Monthly Archives: August 2016

The Creed – Part 15D

“… And on the third day He rose again, according to the scriptures.”

At last we come to the heart of the Christian gospels, the resurrection. Basically, we know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God because of the resurrection. If Christ had not risen from the dead he would just have been one more of history’s religious teachers.
For example, Buddha was born in the 5th-6th century in what is now Nepal. After years of meditation he believed that he had achieved enlightenment. Based on this, he began to teach the path to enlightenment. He gained many followers who sought enlightenment and so Buddhism was born. However, whatever good points he had he did not rise from the dead.
It is the same for Mohammed. He was born around 570 AD and he convinced many people that he was God’s final prophet. However, once again he did not rise from the dead.
Much the same could be said of other religious founders. Whatever their virtues, they live and died as ordinary human beings. It is the resurrection that makes Jesus Christ unique.
As St. Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians (I Cor 15: 12-19):
“Now if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied.”
Incidentally, one will sometimes hear or read someone saying that the story of Christ’s resurrection is only a myth that was believed many years after the life of Jesus.
However, the letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians was written at 55 AD, within 25 years of the life of Christ, in other words, when many witnesses were still alive. This letter shows that the resurrection was believed by all the early Christians, many of whom had been witnesses to the life and death of Jesus Christ and the apostolic preaching of the resurrection.
When we read the accounts of Christ’s resurrection appearances we see that His resurrection body was similar to his earthly body, but it was changed also. He could appear and disappear at will. Closed doors were no barrier to Him. Sometimes when he appeared he was not immediately recognized, even by his closest associates. For example, in Luke 24: 13-31 we see two of Jesus disciples walking on the road to Emmaus after Christ’s death. At first, they do not recognize Him as He walked and talked with them. They only recognized Him when he ‘broke the bread.’ (This points toward the Holy Eucharist. When we receive Communion we will see Christ in the breaking of the bread). See also John 20:19 when Christ appears through closed doors.
“On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
We should remember that in addition to Christ’s resurrection there are other people in the Gospels who were returned to life. For example, the raising of the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11),
“Soon afterward he went to a city called Na’in, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. As he drew near to the gate of the city, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a large crowd from the city was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” And he came and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still.
And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up, and began to speak. And he gave him to his mother.” or the raising of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:35-42).
“While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” But ignoring what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. When they came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, he saw a tumult, and people weeping and wailing loudly. And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a tumult and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Tal’itha cu’mi”; which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” And immediately the girl got up and walked (she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement.”
Finally we have the story of the raising of Lazarus found in John 11:1-46. However, there is a major difference between the return to life of these people and Jesus’ resurrection. Lazarus, Jairus’ daughter and the son of the widow of Nain all rose to a normal, human life and all died a natural death later. When Christ rose, he rose for eternity. When we rise when Christ comes again we too will rise for eternity, never to die again.
So we see that Christ’s resurrection is the heart of our faith. Of course, we commemorate Christ’s resurrection on Pascha, but every Sunday is a commemoration of the resurrection. We can understand why St. Seraphim of Sarov greeted people through the year with the phrase “Christ is risen, my beloved.”

Fr.John

The Creed – Part 15C

“… And on the third day He rose again, according to the scriptures.”

As we have seen in the last two articles, the Old Testament is filled with prophecies that are fulfilled in Jesus Christ. The prophecies are obviously in verbal form. However, in addition to these there are actions or events in the Old Testament which point forward to Jesus Christ and other aspects of the Christian faith.
For example, Moses encounters a bush that was burning and not consumed (Exodus 3:2).
“And Moses said, “I will turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.”
The Fathers usually says that this points forward to the perpetual virginity of the Mother of God who gave birth but never ceased to be a virgin. In the story of the Exodus when the Jewish people were escaping slavery in Egypt, Moses parts the waters of the Red Sea so that the Hebrews could escape (Exodus 14:21-22).
“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.”
In other words, the Jewish people were saved by descending into the waters and coming out of them. This prefigures baptism, when we are saved by doing down into the water of the baptismal font. We remember that when the Jewish people were in the desert they were short of food so God sent them manna from heaven to earth (Exodus 16:13-15).
“In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning dew lay round about the camp. And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as hoarfrost on the ground. When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat.”
This miraculous food which nourished the Jewish people physically points forward to Holy Communion when we receive another kind of bread from heaven. In another incident in the Book of Exodus the Jews were fighting with Amalek and his soldiers. Moses was watching the battle from a hill. Whenever Moses lifted up his hands the Jews were winning against Amalek. But when he lowered his hand the forces of Amalek prevailed. Moses’ armd grew tired so two men held up his arms on each side (Exodus 17:12).
“But Moses’ hands grew weary; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat upon it, and Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; so his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.”
Moses outstretched arms which gave victory to Israel over its enemies point forward to Christ’s victory on the cross when we are saved from our enemies by Christ who stretches his arms out on the cross.
All of these examples so far have come from the Book of Exodus. This is because this book is about Israel’s escape from slavery in Egypt and this whole book points forward to our escape from the slavery of sin, death and the devil through Jesus Christ.
One final example: we remember the story of Jonah who was cast into the sea and swallowed by a great fish (Jonah 1:17, 2:1-2, 10).
And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah; and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, saying, “I called to the Lord, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and thou didst hear my voice. And the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.”
In other words, just as Jonah emerged from the fish after three days Jesus Christ came out of the depths of the earth after three days. In these last three articles we have seen how the Old Testament points forward to the New Testament in prophesies and prefiguring events. There are many more prophesies and events than those mentioned here so further study of the Old Testament with the help of a study bible can help us to understand our faith better.

Fr. John

The Creed – Part 15B

“… And on the third day He rose again, according to the scriptures.”

