See that nothing worse happens to you – Tuesday, 4th Week in Lent – Ezekiel 47:1-9,12/John 5:1-3,5-16.

Post the fourth Sunday in Lent and the readings don’t seem to entirely have the ‘doom and gloom’ of the first three weeks. I am not diminishing or making light of the scripture texts of the first three weeks in Lent, they are essential for the spiritual moulding that shapes us for Easter, but clearly, the readings from now on have messages of hope written all over them.

Take the first reading of today from the prophet Ezekiel. At first glance it is confusing, and I won’t blame you if you skipped it entirely. But like the season of Lent, the prophecy of Ezekiel, a captive in the Babylonian exile himself for 25 years, can be divided into ‘doom and gloom’ (chapters 8-11) and hope and revival (chapters 40-48). The text of today offers us that hope even in the face of our exile. There is a river that will flow through our lives and even though Jerusalem never had a physical river as a source of water, THE source of living water, Jesus, came to the city as promised by God in the prophet Ezekiel.

It is not always easy to see and acknowledge the promises of God. In the gospel of John, the focus of the Gospel is the belief in his word over his works. The Gospel tells us that Jesus made his second trip to Jerusalem. We read of his maiden appearance as the Messiah in chapter 2 when he cleansed the temple. His works (not his words) won him a ‘warm welcome’ in Galilee (4:45). His words had ‘many more’ Samaritans believe in him (4:41) and now he is back in Jerusalem for the ‘festival of the Jews.’

Reading this text, you will tell me it is a miracle narrative (in the Gospel of John we call them signs and not miracles) and yet it is not the work that is the focus but his word. The narrative has a dialogue between Jesus and an unnamed man who sat by the pool of Beth-zatha (House of Mercy) beside the seep gate, one of Jerusalem’s’ seven gates. He has been here 38 years waiting for a WORK from the hand of God and yet when God comes to him it is not with a wave of a hand or a physical spectacle that he is healed but with His WORD, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” Earlier, to the royal official he said, “Go, your son will live.” (4:50)

Interestingly, Jesus asked the man at Bethzatha, “Do you want to be made well?” What an odd question for a man suffering for 38 years (we don’t know his illness) but what if Jesus was offering him more than physical healing? Yes, he obeyed the word and got up and was healed but it is only later that he re-encounters Jesus, this time to be told by Jesus, “See you have been made well, do not sin anymore so that nothing worse happens to you.” Jesus offered him physical and spiritual healing.

Many of us live in sin and maybe like the man in the narrative we have lived in sin for the last 38 years. Christ asks us if we want to be made well. By God’s grace, many of us are physically well but not spiritually. Jesus offers us salvation but he warns us to sin no more lest we bring something worse on ourselves. Do not read this line for what it is not; it is not a threat but a warning. You warn your children to be careful, you don’t threaten them if they are not. God does not threaten us but warns us. God does not bring evil into our lives but sadly we invite it right back.

Having returned to the Lord this Lent let us not lose our merits and graces on Easter Sunday. Write these words and paste them on your refrigerator as a reminder lest you forget. (that’s where we go more than to the altar). “See, you have been made well again. Do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you. “

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