Sun, 16 February 2020
(Jas.1:1-11; Ps.119:67-68,71-72,75-77; Mk.8:11-13)
“Count it pure joy when you are involved in every sort of trial.”
How well James explicates the wisdom of the cross. First he encourages us to “realize that when [our] faith is tested this makes for endurance,” and then to “let endurance come to its perfection so that [we] may be fully mature and lacking in nothing.” This is the wisdom of our suffering on earth; this is the blessing of the cross.
It is the same wisdom our psalmist propounds when he sings, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn your statutes.” If the Word of the Lord and the promise He offers is “more precious than thousands of gold and silver pieces” to us, then we must undergo many afflictions to prevent our going astray into the vain things of this world. For these flowers of the field droop and die under the scorching heat of the sun, but what is of the Lord lasts forever, and thus to join Him we must be trained to endure.
How different is the wisdom found in suffering beneath the cross; how different is this school from the one found in this world. The exact antithesis is our King to those who rule here in vainglorious power. For this King preaches death, and dies for us in humble poverty – this would be the shame of the one who finds his teaching in the seeking of riches and fame. And this is why the Pharisees cannot see Jesus and the sign He is before their eyes. Their minds are closed to the cross and its wisdom, for their hearts are set on the vain illusions of earthly life. But He is heavenly and all the sign we need; following in the shadow of His cross will lead us to all our hearts do seek.
Brothers and sisters, be not like the Pharisees, seeking some momentous occurrence to tantalize your eyes. The Word is within you, it is of you; and shouldering His cross you will find it growing all your life. Hold the wisdom of the cross, ask it in faith of the generous God who will give all to you, and find the beauty of His way as you are afflicted, and comforted again. The Lord chastises those whom He loves, and His love is pure joy, while those who would stray He leaves to die, following their sinful ways. Come to Him and His cross, and live.
O LORD, if we but lived lives of prayer in all humility,
never could we be separated from you
and always you would work through us.
YHWH, how shall our words and thoughts match those of your Son, who commands and the devils flee, whose heart is set always on your will… who sacrifices His life for our sakes? Help our unbelief, our lack of trust in you and in your power, that we might by your grace come to share in that power with Jesus, even as we share in His humility.
How can we live in your perfect innocence, LORD, we who are such a faithless lot, we who lack prayer in our heart? O how easily we are overcome! But you are our hope. You come down from the mountain, from the glory on high, to dwell with the likes of us and save us from the devil’s grasp, which has such a dire hold upon us and upon our children. Only by the grace of your presence will this generation be saved – leave us not till your work is accomplished.
Teach us, O LORD; give us your wisdom, that your peace might be ever in our souls and we might serve you with all our thoughts and words. Save us, dear God, from all darkness.