Saturday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Every Sunday we profess in the Creed that the Son of God is “…Light from Light, True God from True God, begotten, not made…” Yet throughout John’s Gospel there are many who cannot get over His having come from Galilee. Some in the crowds have heard His words and, without seeing, begin to believe. Some have even brought up the prophecy that the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem; to think that the answer to their question lay in some Roman official’s house with the documents of Caesar’s census! (Luke 2:1-5) Those who could not see the Light began to quarrel with those who were in darkness, and soon everything became hazy as during the twilight hour when it is neither day nor night, but the world lingers between both. As was often the case, there were calls for Jesus’ arrest.
The chief priests and Pharisees are surprised when the guards come to them empty-handed but the guards admit that they could not lay hands on Him. “Never before has anyone spoken like this man”; they had heard and had begun to believe. The officials dismiss the crowds as not knowing the Law yet these guards, in hearing Jesus’ words and receiving them to some degree, had come to know the Giver of the Law. Just when the officials ask if any of their own number believed in Jesus, Nicodemus—who had come to Jesus secretly before (John 3:1-21)—spoke up in His defense. “Does our law condemn a man before it first hears him and finds out what he is doing?” In other words, the Law to which the officials hold so tightly demands that Jesus be heard by them. In ignoring Nicodemus’s question, instead accusing their fellow official of being one of Jesus’ “ignorant” followers, they are disobeying the Law. Ironically they are blind to the fact that they, rather than the crowd, do not know the Law, though they are to be its chief teachers.
There is a word for this, for one who purports to have the truth but in fact believes contrary to it; it is a word that is Greek in origin and means, literally, “able to choose” or in some translation “to go one’s own way.” Today’s reading ends with, “Then each went to his own house.” What is this word? Heretic: in condemning Jesus and the crowds they have condemned themselves.
As we continue our Lenten journey let us follow Jesus, who is the Way. Let His Word be a lamp unto our feet and a light for our path (Psalm 119:105), not allowing the serpent to turn our gaze from Him, nor our sins to cloud our vision. Listen to His Word with your heart and believe, even if you cannot yet see what it is He is trying to show you. Live with a heart that is open and ready to receive Him so that when He does appear, you will rejoice.