Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Scripture Readings

Game shows like to heighten suspense by asking, “Is that your final answer?” , which potentially psyches out the contestant.  Today’s scriptures display a similar kind of suspenseful questioning,  but for Christians, these readings will not psyche us out, but give us some faith and hope.

Today’s gospel reading (John 10:31-42) depicts just one of the many times that people have tried to arrest or kill Jesus.  Thus far, it seems, Jesus stands as the traditional hero in an action film, capable of pulling stunning disappearing acts and just managing to escape from tight spots to the relief of adoring fans.  Jesus is working against evil and going around doing good, and all the while managing to stay one step ahead of his enemies.  But as we already know, Jesus’ enemies will one day succeed.  Jesus’ own successes will disappear and in their place, his enemies will have appeared to succeed to the point of killing him.

Today’s scriptures are therefore meant to help us deal with the events to come.  These are not scriptures aimed at celebrating Jesus’ current success in staying ahead of his enemies, but aimed at giving us some faith and hope in those times when everything seems to be darkness and despair.

The Old Testament reading (Jeremiah 20:10-13) depicts a person who is deliberately being framed, and he is aware of that fact.  What hurts is not only that he appears to be falsely accused, but that it is his supposed friends that are the ones doing the denouncing.  Despite all that, Jeremiah is able to proclaim that God is there, championing his cause.   There are “many” people who are watching for any little misstep, but Jeremiah believes that he will prevail against the many, because God can conquer all. 

The Old Testament reading sets us up for the gospel reading  – for here we find that Jesus is, in fact, being denounced in ways similar to what Jeremiah experienced.  And now, note, it is not merely the scribes and Pharisees that are out to get Jesus, but more generally, the “Jews”, Jesus’ own kinsmen and friends.  They say he is being blasphemous; he maintains he is doing good.  They say he can’t be the Son of God; he asks them why they should be uncomfortable with him being consecrated the Son of God, since after all God’s own word in the Bible names people as “gods”. 

There is extraordinary faith shown in today’s readings, which are meant to gird us up for the emotional week ahead.  These readings foreshadow Jesus’ own display of faith throughout the horrific events of Holy Thursday and Good Friday.  His friends will denounce him, betray him, deny him; he will ask God to let “the cup pass” from him; he will cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Through it all, there are also glimpses of faith.  And God will not let this bottomless outpouring of despair from every possible side be the final answer. 

When we ourselves are faced with despair like this, may we remember , too, that God is our champion, and that despair is not the final answer.

-          Jana M. Bennett