Gospel Reflections for Sun Nov 22nd 2015

16 November 2015



May as well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb! 

John 5:21-29 

Well folks ... here is a really difficult passage for the final Sunday in the Lectionary B readings. A face value view suggests that we could be distracted into thinking of it as a proof text for good works … “those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned” … but we know that not to be the case from many other cross references. Note also the clear statement to the contrary from Jesus in the same passage just a few verses earlier (v24). So, because I didn’t want to get side-tracked into a one-sided salvation debate, which it seems in hindsight is not the main point of the passage, I wanted to persist with a search for some other insights.

If we use the old rule of first establishing the broader context, a couple of interesting and helpful pointers emerge. Jesus had just completed a controversial healing of the man at Bethesda ON THE SABBATH and further, a statement from Jesus to the Jewish leaders which implies his EQUALITY WITH GOD (see verse 18).

After a bit more digging and rattling around, what came to mind for me was the saying … “MAY AS WELL BE HUNG FOR A SHEEP AS FOR A LAMB.” Or, Jesus did not want to be (literally) nailed for just breaking the Sabbath! Jesus not only justified his disregard of the Old Testament thinking about the Sabbath, but he gave the Jewish leaders a whole new level of reason for angering them.

It seems that in this passage we have one of the very profound statements in John’s Gospel. It gives answer to any one who is ready to accept Jesus as a good bloke, great teacher and super role model, but has difficulty going the all important next step of accepting his claim to be God (and the associated implications of that.) What unfolds is a whole host of reasons why we should honour the Son (or why Jesus is God). 

What does this have to say to us as leaders in Lutheran schools? Other than restating the obvious … a reminder to us about who Jesus is, and the implications of that, I am wondering if it is not also a warning about a watered down approach to the God stuff? I am conscious of the fact that “spirituality” is an in word and that it can be a comfortable word for people to use when they can’t come to us the G word or the J word (God or Jesus). Hence a reminder to us as we strive to help people connect with a God who is relevant for us in the 21st Century, to not in the end allow the God-ness of Jesus to be downplayed. Jesus … more than just a good bloke!