Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Daily Bible Reading: Amos 8 and John 5:1-23

Amos 8 – Amos says the Lord showed him “a basket of ripe fruit” – an image for the people of Israel “ripe for destruction” (8:2). “I will no longer overlook its offenses” (8:2).

“Listen to his, you who trample on the needy and try to suppress the poor people of the country, you who say, ‘When will New Moon be over so that we can sell our corn, and Sabbath, so that we can market our wheat?” (8:4-5). They use the profits they make to buy fancy things.

The Lord repeats his message: “’See what days are coming—it is the Lord Yahweh who speaks—days when I will bring famine on the country, a famine not of bread, a drought not of water, but of hearing the word of Yahweh. They will stagger from sea to sea, wander from north to east, seeking the word of Yahweh and failing to find it” (8:11-12). When we forget the poor and the needy, when we get all caught up in worldly desires and "things" we lose the hunger we have as God's creation for His presence, His voice and light.

John 5:1-23  – Jesus is in Jerusalem for a festival. Sick people crowd a place by the “sheep Gate” where there is a pool (Beth-zatha). There was a belief among the Jews that “at intervals” [not specified], an angel would come down and stir the waters and that “the first person to enter the water” after the waters were moved would be cured of whatever ailment he had.  Jesus cures a man who had been ill for 38 year and was too infirm to get into the pool himself before others crowded him out.  Jesus asks him if he wants to be made well and of course he does. Jesus tells him to pick up his mat and walk and he does.

Unfortunately, it is the Sabbath, and people accuse the man of violating it by carrying his mat, and Jesus too will be accused of breaking the Sabbath by healing the man.  It is because of Sabbath “violations” like this that the officials want to persecute Jesus. Jesus tells them that his “Father” works like this on the Sabbath, so why not him.  Officials are furious not only because he healed the man but also because he called God his Father. (5:18). A note explains that while there was a “rest” on the seventh day from God’s work in creating, his work as “governor” or ruler never ceases; Jesus claims the what he does and what the Father does are one.

Jesus makes a very long response to the accusations made against him, some of which we read of today; most of Jesus’ response is in tomorrow’s reading. He says, “the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees the Father doing: and whatever the Father does the Son does too . . . and he [the Father] will show him even greater things than these, works that will astonish you. Thus, as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so the Son gives life to anyone he chooses; for the Father judges no one; he has entrusted all judgment to the Son” (5:19-22).

John’s gospel focuses a lot of attention on the reasons why Jesus ministry was so offensive to “the Jews,” as John always refers to them: 1) the liberties Jesus took with the letter of the Law and 2) later, after his resurrection, Johannine claims about Jesus’ oneness with God. For John, the Father and Jesus are one in being.  To know Jesus is to know the Father.  To refuse to accept Christ is to refuse to acknowledge God. 

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