Monthly Archives: March 2019

The Orthodox Faith – Salvation History (4)

As we have seen in previous articles, events and people in the Old Testament point forward to and foreshadow the events and people in the New Testament and in the life of the church. For example, the manna with which God fed the Jews in the desert points forward to Christ feeding the 5000 in the wilderness, to the Last Supper and to the Holy Communion we receive at the Divine Liturgy.

The Jewish people were saved by going down into the sea which Moses had miraculously parted. In the same way we are saved by going down into the waters of Baptism.

We continue the same theme here. Consider the following quote from St. Paul.

“I want you to know, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same supernatural food and all drank the same supernatural drink. For they drank from the supernatural Rock which followed them, and the Rock was Christ.” (I Cor 10:1-4)

What is St. Paul talking about here? What is the supernatural Rock which followed them? To answer this question, we have to go back to the Exodus which describes the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. It says,

“All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the Lord, and camped at Reph’idim; but there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people found fault with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you find fault with me? Why do you put the Lord to the proof?” But the people thirsted there for water, and the people murmured against Moses, and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?” So Moses cried to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” And the Lord said to Moses, “Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand the rod with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, that the people may drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel.” (Ex 17:1-6)

The verses in St. Paul we see a reference to the “rock” which followed them. This may seem strange or even amusing. But St. Paul tells us the rock was Jesus Christ. The main point is important and clear.

In the desert people need water and water is often hard to find. God giving water to the Jews is a sign of God’s love for His people. Just as Jesus Christ is “bread from heaven” He is also the “living water”. We remember that when Christ speaks to the Samaritan woman he says

“the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and proclaimed, “If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, `Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.'”  Now this he said about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive; for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (Jn 7:37-39)

In other words, water is necessary for life, physical life. In the same way this “living water” is necessary for our spiritual health. St. John tells us that this living water is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was given on the day of Pentecost.

Critics of Christianity often say that Christianity restricts human freedom, that it binds us with all sorts of rule and regulations. But if we look at the Bible, we see that Christianity is about liberation, about our freedom from slavery. The whole Book of Exodus is about the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. In the same way, Christ frees us from slavery to sin and death. When we act out our passions, our sins bind and restrict our freedom. This bondage makes it difficult to love God and our neighbor. The Christian life is a process of regaining our freedom. And of course, our greatest fear is death. Christ, who rose from the dead, promises us that He will raise us up also. Christ is the conqueror of death and the water of Baptism, and the Body and Blood of Holy Communion incorporating us into Christ’s victory over death. Or to put it another way, Jesus said, “…you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

Fr. John

The Orthodox Faith – Salvation History (3)

As we have seen, events and people in the Old Testament point forward to and foreshadow the events and people in the New Testament and in the life of the church. For example, during the Exodus when they were fleeing from slavery in Egypt, the Jews were starving in the desert.

“And the whole congregation of the people of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” (Ex 16:2-3)

As the scripture shows the Jews were starting to complain about Moses and they were thinking about going back to Egypt. They thought that although they were slaves in Egypt, they still had food. But God promised to send manna or bread from heaven.

“Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law or not.: (Ex 16:4)

In other words, God fed the Jews with bread from heaven. This points forward to the New Testament. The Gospel tells us that Jesus was preaching to a large crowd in the wilderness and they were hungry. In Matthew we see the following,

“Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a lonely place apart. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. As he went ashore he saw a great throng; and he had compassion on them, and healed their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a lonely place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass; and taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children. (Mt 14:13-21)

In other words, just as God fed the people with miraculous bread in the desert, in the same way Jesus fed the people with miraculous bread in the wilderness. This story points to Jesus’ divine status.

But even this points forward also. We remember that at the Last Supper, Jesus offered his body and blood in the form of bread and wine.

“Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Mt 26:26-29)

Of course, this points forward to Holy Communion when Christ feeds us with his body and blood under the forms of bread and wine. So we can see that when we read the Bible we have to see how the Old Testament foreshadows the New and how both Testaments point to our lives in the Church.  However, we should not think that the Old Testament events are exactly the same as the New Testament. The Old Testament is fulfilled in the New Testament. In other words, Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Testament and we read the Old Testament with a “Christian lens” so to speak.

For example, the people who ate the manna in the desert lived normal human lives and died a normal human death. But see how Christ compares the Old Testament bread with the bread that he gives.

“When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you; for on him has God the Father set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see, and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, `He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Lord, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me; and him who comes to me I will not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me; and this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up at the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.” They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, `I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered them, “Do not murmur among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, `And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except him who is from God; he has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.” The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So, Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.” This he said in the synagogue, as he taught at Caper’na-um. (Jn 6:25-59)

By eating the consecrated bread given to us at Holy Communion we will ultimately inherit eternal life. The consecrated bread, the Body of Christ, gives us eternal life and frees us from death.

Fr. John