|MAY 2005||DEVOTIONAL MESSAGE||
The cited scripture portion refers to a small group of gentile Greeks who sought to see Jesus, the king of kings. Bonhoeffer, a famous German Theologian had told about Jesus that, 'He had come to this world to die'. There was only one supreme mission for Jesus Christ in this world. That message of Christ was definitely his death. In the third chapter of Gospel according to St. John, we read that Nicodemus, a ruler and a scholar of the Jews, came to Jesus by night to interview Him concerning the great mysteries of the Gospel and enquired: what is His message and what is His role in the Salvation plan of God. Jesus explained him about the great design of his own coming into the world, alluding to Old Testament Scripture words; 'And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up' [O.T. Scripture Ref: Numbers 21:8]. The brazen serpent was lifted up by Moses; so was Christ lifted up upon the cross in His crucifixion. He was exalted and glorified in the midst of the humiliation and rejection that He suffered. Jesus himself spoke of crucifixion as glorification.
If we look through the life of Jesus in the depth of it's minuteness, we can observe the truth that His life had a well regulated composition. The incarnation had happened in the fullness of time as per the perfect plan of God. During the end of His public mission, the Passover feast and its arrangements were splendid and well sequenced. Further to this, His passion, trial, crucifixion, resurrection and all events were well synchronized and in a good order.
The story in this chapter is well balanced by giving an account of the events in the life of Jesus in a well-knitted sequence. Jesus took with Him Peter, James and John to the top of a high mountain apart and in His pomp and glory He was transfigured before them. Moses and Elias appeared to them and started conversing with Jesus. Those were the moments of great pleasure and satisfaction for those accompanied disciples as they took in the sight of Christ’s glory. Further in words 32 Jesus told; "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself." The necessity of His death is here brightly expressed and crucifixion becomes the supreme message of Christ to draw all the men to Him. Jesus had totally surrendered to the plan and will of His father.
Though Jesus reached the house of Lazarus only after four days of his death, he talked of it; 'Our friend Lazarus is sleeping, but I will awaken him out of sleep'. But this delay of Jesus was for the glory of God and for the manifestation of God’s glorious power. Jesus called the death of a believer as a sleep. This is what Church teaches us about death. Lazarus was to be raised again from this sleep. Only those who believe that there is a morning of the next day, can think of sleeping. The death of a faithful is only a departure from this world. The hope of Christian faith is through death.
Again, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, about two miles outside the city of Jerusalem, to the house of His friends. He lodged there with his friend Lazarus, whom he had lately raised from the dead. They made a supper for him . Crowds of the Jews from Jerusalem rushed to Bethany, not only to see Jesus but also to see the arisen Lazarus. Mary did him honour, by anointing his feet with a pound of costly ointment of spikenard and dried His feet with her hair. Though Judas did not favour that act of Mary’s compliment, Jesus justified Mary considering the act as that she reserved this for the day of His burial. Though it was a celebration of expressing their gratitude to Jesus, this visit of Jesus to Bethany turned out to be a farewell visit; Jesus came to take leave of them, and to give them words of comfort against the day of trial and crucifixion that was fast approaching. Jesus who came to this world to die had chosen this death-house of his friend Lazarus to teach them about the depth and sharpness of death. Jesus had spoken openly to His disciples, saying, ‘I am going to die, be buried, and rise again after three days.’ Lord Jesus plainly proclaims here of His death. Jesus gave His final public teaching here to everyone in - Jews and Greeks alike.
Before concluding His public mission in this world, Jesus wanted to know how the people identified Him. When Jesus reached along with His disciples in the village of Caesarea Philippi, He questioned His disciples, asking them, "Who do people say that I am?" Caesarea Philippi was considered to be a centre of all kind of evils. The disciples told Him that some people see Him as John the Baptist, some as Elijah and some others as a new prophet. These vivid and strange answers might have definitely troubled Jesus' soul. Unsatisfied by these answers, Jesus continued by questioning them, "But who do you say that I am?" Jesus wanted to see whether his disciples themselves could identify Him truly. Peter answered and said to Him, "You are the Christ, son of the Most High God". Jesus then looked towards Jerusalem and left that place. It was a journey from the city of evils to the city of holiness for the consummation of His glorification. Suffering and rejection sum up the whole cross of Jesus.
