bible blog 836

This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal readings for the day along with a headline from world news:

Jesus Christ is dishonoured everyday by casual blasphemies and reveals his majesty by forgiveness

Islamic protest against dishonouring the Prophet

Job 40:1-24

40And the Lord said to Job:
2 ‘Shall a fault-finder contend with the Almighty?*    Anyone who argues with God must respond.’

Job’s Response to God

3 Then Job answered the Lord:
4 ‘See, I am of small account; what shall I answer you?    I lay my hand on my mouth.
5 I have spoken once, and I will not answer;    twice, but will proceed no further.’

God’s Challenge to Job

6 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:
7 ‘Gird up your loins like a man;    I will question you, and you declare to me.
8 Will you even put me in the wrong?    Will you condemn me that you may be justified?
9 Have you an arm like God,    and can you thunder with a voice like his?
10 ‘Deck yourself with majesty and dignity;    clothe yourself with glory and splendour.
11 Pour out the overflowings of your anger,    and look on all who are proud, and abase them.
12 Look on all who are proud, and bring them low;    tread down the wicked where they stand.
13 Hide them all in the dust together;    bind their faces in the world below.*
14 Then I will also acknowledge to you    that your own right hand can give you victory.
15 ‘Look at Behemoth,    which I made just as I made you;    it eats grass like an ox.
16 Its strength is in its loins,    and its power in the muscles of its belly.
17 It makes its tail stiff like a cedar;    the sinews of its thighs are knit together.
18 Its bones are tubes of bronze,    its limbs like bars of iron.
19 ‘It is the first of the great acts of God—    only its Maker can approach it with the sword.
20 For the mountains yield food for it    where all the wild animals play.
21 Under the lotus plants it lies,    in the covert of the reeds and in the marsh.
22 The lotus trees cover it for shade;    the willows of the wadi surround it.
23 Even if the river is turbulent, it is not frightened;    it is confident though Jordan rushes against its mouth.
24 Can one take it with hooks*    or pierce its nose with a snare?

We must remember as we read God’s rough words to Job that nevertheless God is making a personal appearance just to answer the points raised by this “fault-finder”. Although the words may seem like put-downs, the personal attention is flattering. And God’s answer is made at some length! He may say he takes no note of Job’s opinion but his every word shows that he does. The author shows great skill in inventing this mighty but contradictory God, especially as the reader comes to realise that the contradiction expressess both God’s humour and his affection for Job: he’s a bit overwhelming but he delights in showing Job some of his best creations. Like the Behemoth, the hippopotamus, which is described with pride and affection, as an animal that cannot be tamed by humans, but has been created by God for reasons which have nothing to do with humanity. Job is being asked to lift his eyes from his own miseries to see the beauty and strangeness of God’s work. This is not mere power play on God’s part. Job thinks that to have a Creator God is to have a Being whom one understands and can hold to account. God is teaching him that to have a Creator God is to have One whose very creation shows him to be beyond all being and understanding.

John 11:55-12:8

55 Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves.56They were looking for Jesus and were asking one another as they stood in the temple, ‘What do you think? Surely he will not come to the festival, will he?’57Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who knew where Jesus* was should let them know, so that they might arrest him.

Mary Anoints Jesus

12Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.2There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him.3Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them* with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.4But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said,5‘Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii* and the money given to the poor?’6(He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.)7Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. She bought it* so that she might keep it for the day of my burial.8You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.’ 

The New Testament writers are aware that the word Messiah (Christ in Greek) means “anointed one” and that any “anointing” of Jesus by anyone therefore has overtones. In Luke’s gospel for example an unnamed woman pours perfume on his feet and wipes it away with her tears:  this anointed one is happy to be anointed by the poor and the sinful. In John’s more sober story, Mary, sister of Lazarus who has been raised from death by Jesus, whose own death is now desired by the religious authorities, anoints him with precious oil intended for the day of his burial. She expresses her love but also her faith that this Messiah will die for the sake of his people. Some have used Jesus’ defence of her action to justify money spent on “religious devotion” rather than the poor. This is a misinterpretation: Jesus’ words apply only to the cherishing of his humanity before his death -he will not be with them much longer in the flesh-but when he returns as the risen Lord he will be with them always, just like the poor.

The “pouring out” of love, however, is honoured by this story as an image of the love Jesus’ followers feel for their crucified messiah and in him for the least of their brothers and sisters. Sydney Carter has it right in his song, “Judas and Mary”:

“The poor of the world are my body,” he said

“To the end of the world it shall be.

And the bread and the blankets you give to the poor

You will fnd you have given to me,” he said,

“You will find you have given to me.”

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