bible blog 770

This log provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along with a headline from world news:

Barclays Bank told lies for gain


Romans 5:1-11

Results of Justification

5Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we* have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,2through whom we have obtained access* to this grace in which we stand; and we* boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.3And not only that, but we* also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,5and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.7Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die.8But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.9Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God.*10For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.11But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

audience with the emperor (access to grace)

There are marvellous truths in this passage but they are difficult to appreciate fully because the logic of the passage is the logic of Paul’s argument rather than what we might call the logic of salvation. Let’s use a tactic invented by Julian of Norwich who lived in the 14th century. She imagined Jesus speaking directly to her.

 So, Jesus says to me and you, “Look, I’ve come to where you are, and I’ve suffered at the hands of people like you, to show you that you are all dearly loved (while we were still sinners Christ died for us); to break your hard hearts and to reconcile you to God; leading you, still stained with sin, into the very presence of my Father who has arranged all this to show you his kindness (access to this grace in which we stand). Of course his terrible justice (wrath) still stands over all people, but now that you have been treated as friends by God, (reconciled) you will be made right (justified) in very truth, so that you will not suffer his anger. Although like me, you will suffer in this world you will learn endurance which helps build your new character. As that happens, you will dare to hope for a more complete newness; and that hope will be confirmed by the discovery that my love and the the love of the Father are already here in your heart. This is the creative breath of God (the spirit).”

Matthew 20:17-28

A Third Time Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection

17 While Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and said to them on the way,18‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death;19then they will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified; and on the third day he will be raised.’  <!– 20 –>

The Request of the Mother of James and John

20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favour of him.21And he said to her, ‘What do you want?’ She said to him, ‘Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.’22But Jesus answered, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?’* They said to him, ‘We are able.’23He said to them, ‘You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.’

24 When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers.25But Jesus called them to him and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them.26It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant,27and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave;28just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’

“Christ in the Housing Estate” Rouault

Matthew intends to show the hard-heartedness of the disciples  who respond to Jesus’ announcement of his rejection, suffering and death, by putting in a request for seats at the top table in the kingdom. He is forced to ask, “Can you share my suffering (cup)?” Their over-confident response is met by Jesus’ prophecy that one day they will share it, but meantime he deals fiercely with their desire for status. Amongst heathens, he says, the great ones exercise arrogant oppression, but amongst followers of Jesus the greatest will serve the needs of others like a slave. Then Jesus adds, “For the Son of man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ramsom for many.” The Son of Man is an expression taken by Jesus from the book of Daniel where it is identified as “the saints of Most High”. Jesus uses it to refer to “himself plus his followers.” He means that the purpose of his mininstry and the ministry of his followers is to serve others. “To give his life as a ramsom for many.” To whom is this ramsom paid? I think the answer must be, to the powers of evil that try to destroy human life. Jesus puts his own life into the power of evil (“while we were still sinners Christ died for us”) so that the hold of evil should be broken forever by this mighty demonstration of goodness. The movement of God’s love in Jesus and Jesus’ love in his disciples is always a downward movement towards the place of need before it is an upward movement of lifting the needy into the life of God.


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