Finding our place
Pentecost 22B Job 38 1-7 Hebrews 5:1-10 Mark 10:35-45
+ In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The story of Job reminds us that God divinely governs the moral and political affairs of people as well as maintaining his created order. If Job did not understand the workings of God’s physical creation, how could he understand God’s mind and character? His only option was to submit in humble obedience to God’s authority and rest in his care.
Last week we learned from the letter to the Hebrews that prayer is our best approach to God, and we are to approach God with confidence, because he loves us. We come with reverence because he is our King, but we can come with bold assurance because Jesus is also our high priest, friend and Counsellor.
In today’s second reading we are told that Jesus Christ is divinely appointed and in his humanity his petitions are heard by God because of his reverent submission and obedience to the Father’s will. The writer to the Hebrews uses two Old Testament verses of scripture to show Christ’s divine appointment. Psalm 2:7 I will tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to me, “You are my son; today I have begotten you.” And Psalm 110: 4 The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek”. At the time that this letter was written the Roman authorities selected the High Priest in Jerusalem for the Jewish people, but in Old Testament times God chose Aaron, and only Aaron’s descendants could be priests. Christ, our High Priest, was chosen and called by God.
Melchizedek is one of the mysterious people in the Bible and is sometimes called the King of Salem, or the King of Peace. He appeared one day in the life of Abraham, then known as Abram, and was never heard from again. What happened that day was to be remembered throughout history and eventually became part of the subject of the letter to the Hebrews. He reminds us of Jesus and he reflected his love for God. We can learn from the little we know of Melchizedek that if we live for God we are likely to be at the right place at the right time. If we examine our hearts, to discern where our loyalty lies, and if we can honestly answer “God,” then we are living for him.
Jesus our high priest, in his humanity was an example to us of faithfulness, obedience and love to God. We are told by Luke 22: 41-44 that Jesus praying on the Mount of Olives was in great agony as he prepared to face death. Although he cried out to God, asking to be delivered from what was to come, he was prepared to suffer humiliation, separation from the Father, and death in order to do God’s will. Jesus’ obedience to the Father was a life that he chose freely (John 10.17-18) It was a continuous process of making the will of God the Father his own will. He choseto obey, even though obedience led to suffering and death because he loved the Father and trusted the Father’s love for him. Jesus can help us to obey because he obeyed perfectly, even under trial and stress. In his humanity he understands perfectly what is happening for us, no matter how difficult obedience seems to be. Christ in his humanity was always morally perfect. By obeying God, he demonstrated his perfection to us, not to God, or for his own benefit. As described in the bible, perfection usually means completeness or maturity.
Jesus’obedience and trust in the Father can sustain and encourage us in times of trial which may happen to us. We will be able to face anything knowing that Jesus Christ is with us.
Jesus suffering and death was clearly explained to the disciples as part of God’s plan of salvation from the beginning of time. It was not just an accident that happened, but the disciples did not understand this when Jesus told them. The disciples, like most of the Jewish people had the wrong idea of the Messiah’s kingdom as predicted by the Old Testament prophets. They thought Jesus would establish an earthly kingdom that would free Israel from Rome’s oppression. The disciples did not understand, until after the resurrection of Jesus, that the kingdom of God is not a worldly kingdom, but one which is in the hearts, minds and lives of followers. James and John wanted the highest positions in Jesus’kingdom and said they were willing to face any trial for Christ, but Jesus taught them that true greatness comes in the humility of serving others. Later both did suffer. James died as a martyr and John was forced to live in exile. It is easy to say we will endure anything for Christ, and yet most of us complain over the most minor problems. If we say we are willing to suffer on a large scale for Christ, can we be willing to suffer the irritations that come with serving others?
Discipleship means putting my life at the service of someone else’s. We can understand the circumstances of the early church? There was the likelihood of persecution and martyrdom, and as demonstrated by James and John’s request to Jesus, the desire for status and domination. Many Christians in our world do literally face martyrdom for the faith. We may, too, socially and physically, if we seek to follow and be disciples and servants as Jesus teaches rather than as we choose. One of the root problems in human interaction, in community living, is status and domination. We want to have respect due to our perceived status. The human family has not progressed much beyond the shame and honour culture of the first century. Domination is about power. So much misery in the world has its roots in status and domination, which is also the root of much misery in our personal lives. All this is clear as Jesus tries to teach his followers another way.
Most businesses, organizations and institutions measure greatness by high personal achievement. In the kingdom of God, humble service is the way to get ahead. The desire to be on top will hinder, not help. So can we as Disciples of Christ, rather than seeking to have our needs met, look for ways that we can minister to the needs of others?
When Jesus said “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” he revealed not only the motive for his ministry, but also the basis for our salvation. This was a clear communication from the humble servant and from the kingly High Priest. A ransom was the price paid to release a slave. Jesus paid a ransom for us because we could not pay it ourselves. His death freed all of us from our slavery to sin. The disciples thought Jesus’ life and power would save them from the oppression of the Roman emperor. Jesus said his death would save them from the consequences of sin, an even greater slavery than Rome’s.
Can we, in spite of the great advances in science and knowledge, realize with Job, that although we cannot comprehend the mind of God, we can in humility recognize the wonders of his creative power, give thanks for the life we have been given, and imitate Christ in the service of others? Amen.