April 9, 2022
Bruce C. Birch
WTS Dean Emeritus, Professor Emeritus of Biblical Theology
|Forest Gump (I’ve seen it all!)
A Covenant of Peace ~ Ezekiel 37:21-28; Psalm 85:1-7; John 11:45-53
Today’s readings the Lenten season originate out of bleak and uncertain moments in the biblical story. The prophet Ezekiel is preaching to exiles in Babylon, who have lost all those things that anchored life and faith—their land, their king, their temple, their future, their hope. Psalm 85 is a psalm of lament, beseeching God for forgiveness and restoration from unnamed but desperate circumstances. Finally, our Gospel reading from John records the moment when the high priest Caiaphas resolves to kill the man called Jesus, hoping to end his influence and his movement.
The season of Lent is intended to remind us our life’s journey is not lived in mountaintop experiences, but travels through the “valley of the shadow of death.” The past year has been difficult for many. We have lost loved ones to a pandemic; we have experienced divided political conflicts that saw a physical attack on our nation's Capital; climate change has exacerbated hurricanes, wildfires, floods, and drought. Even our churches are divided to the point of division over the breadth of God’s grace and acceptance.
Our texts for this day acknowledge the depth of pain and suffering, but give witness to the hope—the trust—that God is the source of a further word. Exiles will return. Despair can yet turn to hope. And the ministry of Jesus will not end on Caiaphas’s cross but in the hope for new life that radiates from an empty tomb.
As you read these bleak texts, it is well to acknowledge and ponder the depth of our suffering and pain. Name these for yourself before God as a part of the human journey. But continue that journey in the sure and certain hope that, at the end of the day, we are an Easter people. God has not forgotten or turned away. Hope and new life have the final word, by the power of God’s grace in Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God.