by Erik Ritland
"If we listen to Him – more than an intellectual assent, this means actually acting on the teachings that He has laid before us, living in the Kingdom He has ushered in – we will ultimately pass from death to life."
Fully Alive’s Lenten Scriptural Commentary helps Christians get more out of Lent by taking God’s word seriously.
Mostly avoiding personal stories and anecdotes, our commentary dives deeply into the scripture readings for each day and applies them to the broader context of Lent. We use the daily Mass readings from the Catholic lectionary.
If possible, read each passage slowly, taking in each word. If you find that you’ve hurried through a reading, read it over a few more times. Let the words reverberate in your heart. After you’ve let it sink in, read our Lenten Scriptural Commentary.
Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent
In today’s readings, Isaiah gives a vision of God’s renewal of the earth in Christ, and Jesus gives an extended, evocative discourse on salvation.
Readings: Is 49:8-15/Jn 5:17-30
Click here to read the complete text from the USCCB website
Thus says the LORD:
In a time of favor I answer you,
on the day of salvation I help you;
and I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the people,
To restore the land
and allot the desolate heritages,
Saying to the prisoners: Come out!
To those in darkness: Show yourselves!
Along the ways they shall find pasture,
on every bare height shall their pastures be.
They shall not hunger or thirst,
nor shall the scorching wind or the sun strike them;
For he who pities them leads them
and guides them beside springs of water.
I will cut a road through all my mountains,
and make my highways level.
(cf. Is 49: 8-15)
The promise of new life and fulfillment of God’s plan is a common theme in the Old Testament prophets, especially Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. This reading is a particularly beautiful passage from late in the book of Isaiah, in which the prophet relates God’s message that He has not abandoned His people, that indeed He will “lead them and guide them beside springs of water.”
The final portion is especially meaningful:
But Zion said, "The LORD has forsaken me;
my Lord has forgotten me."
Can a mother forget her infant,
be without tenderness for the child of her womb?
Even should she forget,
I will never forget you.
(Is 49: 14-15)
This was a message to the Israelites who were reeling from the destitution wrought by the Babylonian captivity, but it is equally applicable to us today, equally important for us to remember. God is near us, God is with us. Even when things are difficult – even especially when things are difficult – God is there with the tenderness of a mother for her infant, to help us and guide us.
Be sure not to reject this offer from the living God.
Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word
and believes in the one who sent me
has eternal life and will not come to condemnation,
but has passed from death to life.
Amen, amen, I say to you, the hour is coming and is now here
when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God,
and those who hear will live.
(cf. Jn 5: 17-30)
The context of this passage, as the entire reading shows, is the judgment at the end of the world. A few verses later Jesus says, “Do not be amazed at this, because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and will come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life.” There is obviously an eternal dimension to Jesus’ life and teaching.
If we listen to Him – more than an intellectual assent, this means actually acting on the teachings that He has laid before us, living in the Kingdom He has ushered in – we will ultimately pass from death to life in the end.
As importantly, when we live in His Kingdom on earth today, we pass from death to life in the here and now. Every day is a conversion, every day is a passing from death to life, from our old, sinful ways to new, better ways of living for God.
When we live our lives each day in accordance with what the living God desires for us, we pass from death to life.
Erik Ritland is a writer and musician. The founder of Fully Alive Christian Media, he also created The Minnesota Sport Ramble and is a writer and copy editor for Music in Minnesota. He was Lead Staff Writer for Minnesota culture blogs Curious North and Hometown Hustle. Reach him via email.
Erik Ritland received his MA in Theology in 2017. He's the founder and content manager of Fully Alive Christian Media and Rambling On, copy editor and writer for Music in Minnesota, and an acclaimed songwriter.