Saturday of the Fourth Week of Lent


 

Jer 11:18-20; Ps 7:2,3,9bc-12; Jn 7:40-53
“Lest I become like the lion’s prey.”

No one wants to become lion’s prey. No one wants to be torn to pieces. The Psalmist and the Prophet both feel pursued and persecuted. As a contemporary pundit has said, “just because your paranoid does mean someone isn’t out to get you.” Although neither King David nor the Prophet Jeremiah were never diagnosed as paranoid, both of them are fearful and for good reasons. In the psalm we hear the prayer of both hearts and our own hearts as this Lenten journey comes quickly to an end. Another Lent is nearly over. If we haven’t prayed with the psalm before today, perhaps we need to do so. Maybe, several times before Easter would be a good idea. In the LORD we take refuge, from all our pursuers He will rescue us. Already we feel like lion’s prey and we feel destined to be torn to pieces. In our innocence we pray for justice. We pray that the malice of the wicked comes to an immediate end. We trust that the LORD searches our hearts and souls; He is the only Just God, and there is no other. Our only shield is the LORD; He saves the upright of heart. In his justice the LORD, our just Judge, punishes the guilty day in and day out. Jeremiah prayed this way for protection from his persecutors. He asked that the LORD take up his cause and put an end to the power of his enemies. The Lord Jesus spoke as no man has ever spoken. This took the temple guards off guard and they did not arrest him, after all it was not yet his hour.

The LORD kept his prophet informed. Jeremiah knew his enemies doings. He knew something was not right. Yet, he was a trusting lamb. He was led to slaughter. Another prophet will become a lamb. Someone will imitate and far surpass this experience of the prophet Jeremiah. Indeed, his betrayal and persecution is a foreshadowing of the Lord Jesus. They were hatching plots against Jeremiah. They said to one another, “Let us destroy the tree in its vigor; let us cut him off from the land of the living, so that his name will be spoken no more.” Jeremiah was a threat and an annoyance. He challenged the leaders of Israel to turn back to the LORD and to trust in God’s power to save them. The leaders and the people were trusting in their own plans and alliances to protect their lives and their future. The great irony here is that their names are hardly known and Jeremiah’s name is well known, even among those Catholics who do not read the bible regularly. The greater irony is that the tree of the Cross is the source of new life and eternal vigor for all who are one with Christ in his sacrifice of love. All Jeremiah can pray at such a time is “let me witness the vengeance you take on them, for to you I have entrusted my cause!” The new Jeremiah, Jesus Christ, prayed: “Father, I place my life into your hands!” The Lord Jesus is not interested in vengeance. Indeed, the Lord Jesus is the True Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Even the sins of Jeremiah, and all of us who long to witness the LORD taking vengeance on our enemies, are forgiven and cleansed in the blood of the Lamb.

The Lord Jesus cried out in the temple, “Let anyone who thirsts come to me!” This was what the crowd heard the Lord say; this is why they cried out, “This is truly the Prophet.” Notice they called him, “the” Prophet. The Prophet promised by God at the time of Moses. This prophet would be the new Moses. He would fulfill the greatest thirst of the people. Not just give them water in the wilderness; rather, he would quench their thirst for the living waters, for the Holy Spirit. However, such a promise and fulfillment in Christ is too much for the contentious crowd to handle. Back and forth, the division over his identity grows among them. They could not accept that he was from Nazareth. Others demanded that he should come from Bethlehem. The Synoptic Tradition handles this problem, but Saint John’s Gospel leaves the controversy open and volatile. The hostility of the crowd is growing; some wanted to arrest the Lord Jesus. However no one laid hands on him and the guards reported to the chief priests and the Pharisees that they could not arrest him. The crowds were too great and besides he spoke so well, with such authority. However, the guards were ridiculed by the leaders when they asked, “Have you also been deceived?” Actually, it was those who asked this question who were being deceived. Even when one of their number, Nicodemus, tried to moderate their anger by asking a very reasonable question he too is put down: “You are not from Galilee also, are you?” Even their objection that no prophet arises from Galilee is a prejudice statement that does not consider powerful men of God like Hosea and Amos. They were simply not at all interested in the credentials of the Lord Jesus. He was a threat to be dealt with not a prophet to be heard.