Christ is risen!
Outrageous! Did you hear what he just said? Unbelievable! Completely out of bounds, provocative, and meant to offend. There is simply no justification for such rhetoric!
Unless, of course, it’s true.
They say that truth is always a defense against the charge of slander! With our “eternally offended” society of “hate” speech and an ever growing list of “unacceptable” words; it seems our sensitivity level is off the scales nowadays. Frankly, I miss the First Amendment!
Where is all this coming from? Well, our Lord Jesus makes a pretty inflammatory comment in today’s Gospel Lesson. In fact, His statement is so completely outrageous that, unless it’s true, the outright blasphemy explains why they immediately took up stones to execute Him right then and there.
Look at John 8:51-59:
The Lord said to the Jews who came to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, if any one keeps my word, he will never see death.” The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died, as did the prophets; and you say, ‘If any one keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you claim to be?” Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing; it is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say that he is your God. But you have not known him; I know him. If I said, I do not know him, I should be a liar like you; but I do know him and I keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day; and he saw it and was glad.” The Jews then said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they took up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple.
The Lord is going to provide these religious leaders one, final, chance to be cured of their spiritual blindness, and He was going to use the strongest dose of “medicine” short of actually calling fire down from heaven. His statement was deliberate. It was calculated. And it created exactly the stir He meant for it to create. No ambiguity here. No parables. No more trying to gently lead them to the clear truth. Nope, this was an “in your face” “no holds barred” clear declaration of the basic reality to these religious leaders in a loving hope that this, final, clear statement would be enough to wake them up from the dead end path they were on.
You see, the Lord made two claims that meant He was God in the flesh. First, He claimed that the father of the Jewish nation, Abraham, actually rejoiced to see the day when Jesus would come to his people and redeem them. This claim meant that what Abraham heard from God all those centuries ago was fulfilled in the Lord Jesus. In other words, Jesus was saying He was greater than Abraham. Pretty outrageous claim on it’s own, but the Lord doesn’t stop there.
No, He draws in the second great figure in Jewish history. The Lord not only directly invokes Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation; He then goes on to use the same words God used to Moses, the great liberator of the Jewish people. And not just any words. No, these words are going to be the very words God used to Moses when God called Moses to go and liberate His people from Egypt! In Exodus 3:13-15, Moses asks God to tell him what His Name is and God said “I AM WHO I AM” and “tell them “I AM” sent me to you!
In other words, our Lord Jesus states clearly to these religious leaders the uncomfortable and disturbing truth that will forever upset the status quo. And it certainly did! God has come among His people as one of them, and the sickness of their souls blinded them to His true identity.
Today, what illness of your soul blinds you to the Lord’s presence in your world? What barriers do you have in your own heart and life that keep you from embracing the reality that God has loved you so much that He has taken on flesh, just like your flesh, and has done all you will ever need to heal you so completely that you will enjoy eternity in His presence? All the faith. All the practices, the liturgies, the icons, the candles, the hymns, the chanting, the architecture, the writings, the Holy Scriptures, the lives of the saints, all of this is designed by a loving God to acclimate you to His true identity and His everlasting presence. And all you are called to do is to exercise your will to embrace all these spiritual tools to shape your everyday life into a life that is already enjoying His Presence, right now. Why that’s what it means to be Orthodox on Purpose!
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