Fifth Sunday in Lent

Author: The Revd Dr Peter Toon


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.

Collect Commentary

The Church has arrived in her Christian Year at the point when she is only 14 days from Easter. In the Jewish Year there is 14 days of preparation before the Passover when on the 14th Day of Abib the Passover Lamb was slain. So this Sunday is called Passion Sunday as the suffering and death of Jesus as the Lamb of God is much in view - see the Epistle, Hebrews 9, which makes mention of the shedding of Christ's blood.

Human kings that faithfully do their duty take care of the governing of their people according to righteousness and the preserving of their subjects in peace. The King of kings, Almighty God, the Omnipotent One, also takes care of his people and preserves them unto everlasting peace. And he does so in their total being, for the Christian hope is not merely of the immortality of the soul but also the resurrection of the body to life everlasting in the courts of heaven. The reason he cares for the whole person, soul and body, is because of "thy great goodness".

As the worst that the world can do to the Son of God incarnate - reject and crucify him - is to be the theme of some of the Church's reading and meditation until Good Friday, it is good and right that on this day the Church asks her King in his mercy and grace, and by his great goodness, to hear her prayer and to govern and preserve his Church in this particular time. In this part of the Christian Year God's people especially need to know that, despite all the evidence to the contrary in a world of sin, the sin that caused the substitutionary and expiatory death of Jesus, God is still not only the LORD but the bountifully good Lord.

Further, as the Gospel declares, Jesus as the Son of God, existed as the only-begotten Son of the Father before he took flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. "Before Abraham was, I am," said Jesus. Therefore, as they approach Holy Week Christians have the assurance that he who dies for their sins and rises from the dead for their justification is none other than the pre-existent Son of God in human nature, flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone.

In 1689, in the proposed revision of The Book of Common Prayer, it was decided to replace the present Collect with another written by the Bishop of Chichester and focused on the Passion. Though this revision scheme failed, the Collect is worth remembering and praying for it does fit neatly into the theme of the latter part of Lent, as the Church moves quickly to Holy Week.

"O Almighty God, who hast sent thy Son Jesus Christ to be an High Priest of good things to come, and by his own blood to enter in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us; mercifully look upon thy people, that by the same blood of our Saviour, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to thee, our consciences may be purged from dead works, to serve thee, the living God, that we may receive the promise of eternal inheritance; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."


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.


Gospel St John 8: 46-59

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.