[Diocesan Metropolitan of Madras Diocese, Malankara Orthodox Church]


All the Apostles of Jesus Christ were neither educated nor well placed. They were very ordinary people who were making unusual and extraordinary claims. Though the Jews considered Jesus as an ordinary man born as the son of Joseph and Mary, He too made extraordinary claim that He had come from Heaven. Even we Christians are making unnatural claims that we eat and drink the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ, though we are not cannibals who eat human flesh and blood. With these unnatural and extraordinary claims of Jesus, His Apostles and we Christians; the world look at us and inquire: 'Who these people are? What kind of people these are?'.

Literally, the Christian Pentecost is originally an Old Testament Jewish agricultural festival of harvest originated during Exodus when it was called the Feast of the First Fruits, celebrating and giving thanks for the "first fruits" of their harvest. The disciples of Jesus were making supernatural claims during this day of Pentecost. On the day of Pentecost, they gathered at one place in the upper room of the current St. Mark Convent where Jesus believed to have arranged His Last Supper. These early Christian Believers, who were gathered in Jerusalem for the observance of this feast, experienced the outpouring of God's Holy Spirit upon them in a miraculous way. They gathered there as per the instruction of Lord, not to leave Jerusalem till they receive strength from heaven. The Holy Spirit descended on each individual who gathered there. The Spirit came upon them in the form of cloven tongues like as of fire.

The commission of the fire is to burn and possibly to cleanse or purify. Also fire is used to melt, unite or join things. In the Old Testament we read that the Prophets and Judges received strength when the Spirit came upon them. The Spirit of God was an invisible strength bestowed on man. It was then, when the Holy Spirit came upon them and strengthened them, they could make these unusual claims though they still remained as ordinary people. On the Pentecost day, when the Holy Spirit of God strengthened them they could talk of big things about the Kingdom of Heaven. On the very same day, around three thousand people joined this Congregation of those primitive Christians.

With the descent of Holy Spirit, they received the gift of the tongue to understand and use many languages, probably the power of a positive correlation between intelligence. When they started talking in different languages, the great concourse of people in Jerusalem from all parts of the country, started wondering; 'Who these people are? With these Spirit given gift of utterance, they were able to communicate with God and with multilingual people whose communications were lost at Babel. Every human being communicate with God in broken language. The lost communication among the creation and between creation and God was restored on this day with the strength of Holy Spirit. In addition, the sacrament of reconciliation also was restored on the day of Pentecost. They all became with one accord. The restoration of the communication and reconciliation between creation and creation with God is a visible sign of the Kingdom of God.

The gift of tongue was not making some meaningless noise or any empty symbol but it was substantial and weighty sayings. They could understand the expressions and talks of each other. When St.Thomas came to India, what language he might have used? In the history we read that there were many Jews in Kerala that time, who were migrated much earlier for trading. The people of Kerala understood what St. Thomas could speak intelligibly to them irrespective of the language and that is how they believed in Jesus Christ Whom Thomas professed.

The Language of heaven is hymns or music, which elevate the soul into the heights of spirituality; in turn it is the language of love. The language of love applies to everyone and is understood by everybody. Love makes us to surrender to the will of God. There is no question of prestige for this surrender. Prestige is fulfilled by submission to the full will of God. This is the Victory through Surrender. It is a great paradox! In all past, surrender has been synonymous with defeat or fall of prestige. But when Jesus surrendered to the will of God, he became victorious. The freedom has its own limitations. Freedom is defined in the 1 & 2 Chapters of Genesis. Acquiring or needing everything is not freedom. The beautiful Garden of Eden was given to man to live happily. Freedom for human being is essentially the courage to say 'No' to certain environment and it is the real freedom to be in the sovereign will of God. Environment is circumstances or conditions that surround you except you. Son of man had all the authority of this world and the world above, but He had chosen to say 'No' to His own will, but he submitted to the will of His father.

When Jonah boarded the ship, his comrades and the Captain challenged him. They needed a confession from him and judge him out of his own mouth. They confronted Jonah and asked him; 'Who are you? Who is your God?' He could have defended himself. Being a prophet of God, without doing anything in his own case, he inquired God and surrendered to the will of God and proposed it likewise in submission to the will of God: 'Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea.' This manifested the token of his courage and exhibition of his freewill to reveal the truth.

It was with this divine courage of these ordinary people, acquired through the Holy Spirit, made them for all those unnatural and extraordinary claims. It was not the inborn courage in them, but it was the moral courage given by Jesus Christ to defend Him. They were ready to surrender for the sake of Jesus Christ. They were ready to suffer for the sake of Jesus Christ.

In Chapter 6 of the Gospel according to St. John, a brief conversation between Jesus and His disciples is recorded. After the miracle done by Jesus for feeding five thousand men and women and children, the disciples went off alone, and left Jesus among them on their side of the water. Jesus reproved them for their fondness of the miraculous bread and bade them to set their hearts upon the meat which endures to everlasting life unto the world; 'I know that you seek me, not because you saw the miracles, but because you need to eat. Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.' Further He told them; ' I am the bread of life: he that comes to me shall never hunger; and he that believes on me shall never thirst'.

To the Jews of that time, it was something surprising that someone come from heaven, which was impossible to human and scientific laws. With this, they were directly questioning Him. But He tried to convince them that this is the bread not that Moses gave them in the wilderness. Apart from the broad assertions, Jesus manifested His direct connection with His Father in Heaven. It is the bread for our spiritual nourishment that we supplicate through the Lord's Prayer. Without the Lord's sustenance we are powerless, just as a body starve of food can do nothing but languish.

When they heard this, they said it is a positive blasphemy. The bread came from heaven was as per the will of the father. There is a definite relation between the bread and the will. Even in Christian Churches, in families and everywhere it prevail that my own will be done, as it has not surrendered fully to the love that would have made the truth live in them. Truth must always surrender to love and the will of God. Son of man was confessing that He had come down not to establish His will, but to accomplish the will of His Father. Thus, the divine love of God became at one with the divine truth of the Lord through the Lord's complete surrender. This submission and humility makes us eligible as partakers for the table.

Repentance is the process of turning around. If we are submitted to our own will we are not eligible to the Kingdom of God. It is this submission, which a disciple is kept in discipline. Disciple is the one who is totally disciplined. Submission to the will of God is the discipline of the disciple. It is the prestige of Christians and it gives us a dimension of new life.

[Extract from Address delivered at Melbourne, Australia: Reported by E.S. John Australia]
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