The Lessons: Job 42:1-17; Acts 16:16-24; John 12:20-26
Job. Verse 6, critical to the book’s interpretation, is laconic. The NRSV gives the traditional (worst case) option; CEB and NJPS move in a more positive direction. Davis: “Therefore I recant and change my mind / concerning dust and ashes.” Habel: “Therefore I retract / And repent of dust and ashes.” Among the most useful essays on Job I’ve encountered: Davis’ “The Sufferer’s wisdom” in Getting Involved with God. It ends like this: “The two portraits of Father Job that stand at either end of this book mark the true measure of his transformation. Job, this man of integrity who was once so careful, fearful of God and of the possible sins of his children, becomes at the last freewheeling, breaking with custom to honor daughters alongside sons, bestowing inheritances and snappy names. The inspiration and model for this wild style of parenting is, of course, God the Creator. Job learned about it when God spoke out of the whirlwind. And now Job loves with the abandon characteristic of God’s love—revolutionary in seeking our freedom, reveling in the untamed beauty of every child.”
Acts. Witness can be messy, and Luke, to his credit, leaves the messiness in full view. The slave girl is now free from that spirit, but is still a slave, and of less value to her owners. Paul’s action provided a pretext for the owners to stir the Jew/Gentile pot, and the Jews will have to keep dealing with that after Paul leaves. God will bring good out of the situation; much good remains to be done.
John. “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” A protean parable, which in turn calls for discernment: when is it time for this grain to fall into the earth? (“Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun” [Eccl. 11:7]. “Go to the festival yourselves. I am not going to this festival, for my time has not yet fully come” [Jn. 7:8].) I wonder: is Jesus as a Jew also talking about Jewish identity? When do other groups or institutions need to hear this parable?