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Thursday, Fifth Week of Lent

March 29, 2007

Blessed Thursday!

Readings:
Genesis 17:3-9 (God clarifies his covenant with Abram
and changes his name to Abraham)
Psalm 105:4-9 “The Lord remembers his covenant forever”
+John 8:51-59 (Jesus is greater than Abraham)

“I solemnly declare it:  before Abraham came to be, I AM.” (John 8:58)

Those are fighting words…unless, of course, you happen to believe that
they’re true.  The Pharisees most certainly did not.  In order for those
words to be true, the man before them would have to be God in the flesh,
the same God who called Abram out of the land of Haran and promised to
make of him a great nation (Genesis 12:1-2), the One who revealed
Himself to Moses as “I Am Who Am” (Genesis 3:14).  Even if he hadn’t
already stung their religious pride repeatedly (cleansing the temple,
John 2:13-19; healing on the Sabbath, John 5:1-18; calling them children
of the devil, John 8:44; etc.), how could this unlettered (“How did this
man get his education when he had no teacher?”, John 7:15) backwoods
construction worker-turned preacher from Nazareth be…GOD?!!  “Can
anything good come from Nazareth?” (John 1:46).  It was just too much.
The very idea that God would become man was enough to blow their minds.
We’re so used to it that it doesn’t shock us anymore.

It’s a lot easier to bow before a God who wreathes the mountains in
smoke, making them tremble and speaking with the voice of thunder
(Exodus 19:18), than one who shows up in the temple as a human nobody,
saying things you can’t possibly be expected to believe.

Jesus knew He was asking a lot of them, even as He had asked a lot of
Abraham.  That’s why He kept going back to Abraham, to renew and
reinforce the covenant (Genesis 12:1-3, Genesis 15, Genesis 17-18,
Genesis 22).  That’s why He kept going back to the Pharisees, even
though He knew they wanted to kill Him.  That’s why He spoke to them so
directly and so plainly.  They were used to debates.  Those were
measured largely by their entertainment value.  How cleverly could one
turn a phrase, nail a point?  Who could quote the most respected
authority in favor of his speculations?  Jesus wasn’t playing their
game.  He was serious.  He expected them to take His word (and His
miracles) for what He had to say!  And they desperately did not want
Him to be right.

But how else could He bring to them the fulfillment of the promise He
had made to Abraham?  Yes, they were the great nation sprung from the
loins of the ancient patriarch, but they did not yet posses the ultimate
promised land of heaven.  They did not yet have the freedom from eternal
death that had been prefigured in the promise of a long line of
descendents.  Their external captivity to the Romans mirrored their
internal captivity to sin.  Jesus would continue to try, up to the day
of His death (and beyond, through the preaching of His Apostles), to
open their eyes.  “You are not calling us blind, are you?”  “If you were
blind there would be no sin in that.  ‘But we see,’ you say, and your
sin remains” (John 9:41).  Some, like Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea
(John 19:38-39), and Saul (Acts 9:1-19), proved themselves children of
Abraham by imitating his faith (see Romans 4).  Some never did.

May we too, prove ourselves children of Abraham, falling down in worship
before the God who saves us and trusting Him in everything, especially
when He tells us things we don’t want to hear.

May God bless your Lenten faith

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