Reflection on John 5.17-30 (Lent)

Jesus said to the Jews: I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me.

As we journey through the world, as the days of our earthly lives go by, we develop an increasingly intense sense of entitlement. As we journey from childhood to adulthood we are encouraged to develop a sense of self-dependence. Our parents will encourage us to ‘stand up for ourselves’. Our teachers will encourage us to make judgements and decisions based upon our own knowledge and reasoning. As we enter the world of work, and as we climb the ladder of increased responsibility, we will be expected to use our imaginations, our initiative, to bring ideas and schemes to fruition. As we develop this sense of self-reliance and self-confidence we often find ourselves making judgements and decisions based on principles that ignore the needs of others. We find ourselves valuing our judgements before those who know so much more than us. Any innate sense of humility is sacrificed on the altar of self-glorification. As we turn into independent and self-reliant individuals we progressively turn our backs on God.

Today’s reading ends with a clear statement that even Jesus knew that his will was insufficient, all he said and did was done according to the will of his, and our, heavenly Father. We often see Jesus as being in control of the situations created by a flawed religious hierarchy. Jesus’ position, whilst contradicting the self-importance of the Pharisees and the scribes, is always showing us the right path to tread. But, despite the rectitude of Jesus’ words and actions, they are always based in those of God. 

We lay great store by our independence, our right to stand alone. But, that position of isolation distances us from God, it makes us vulnerable to the machinations of the devil. As we journey through Lent we should never forget the way in which it started, with the account of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, and Jesus’ strength in setting aside his own will in order that he might remain true to God.

Let us pray that we might be given the strength to set self to one side in order that we might come before our heavenly Father in all humility and submit to his will. Let us pray that we might stand firm in the faith which demands self-sacrifice and self-abasement in order that we might finally be judged worthy of an eternal place in God’s nearer presence.