The Wonder of the Prophet Ezekiel, God’s Kingdom, and What “Fulfilling the Law and the Prophets” Looks Like (Lenten Scriptural Commentary #28)
by Erik Ritland
"The life of an everyday Christian won’t always be rainbows and sunshine, but the sweetness and light that Ezekiel describes will always undergird it, will permeate it. It is the foundation of people, churches, and societies that live in the Kingdom that Christ inaugurated."
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.
Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent
The prophet Ezekiel tells of a stunning vision, and Jesus scandalizes religious authorities by healing on the Sabbath.
Readings: Ez 47:1-9, 12/Jn 5:1-16
Click here to read the complete text from the USCCB website
"This water flows into the eastern district down upon the Arabah,
and empties into the sea, the salt waters, which it makes fresh.
Wherever the river flows,
every sort of living creature that can multiply shall live,
and there shall be abundant fish,
for wherever this water comes the sea shall be made fresh.
Along both banks of the river, fruit trees of every kind shall grow;
their leaves shall not fade, nor their fruit fail.
Every month they shall bear fresh fruit,
for they shall be watered by the flow from the sanctuary.
Their fruit shall serve for food, and their leaves for medicine."
(cf Ez 47: 1-9)
Ezekiel might be my favorite prophet. The visions in his book are so poetic, so evocative, so strange.
His writings can easily go over the heads of most of us, but reading it along with a good study Bible clears up most confusion. I suggest the Didache Bible for basic understanding and the Navarre Bible for more intense study.
This reading, though, is pretty clear: it is a prophecy of what the world will look like in God’s coming Kingdom, which is inaugurated by Christ.
Like many poetic writings of the Old Testament, it states the ideal in an exaggerated way. The life of an everyday Christian won’t always be rainbows and sunshine, but the sweetness and light that it describes will always undergird it, will permeate it. It is the foundation of people, churches, and societies that live in the Kingdom that Christ inaugurated.
When Jesus saw him lying there
and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him,
"Do you want to be well?"
The sick man answered him,
"Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool
when the water is stirred up;
while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me."
Jesus said to him, "Rise, take up your mat, and walk."
Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked.
(cf. Jn 5: 1-16)
Compassion is at the heart of Jesus’ Kingdom program.
It’s easy to understand why the Pharisees were angry that Jesus’ did this healing on the Sabbath. God gave the Jewish people the Sabbath, and all their laws, to help them live in the way that He intended. Some of them seem antiquated today – although it’s good to remember that assuming the totality of our value systems on the past is the height of being sophomoric – but since they were from God, it made sense for the Jewish leaders to take them very seriously.
What they didn’t understand is that Jesus was not disregarding the Jewish law but fulfilling it, bringing it to its deepest meaning. God gave humanity the Sabbath as an act of compassion, and as such, being compassionate on the Sabbath is an acting out of that law in the deepest sense, not a disrespectful breaking of it.
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.
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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.