Christ is risen!
One of the oldest manuscripts we have for the earliest days of the Christian Faith outside the Gospels is the Didache or “The Teaching of the 12 Apostles.” This ancient writing dates from the First Century A.D. and begins with an intriguing phrase: “There are two ways, one of life and one of death, and there is a great difference between these two ways.”
It seems this basic wisdom of two paths; one that leads to Life, and one that leads to death, is the consistent teaching of the Christian Faith. As Jesus reminds us “I have come that you might have life.” We Christians are against every place death rears its ugly and defeated head! And that includes the current madness in society that reduces people to their faddish “identities” that seem to shift every time popular culture says something “new.”
So, why are so many still gripped by the darkness of death and fear and faithlessness?
Look at our lesson today in John 5:24-30:
The Lord said to the Jews who came to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself, and has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment. I can do nothing on my own authority; as I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of the Father who sent me.”
Our Lord Jesus consistently preaches that knowing Him, hearing Him, and following Him, leads to Life and rejecting Him leads to judgement. And here is where we see modern humanity’s problem with Jesus and His message. We don’t like to be judged.
But Christ enshrines in a consistent Christian Faith the message that His teaching leads to death’s death, and the reversal of the power of mortality to hold humanity to a hopeless existence. The very reason we Orthodox “do” Pascha the way we do with all the services, prayers, pageantry, and beauty is to reinforce this normal Christian message that Faith in Jesus destroys death. And, in fact, Jesus Himself has risen from the dead, “trampling down death by death.” And make no mistake, the universe is irrevocably changed by the Resurrection. There’s no going back!
But what is the Lord’s message to those who ignore this “path to life?” It’s judgement. The normal Christian message is if you foolishly ignore the invitation of our Loving God to embrace life; if you choose to remain gripped in the slavery of dead-end selfishness and self-centeredness, you won’t escape that reality coming to light! You will have a resurrection. Your mortality will still be defeated. You will be raised from the dead, but it will be a resurrection of the realization that you chose to live your life as if you wouldn’t be raised from the dead! No wonder, the Fathers constantly write about life outside of Christ as fantasy and delusion!
Today, what resurrection will you have? God, in His love and respect for you, gives you the power to decide which resurrection you will have – Life or Judgement! And the decision making is happening right now, today. Will you embrace the path to life, or will you make choices today that betray your loyalty merely to yourself and the path that leads to death? Being Orthodox on Purpose keeps you on the Path to Life!
P.S. Dear Lord, my choice between the path of Life and the path of Judgement is found in every decision, every priority, and every action, and thought. The seeds of my ultimate end are scattered all through my life. I confess Lord, that this reality makes my knees knock together. It is terrifying to contemplate, and that’s why I spend so much time avoiding this truth. But You have promised mercy and grace to me IF I will simply turn and face You. Your grace is promised to everyone who seeks You, and, in return, You strengthen me to keep facing You my whole life. How marvellous are Your works, O Lord? In wisdom, You have made them all! Amen!