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Wrestling with the Word, episode 11: Second Sunday in Lent, Year B (March 8, 2009) February 22, 2009

Posted by fostermccurley in Wrestling With The Word podcast.
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Second Sunday in Lent

We live in a day when “those who have” become more obsessed with keeping it and with increasing it that we work very hard at not recognizing the price others pay for our habits. Our unwillingness to adjust our lifestyles and our goals decreases even more the quality of life for others in the world. The likelihood is that the world’s population will increase from a little over 6 billion people today to over 9 billion in the next fifty years. Where will all those people get food, useable water, and energy?

The lessons for this day challenge us to consider the meaning of discipleship in the world. They also enable us to see that the discipleship — the faith and even the sacrifice of some — has universal implications for many others. Above all, we see how the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus offers worldwide benefits to generations of others, including ourselves. How does Jesus’ own suffering enable and guide us to live the words we pray: “Thy will be done on earth…”?

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 11: Second Sunday in Lent, Year B.


Psalm 22:23-31
These words represent the thanksgiving following the Lord’s response to the lament in three stanzas (vss. 1-21. In our verses the lamentable scene diminishes, and the psalmist breaks into thanksgiving (a todâ meal) in the congregation. Their expressions of gratitude and praise extend throughout the world and throughout all generations. The experience of the single individual has become a universal message.


Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16
To the aged Abram and Sarai, God came to establish an everlasting covenant in which God promised worldwide posterity and an unconditional relationship with himself.

This pericope represents the first major section of the Abraham-Sarah stories in the priestly source, probably composed during the exilic period of the sixth century B.C. The hand of the priest has been at work, however, in keeping track of the ages of the couple. The priest noted at 12:4 that Abram was seventy-five when the family departed from Mesopotamia. The covenant according to the Yahwist involved the promise of land (15:7-21), also included in the priestly record at 17:8.

Key Words
V. 1. ’anî-‘ēl šadday = “I (am) El Shaddai”: This epithet for God, usually translated “God Almighty,” is used only by the priestly source. El was the name of the chief deity in the Canaanite pantheon. The word šadday might be related to Babylonian šadu = “mountain” and might be rendered, “God the Mountain One.”

V. 2. weettenâ berîtî bênî ûbêneykā = “and I will make my covenant between me and you”: In addition to the expression “establish a covenant” (Gen. 9:9, 11 and at 17:7), the priestly source uses “give a covenant” (nātan berît). That this covenant is “everlasting” indicates, as the one with Noah, that God is obligating only Godself.

Vv. 2, 6. we‘arbeh ‘ôtekā bime’ōd me’ōd … mehiprētî ‘ôtekā  bime’ōd me’ōd = “and I will multiply you exceedingly … and I will make you exceedingly fruitful”: The “fruitful and multiply” theme is occurs at key points for the priestly authors (Gen. 1:28; Exod. 1:7) and in other priestly trained writers (Jer. 29:6). One of the dangers in wallowing in exile for such a long time was the neglect of having families. The priests interpreted the multiplication of progeny not as a command but as a blessing from God.

Vv. 5-6, 16. “for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations…. and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come forth from you…. moreover I will give you a son by her; I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall come forth from her”: The movement from the “promise” of posterity in general to that of a son in particular guides the story-line; it also provides a balance between male and female, as the priestly source does also at Gen. 1:27-28. Note that in Hebrew there is no word for “promise” apart from the normal words for God’s speaking.


Romans 4:13-25
While the law can only bring wrath, the promise of God, made to Abraham and believed by him and extending universally to us, will reckon righteousness to us on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ and his resurrection.

Paul begins chapter 4 with an introduction to Abraham and then to David in order to demonstrate that the way of God is to reckon righteousness on the basis of faith rather than law. Even circumcision was the sign of the righteousness he had by faith, but he had the faith prior to the circumcision. That sequence enables Paul to conclude the previous section by indicating the purpose of it all was to make Abraham the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that is, the Gentiles.

Key Words
V. 13. hē epaggelia tō Abraam = “the promise to Abraham”: God’s promises(s) to Abraham form a critical function for Paul in his letters. In the previous verse, he had referred to the faith of “our father Abraham before he was circumcised.” In Galatians, Paul described God’s promise to Abraham as “the gospel preached before hand” in referring to God’s justifying the Gentiles by faith (Gal. 3:8-9). He wrote there that in Jesus Christ the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles (3:14), even that Christ is the offspring of Abraham (3:16) and that through baptism Christians become “Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (3:29).

V. 13. dia dikaiosynēs pisteōs = “through the righteousness of faith”: Paul repeatedly connects righteousness and faith. In the previous chapter, he speaks of “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ” as God’s justifying act “for all who believe” (3:22). God’s making us righteous means that God justifies us, gives us the verdict of acquittal even though all humankind is guilty. Accepting that verdict in faith allows us to hope in the resurrection in the end time and to live that hope here and now. God makes something out of nothing, calls into existence the things that do not exist, life out of death.

V. 22. dio kai elogisthē autō eis dikaiosynēn = “Therefore it was reckoned to him as righteousness”: The quote from the Abraham cycle belongs to the story at Genesis 15:1-6, the Yahwist’s version of God’s promise of so many descendants that the number matched those of the stars in the sky.


Mark 8:31-38
Having set aside the satanic attempt to keep religion safe, Jesus announces his own suffering and death and calls his disciples to follow him with the cross.

On the road to Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked his disciples for the popular opinion about him. They told him people thought he was a prophet. Then Peter confessed that Jesus was the Christ/Messiah, a confession which Jesus insisted be kept within the family (8:27-30). Now Jesus announces his own view of who he is, what is his fate, and what it means to be his disciple.

Key Words
V. 31. dei ton huion tou anthrōpou polla pathein = “it is necessary for the Son of Man to suffer many things”: In Aramaic “Son of Man” can be simply a personal pronoun (cf. Mark 8:27 and Matt. 16:13). It also has an eschatological, even apocalyptic, bent: either as one who suffers (Dan. 7:13; possibly Ezekiel) or as one who comes in the clouds of glory (Enoch). The necessity of the suffering points to such an eschatological promise of resurrection for Jesus and for us.

V. 31. kai apoktanthēnai kai meta treis hēmeras anastēnai = “and be killed and after three days rise again”: Mark repeats the same formula for the timing at 9:31 and 10:34. Matthew (16:21; 17:22; 20:19) and Luke (9:22; 18:33) change the formula to “on the third day.” Paul cites the wording “he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:5) as part of the tradition he received and passed on. The only scriptural (OT) reference to God raising any one “on the third day” occurs at Hosea 6:2 (en tē hēmera tē tritē anastēsometha) ; there resurrection (perhaps metaphorical) follows a judgment from God.

V. 32. kai proslabomenos ho Petros auton ’ērxato epitiman autō = “and taking him, Peter began to rebuke him”: That any one other than God or God’s Son should be the subject of the verb rebuke is forbidden in both testaments.

V. 33. epetimēsen Petrō … satana = “he rebuked Peter … Satan”: See Zech. 3:1-2 where YHWH rebukes Satan for standing in the way of the installation of Joshua (in Greek Iēsous) to be the priestly anointed one. In the OT the word “rebuke” is reserved exclusively for YHWH. For a detailed examination of Jesus’ rebuke of Satan, see Foster R. McCurley, Ancient Myths and Biblical Faith: Scriptural Transformations (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1983, 2007: 63-67).

V. 34. kai proskalesamenos ton ochlon syn tois mathētais autou eipen autois = “And calling to him the multitude with his disciples, he said to them”: The discussion Jesus held privately with his disciples regarding his identity now becomes a public matter about discipleship. Once again, the experience of the one takes on universal proportions. Strikingly, Matthew sets a quite opposite direction when he uses the formula “from that time” first to begin Jesus’ public ministry (4:17) and then—precisely where Mark begins the public teaching about discipleship—to begin the “private ministry” at 16:21.

V. 34. akoloutheitō moi = “let him follow me”: For Jesus’ calling to follow, see also Matt. 4:19; 18:22; 9:9; Mark 1:17; 2:14; 10:21; Luke 5:27; 9:59; 18:22; John 1:43; 21:19, 22.

V. 35. hos d’ an apolesei tēn psychēn autou heneken emou kai tou euaggeliou sōsei autēn = “whoever loses his/her life on account of me and the gospel will save it”: Mark adds the words “of me” to announce that the gospel is no longer simply that of “the kingdom of God” (1:15), but also about Jesus himself.


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