Job. Among the multiple ways we might enter the text, here are two. (1) The poem is a timely reminder of the difficulty of attaining wisdom and understanding. Timely, in a society that often confuses wisdom with what I just saw on the internet. (2) Within Job chapter 28 comes at the end of the dialogue (argument?) between Job and his friends, serving as an implicit negative verdict on their success in attaining a shared wisdom. The Lectionary’s placement of the chapter at the end of the book invites us to incorporate (privilege?) the Lord’s speeches from the whirlwind and Job’s response as we hear “the fear of the Lord” and “depart from evil.” Recall Habel’s translation of 42:6 (“Therefore I retract / And repent of dust and ashes”) and Davis’ commentary cited in yesterday’s post.
John. Here again Jesus’ context and John’s audience’s context merge: vv.34-36a reflect equally the latter’s arguments. “The Messiah remains forever:” this reading of the law is ever attractive, negating Jesus’ “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” (12:24). The crowd understands that the Messiah’s trajectory and his followers’ trajectories run parallel. The crowd has a point: what good is salvation if it means taking up the cross? What’s the point of Passover if Jesus’ message is that the model for all the participants is that poor lamb whose blood is on the lintel (whose blood keeps death away)? And this theology of glory as an alternative to a theology of the cross leaves us defenseless before swindlers and shysters. “While you have the light, believe in the light,” so that, like the disciples as portrayed in the Gospels—slow on the uptake on their best days—we may continue exerting ourselves to attaining and practicing wisdom.