October 21, 2018
Twenty Second Sunday after Pentecost
Job 38:1-7 (34-41); Mark 10:35-45
Pastor SeokCheol Shin
The Mystery: Companionship in the Midst of Trial
The Question About Suffering:
Over the past weeks, we have seen and experienced certain painful images that we can’t erase from our memories. Why did God allow Satan to persecute his righteous servant, Job, so that he lost everything and even suffered from a terrible disease? What about our own sufferings: suffering from loneliness, sickness, homelessness, unemployment, family problems, etc.? Some people suspect that God has created an imperfect world. In other words, God has made a mistake, and that’s why all the creatures sometimes suffer.
That is also why Job argued with God in last week’s scripture. In his argument, Job was sure that God’s punishment upon him was a terrible mistake since he didn’t sin against God at all. Like Job, do we really want to believe that God can make a mistake? If so, how can we trust that God is right; God is love; and God will save us and give us eternal life? In today’s Hebrew scripture from Job 38 and Gospel readings from Mark 10, there is a common theme of how God (or Jesus Christ) is involved in human events.
In God’s Hand…:
If you read the chapter 37, you can see how Job was desperately looking for God. As he only found God’s silence in every direction, he cursed the day he was born and even considered God as his enemy… By the time he was struggling with his mysterious and unjust trial, Job’s three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Jophar came to comfort him, but they didn’t help him at all. Rather, they provoked him to be angrier with God.
What was wrong with his three friends? They were debating why such suffering had been inflicted upon Job. Their conclusion was that Job must have sinned against God and that’s why he ended up with such a terrible punishment from God. Yet Job was sure that he didn’t do anything wrong to deserve this kind of terrible punishment from God.
What was the deepest pain to Job when he was going through a horrible time? I believe it was a sense of being alone in his complete darkness. As you see, he lost all of his possessions; his own beloved children were killed in a single day; his wife had left him; his friends treated him as a sinner. To make it worse, God seemed to be missing from his suffering although he was desperate for God’s answer. There was no hope, no love, no friendship, no companionship in his tragic life; that was why he cursed his life and even called God his enemy.
The turning point comes from chapter 38 when God finally appeared out of the whirlwind, to give him the lecture of his wisdom and power of his creation: “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth…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?” (vv. 4-7)
If I summarize all the words in chapter 38 in our everyday language, it would be like this: “Job, you don’t know what’s going on in my world, but I know because I am the Lord and I am in charge of everything in my world.”
While listening to God’s lecture, Job experienced the overwhelming awesome presence of God the Creator. Even though the pain did not go away, he suddenly began to understand the God he believed is the God who created everything in the world. He suddenly was aware that he sat was only a little part in God’s plans. Job suddenly was able to recognize that God was right there with him and that he had been in God’s hands although he couldn’t understand why these terrible things happened to him. So Job finally admitted that he had every reason to trust God even in the midst of his painful trial.
From this passage, we can also realize that God’s purposes go deeper than human abilities to grasp all that is really happening. Like Job, we may be still thrown back to the incomprehensibility of the mystery of suffering. But like Job, we may have confidence that God is the Lord of all and that everything is in God’s hands. With this knowledge, we can stand strong in the midst of our trials.
Jesus’ Ransom for Many:
In the Gospel reading, Jesus is confronted with a request from his disciples James and John, the sons of Zebedee. They believed that they were in Jesus’ favor and privileged to be numbered in God’s kingdom, so they came to Jesus, not with a request, but with a demand (like Job demanded God to explain.): “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you… Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory” (v. 35, 38).
As expected, Jesus used their request as a teaching moment for his discipleship: “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” (vv. 38-40). Jesus continued to say those disappointing words, “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many” (v. 45).
The ransom theory is not a popular subject from the pulpits in the church today. But, we must remember that Jesus himself used the word “ransom.” Ransom means that Jesus paid our debts so that we are free from all curses. More correctly, He has paid our debts as he was joining in our human life and accompanied us by the power of the Holy Spirit until we may be invited to eternal life. Thus Jesus’ ransom ministry refers to his own companionship with God’s children.
Why do bad things happen to good people and what is the purpose of all this suffering? Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t clearly explain why it happens in God’s creation. Jesus Christ also didn’t come to the world to explain why. Sadly, unless we make ourselves completely separated from the world, we never escape from pains and sorrows in our lives. That’s why Jesus Christ, even though he was originally the Son of God, also had to go through many hardships.
However, we don’t need to be disappointed. We should still have confidence in our life’s journey because of Jesus Christ, our eternal companion. He not only went through suffering as a human being but took human suffering on his body and ended it for the sake our salvation. Jesus’ ransom for us reminds us that God the Savoir is here, right here, in the midst of our trials. He drinks the cup of suffering with us and for us; God will never leave us alone.
At last week’s sermon, I disclosed that the one thing I can say about suffering is that it is a divine connection through which we can rely on God or go deeper for a closer relationship with the Lord. Here is another point I can say about suffering: It is a mystery beyond our comprehension, but it is not the destiny that we have to be caught in alone forever. Rather, Our Lord Jesus Christ is always present in our life, joining in our life’s journey, sharing our hardship with him, and eventually ending it as a ransom for us, so that we are not confirmed to the world but overcome it.
In Christ’s love and redemption, In Christ’s companionship, we are healed, forgiven, and freed from all the chains of suffering. As his disciples, we will also give ourselves as faithful companions to many others.
This is the Good News of Jesus Christ for the people of God. Amen.