The Fifth Sunday in Lent

The Jews took up stones to cast at him - tissot

The Jews took up Stones to Cast at Him, illustration for ‘The Life of Christ’, circa 1886-1896, James Tissot, Brooklyn Museum of Art

THE COLLECT

WE beseech thee, Almighty God, mercifully to look upon thy people; that by thy great goodness they may be governed and preserved evermore, both in body and soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

THE EPISTLE

Hebrews 9:11-15

CHRIST being come an High Priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands; that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves; but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh; how much more shall the blood of Christ, who, through the eternal Spirit, offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the Mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.

THE GOSPEL

St. John 8:46-end

JESUS said, Which of you convinceth me of sin? and if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? He that is of God heareth God’s words; ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God. Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, Say we not well, that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil? Jesus answered, I have not a devil; but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me. And I seek not mine own glory; there is one that seeketh and judgeth. Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death. Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil: Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death. Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself? Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing; it is my Father that honoureth me, of whom ye say, that he is your God: yet ye have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you; but I know him, and keep his saying. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it, and was glad. Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple.


The Fifth Sunday in Lent

from The Harmony of the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels.
A Devotional Exposition of the Continuous Teaching of the Church Throughout the Year, Melville Scott, Vicar of Castlechurch, Stafford,
Second Edition, Bemrose & Sons, London, 1903.

The Doctrine of the Cross

PASSION Sunday, or the Sunday of the Atonement, contains the doctrine of Christ’s sacrifice and priesthood. A Sunday of doctrine usually follows a Sunday of commemoration, as in the case of Christmas and Easter, but here precedes, there being no other Sunday available. The Church views the death of our Lord as more than an appeal to the heart and conscience, and, as being mysteriously connected with the pardon of sins, as a sacrifice.

As all sacrifices had a double object, viz., to convey the sense of pardon, and at the same time to increase men’s compunction for sin, we may consider that these two objects were present in the sacrifice of Christ. Pardon given without some method of emphasizing guilt might make men think little of sin, but this is wholly prevented by the death of the Son of God, at once our hope and our condemnation.

THE EPISTLE (HEB. ix. 11.) OUR ATONEMENT

The teachings of the Jewish Day of Atonement are most fitly appointed for our Christian Atonement Sunday. We are to learn that in every possible way the fulfilment surpasses the type by which it was prefigured.

A. A Greater High Priest.

Our High Priest is greater than the high priest of the Jews in three respects:–
(1) As conferring richer blessings.
He brings “good things to come:–i.e., the very blessings which the Jews were yet for to come. Jewish promises are Christian realities, their hopes our certainties, their future our present.

(2) As passing through a better Tabernacle.
On the Day of Atonement the Jewish high priest passed from the holy place (tabernacle) into the presence chamber of God.
At our Saviour’s death He passed through the tabernacle of His body into the presence of God, beyond the veil of flesh.
At Christ’s Ascension He passed through the tabernacle of the heavens to plead His sacrifice in the inner court beyond the veil of things visible.
Either interpretation gives excellent sense, but perhaps the latter is to be preferred as more suitable to the type of the Day of Atonement.

(3) As completing His atoning work.
He “entered in once for all,” the Jewish priest once every year. The Jewish Atonement Day was annual, our eternal, and eternally perfect, needing and allowing no repetition.

B. A More Perfect Sacrifice.

The Jewish high priest offered a life lower than his own. Christ’s was the true sacrifice, for it was the sacrifice of self, of a Will obedient unto death, “by the which Will we have been sanctified, through the offering of the body of Christ once for all” (Heb. x. 10). The essence of sacrifice is not death, but a will obedient unto death, the uttermost test. If the lower sacrifice could take away ceremonial uncleanness, how much shall be done by Christ’s sacrifice offered in perfect unity with the Spirit of God? In union with such a willing sacrifice we can rise from dead works to the living personal service of a personal God.

C. A Better Covenant.

The Jewish Day of Atonement was the corner-stone of the Jewish Covenant, for by it their state of grace was annually renewed to the people of God. Thus Christ’s atonement was the bringing in of a better covenant, and the pledge of our inheritance in the kingdoms of grace and of glory. Thus we are baptized into the covenant procured by Christ’s death, and are “baptized into His death.” Baptism is, therefore, only the entrance of the individual into the sphere of the covenant, while the covenant itself was made “once for all” by Christ’s atonement.

THE GOSPEL. (S. JOHN viii. 46.) OUR HIGH PRIEST.

From the work of Christ in the Atoning Sacrifice we pass by a most instructive transition to the doctrine of the Person of Christ as declared by Himself, and of His fitness to be our High Priest, and to “offer Himself without spot to God” in the words of the Epistle, which so obviously connect themselves with this Gospel. Our great High Priest possesses perfect fitness in the three great aspects of life as it concerns self, men, God.

A. Christ in Himself.

Christ alone could challenge all men, even His enemies, to convict Him of sin, and remain unanswered. His disciples could and have answered.
S. Peter (1 Peter ii. 22). “He did no sin.”
S. John (1 John iii. 5). “In Him is no sin.”
S. Paul (2 Cor. v. 21). “He knew no sin.” [see also Heb. iv. 15; ix. 14.]
But more striking still is our Lord’s own consciousness of perfection, and this, when we remember that to Christ we owe our deepest knowledge of human sinfulness. He condemned others, but could not condemn Himself. He taught us to pray for pardon; He did not join in the prayer.

But sin is more than the act and word, for it is the attitude of the soul towards God and man. Sin dishonours God and lives for self rather than for others. Christ alone could say, “I honour My Father,” “I seek not My own glory.” The perfect life was based on a perfect motive.

B. Christ in Relation to Men.

To men Jesus, the Christ, claims to be the source of a life which can conquer death. The attribute of life, and the power to communicate life to others, was the gift of God to Him and Him alone. In this He was above the greatest saints of old, who could deliver neither themselves nor others from death. By virtue of communion with Christ we enjoy a communion with God which death cannot touch.

C. Christ in Relation to God.

Jesus, the Christ, claims in this passage an altogether unique relation to God.

(1) Sonship.
He speaks of God as “My Father of Whom ye say that He is your God.” Christ will not join with us in saying “our Father,” but will rather say, “My Father and your Father” (S. John xx. 17), for His Sonship is not as ours derived, but inherited, not of grace, but of nature. He is the Son by right, we sons by adoption. He in Himself and we only in Him.

(2) Intimacy.
“I know Him, and if I should say I know Him not I should be a liar like unto you; but I know Him, and keep His word.” That Christ’s knowledge of the Father is full and complete is implied in the word translated “I know,” which is a different word for that translated, “ye have not known Him,” which implies growth in knowledge. Christ knows God, men learn Him; we walk by faith, Christ by sight. Even at the risk of giving still further offence, our Saviour must speak out the fact of His unique and absolute knowledge. To deny this would be to deny the truth.

(3) Something yet higher.
Abraham, the friend of God, saw the day of Christ and was glad, for Christ the Light shone before His day began on earth. His existence was not begun by birth nor measured by time, being an eternal present, knowing neither past nor future, like the life of Him Who revealed Himself to Moses as the “I am.”

Such are the qualifications of our High Priest (cf. Heb. vii. 26).
In Himself–“holy, harmless, undefiled.”
In respect of men–“separate from sinners.”
In respect of God–“made higher than the heavens,” in His unique Sonship, knowledge, and being.

THE COLLECT

Has little special fitness, as was noted in the proposed revision of 1689, when a new Collect composed with special reference to Christ as our High Priest was suggested. The change was not made, as the proposed revision fell through, but the suggestion remains as a proof of the intended unity of each Sunday’s teaching.

A certain degree of suitability may, however, be seen in the petition that God would “mercifully look upon His people through Jesus Christ their Lord.”

The Jewish people were the people of God in virtue of their annual atonement; we in virtue of the Atonement of Christ. We may, therefore, pray as such for the perfect government of God.

Psalms 47-48 & Psalm 49

Morning

Omnes gentes, plaudite

OCLAP your hands together, all ye people : O sing unto God with the voice of melody.
2. For the Lord is high, and to be feared : he is the great King upon all the earth.
3. He shall subdue the people under us : and the nations under our feet.
4. He shall choose out an heritage for us : even the worship of Jacob, whom he loved.
5. God is gone up with a merry noise : and the Lord with the sound of the trump.
6. O sing praises, sing praises unto our God : O sing praises, sing praises unto our King.
7. For God is the King of all the earth : sing ye praises with understanding.
8. God reigneth over the heathen : God sitteth upon his holy seat.
9. The princes of the people are joined unto the people of the God of Abraham: for God, which is very high exalted, doth defend the earth, as it were with a shield.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;
   As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Magnus Dominus

GREAT is the Lord, and highly to be praised : in the city of our God, even upon his holy hill.
2. The hill of Sion is a fair place, and the joy of the whole earth : upon the north-side lieth the city of the great King; God is well known in her palaces as a sure refuge.
3. For lo, the kings of the earth : are gathered, and gone by together.
4. They marvelled to see such things : they were astonished, and suddenly cast down.
5. Fear came there upon them, and sorrow : as upon a woman in her travail.
6. Thou shalt break the ships of the sea : through the east-wind.
7. Like as we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the Lord of hosts, in the city of our God : God upholdeth the same for ever.
8. We wait for thy loving-kindness, O God : in the midst of thy temple.
9. O God, according to thy Name, so is thy praise unto the world’s end : thy right hand is full of righteousness.
10. Let the mount Sion rejoice, and the daughters of Judah be glad : because of thy judgements.
11. Walk about Sion, and go round about her : and tell the towers thereof.
12. Mark well her bulwarks, set up her houses : that ye may tell them that come after.
13. For this God is our God for ever and ever : he shall be our guide unto death.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;
   As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.


Evening

 Audite haec, omnes

OHEAR ye this, all ye people : ponder it with your ears, all ye that dwell in the world;
2. High and low, rich and poor : one with another.
3. My mouth shall speak of wisdom : and my heart shall muse of understanding.
4. I will incline mine ear to the parable : and shew my dark speech upon the harp.
5. Wherefore should I fear in the days of wickedness : and when the wickedness of my heels compasseth me round about?
6. There be some that put their trust in their goods : and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches.
7. But no man may deliver his brother : nor make agreement unto God for him;
8. For it cost more to redeem their souls : so that he must let that alone for ever;
9. Yea, though he live long : and see not the grave.
10. For he seeth that wise men also die, and perish together : as well as the ignorant and foolish, and leave their riches for other.
11. And yet they think that their houses shall continue for ever : and that their dwelling-places shall endure from one generation to another; and call the lands after their own names.
12. Nevertheless, man will not abide in honour : seeing he may be compared unto the beasts that perish; this is the way of them.
13. This is their foolishness : and their posterity praise their saying.
14. They lie in the hell like sheep, death gnaweth upon them, and the righteous shall have domination over them in the morning : their beauty shall consume in the sepulchre out of their dwelling.
15. But God hath delivered my soul from the place of hell : for he shall receive me.
16. Be not thou afraid, though one be made rich : or if the glory of his house be increased;
17. For he shall carry nothing away with him when he dieth : neither shall his pomp follow him.
18. For while he lived, he counted himself an happy man : and so long as thou doest well unto thyself, men will speak good of thee.
19. He shall follow the generation of his fathers : and shall never see light.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;
   As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.