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Bible New Testament Old Testament Worship

Fourth Sunday in Lent A

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, my family and those whom God loves:

These are the designated texts for the Fourth Sunday in Lent (A). What follows below is a brief commentary on each text.
Isaiah 42:14-21
Psalm 142
Ephesians 5:8-14
John 9 (1-7, 13-17, 34-39)

Collect for the Day
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, Your mercies are new every morning; and though we deserve only punishment, You receive us as Your children and provide for all our needs of body and soul. Grant that we may heartily acknowledge Your merciful goodness, give thanks for all Your benefits, and serve You in willing obedience; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Summary: Isaiah 42:14-21
This reading spans two sections. The first, 42:10-17 calls all people to sing a new song proclaiming the saving work of the Lord’s Servant. The second section, 42:18-25, notes Israel’s failure to believe and live as God’s servant and as a result, is punished with exile.

For a long time the Lord has been patient with Israel, but like a woman in labor; the Lord cannot hold back (42:14). 42:15 describes what the Lord will do and although it sounds like destruction it is actually the Lord removing obstacles so as to lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known – the Way of salvation from sin turning the darkness before them into light (42:16). As for those who reject the Lord and His Servant by turning to other gods, they will be turned back and utterly put to shame (42:17). Isaiah now directs comments to Israel, God’s servant who is deaf and blind (42:18-20). They have no excuse for their behaviour because the Lord had clearly made known His law to them but they refused to fear, love and trust in God (42:21).

For us as Christians the Gospel is God’s invitation for all people to sing that new song proclaiming the saving work of Jesus Christ, the One who came to serve us with His Body and Blood. Even so, how often have we who are part of Christ’s Church, been like Israel, having grown blind and deaf to Christ and His mission of salvation.

Summary: Psalm 142
It is thought that this Psalm has its origin or inspiration when David was pursued by King Saul. Twice David hid in a cave, both in Adullam (1 Samuel 22: 1– 2) and at Engedi (1 Samuel 24). In this Psalm David expresses a sense of imprisonment, of being buried, of being in the depths— both literally and emotionally— and is provoked to fervent and honest prayer. It is from this position that David turns to God who would deliver and exalt him.

The Psalm begins with David’s cry out to the Lord…pleading for mercy to the Lord (142:1). David does not hold back and expresses his complaint, telling the Lord all his troubles (142:2). After doing so, David is exhausted and can only see the trap laid by his enemies (142:3). David feels alone, with no place to turn and no one who cares about him (142:4). Again, David turns to the Lord and confesses that the Lord is his only refuge, the One who holds his life, both now and forever (142:5). Despite this, David sounds quite depressed and calls upon the Lord to deliver him from his persecutors who are Saul and his army, for they are too strong for me (142:6)!  David calls for release so that he and all who are righteous may give thanks to the Lord’s name! (142:7)

How many times do we find ourselves trapped, sometimes in a “prison” of our own making. Our sins can isolate us from others, even from those within the community of the righteous, the Church. Jesus certainly experienced this and so much more as he was persecuted, deserted, imprisoned, and tormented. Even in death, He was imprisoned in the cave of the tomb. But His Father raised Him from the dead to live at the head of the company of those made righteous through His blood. Despite the prisons we find ourselves in, Christ has set us free through His death and resurrection.

Summary: Ephesians 5:8-14
As Gentiles were converted by the Gospel and entered the congregation at Ephesus through baptism, they also brought with them habits of sexual immorality and covetousness (the “old man” – 5:3-5). Paul compares their old life to that of darkness and contrasts it to walking in the light in the Lord (5:8) as children of light, a subtle reference to the baptismal life. If Christ dwells in a person as promised in baptism, the fruit of Christ grows and is seen in how one lives and how one speaks (good and right and true – 5:9). Paul encourages them to test or discern their life based on God’s Word (5:10). In addition, Paul admonishes them to Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness which Paul has already described as sexual immorality. Such behaviours must be exposed so as to be disposed (5:11). The struggle with the old life of sin was quite common among Gentile Christians (5:12). To address this, Paul suggests that the evil be made visible by the light of Christ so that a person can then be transformed – raised from the dead (5:13-14).

Christians today also struggle with various sins, often rebelling against God’s way. God’s Spirit living within us battles, however, against these temptations and through God’s Word enables us to put to death the old Adam so that the resurrected new Adam can arise within us.

Summary: John 9
The lectionary provides two options to using this text within worship and for preaching. Either the entire forty-one verses can be read or one can focus on a slightly shorter reading of verse 5-26.

