By Christopher Wells
Again, Scripture echoes from “old” to “new” and back again. We discover that Jesus’ familiar cry of dereliction on the cross comes in the words of Psalm 22 (we may recognize other parts of this psalm as read in Lenten services of the stations of the cross). As ever, the prayer opens out to the universalizing vocation of Jacob/Israel, not least as we Gentiles gratefully join the chorus: “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall bow before him” (v. 26)—an extraordinary prophecy of missionary success, especially fit for meditation in the season of Epiphany. Imagine the people of God stretched out across the earth, incorporating every nation and people. This is the Church, the reconciled community of Jew and Gentile (see Ephesians 2; Roman 9-11), the communion of the whole world.
Jesus’ in-your-face polemic against the religious authorities of his day gathers prophetic steam in this light. Do what they teach you and follow it, but do not do as they do (Mt. 23:3), for Jesus came not to abolish but to fulfill the law. In this way he calls “Jerusalem” back to her roots, in an apocalyptic anticipation of the end, when the figures of old will find their fulfillment in the words of Psalm 118, adopted as the Benedictus of the mass: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (23:39).
Speaking of our sojourning Israelites, St. Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 10: “they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ,” in a boldly christological rendering of Exodus 17:6. What does this mean? That Jesus Christ comprehends history, as Word of God. All the rest is commentary.
Lord Jesus, prepare us for your return, and make us capable of caring for the world, as members of your universal family. Amen.