Saturday, March 21, 2015


Saturday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Yet I, like a trusting lamb led to slaughter, had not realized that they were hatching plots against me: “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 11:19

Nicodemus, one of their members who had come to him earlier, said to them, “Does our law condemn a man before it first hears him and finds out what he is doing?” They answered and said to him, “You are not from Galilee also, are you? Look and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.”  John 7:50-52

We are the ones transgressing into sin.  Yet He is the One bruised for them.
We are the ones who gain peace.  Yet He is the One who takes the chastisement for us.
We are the ones who are healed.  Yet He takes the stripes of the whip and the piercing sting of the nails for us. 
We are the ones like willful sheep led to stray.  Yet He is the shepherd who comes after us and then becomes the lamb to the slaughter.  (Glen Scrivener on Isaiah writing in The King’s English)

He’s back.  No.  Not Jack Nicholson in some remake of “The Shining.”  Nicodemus.  When we last met Nicodemus, he was sneaking over the meet up with Jesus under the cover of darkness to quiz the carpenter’s son about this preaching that had all of Galilee in a buzz.  Jesus’ teaching was starting to threaten the authority of the temple leadership.  As a member of the much-maligned parasitical class that preyed on the emotions and savings of the people (make that Pharasitical class), Nicodemus was trying to make academic sense of what Jesus was saying.
Today, Nicodemus moves from the academic to the legalistic. He also courageously moves from darkness to light defending Jesus not alone in some evening tutoring session but in broad daylight in the halls of the temple.  If it were up to Nicodemus, maybe Jesus would not give up without a fight or at least without a court-appointed lawyer for the defense.  The arguments Nicodemus puts forth are ignored and we watch all retreat to their own homes.  Nicodemus now begins to separate himself from the others – he doesn’t hang out with them or share a meal with those of his own class.  Maybe the solitary Nicodemus would now feel more at home having dinner with the sinners and tax collectors who assemble around Jesus?  I wonder with whom we will see Nicodemus next?
In addition to watching the conversion of Nicodemus before our eyes and imaginations, we also begin to see more references to the coming events of Holy Week. As Jeremiah foretells, the “lamb to slaughter” reference has two meanings.  If someone does something or goes somewhere like a lamb to the slaughter, they do it without knowing that something bad is going to happen.  However, Jesus knew what fate was ahead.  He knows the nails, the thorns, the cross and the sword.  Jesus was led knowingly but therefore acted calmly and without fighting against the situation.  
It’s a brutal verbal picture.  An innocent lamb will follow a leader no matter where they’re taken.  No protests, no questions asked.  At the slaughterhouse they train a “Judas sheep” to lead the others to their doom.  “Judas” escapes through a hatch, the others get it in the neck.  A lamb led to the slaughter is a chilling image.
The King of Isaiah 6 is now seen as the Servant of Isaiah 52-53.  In both visions He is “exalted”, “lifted up”, “very high” etc.  But the two images of “lifted up” appear very different.  In one, He sits on a throne.  In the other He is slain on an altar.
John’s Gospel also picks up on this double-meaning from Isaiah.  Jesus is truly “lifted up” – that is, truly glorified – by being lifted up on the cross. 

Who is so defense-less that they need your Nicodemus-inspired mercy? 
Pope Francis gives us two choices (among many) this week as he takes on the economic injustice suffered by those who are unemployed and legal injustice imposed by countries where the death penalty remains in use. 
Regarding those without hope of a job, the pontiff remarked: "What to do, a young person without work?" he asked. "What future do they have? What path of life to choose?"
"This is a responsibility not only of the city, not only of the country, but of the world," the pontiff continued. "Because there is an economic system that throws away people and now touches the young people, namely, without work."
On the death penalty, Pope Francis called capital punishment "cruel, inhumane and degrading" and said it "does not bring justice to the victims, but only foments revenge."
Furthermore, in a modern "state of law, the death penalty represents a failure" because it obliges the state to kill in the name of justice, the pope said. Rather, it is a method frequently used by "totalitarian regimes and fanatical groups" to do away with "political dissidents, minorities" and any other person deemed a threat to their power and to their goals.

No comments: