Diocese of East Tennessee: Weekly Lectionary
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October 22, 2006
Proper 24 – B
Book of Common Prayer Lectionary
Isaiah 53:4-12
Psalm 91:9-16
Hebrews 4:12-16
Mark 10:35-45

Revised Common Lectionary
Isaiah 53:4-12   or
Job 38:1-7, (34-41)
Psalm 91:9-16
Psalm 104:1-9, 24, 35c
Hebrews 5:1-10
Mark 10:35-45

Reflection and Response
Prayer Starter


Today’s readings confront us with the reality that the call to discipleship means service and sacrifice. In Isaiah, the “suffering servant” of Israel, though innocent, takes on the sin, sorrow, pain and oppression of God’s people. Yahweh finally appears to Job (Alternative RCL) and challenges his understanding of God’s mysterious rule over all creation. According to Hebrews, Jesus, the full embodiment of the “suffering servant,” identifies with humanity and offers himself as final high priest and ultimate sacrifice. In the gospel, Jesus reverses our understanding of greatness: those who would lead must serve.


First Reading: Isaiah 53:4-12
Today’s passage comes from the second part of the fourth servant song in Isaiah. (See Journal 2, p. 10.) In the passage, the servant’s role as representative is made clear. What was ours (infirmities, diseases, transgressions, iniquities) was made his, though he was righteous.

Disaster and affliction was thought to be evidence of God’s judgment on an individual’s wickedness. Yet the life and death of the servant was in God’s hands, and his experiences were a part of God’s plan. Ultimately the righteousness of the servant will be made clear.
Isaiah 53:4-12
Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
Who could have imagined his future?
For he was cut off from the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people.
They made his grave with the wicked
and his tomb with the rich,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the will of the LORD
to crush him with pain.
When you make his life an offering for sin,
he shall see his offspring,
and shall prolong his days;
through him the will of the LORD shall prosper.
Out of his anguish he shall see light;
he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.
The righteous one, my servant,
shall make many righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he poured out himself to death,
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.


Psalm: Psalm 91:9-16
This psalm is a wisdom psalm; that is, a psalm of torah, of instruction. It is a meditation upon God as the protector of the faithful from both human and demonic foes. Against this fear is set the belief in guardian angels (vv. 11-12), but the emphasis is on abiding in God, dwelling in God’s presence. God is a protective shelter (v. 1), a refreshing shadow (or shade, as from the scorching desert sun), a refuge and fortress from all destructive forces (v. 2), and a secure habitation (vv. 9-10). Those who so abide are securely protected from disaster (vv. 14-16).
Psalm 91:9-16
Because you have made the LORD your refuge,
the Most High your dwelling place,
no evil shall befall you,
no scourge come near your tent.

For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.

On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.

You will tread on the lion and the adder,
the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.

Those who love me, I will deliver;
I will protect those who know my name.

When they call to me, I will answer them;
I will be with them in trouble,
I will rescue them and honor them.

With long life I will satisfy them,
and show them my salvation.


Alternative First Reading: Job 38:1-7, (34-41) (RCL)
Speaking out of profound faith, Job has asserted his innocence and challenged God to answer him (31:35-40) and account for his suffering. In today’s reading, the Lord speaks from the whirlwind in fulfillment of Job’s longing (13:22, 23:5, 30:20).

The dramatic climax of the book comes with the appearance of Yahweh, creator of heaven and earth, in response to Job’s challenge. The divine voice from the whirlwind responds with language filled with images of word and combat. God has come to engage in combat with the human revolutionary Job and with the forces of chaos. Thus God will destabilize Job’s proposal that humans should rule over creation by pointing out their impotence and reaffirm the constant divine struggle against chaotic forces that seek to upset the ordered creation that God has established.
Job 38:1-7, (34-41)
Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind:
“Who is this that darkens counsel
by words without knowledge?
Gird up your loins like a man,
I will question you, and you shall declare to me.
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone
when the morning stars sang together
and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?
“Can you lift up your voice to the clouds,
so that a flood of waters may cover you?
Can you send forth lightnings,
so that they may go and say to you, ‘Here we are’?
Who has put wisdom in the inward parts,
or given understanding to the mind?
Who has the wisdom to number the clouds?
Or who can tilt the waterskins of the heavens,
when the dust runs into a mass
and the clods cling together?
“Can you hunt the prey for the lion,
or satisfy the appetite of the young lions,
when they crouch in their dens,
or lie in wait in their covert?
Who provides for the raven its prey,
when its young ones cry to God,
and wander about for lack of food?


Alternative Psalm: Psalm 104:1-9, 24, 35c (RCL)
This hymn to God as Creator shares the imagery of many near-Eastern nature poems and myths but changes their emphasis. Leviathan, the primeval water monster of chaos, is God’s plaything. The created world is under God’s sway and owes God praise. Sin disrupts the harmony of creation, and the psalmist prays for a restoration of the original wholeness.
Psalm 104:1-9, 24, 35c
Bless the LORD, O my soul.
O LORD my God, you are very great.
You are clothed with honor and majesty,
wrapped in light as with a garment.

You stretch out the heavens like a tent,
you set the beams of your chambers on the waters,

you make the clouds your chariot,
you ride on the wings of the wind,

you make the winds your messengers,
fire and flame your ministers.

You set the earth on its foundations,
so that it shall never be shaken.

You cover it with the deep as with a garment;
the waters stood above the mountains.

At your rebuke they flee;
at the sound of your thunder they take to flight.

They rose up to the mountains,
ran down to the valleys to the place
that you appointed for them.

You set a boundary that they may not pass,
so that they might not again cover the earth.

O LORD, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom you have made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.

Praise the LORD!


Second Reading: Hebrews 4:12-16 (BCP)
This reading unites two points based on the author’s discussion about Jesus’ superiority to Moses and the similarity of the Israelites’ situation in the wilderness to that of Christian believers (3:1–4:11). The early Church saw itself as the new people of Israel in the wilderness, living between the time of the exodus and the time of entry into the promised land—the second coming.

God’s word probes the inmost part of our being and reveals our true nature. Yet, in case this warning discourages us, the author reminds us of the graciousness of Jesus, our high priest. Verses 14-16 emphasize Jesus’ solidarity with humanity. Like the high priest, who annually made atonement by entering the Holy of Holies (Leviticus 16:1-19), so Jesus “has passed through the heavens” (v. 14) to intercede for us. Because he has gone before us, we can approach God’s throne without fear, confident of finding a merciful reception.
Hebrews 4:12-16
Indeed, the word of God is living and active,
sharper than any two-edged sword,
piercing until it divides soul from spirit,
joints from marrow;
it is able to judge the thoughts
and intentions of the heart.
And before him no creature is hidden,
but all are naked and laid bare
to the eyes of the one
to whom we must render an account.
Since, then, we have a great high priest
who has passed through the heavens,
Jesus, the Son of God,
let us hold fast to our confession.
For we do not have a high priest
who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses,
but we have one
who in every respect has been tested
as we are, yet without sin.
Let us therefore approach the throne of grace
with boldness,
so that we may receive mercy
and find grace to help in time of need.


Second Reading: Hebrews 5:1-10 (RCL)
The author of Hebrews began by demonstrating Jesus’ superiority to angels, the messengers of the law. Then he discussed Jesus’ superiority to Moses, the greatest Jewish leader and prophet. In chapter 4, the author begins his discussion of Jesus’ superiority to the Jewish high priest.

Priests came from the tribe of Levi. The high priests were descendants of Aaron, who was appointed by God. Jesus came from the tribe of Judah, but as the quotation from Psalm 2:7 demonstrates (5:5), he was also chosen by God, not self-appointed. His priesthood transcends the Levitical priesthood because it is modeled on that of Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4), whom the author later demonstrates as being superior to Abraham (7:1-10) and thus to Abraham’s descendant Levi and the Levitical priests.

