I write this Lenten reflection from India, where I am meeting with a group from among the best of Indian theologians. I am consulting with them educational strategies to raise the next generation of world theologians to face the complexity of problems the two-thirds world is facing today. There has been so much oppression of “the poor, the widow and the orphan” in this ancient land. More than 75 % of the people are told that they are born to be enslaved. They are the low castes and the outcasts. They live and die in poverty and slavery.
The Lenten readings from the Bible- the Prophet Jeremiah, chapter 3, and the Gospel of John, chapter 5 deals squarely with this complex world situation. The prophet Jeremiah pronounces the word of God to a society which oppressed the poor and the marginalized people. God had saved and married a group of people, which he metaphorically describes as “God’s bride.” Yet, this bride forsook Him and began fooling with demeaning religions and ideologies. This had social, economic, and political consequences. The poor became poorer. Increasing number of people were enslaved. This also had environmental consequences. The “land became defiled.” (Jeremiah 3: 9)
In the John 5, Jesus encounters a crippled man during the Feast of Passover. It was a time which was supposed to remind people of God’s healing and salvation. Yet, Jesus encountered the consequences of precisely the things Jeremiah was talking about- suffering and disease, which the poor and the marginalized face. The crippled man was a paradigm of a socially, economically, and spiritually sick society. Jesus does the most powerful thing during Jeremiah’s days, during our days, during any days needs. He says, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.”
This is the power of Jesus’ healing that the society in India, and all over the world needs today. May God enable us to pronounce Jesus’ healing and resurrection words of power to a hurting world.
Rev. Dr. R. Boaz Johnson, Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies