Saturday 2 April 2022 4th week of Lent
The Lord revealed it to me; I was warned. O Lord, that was when you opened my eyes to their scheming. I for my part was like a trustful lamb being led to the slaughterhouse, not knowing the schemes they were plotting against me, ‘Let us destroy the tree in its strength, let us cut him off from the land of the living, so that his name may be quickly forgotten!’ But you, the Lord of Hosts, who pronounce a just sentence, who probe the loins and heart, let me see the vengeance you will take on them, for I have committed my cause to you.
Psalm 7 Lord God, I take refuge in you.
Several people who had been listening to Jesus said, ‘Surely he must be the prophet’, and some said, ‘He is the Christ’, but others said, ‘Would the Christ be from Galilee? Does not scripture say that the Christ must be descended from David and come from the town of Bethlehem?’ So, the people could not agree about him. Some would have liked to arrest him, but no one actually laid hands on him. The police went back to the chief priests and Pharisees who said to them, ‘Why haven’t you brought him?’ The police replied, ‘There has never been anybody who has spoken like him.’ ‘So’ the Pharisees answered ‘you have been led astray as well? Have any of the authorities believed in him? Any of the Pharisees? This rabble knows nothing about the Law – they are damned.’ One of them, Nicodemus – the same man who had come to Jesus earlier – said to them, ‘But surely the Law does not allow us to pass judgement on a man without giving him a hearing and discovering what he is about?’ To this they answered, ‘Are you a Galilean too? Go into the matter, and see for yourself: prophets do not come out of Galilee.’
The Gospel focuses upon the reactions of various people to what Jesus had said about his relationship with the father, we heard in yesterday’s Gospel. The first sentence today begins, “Some in the crowd who heard these words of Jesus said….”. The Jewish leaders were undecided about Jesus, but most of them concluded that he was not the promised Saviour of Israel. The Jewish people could not agree about him, yet some believed in Jesus. John refers to the Jews as if they are the enemies of Jesus. We remember Jesus himself was a Jew. John is preaching to a largely non-Jewish community. Jesus never suggested that he or his disciples should abandon their Jewish faith. Rather, he held that God wanted to bring this religion to greater fulfillment. So, Jesus gained the respect of honest people, who valued whatever is good and wholesome. The temple guards spontaneously express admiration for him: “No one ever spoke like that before!”
While not included in the liturgical text today, this section of John’s Gospel actually ends with the words, “Then each went to his own house.” As we do with our own opinions. Many theologians and laity still argue over the essentials of religion: Who is Christ? What is the Church? What is needed for salvation? What is right and wrong? The spiritual meaning of the word “house” in this final sentence is the House of God, or the Mystical Body of Christ. Only when dwelling in Christ do God’s people find their true home.
Philippians 2:1-8 sums this up so profoundly,
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.“
This unity is not a consensus brought about by conformity in our opinions, but through transcendence of self and through the actions of love. The words of Jesus have integrity, they strike the heart and mind with authenticity, cutting to the truth, they liberate rather than manipulate, they stir awe in those listening to him, precisely because Jesus did not sprout his private opinions, but spoke from unity with the father, a place of self-giving love. Let this be the place of renewal for us in this Lent. May we also live from unity with the father, a place of self-giving love.