|At the Icon of the Savior - Boris Kustodiev (1910)|
- Job 38:1-7, (34-41) and Psalm 104:1-9, 24, 35c •
- Isaiah 53:4-12 and Psalm 91:9-16 •
- Hebrews 5:1-10 •
- Mark 10:35-45
|The Apostles James and John, |
But the New Testament does not leave the matter there. The Epistle echoes Isaiah’s powerful description (in the Thematic OT reading) of the ‘suffering servant’ ‘wounded for our transgressions’. Building on the idea that we are healed by his bruises, it points to the crucial importance of God’s suffering in Jesus. ‘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’. The Gospel recounts that somewhat embarrassing occasion when James and John push themselves forward for special treatment in heaven, and thereby reveal how drastically they misunderstand what discipleship means. ‘Are you able to drink the cup that I drink?’ Jesus asks, and to do so without any special promise of glory. ‘We are’ they proudly reply. And so indeed James ultimately proved to be since (Acts tells us) he became the first Apostle to be killed, in a brutal persecution. But by that time, of course, he had a different assurance – Christ’s Resurrection.
The terrible sufferings we see in this world, and sometimes experience for ourselves, constitute a human problem that will not go away. For the Christian, though, suffering is not merely something inexplicable, an unfortunate by-product of evolution. There is meaning to be found in it, if we treat it as a spiritual mystery. In Jesus, God chose suffering for Himself as the way to our salvation. This is a mystery, but the Resurrection is not the happy ending that the Book of Job will offer us next week. It signals the power of love to defeat evil, not by eliminating it, or compensating us for it, but by transcending it.