In this passage Jesus gives physical and spiritual sight, that is, faith, to a man born blind, although in the process, the Pharisees accuse Jesus of violating the Sabbath and in doing so remain spiritually blind.

Jesus may have been at the temple on the Sabbath when he saw a man blind from birth (9:1). As budding theologians, Jesus’ disciples ask the age old question, “Is this man blind as a consequence of a sinful action done by this man or his parents?” (9:2) Rather than blame someone Jesus declares this man’s condition to be an opportunity for God’s redemption, both physical and spiritual (9:3). Jesus considers this to be the focus of his mission: to do the saving work of God (9:4) that brings the light of Christ to all who are blind (9:5). Breaking one of the Sabbath laws about “kneading” Jesus then spits on the ground and made mud with the saliva, considered to have healing qualities. (9:6). After blessing the man’s eyes with this mixture Jesus sends this man to the pool of Siloam to wash and there, the man is healed (9:7).

People who knew him began to question whether he was or was not the same man who had been begging because such a miracle too amazing to believe. However, the man kept saying, “I am the man.” (9:8-9). This led people to ask a question that gets repeated: “How did this happen?” and “Who did it?” (9:10) The man explained what happened, but since he was healed at the pool without seeing Jesus, he did not really know who it was or where Jesus went (9:10-12).

Since a healing had to be confirmed by the religious authorities and also, because it had occurred on the Sabbath, they brought (him) to the Pharisees (9:13-14). The Pharisees also interrogated him, requiring the man to explain everything again (9:15). The Pharisees, however, were divided in their opinion of Jesus because of his neglect of the “law” and his ability to do miracles (9:16). It is fascinating that the Pharisees then turn back to the man for his opinion of who Jesus is and the man declares him to be minimally, “a prophet” or perhaps even “the prophet” (9:17). 

The Pharisees did not believe the man’s story and so they brought in his parents to confirm or disprove this miracle. The parents, fearing for that they would be kicked out of the synagogue, stuck to the facts concerning his relationship to them and his being born blind, but as to his healing, they left that to their son to address (9:18-23). The age of maturity in that day was 13 years of age and the religious leaders had made it clear that any support of Jesus as the Christ would be met with excommunication.

In a second round of interrogations, they vow (“Give glory to God) to the man that Jesus to be a sinner, a law-breaker (9:24), but all the healed man can give testimony to is the results: “One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see” (9:25). Again the Pharisees ask him about how he was healed and frustrated with their question the man sarcastically asks them, Do you also want to become his disciples?” (9:26-27) The Pharisees, insulted by this question declare themselves to be disciples of the Law (Moses) and if anyone is a disciple of Jesus, it is this man. The Pharisees claim no real knowledge of Jesus’ pedigree which may or may not have been true at this early point in John’s Gospel (9:28-29). The man finds this amazing because he believes that this could only have happened if Jesus was righteous before God (9:30-31). The man goes to express that his healing was a never before event and how could that happen if God was not behind it. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing. (9:32-33). The Pharisees judge this man to be am uneducated  sinner and excommunicate him from the synagogue (9:34).

Jesus somehow finds this man and asks him point blank: “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” In other words, “Do you believe that I am the Messiah?” (9:35) Not recognizing Jesus as the one who had healed him he naturally asks, And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” (9:36) Jesus identifies himself as the one and the man immediately confesses Lord, I believe.” (9:37) Here we see the growth of this man from acknowledging Jesus to be a prophet to being from God (9:33) and now, that Jesus is Lord, not necessarily God, but important enough to be worshipped (9:38). Jesus next statement may appear difficult to understand because we often consider Jesus to have come not judge, but to save. In coming into the world, however, Jesus has not come to condemn and yet his mere presence will lead some to believe and others to reject him, thus bringing upon themselves judgement and condemnation. It is through the Word of Christ that the Holy Spirit seeks to open the eyes of the blind to faith in Christ, but for many this does not occur (9:39). Some of the Pharisee are examples of this as they refuse to recognize their need for the Saviour.

We are all born spiritually blind, unable to see our sin and unwilling to do things God’s way. But through Baptism and the Word, God has delivered us from the domain of darkness through His beloved Son and has enlightened our hearts to know and follow Him.

Sources:
The Lutheran Study Bible

Grace be with you,
TBG †

By PT Graff

A baptized child of God's, called to be a son, husband, father, citizen of Canada and heaven and a pastor.