What is the depth of the relationship between us and our nearest and dearest? In the Bible reading for this week, we have the story of Jesus’ passion which includes the account of the Last Supper which Jesus shares with his disciples. As he hands around the cup, Jesus says, “this is my blood of the (new) covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” The word covenant was crucial to the people of Israel and it is crucial to all Christians too. Jesus, by his life and, crucially, death, made possible a new relationship between God and man. In effect, Jesus was saying, you have seen me and, in seeing me, you have seen the heart of God. Jesus by his teachings, healings, compassion, passion and death has revealed to humanity what God is like. Jesus was the personification of God’s love for humanity. Because of Jesus’ suffering and death, the way is now open for humanity to have a relationship with the living God. In these dark times of the corona virus, we need to hold onto the truth of Holy Week which proves that God is on our side. God is for us; God is with us; God will not desert us, especially through these troubling times. Perhaps we can join with the hymn writer: “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.”
Does God show feelings and emotion? In the ancient world the deities were believed to be without feeling and without emotion. The reason was simple. As soon as a deity showed feeling, it showed that they were vulnerable to circumstances and even manipulation. As with many things at the time, Jesus turned this thinking on its head. In the Bible passage this week, we have the story of the death of Lazarus at the house of Martha and Mary in Bethany. When Jesus learns of his death and is met with the despair of Martha and Mary, Jesus does something extraordinary. It is recorded as the shortest verse in the Bible but also one of the most poignant. John’s Gospel records, “Jesus wept.” God is the God who has feelings, emotions and limitless compassion. In the midst of this terrible corona virus we serve a God who grieves with those who grieve, who mourns with those who mourn, who suffers with those who suffer and who weeps with those who weep. That is the nature of God.
Do we stand up for what we believe in? In this time of global crisis where Christians cannot physically meet for fellowship, how do we remain strong in our faith? The Bible passage for this week recounts the story of the blind man at the pool. Jesus healed him and then the pharisees interrogated him and his parents. Despite the isolation and fear of excommunication, the blind man remained resolute. “All I know is that I was blind and now I can see….no man has ever opened the eyes of someone born blind. If this man were not from God, he couldn’t do it.” It is a tremendous profession of faith in the face of opposition. Why? Because Jesus had changed his life. After the man was thrown out of the place of worship, Jesus did not desert him. He found him and revealed to him who He was. Jesus is always true to the person who is true to Him and this loyalty brings revelation. In this season of trial, this is equally true and relevant.
What should we do if someone wrongs us? For most people, they would say that we should respond by wronging the perpetrator even more. Firstly, to make them repay for the damage they have done us and then, on top of that to go beyond what they did to us so that they never think of doing it again. The result would of course be retaliation and escalation until it all gets out of control and ends in a feud. For this reason, the Old Testament law was that the repayment of any wrong must not go beyond the amount that the person has been wronged. This was the law of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth but no more! It was actually to limit revenge and show control and some degree of mercy. In the Bible reading for this week, Jesus goes one better than the law. Jesus offers a new sort of justice: a creative, restorative and healing justice. Jesus says take no revenge at all. It is only this response that reflects the patient, forgiving and overflowing love of God towards those who hurt us. It is only this response that can break the cycle of violence. It can break the cycle of violence between nations, tribes and individuals. No other god encourages people to behave in this way. It is truly revolutionary and it actually works.
How is fishing like Christian discipleship? It is an unusual question perhaps but, in the Bible passage for this week, Jesus tells his followers that he will make them “fishers of men.” Can I suggest three ways in which a good fisherman would make a good disciple, or good witness. Firstly, a good fisherman has ‘an eye for the right moment’. Sometimes it is good to cast and sometimes not. For the Christian, sometimes it is good to share the truth with others and sometimes people will harden their views against the truth. Next, the good fisherman will fit the bait to the fish. For the Christian, it is important to meet people where they are in their unique circumstances. The Apostle Paul said, “I am all things to all people in order to win a few for Christ.” Third, and finally, the wise fisherman will keep himself out of sight. If he obtrudes his own presence or even shadow, the fish will not bite. The good disciple or witness will keep himself out of sight so that Christ may be seen instead.
What are we looking for? What is the aim of our lives? For some of us it is security, for others a career for others still it is peace. But what about us? What are we looking for? This was precisely the question Jesus put to the disciples of John the Baptist when two of them (probably Andrew and John) followed Jesus home at about 4pm one spring afternoon in Galilee. This was Jesus’ first encounter with those who would later become his closest disciples. Their reply to Jesus’ question was, “where are you staying”. In other words, we want to come to your home so that we can spend time with you and learn from you. Jesus’ reply is characteristically welcoming, “come and see”. To all of us who are genuinely looking for real meaning in our lives, Jesus invites us to ‘come and see.’ Like much of the Gospel story it was (and is) very simple and very profound. That afternoon, those two disciples went and saw who Jesus really was and their lives were never the same again.