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Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost - October 28, 2012



Saint Dominic contemplating the Scriptures

Saint Dominic
contemplating the Scriptures

Comments have been prepared by Chris Haslam using reputable commentaries, and checked for accuracy by the Venerable Alan T Perry, of the Anglican Diocese of Edmonton. While not intended to be exhaustive, they are an aid to reading the Scriptures with greater understanding.

Comments are best read with the lessons.

Feedback to is always welcome.


Lessons for this week from the Vanderbilt University web site

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DOC file for Palm OS.
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Job

The book of Job is about suffering: it seeks to answer the question: why does God allow the faithful to suffer? The first two chapters, which are in prose, tell of a legendary figure of Judaism called Job. In this story (which may be extremely ancient), a very righteous man is tested: is he as godly as he seems, or is his godliness only an appearance, a result of his acquisition of wealth and his position as father of a dynasty? His continuing fidelity through deprivation of all that he possesses demonstrates that he is truly godly. (In the final act of the drama, God restores his greatness.) Most of the book is poetry, and appears to have been written later. It is largely concerned with the meaning of divine justice and suffering. Through dialogues with Job's so-called "friends", we see Job learn that wisdom is God-given. Humans cannot find the way to it; God gives it to those who worship him.


Job 42:1-6,10-17

Early in the book, Job was deprived of all his worldly possessions, his children, and his health – as tests to determine whether he really is a person of great integrity and fidelity to God. He has wondered why misfortune has happened to him: surely punishment is for the ungodly, not for him. Three friends have come to comfort him; they have argued that he must have lived contrary to God’s ways to suffer the way he has. God has met him and has asked: who are you to doubt my plans and my works? Job has come to realize that neither he nor his friends understand the world, so he has no grounds for complaint against God. God has even invited Job to replace him as divine king and manager of the world, but it is a safe offer, because Job cannot and will not accept it.

Now Job answers: he acknowledges God’s “purpose” (v. 2). God has taught him a lesson. Job acknowledges God’s sovereignty. In vv. 3a & 4, he quotes God’s words spoken earlier. He admits his ignorance (v. 3b). He has long had faith in God; this has now been replaced by seeing (and experiencing) God. (V. 6 is incomplete in the Hebrew. Because v. 7 implies that Job is godly, “repent” here is not repentance of sins, it may mean approach you in awe.) It is sufficient that God has come to him; he seeks no explanation of his suffering. In a turnabout, God is angry with Eliphaz and the other friends for their ungodliness (v. 7); he orders them to ask Job to intercede on their behalf (v. 8); God accepts Job’s prayer for them (v. 9). The ancient story begun in 1:1-2:13 now continues. All Job has lost is restored to him, some in double measure. He is no longer shunned by his relatives (v. 11). Whether his health is restored is not mentioned. To ancient people, possessions and progeny indicated God’s favour: God loves him even more dearly. Gifts are God’s to give. Their absence or withdrawal is hard for a virtuous person to accept.


Psalms

Psalms is a collection of collections. The psalms were written over many centuries, stretching from the days of Solomon's temple (about 950 BC) to after the Exile (about 350 BC.) Psalms are of five types: hymns of praise, laments, thanksgiving psalms, royal psalms, and wisdom psalms. Within the book, there are five "books"; there is a doxology ("Blessed be ... Amen and Amen") at the end of each book.


Psalm 34:1-8,(19-22)

The psalmist blesses God continually for what he has done for him: God heard him, and restored him to a peaceful life (vv. 4, 6). May he be an example for the “humble” (v. 2, the dedicated, committed believers in God, who hence have a claim on God’s help). God protects (“the angel of the LORD ...”, v. 7) those who hold him in proper respect (“fear”) and saves them. Come to understand (“taste and see”, v. 8) that God is ultimate goodness! (v. 8) The godly are his “holy ones” (v. 9), those set part for him; they lack nothing (v. 10). Doing good, abstaining from evil deeds, seeking and working for peace is God’s way (v. 14). It leads to a rich, long life. God always hears the pleas of the godly when they are in need physically and spiritually (vv. 17-18); when they suffer, he “rescues them” (v. 19). Though they will suffer, they will be restored to health (v. 20). But he is “against evildoers” (v. 16), causing them to be forgotten when they die. At the Last Day, the ungodly (who hate the godly) will be damned but God will liberate those who trust in him.


Hebrews

Apart from the concluding verses (which may have been added later), this book is a treatise (or sermon) rather than a letter. Its name comes from its approach to Christianity: it is couched is Judaic terms. The identity of the author is unknown; Origen, c. 200 said that "only God knows" who wrote Hebrews. The book presents an elaborate analysis, arguing for the absolute supremacy and sufficiency of Christ as revealer and mediator of God's grace. Basing his argument on the Old Testament, the author argues for the superiority of Christ to the prophets, angels and Moses. Christ offers a superior priesthood, and his sacrifice is much more significant than that of Levite priests. Jesus is the "heavenly" High Priest, making the true sacrifice for the sins of the people, but he is also of the same flesh and blood as those he makes holy.


Hebrews 7:23-28

The author has written: “we have a great high priest” (4:14). He asks: “If perfection [the completion of God’s plan of salvation] had been attainable through the ... [Temple] priesthood” (v. 11) why would there be need to speak of another priest? The levitical priests were under Mosaic law, but “there is ... the introduction of a better hope, through which we approach God” (v. 19). Jesus, the high priest, unlike others, “became a priest with an [divine] oath” (v. 21). Psalm 110:4, the author asserts, is about Christ: “The Lord has sworn ... ‘You are a priest for ever’”, so “Jesus has also become the guarantee of a better [new] covenant.” (v. 22).

Platonism distinguished between

  • a single, eternal ideal of earthly things and
  • multiple transitory copies of the ideal on earth.
  • In vv. 23-24, the author sees “former [Temple] priests” as transitory (because individual high priests died) and Jesus as the eternal ideal (“he continues forever”, v. 24). So “for all time” (v. 25) Jesus is the way to God and to salvation for those who are godly because he (as priest) lives to plead with God on their behalf (“intercession”). Under Mosaic law, priests subject to “weakness” (v. 28, sin) were appointed without divine oath, but “a Son” has been appointed, by God’s “oath”, superceding the Law, a “perfect” (ideal) priest forever. Vv. 26-27 list Christ’s qualities. He has no need to sacrifice continually for his own sins and those of others (as, the author asserts, earthly high priests did) for he is “separated from sinners, and exalted” (v. 26), i.e. with the Father; in dying, he offered sacrifice “once for all” (v. 27) for our sins.


    Symbol of St Mark

    Mark

    As witnesses to the events of Jesus life and death became old and died, the need arose for a written synopsis. Tradition has it that Mark, while in Rome, wrote down what Peter remembered. This book stresses the crucifixion and resurrection as keys to understanding who Jesus was. When other synoptic gospels were written, i.e. Matthew and Luke, they used the Gospel according to Mark as a source. Mark is most probably the John Mark mentioned in Acts 12:12: his mother's house was a meeting place for believers.


    Mark 10:46-52

    Jesus and his disciples are now nearing the end of their journey from Caesarea Philippi (in the north) to Jerusalem: “Jericho” is some 25 km (15 miles) from Jerusalem. We have seen the disciples’ misunderstanding and blindness to Jesus’ message. Mark has told us of the healing of an unnamed blind man (8:22-26), one who is healed gradually.

    Here Mark gives tells us the name of this “blind beggar”. Bartimaeus makes a politically charged statement: Jesus is “Son of David” (v. 47), King of the Jews, and Messiah. Elsewhere, Jesus orders silence on the matter, but not here: his time is approaching. For the first time, a sane person immediately proclaims Jesus’ true identity. The “cloak” (v. 50, garment) Bartimaeus throws off is probably the cloth he uses to receive handouts; in Mark, garments often indicate the old order, so Bartimaeus has accepted the new. Jesus’ question in v. 51 is the one he asked James and John when they sought status in the kingdom (10:36), but Bartimaeus’ approach is different: he comes in humility (“My teacher”, v. 51). Jesus simply tells him that his “faith”, (v. 52, his receptivity of God’s healing word), “has made you well” (also meaning has saved you from impending destruction). Bartimaeus is cured immediately and becomes a follower of Jesus (“the way”).

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