The great American author Lewis B. Smedes once said “Seeing reality for what it is is what we call discernment. The work of discernment is very hard.” And the Orthodox Fathers would agree. In fact, it is the gift of discernment that we are constantly called to develop and embrace in the writings of the Orthodox Fathers. Being able to tell reality from delusion isn’t nearly as easy as it sounds!
In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that because we live in a world gripped by delusion and falsehood, knowing the truth is a rare commodity that should never be taken for granted!
Look at our lesson today in John 10:17-28:
The Lord said to the Jews who came to him, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from my Father.”
There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. Many of them said, “He has a demon, and he is mad; why listen to him?” Others said, “These are not the sayings of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”
It was the feast of the Dedication at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered round him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life.”
The plain talk of Jesus disrupted and upset the leaders around Jesus. Of course, that’s why He spoke the way He spoke: to provoke the conflict that would bring these men to their senses, if only they were willing. And, it seems that some of this plain talk is stirring up some of these leaders to ask the million dollar question: “Are you the Messiah?”
Jesus begins His plain talk by showing these men His purpose, to lay down His life AND to take it up again for us all. This revelation causes a division in these hearers. By the way, this message always does cause division. That’s one of the byproducts of the Lord’s ministry; it leaves no ambiguity between those who embrace Him and those who reject Him. That’s why it will be only a sorting into those two groups that will make up the Last Judgement.
Some immediately reject the Lord by saying He is possessed. But others respond that someone demon possessed couldn’t do the miracles Jesus did. All of this left the whole group wondering one question and finally their frustration could take no more. They plainly asked Jesus if He was the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Christ.
And look how Jesus answers. Jesus says that He has answered that question in His works, in His compassion, in His ministry, but they refused to believe. They simply couldn’t discern the answer to their question staring them right in the face. But that’s the power of discernment. One who is discerning sees reality as it is and escapes the delusion of arrogance and pride and fear. All those fallen responses always cloud the issue at hand. And the leaders of the Lord’s day were gripped by this lack of discernment. Much like we are today. We fail to discern the Lord’s presence in our lives; we fail to see Him for Who He is, all too often because our sight is clouded by fear, and pride, and self centeredness.
Today, do you want to be able to discern Who the Lord is in your life? The path will be through a willingness to obey His call to prayer, discipline, faithfulness, and love. Only then can we ever be Orthodox on Purpose.