When Jesus found that his own people, his own relatives and his own villagers could not clearly involve Him or contemplate His true identity, He might have felt deeply concerned about it. This rejection might have been more painful than the crucifixion. Here we see there is a distinction between suffering and rejection. When our heart felt people reject us, isolate us or oppose us, we feel our heart broken. Our age in which we are living is an age of isolation. Though we are in a crowd, we feel isolated due to the dearth of love. Every man think only of himself or herself. We have many casual friends: but do we have real friends? Do we have anybody to whom we can open our mind? Do we have few with us to pray together in truth and spirit? This isolation causes a big loss in our life. Rejection is part of crucifixion. In spite of all this feeling of isolation and rejection we can see somebody who is very near to us. We can see somebody to whom we can share everything. That is Jesus. Yes, Jesus is our only unchanging friend. We can fully open our mind to Him, we can fully trust him, we can always rely upon him. Normally we choose our friends only from a group of good ones, but Jesus is not only looking for good but he is the friend of sinners also. Love of Jesus is beyond any condition. God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. We cannot count the depth or breadth of the love of our Lord.
There is a story of a man named Jim. He was a man very much isolated. He did not have any friends. He went alone to the Church. Nobody was there to accompany him. Every day noontime he goes to church regularly. He did not know how to pray. He prayed only one sentence; 'Lord, Jim is here.' Once Jim became sick and admitted to the hospital. He did not have any friends or relatives to visit him on his sick bed. One day noontime Jim heard a mild voice; 'Jim, I am here'. He could not see anybody nearby. As it was the same time he regularly went to the Church and said his only prayer; 'Lord, I am here’, he could recognize the voice and knew that it was the revisit of his Lord to whom he talked daily. He pulled out a chair near him. Every body thought he is mad and asked him, 'who is your visitor?' He knew very well that it is Jesus. Jesus is the refuge to all those who are destitute and isolated. This teaches us that privacy much befriends our communion with God.
Who were these Greeks in this referred scripture portion? These Greeks were probably Gentiles who migrated from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter or they may be the Greek speaking Jews. They were the Greeks came to Jerusalem for worshiping at the festival. This is significant because we see the Gentiles, rather than Jews coming to see Jesus. They asked Andrews and Philip: Masters, we are interested to see Jesus. From the mode of salutation we can make out that they were scholars and distinguished. Greeks were normally considered as scholars. Fruitfulness of their education and intelligence were revealed through the wisdom and understanding they exposed to seek for the Lord. The honour given by these Greeks by enquiring after Him with a longing desire to see Jesus, signified the exaltation and glorification of Christ as the hour had come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
We observe a great difference in these Greek visitors from the Jews of Jesus' own country. Though Jesus was very near to them, the Jews could not contemplate who the Jesus is. 'He came unto his own, and his own received him not.' [John 1:11] The people of Israel were peculiarly His own above all people; of them he came, among them he lived, and to them he was first sent. The gentile Greeks were seeking for the same Jesus whom Jews have rejected.
By the honour given by heathens to Christ, the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled. 'And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.' [Isaiah 11:10] The key to this prophecy speaks of Christ as the root of Jesse, or a branch out of his roots and accession of the Gentiles to His Kingdom of God is assured through son-ship. When Jesus was crucified, He was lifted up from the earth, as an ensign of beacon; he might draw the eyes and the hearts of all men unto him. The son-ship is the relation, which is inherited through faith. The mission of the believers is to make the way for all for the son-ship of God. The one who got the power is distributing the power to inherit the son-ship. Beyond any caste or creed, it is the great offer of God to come and acquire the son-ship. This is a great position and honour for which all are worthy and deserved. That is the great intention and plan of God.
