Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Lenten Vespers in the Week of Judica (Lent 5)

John 10:22-38; Leviticus 19:1-2a, 10b-19a, 25b

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
In St. John’s Gospel, “the Jews” who continually oppose Jesus and seek to entrap Him and kill Him are not the common folk generally referred to as “the crowds,” but they are Jewish legalists, Judaizers, who held to the letter of the law while ignoring its spirit. Thus, in their attacks against Jesus they often appealed to the law as they interpreted it – the Sabbath law, cleanliness laws, dietary laws, temple laws, etc. – accusing Jesus of their transgression. Accordingly, the Jews picked up stones to stone Jesus to death because He said, “I and the Father are one,” a transgression of the law, blasphemy. Except, that Jesus was telling the truth.
Jesus was telling the truth when He said, “I and the Father are one.” The works that He did – healing the sick, causing the blind to see and the mute to speak, casting out demons, and raising the dead – were in fulfillment of the prophetic Word and bore witness that Jesus was telling the truth, that He was the Christ of God, even God Himself in their midst. “I have shown you many good works from the Father,” Jesus said, “for which of them are you going to stone me?” Jesus’ works were good and lawful. More than that, they were in fulfillment of Messianic prophecy. There was nothing that they could accuse Jesus of. If they were going to entrap and accuse Jesus of anything they were going to have to twist and bend and distort the law in order to do it.
“It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God,” they answered Him. They displayed their hypocrisy and the malevolence of their hearts by appealing to the law, God’s Word, to accuse and condemn Jesus, the very Word that He was fulfilling before them and that bore witness to Him telling the truth. When Jesus said, “I and the Father are one,” He was simply stating a fact, the truth. Everything that Jesus said and did was wholly in accord with the Word and law of God so that Jesus and the Father were, in Word and deed, truly one.
The Jews hypocritically and malevolently used the Word of God to entrap Jesus. Quoting Psalm 82, Jesus exposed their hypocrisy saying, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came – and Scripture cannot be broken – do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?” In saying “you are gods,” the Psalmist is speaking particularly to those given authority to rule in accordance with the Word of God for the sake of weak and the needy in opposition to the wicked. The Jews regularly used the Word and law of God in order to justify themselves and their own deeds and to condemn others. For example, the Jews used the Sabbath law in order to justify their lack of love and mercy in not helping those in need, but then condemning Jesus because he did heal the sick and help people in need on the Sabbath.
Jesus concluded saying, “If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” Everything that Jesus was doing was in fulfillment of the Father’s will, Words, and law. If they would not believe Jesus, then they should see that His works were fully in accord with the Father’s will, Words, and law. The truth, however, was that they had no love for Father or for His Word. The truth was, they were not among Jesus’ sheep.
“I told you, and you do not believe,” said Jesus. “The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of may hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
Jesus was telling the truth. Those who love the Father love His Word, and the Father’s Word is fulfilled in Jesus. To follow the Father’s Word is to follow Jesus. To follow Jesus is to follow the Father. Jesus and the Father are one. Those who are baptized into Jesus have God as their Father. Thus, the Church has confessed that God became man so that men might become God. This Jesus has accomplished for you in His incarnation, obedience, humiliation, suffering, and death. Believe it for Jesus’ sake.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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