As mentioned previously, many prophesies of the Old Testament which Christians see as pointing toward Jesus Christ and not seen that way by the Jews. This is especially true of passages relating to the suffering of Christ and His meaning for all people.
We remember that God promised to send a Messiah, a redeemer for all human beings. However, by the time of Jesus Christ many of the Jews saw the Messiah as a political, even military, figure who would cast the Roman occupiers out of Palestine and found a Jewish kingdom there. Many people in Jerusalem thought that Jesus Christ was going to do this on Palm Sunday. As our Lord enters Jerusalem
“Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mt 21:8-9)
However, as the days passed and Jesus didn’t throw the Romans out, the crowds turned against Him.
“… Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man whom you call the King of the Jews?” And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” (Mk 15:12-13)
So Jesus Christ was not the national Messiah of the Jews, a political Messiah. As mentioned previously, Jesus saw his role of Messiah as that of the suffering servant. To see how Jesus Christ thought of his role, read chapter 53 of the Book of Isaiah in the Old Testament. Here are some quotations from this chapter:
“For thus says the Lord: “You were sold for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money. For thus says the Lord God: My people went down at the first into Egypt to sojourn there, and the Assyrian oppressed them for nothing. Now therefore what have I here, says the Lord, seeing that my people are taken away for nothing? Their rulers wail, says the Lord, and continually all the day my name is despised.” (Isaiah 53: 3-5)
“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good tidings, who publishes peace, who brings good tidings of good, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” Hark, your watchmen lift up their voice, together they sing for joy; for eye to eye they see the return of the Lord to Zion. Break forth together into singing, you waste places of Jerusalem; for the Lord has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 53: 7-9)
Beyond this, Jesus Christ thought of Himself as Messiah for all nations. In doing so, he fulfilled many predictions of the Old Testament about just such a figure.
“It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. “(Isaiah 2:2-3)
“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6)
“For I know their works and their thoughts, and I am coming to gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and shall see my glory, and I will set a sign among them. And from them I will send survivors to the nations, to Tarshish, Put, and Lud, who draw the bow, to Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands afar off, that have not heard my fame or seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the nations.” (Isaiah 66:18-19)
As we can see from these passages, Jesus Christ saw his role as fulfilling these universalist predictions, being the savior for all of humanity.
The other issue is that the Jews rejected the idea that the Messiah would suffer, although there are many Old Testament prophesies which point to it. As mentioned previously, to understand Jesus role as the suffering servant one should read Isaiah 53.
The notion of a suffering Messiah was so alien to the Jews that when Jesus Christ predicted he would be crucified this announcement went completely over the Apostles’ heads. This is why when Jesus was crucified all the disciples, with the exception of St. John and the women disciples, ran away and went into hiding. It was  only after the Resurrection that the apostles began to understand the Messiah as a suffering servant.

Fr. John

The Creed – Part 15A

“… And on the third day He rose again, according to the scriptures.”

Let us begin by taking the second half of this line first. Our English word ‘scripture’ comes from the Latin word for something which is written. For Christians, the scriptures are divided into two parts, the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament begins with the creation of the world and of human beings, and the fall of Adam and Eve. It continues through the time of the Patriarchs, beginning with Abraham. We read about Moses and the Exodus and the entrance into the Holy Land. There is the Book of Psalms, which is the prayer book for synagogue and church. Finally we read the books of the prophets who announce God’s will for the Jewish people (and us), either criticizing or comforting.
The New Testament begins with the Gospels, telling of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Book of Acts tells us the history of the early church and the Epistles are letters written to various communities and individuals in the early church. The last book of the New Testament is the Book of Revelation. People often think of this book as a book of prophecies about the end times. It is this, but it is also a book of comfort for Christians of any age suffering for their love for Christ.
We should note that the Jews do not use the term “Old Testament”. This is because they do not accept the “New Testament” view of Jesus Christ, so what we call the Old Testament is simply the Bible or the Hebrew scriptures for them.
Throughout the Old Testament there are many prophesies of the Messiah, i.e. Jesus Christ. The Hebrew word Messiah means “the anointed one”. The Greek equivalent of this is “Christ”, from the Greek word “Christos”. In the Old Testament prophets, priests and kings were anointed with oil before they began the service. It implies a special commission from God and Jesus Christ fulfills their roles. The author of the New Testament thought it was very important to show how Jesus Christ fulfilled these prophesies through his words and deeds, so we often encounter the phrase “This was to fulfill what was spoken [by the prophets]…”
This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah, “He took our infirmities and bore our diseases.” (Mt 8:17)
For example, Psalm 16:10 and Psalm 49:15 are understood in the church to refer to Christ’s resurrection, which is this specific prophesy referred to in the line of the Creed.
But there prophesies of Jesus Christ right in the very beginning of the Bible. For example in Genesis 3:15,
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
Which comes after the sin of Adam and Eve. In this verse about the woman and the seed, the seed of the woman is Jesus Christ and the seed of the serpent is the devil. The Old Testament in many places makes it clear that the Messiah would be a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David. It is also prophesied that the Messiah would be born of a virgin. As Isaiah 7:14 tells us, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel.” We see fulfilled in Matthew 1:22-23, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel’ (which means, God with us).”
There are literally hundreds of places in the Old Testament which point forward to Jesus Christ. But we have to understand that this is a Christian reading of the Old Testament. For the Jews these prophecies do not refer to Jesus Christ. However, when we, as Christians, read the Old Testament we read it from the point of view of the New Testament as interpreted in the Church. So for example, the Jews don’t think that the above mentioned verse from Isaiah refers to the virgin birth of the Messiah. For them it has various other interpretations.
In general, there are many prophesies in the Old Testament that depict the suffering of the Messiah. The Jews do not interpret these texts as prophesies of the Messiah, as we shall see in the next article.

Fr. John