One of the most prominent of the mental characteristics the ancient Greeks valued was their cleverness and national spirit. Other significant mental characteristics that the Greeks valued are faithfulness and loyalty. They were very dominant and authoritative in nature. They considered their culture and philosophies as great and distinguished. They were very proud of their intellectual might and never bothered to comprehend or realize any other nation or any other caste. They had little interest in the afterlife and most of the ancient Greeks believed that light and darkness are equal powers which try to compete with one another. Their myths and religion reflected these traits.
The viewpoints of ancient Jews were very much contrary to these. Jesus taught: 'Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes.' [St. John 12:35] While Greeks gave importance to rational thinking, Jews gave importance for mystical thinking. Jews considered body, mind and soul are equally important in the life of human. The Sadducees and the Greek equally agreed in the theory that life ends with death and there is nothing beyond death. Their doctrines never opened any topic for the life after death. Jesus said that only those who prepare for the death have the chance for eternal life. Teachings of Jesus were revolutionary and opposing to the faith and doctrines they had for many years. Those who believe in life after death and faith in resurrection can have a hopeful and painless life in this world.
Jesus taught that the life becomes fruitful through the physical death. "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." [John 12:24] Jesus points here a sacramental negation. Whatever we loose in this world for the sake of our faith in Lord Jesus Christ is being invested for the eternal life. The eternal life is promised for those who believe in the son of God and inherit the son-ship in this world. Those who dedicate their life as a sweet savour to Lord, only can inherit the eternal life in the coming world. The sacrament of baptism and Eucharist reveal this same essence. Both reveal our partnership with Jesus Christ. The eternal life is not started after death, but essentially it commences in this life itself. "For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God." (Colossians 3:3)
The incident of raising Lazarus was an incident laying axe to the root belief of the Greeks. This incident had opened the eyes of Greeks regarding their traditional faith prevailed for several centuries. This episode is well staged and well harmonized with exactitude of the original in the Gospel. On His arrival, the two sisters Martha and Maria lamented saying "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died." Jesus appeased them assuring them that their brother will rise again. Martha replied Him out of their general faith by saying that she know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Jesus, being the best teacher known to the world, had best made use these circumstances to teach them about the afterlife. He taught them that He himself is the resurrection and the life and he who believes in Him will live even if he dies. This everlasting declaration of Jesus had made the Greeks to seek for Him.
Today many had started seeking for Jesus. But many find difficulty to meet Jesus due to the unbelieving multitude around Him. We see in the scriptures at two places where the one who earnestly sought for Jesus found difficulty to see Jesus due to the largeness of the multitude around Him. Firstly, when Jesus lodged in a house in Capernaum, the four faithful who brought one sick of the palsy to Jesus could not reach that man to Jesus. Many were gathered together in this house so that there was no longer room, not even near the door. Secondly, Zacchaeus the chief among the publicans very much longed to see Jesus and he ran very fast through the street of Jericho and he was unable to see Jesus because of the huge crowd around Jesus. During the lunar eclipse the small moon come in between earth and sun and block the light of great sun and create small darkness for a while. If any body says 'Master, I would like to see Jesus', we should not become the stumbling block but we should be able to show Jesus to them in the true Gospel way.
The Gospel vision we received is for sharing with others as a part of our mission. As the believers of Christ, we are bound to proclaim the truth we had experienced. We should have the internal inspiration to do this. Others may not be coming to Jesus seeing the wrong ways of ours. We should exhibit our willingness to share our experiences with Jesus. The entire Church should lead the faithfuls for rejuvenation, repentance and a coming-back. All our small work for the establishment of the Kingdom of God will be counted as big in the eyes of Lord.
[Extract from Address delivered at Maramon Convention 2005 : Original in Malayalam]
Translation for LOL by: Dr. Rajan Mathew, Philadelphia, USA.
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LIGHT OF LIFE
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