The Season after Pentecost: Proper 24, Year B

6a00d83451f26169e200e551d646d78833-800wiSuffering and Servanthood

  • Job 38:1-7, (34-41)
  • Psalm 104:1-9, 24, 37b
  • Hebrews 5:1-10
  • Mark 10:35-45

Why do the righteous suffer? This is the third week we have had our Old Testament reading from the book of Job. It began with a conversation between God and Satan, resulting in Satan receiving “permission” to afflict Job with physical ailments. Last week we struggled along with Job as he grappled with what it means to be human before God in a world of random suffering. Today we finally hear from God.

As God speaks out of the whirlwind, Job begins to comprehend that no human can understand the purposes of God, who has created all that exists. Beginning in 38:4, God questions Job and describes the breadth and depth and width and height of the Divine works in the world. The beautiful poetry and imagery tell of the greatness of God in all creation. 

The reading from Hebrews today also speaks to suffering – that of sacrifice on behalf of others. From the day that Jesus was raised from the dead, the disciples where aware that he had offered himself on their behalf. They realized that Jesus’ sacrifice had been effective in a way that no offering of bulls or goats had ever been. In being lifted up on the cross, Jesus would embody the worldwide appeal to turn to God and provide for deliverance the power of death. By submitting to death and overcoming it, Jesus was able to win “eternal salvation for all who obey him” (v. 9).

The ideal of sacrifice as greatness is also reflected in today’s reading from Mark. James and John request to sit in a place of honor with Jesus, totally misunderstanding that with Jesus there is a reversal of the usual order of things; they are being called to a life of humility. James and John also misunderstand their own call to God’s service. They put personal ambition ahead of others.

The followers of Jesus must not imitate the worldly trappings of power and obedience from others. The heart of discipleship is not privilege, but service. The person who is truly great is the one who seeks always to provide for the needs of others and to promote their welfare – the one who is ready to be a slave of all (v. 44).

For reflection:

  • In what ways are we, as 21st century disciples, called to share in Jesus’ cup and baptism?
  • Contrast the attributes of greatness as described by Jesus (vv. 42-45) with the idea of greatness in our contemporary culture.
  • What do you believe are the attributes of servanthood?
  • Who do you know who is truly great? In what ways has that person been a “slave of all”?

About Sharon Ely Pearson

Wife, mom, grandmother; author, educator, consultant; trying to make a difference one action at a time. Christian formation has been my vocation for 40+ years - and counting!
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