Gospel Reading: John 5:17-30 (alternate reading: Luke 1:26-38)
17 But Jesus answered them, "My Father is working still, and I am working." 18 This was why the Jews sought all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the Sabbath but also called God his Father, making himself equal with God. 19 Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever he does, that the Son does likewise. 20 For the Father loves the Son, and shows him all that he himself is doing; and greater works than these will he show him, that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. 22 The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. 25 "Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself, 27 and has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of man. 28 Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment. 30 "I can do nothing on my own authority; as I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.
Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 49:8-15
8 Thus says the LORD: "In a time of favor I have answered you, in a day of salvation I have helped you; I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the people, to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages; 9 saying to the prisoners, `Come forth,' to those who are in darkness, `Appear.' They shall feed along the ways, on all bare heights shall be their pasture; 10 they shall not hunger or thirst, neither scorching wind nor sun shall smite them, for he who has pity on them will lead them, and by springs of water will guide them. 11 And I will make all my mountains a way, and my highways shall be raised up. 12 Behold, these shall come from afar, and behold, these from the north and from the west, and these from the land of Syene." 13 Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the LORD has comforted his people, and will have compassion on his afflicted. 14 But Zion said, "The LORD has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me." 15 "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.
Meditation: Who can claim authority and power over life and death itself? Jesus not only made such a claim, he showed God's power to heal and restore people to wholeness of life. He also showed the mercy of God by releasing people from their burden of sin and guilt. He even claimed to have the power to raise the dead to life and to execute judgment on all the living and dead. The Jewish authorities were troubled with Jesus' claims and looked for a way to get rid of him. He either had to be a mad man and an imposter or who he claimed to be - God's divine son. Unfortunately, they could not accept Jesus' claim to be the Messiah, the anointed one sent by the Father to redeem his people. They sought to kill him because he claimed an authority and equality with God which they could not accept. They failed to recognize that this was God's answer to the long-awaited prayers of his people: "In a time of favor I have answered you, in a day of salvation I have helped you" (Isaiah 49:8).
A "covenant" to the people
Jesus was sent by the Father as "a covenant to the people" to reconcile them with God and restore to them the promise of paradise and everlasting life. Jesus' words and actions reveal God's mercy and justice. Jesus fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah when he brings healing, restoration, and forgiveness to those who accept his divine message.
The religious authorities charged Jesus as a Sabbath-breaker and a blasphemer. They wanted to kill Jesus because he claimed equality with God - something they thought no mortal could say without blaspheming. Little did they understand that Jesus was both human and divine - the eternal Son with the Father and the human son, conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary. Jesus answered their charge of breaking the Sabbath law by demonstrating God's purpose for creation and redemption - to save and restore life. God's love and mercy never ceases for a moment. Jesus continues to show the Father's mercy by healing and restoring people, even on the Sabbath day of rest. When the religious leaders charged that Jesus was making himself equal with God, Jesus replied that he was not acting independently of God because his relationship is a close personal Father-Son relationship. He and the Father are united in heart, mind, and will. The mind of Jesus is the mind of God, and the words of Jesus are the words of God.
The unity of love and obedience
Jesus also states that his identity with the Father is based on complete trust and obedience. Jesus always did what his Father wanted him to do. His obedience was not just based on submission, but on love. He obeyed because he loved his Father. The unity between Jesus and the Father is a unity of love - a total giving of oneself for the sake of another. That is why their mutual love for each other is perfect and complete. The Son loves the Father and gives himself in total obedience to the Father's will. The Father loves the Son and shares with him all that he is and has. We are called to submit our lives to God with the same love, trust, and obedience which Jesus demonstrated for his Father.
If we wish to understand how God deals with sin and how he responds to our sinful condition, then we must look to Jesus. Jesus took our sins upon himself and nailed them to the cross. He, who is equal in dignity and stature with the Father, became a servant for our sake to ransom us from slavery to sin. He has the power to forgive us and to restore our relationship with God because he paid the price for our sins.
Jesus offers us abundant, life, peace, and joy
Jesus states that to accept him is life - a life of abundant peace and joy with God. But if we reject him, then we freely choose for death - an endless separation with an all-loving and merciful God. Do you want the abundant life which Jesus offers? Believe in him, the living Word of God, who became a man for our sake and our salvation, and reject whatever is false and contrary to the Gospel - the good news he came to give us.
"Lord Jesus, increase my love for you and unite my heart and will with yours, that I may only seek and desire what is pleasing to you."
8 The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in mercy.
9 The LORD is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.
13b The LORD is faithful in all his words, and gracious in all his deeds.
14 The LORD upholds all who are falling, and raises up all who are bowed down.
17 The LORD is just in all his ways, and kind in all his doings.
18 The LORD is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth.
A Daily Quote for Lent: The wonderful exchange, by Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.
"Unless the Word of God had first assumed our mortal flesh he
could not have died for us. Only in that way was the immortal God
able to die and to give life to mortal humans. Therefore, by this
double sharing he brought about a wonderful exchange. We made
death possible for him, and he made life possible for us." (excerpt from Sermon 218c,1)
Scripture quotations from Common Bible: Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 2006, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Citation references for quotes from the writings of the early church fathers.
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