The word of the day is “deliverer.” Today in our reading of Exodus 2:11-22, we find that Moses has grown up. Leaving the palace, he tried to join himself to his own people. The Orthodox Study Bible comments that “He went out among His brethren because he refused to be the son of Pharoah’s daughter (Hebrews 11:24-26) (OSB fn. 2:11). The Orthodox Study Bible adds that “Moses was forty years old at the time, and he knew he was Israel’s deliverer. Thus. He defended an Israelite and killed the Egyptian.” He supposed that the Israelites would understand his calling from God, but they did not” (OSB fn. 2:11).
Moses: as Deliverer
Now, if Moses believed he was the Hebrew’s deliverer, then it seems that he carried out that role in the wrong way. At any rate, his impulsive action turned out badly. Moses acted as his people’s rescuer before the Lord called him out of the Burning Bush. Thus, he was a self-appointed savior. Moreover, his first act of deliverance was to kill an Egyptian as if killing was the way to save his people.
In contrast, today, we note that the Lord took an entirely different course of action as God’s anointed Messiah. The Triodian recalls, “He who is rich made Himself lowly for our sakes: rising from Supper, He took a towel and girded Himself, and bowing down washing the feet of the disciples and the traitor” (Mother-Mary 1994, 544). The Lord not only humbled Himself, but He gave His life for us. Moreover, He instituted the Eucharist in which He gives His very self to us. Thus the Triodion says, “Christ is our great and honored Passover, eaten as bread and slain as a Lamb. He has been offered as a sacrifice for us, and mystically, we all receive with reverence His Body and His Blood (Mother-Mary 1994, 546).
Hence our reading compared with the Triodion presents two different ways of being the Messiah or deliverer of the people: the way of Moses who killed His enemy and the way of Jesus Christ who prayed that the Lord would forgive those who crucified him.
The Way of the Repentant Harlot or the Greedy Judas
But there is a further contrast. The Bridegroom services of this Holy Week present two manners of responding to the self-giving way of Jesus. The first is the way of the “harlot,” who in repentance washed the Lord’s feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. The second is the way of Judas, who with greed betrayed the Lord for money. The sinful woman saw Jesus through her tears of remorse. She looked to Him as a deliverer who would ransom her from her sinfulness (NKJV Luke 7:38). The second, the betrayer, viewed Jesus through the eyes of avarice. He saw Jesus as a means of earthly gain (John 12:6).
Today’s Matins service summarizes the contrast. The “sinful woman” spread out her hair to receive forgiveness. The betrayer spread out his hands to gain silver (Mother-Mary 1994, 540). The harlot received the grace of the Lord because of her repentance. Judas rejected that grace because of his greed. Therefore, she was freed of her sin. But he was enslaved to his passions.
Our study puts a choice before us today. What kind of deliverer do we seek who will conquer the foes and forces that keep us from realizing our hopes in life? Will we choose a deliverer who uses violence to destroy those who keep us from fulfilling our dreams? Will it be the deliverer who obtains our forgiveness from the bonds of sin that hold us captive by self-giving love? Or will it be the one who “delivers” the earthly wealth and power that we seek?
Mother-Mary, Archimandrite Kallistos Ware. 1994. The Lenten Triodion. South Canaan, Pennsylvania St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press