Tuesday of the Fifth Week in Lent
(Numbers 21:4-9; John 8:21-30)
Jesus tells the Pharisees that when they lift him up, they will realize who he is and that he has done what the Father wills. Jumping to that scene, however, we have difficulty finding any such awareness among the Jews. What is going on?
John the evangelist only subtly shows Jesus’ divine sonship on the cross. He notes that Pilate has a sign printed in three languages proclaiming Jesus “the king of the Jews.” This tells us that, like-it-or-not, the Jews have to face the fact that an objective authority acknowledges Jesus as the Messiah, the anointed king of Israel. Also, Jesus’ last words, “It is finished,” indicate his identity. “The “It” here refers not only to his life but also to his mission from the Father of redeeming the world. Although the Pharisees “realize” this evidence in as much as they objectively see it, most will not be swayed. Indeed, only one of their numbers comes forward professing belief in Jesus. Nicodemus, whom we remember from an earlier encounter with Jesus, steps on the scene at this time with enough burial spices for a king.
We should not be any more dismayed by the Pharisees rejecting Jesus than by our own contemporaries. After all, Jesus conquered no empires like Alexander the Great. Nor did he write works of wisdom like Aristotle. Even his mighty deeds were not testified by any other than his followers. Why then do we accept Him as God? Certainly there is something to the fact that those followers died in making their testimony. But we believe also because he has acted in our lives. His words, which his disciples recorded, have given us a solid foundation. More than that, when we have called upon him, he has met our needs – not just once but repeatedly. We cannot help but hand over ourselves to him.