Jesus’ teaching is just as radical today as it was in the first century.

Christ blessing the children by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
Christ blessing the children by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The gospel then shifts to a teaching about the kingdom of God and the kind of people to whom the kingdom belongs. The disciples “spoke sternly” to people who were bringing little children to Jesus to be “touched” by him. But Jesus, with his all-inclusive love,  said, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.”

We must allow ourselves to be vulnerable and understand that, like children, we are powerless and have no entitlement to God’s blessings; then we can accept God’s blessings as the free gift they truly are.

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