Jesus sacrifice is superior because he did not have to offer sacrifice for himself as well as for his people. His unique role as the final high priest was made clear through his suffering and his choice of obedience to God’s will. Entering completely into the human condition, Jesus is able to fully represent human need with perfect sympathy.
Hebrews 5:1-10
Every high priest chosen from among mortals
is put in charge of things pertaining to God on their behalf,
to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.
He is able to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward,
since he himself is subject to weakness;
and because of this he must offer sacrifice
for his own sins as well as for those of the people.
And one does not presume to take this honor,
but takes it only when called by God,
just as Aaron was.
So also Christ did not glorify himself
in becoming a high priest,
but was appointed by the one who said to him,
“You are my Son, today I have begotten you”;
as he says also in another place,
“You are a priest forever,
according to the order of Melchizedek.”
In the days of his flesh,
Jesus offered up prayers and supplications,
with loud cries and tears,
to the one who was able to save him from death,
and he was heard because of his reverent submission.
Although he was a Son,
he learned obedience through what he suffered;
and having been made perfect,
he became the source of eternal salvation
for all who obey him,
having been designated by God
a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.


Gospel: Mark 10:35-45
Today’s gospel reading consists of two parts: the story about who would be greatest in the kingdom and Jesus’ teaching about greatness and power. Jesus’ answer to James and John draws upon the Old Testament image–”drinking the cup”–for participating in joy or woe, including the cup of the Lord’s wrath (Ps. 75:8; Is. 51:17) and the baptism (‘washing, flood’) of calamity (Ps. 42:7; 69:1).

Jesus uses the occasion to expand on his earlier teaching (9:35), in which he reverses the natural order of hierarchy and power. The Gentiles honored the rulers and “great ones.” Within the Church, however, the most humble slave was to be most highly regarded. Jesus’ own example sanctified the lowly and humble role of discipleship. Like him, the truly great person in the kingdom is the one who pours out his or her life in the service of others.

Verse 45 refers explicitly to Isaiah 53:10-12. The “ransom” is literally a payment for the liberation of a slave or hostage. Jesus assumes all of the implications of the figure of the suffering servant in the Old Testament.
Mark 10:35-45
James and John, the sons of Zebedee,
came forward to him and said to him,
“Teacher, we want you to do for us
whatever we ask of you.”
And he said to them,
“What is it you want me to do for you?”
And they said to him,
“Grant us to sit, one at your right hand
and one at your left, in your glory.”
But Jesus said to them,
“You do not know what you are asking.
Are you able to drink the cup that I drink,
or be baptized with the baptism
that I am baptized with?”
They replied,
“We are able.”
Then Jesus said to them,
“The cup that I drink
you will drink;
and with the baptism with which I am baptized,
you will be baptized;
but to sit at my right hand or at my left
is not mine to grant,
but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
When the ten heard this,
they began to be angry with James and John.
So Jesus called them and said to them,
“You know that among the Gentiles
those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them,
and their great ones are tyrants over them.
But it is not so among you;
but whoever wishes to become great among you
must be your servant,
and whoever wishes to be first among you
must be slave of all.
For the Son of Man came
not to be served but to serve,
and to give his life a ransom for many.”


Reflection and Response
Here they come, the Zebedee boys, jockeying for favor in their ambitious quest for the top spots, the CEOs of the new Church. “How about that cushy office with the view? And could we toss in a health club membership with a hot tub?”

Before we turn from the reading in distaste, we should evoke that maddening principle of Christ that pushes us to learn something even from the most revolting specimens. One reason we are so disgusted by John and James may be that we recognize a shred of their ambition lurking within ourselves.

We have probably all had the experience of launching a project with confident enthusiasm (and utter naivete). Whether it’s a food drive for the hungry, a new family budget or a vow to get shipshape organized, we plunge ahead with dreams of glory. Like James and John, we gloss over any possible difficulties.

Reality hits with a clunk. And then we appreciate the enormous difference between the apostles pre- and post-resurrection. When they rely on themselves, they are a sorry lot: self-seeking, argumentative, downright stupid. Yet Jesus can see beyond all that and can assure them of fellowship with himself. How? Perhaps he sees them as they would become, filled with the Spirit after Pentecost: transformed into courageous witnesses whose dreams of greatness had been replaced by the humble goal of serving the Lord they love.

Quietly consider:
If greatness lies in service and sacrifice, how might I be “great” today?

Prayer Starter
Deliver me, O God, from my anxiety and fear, especially...


©Copyright 2006 Living The Good News


The Episcopal Diocese of East Tennessee
The Right Reverend Charles G. vonRosenberg, Bishop
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