Lenten Meditation: Thursday, March 23, 2023
“John was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.” - John 5:35
This verse captured my heart amid an otherwise dense and challenging selection of scripture. Jesus is arguing with his accusers and appealing to the example of Moses and the prophets. Among those prophets? His own cousin John, the man who baptized him. A nice moment for us to think of John the Baptist, who is usually not much discussed in church outside of Advent. But he was a burning and shining lamp, for them and for us.
Meanwhile, Jesus is locked in a heated confrontation. His healing instruction to the man by the Pool of Bethesda – “take up your mat and walk” – was issued on the Sabbath. Observant Jews were already disturbed by Jesus disregarding such an important commandment, and then in response to their criticism, Jesus refers to God as his own Father! In today’s passage, we’re deep in the weeds of Jesus’ “testimony”; John the Baptist, the scriptures, Jesus’ works and then Moses himself are his evidence. Jesus is speaking about judgment and accusation, and this passage can feel intimidating when read on its own. It’s important to read these moments of controversy as part of their larger context–the chapter, and the whole of John’s gospel–which tells us in some many ways how much God loves us, and that love breaks into our world in Jesus Christ. When we think of all the ways God’s love gives us new life, it makes sense that rejecting that love and relationship has negative consequences for our lives. When Jesus argues vociferously against his detractors and against our own unbelief, he is arguing against the harm that we do to ourselves through our own sin.
Today: Is there someone who has been a burning and shining light to you? Give thanks for them today.