Sometimes you have to wonder why we so easily miss it. You know, the obvious stuff that, once we see it, we wonder how we missed it in the first place! That’s why I love puzzles like “where’s Waldo” because once you see him, you can’t “unsee” him. My girls like those puzzles where you are suppose to find the hidden pictures in a larger picture, but invariably I hear this little voice beside me say “Daddy, help me find the sock!” And, once we do, we both say “It was there all the time.”
Spiritual truths and insights can be like that. And, once you “see” these truths, it’s practically impossible to “unlearn” what you’ve come to see. This is especially true when we struggle with the wise understanding of the scriptures from the Mind of the Church through the centuries. Once I had made the decision to give the Church the benefit of the doubt when it came to the Bible, I could never go back to trusting this or that fad understanding that might be popular today. You just can’t “unlearn” a truth the Holy Spirit has given you the grace to embrace!
Look at our Gospel Lesson today in Mark 9:10-15 for a great example of this wisdom:
At that time, the disciples kept the word of Jesus to themselves, questioning what the rising from the dead meant. And they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” And he said to them, “Elijah does come first to restore all things; and how is it written of the Son of man, that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt? But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.” And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd about them, and scribes arguing with them. And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed, and ran up to him and greeted him.
Just like in our day, the disciples of Jesus wanted to know about the first coming of the Messiah like we are constantly bombarded about questions about the second coming of Jesus. And the Lord had an answer for them that asked them to shift their thinking away from the sensational to the wisdom of a sober and deeper understanding of the scriptures and the Faith. Jesus had just told them about the resurrection of the Messiah after His crucifixion, and the disciples wondered about the scripture that says that Elijah, the prophet, would return to set all things right to prepare for the coming of the Messiah, and the Lord gives them the insight that they will never be able to “unlearn” when He tells them that Elijah had come in the person of John the Baptist, who had prepared the people for the coming of Christ through faithful preaching of repentance and baptism, and the leaders of the day could not see this, and so they missed the Messiah standing right in front of them! (see Matthew 17:11-13)
But that’s what happens when you don’t have the wisdom of the Church to help you see the sober and deeper insight into the scriptures. And that’s why we have thousands and thousands of different groups all claiming to understand the scripture and all coming up with competing understandings of the message of the Faith and reducing the Faith to the ones who can afford slick marketing to get their message out. But, try as they may, the smaller messages of less-than-full understandings always seem to be unsatisfying to spiritually hungry hearts and we just keep seeking until we find that “treasure hidden in the field.” And, when we’re willing to pay all that we have to buy the field, then we are ready to possess the treasure which is the Church, the Body of Christ.
Today, as we continue to prepare ourselves for the celebration of the First Coming of Christ and live prepared lives awaiting His sure Second Coming, let us avoid the distractions of clouded and immature understandings of this Timeless Faith for the fullness of the wisdom of the Christian Faith found in the consistent Church of our Lord Jesus. Only then will we “see” the true meaning of a Baby born of a Virgin in a cave for us all. Only then will we be Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. Last Sunday’s Faith Encouraged LIVE program dealt with this subject in a powerful way as my special guest, Fr. Panayiotis Papageorgiou of Holy Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church in Marietta, helped us appreciate the dangers of getting the identity of Jesus wrong. Listen and share this with your friends and family on AncientFaith.com.