Saturday in the Fourth Week of Lent

by Derek Baker

I’m sure there is a deeper message in today’s Gospel lesson, but I am distracted by all the intra-biblical debates going on.

Right off the bat, Jesus declares: “As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” Other, older translations said “belly” instead of “heart.” And the earliest traditions understood it as: “From his heart shall flow streams of living waters” — meaning Jesus’ heart, not the believer’s.

There are disputes based on the Scriptures among the festival goers about who Jesus is. He’s the prophet! No, he’s the Messiah! But he can’t be from Galilee; the Messiah has to be from Bethlehem! (Just wait until they read Luke or Matthew, right?) Nicodemus and his fellow Pharisees have a similar scriptural debate about justice and prophecy.

If John were being sly, he might be telling us that Scripture can blind us to God just as easily as it can reveal God to us. Even John seems to take issue with that other book that starts “In the beginning….” There, as the King James Version translated it, “the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” Here: “For as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”

I’d dismiss my notion that John is implying we shouldn’t get too hung up on literalism if we’re to understand who Jesus really is and what he’s really saying, except for this: That scripture Jesus quotes at the beginning of today’s lesson? No one has ever been able to find it.