Fifth Sunday of Lent
April 2, 2017
This is the third Sunday in a row that we’ve been given powerful images on which to ponder and reflect. First, there was a dramatic encounter between Jesus and a woman by a deep well. Thirst was the obvious theme. Jesus asked for a drink of water from the well. What He was truly thirsting for, however, was the woman’s salvation.
His acceptance, forgiveness, and love struck the woman in such a way that “Living Water” came pouring out of her stone cold heart. In spite of her reputation as a sinner, the people of her village listened to her and came to believe that Jesus was the Messiah. It would appear that the entire story unfolded next to a deep, dark well. The symbolic value should not be overlooked.
Like so many, the woman was living her life in a deep, dark pit. Escape seemed impossible to her. And then, Jesus drew her up from out of the dark pit that was her life into the light of day. Like a bucket pulled up from a well, she brought with her Living Water to share with all who suffered from thirst.
Then, last Sunday, continuing the movement from darkness to light, Jesus interacted with a man who had been born blind. The story features a number of people who suffered from spiritual blindness. Religious leaders and even Jesus’s disciples assumed that the poor man’s condition was the result of his personal sin, or that guilt inherited from his parents brought on his affliction. Here, the obvious theme seems to be a miraculous event. But hovering close under the surface is the significance of faith.
True faith brings with it the ability to imagine God for Who God is. People who should have known better imagined God as punitive and unforgiving. That spiritual blindness also cost them the opportunity to witness and understand what God is telling us through Jesus. God is a good, loving, forgiving, and compassionate Parent. The man who benefited from God’s tender mercy and loving kindness was raised up from darkness to the light of faith slowly and gently, like a bucket filled with fresh, cool water raised from a deep well.
When questioned, he first acknowledged a healing, but nothing more. He did not understand how this wonderful thing could have happened. But, as he continued to ponder and reflect on the gift of sight, his interior vision became more and more acute. Eventually, he was able to see and acknowledge Jesus as a powerful prophet sent by God. The story ends with the incredible insight that Jesus is The Messiah!
All of this brings us to today’s Gospel on this Fifth Sunday of Lent. No one can overlook the obvious image of a burial cave, a massive stone blocking the entrance to the tomb, or the binding clothes that encase the body, even covering the face. The story screams oppressive darkness and finality. But, Jesus orders the stone rolled back, and even as He called forth life from the woman at the well and from the man born blind, The Lord calls Lazarus back to the light and life that sickness had taken from him.
These three key players most likely never met. The location and surroundings of the events were different, and the beneficiaries of The Lord’s compassion and power have little in common…beginning with a public sinner, moving on to an innocent man presumed to be guilty, and concluding with a much loved friend. Jesus gifts each with the same thing…LIGHT AND LIFE!
Of the four Gospels, John’s reports the fewest miracles. But what is contained in the 4th Gospel is extremely powerful and described in great detail. These three stories that lead us into Holy Week work together to help us better understand that no matter who we are, how low we might have sunk, how deep in darkness we might find ourselves, how impossible our circumstances, He stands ready to call us into Light and Life…His Light…His Life! All we need to do is respond when He calls!