To help prepare for Christ’s Service to us this Sunday, you may wish to pre-read the lessons before hand.
Old Testament: Numbers 11:4-29 (selected verses)
Epistle: James 5:1-20 (selected verses)
Gospel: Mark 9:38-50
Numbers 11:4-29 (selected verses)
The Israelites again grumble against the Lord by complaining to His servant, Moses, about the food that God graciously provides to them as they travel through the wilderness. Moses cries out and reminds the Lord that he did not choose to be in this position. Moses also begs the Lord to relieve him of the burdens brought on by the complaints and foolish demands of the people under his care. The Lord then tells Moses to share the burden with seventy “elders” from among the people. The Lord then consecrated them for this office and showed all the people that He had done so by causing them to prophesy. Two of the seventy did not come out as the Lord commanded, and yet, because they had been elected to the position which the Lord had created to help Moses, they also prophesied. When Joshua became jealous and angry that they did not do as the Lord commanded, Moses reminded him that these men had been chosen by the Lord to receive the Spirit of God and assist in the work God had given Moses to do.
James 5:1-20 (selected verses)
After admonishing the rich in the congregation for their treachery in withholding payments due to their workers, James points to how the prophets showed patience and how Job persevered even in the most difficult of cirumstances. James wishes to encourages all people to remain faithful and stand firm and not grumble or complain because The Judge who “is standing at the door,” will ultimately repay you out of His goodness and mercy.
James then goes on to explain what faithfulness looks like. He points to the fact that in every circumstance we should seek help from the Lord and wait upon His good pleasure. James isn’t saying not to use modern advances in medicine and healing, rather, he is saying we ought to look to God as their source.
Pointing to the efficacy of prayer, James reminds us how we are made righteous. Namely we are made righteous through the forgiveness of sins. Therefore, James encourages us to confess our sins and pray for one another that we may be forgiven. And, forgiven in Christ, the prayers we offer are righteous and holy.
Picking up from our Old Testament lesson, our Lord tells us that we ought think that He cannot or does not work except through us. When the disciples tell of others who cast out demons in Jesus’ Name, Jesus points out that the spiritual strength and authority does not come from being part of a specific group but that Jesus, Himself, is the source. When Jesus says, “whoever is not against us is for us,” He points to the fact that all who are united into His Name are united into something larger than specific groups or clear lines of demarcation.
Jesus then goes on to warn all who use His Name against both false teaching and false living pointing out that by teaching contrary to Jesus’ words and thereby leading others to sin will have grave consequences. Furthermore, those who claim to bear the Name of Jesus ought to avoid every temptation and every opportunity to sin. In a reminder of what He said about the fact that it is not what goes into a man that makes him unclean, Jesus teaches also that our sin cannot truly be blamed on our members – whether our eye, our hand, or our feet. If these are truly the cause of sin, we ought willingly cut them off and cast them away instead of allowing ourselves to be cast into hell through our continued sinning.
Jesus then points us to the fact that our sin comes not from our members, but from within. And having been made “salty” through His work of salvation and converting us and making us His own, we ought to live not according to our flesh. Instead, we ought to “mortify” our flesh – set it aside, consider it dead, in a sense cutting it off and not giving it opportunity to control us so that we may live lives pleasing to God in loving service to our neighbor – salting, that is keeping and preserving the world until Christ’s return.