The cross and the resurrection
The cross and the resurrection
v “I have no one”
when Jesus asked the paralyzed man who stayed beside the lake at Bethesda for 38 years; “Do you want to be healed?” (John 5:6) The invalid man answered “O Master I have no one (no man) to push me unto the lake once the water is stirred. But while I’m trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me." (John 5:7). this lake was surrounded by 5 colonnades. “a great number of disabled people used to lie - the blind, the lame, the paralyzed - and they waited for the moving of waters. An angel of the Lord, from time to time would come down and stir up the waters. The first one who gets into the pool after each such stirring would be cured of whatever disease he had.” (John 5:3, 4)
The status of this paralyzed man beside the lake with the 5 colonnades resembles the status of humanity that awaited the advent of the Savior more than 5 thousand years and was given the Law of Moses that falls into 5 books, which actually failed to save humanity from its corrupted nature and from death that was introduced unto the world due to Man’s sin.
While humanity was waiting for the Savior, the Lord would send, his prophets every now and then to draw man’s attention to the salvation that God intended to fulfill in the meantime. All these prophets prophesied the advent of the savior, but none of them was able to save humanity from spiritual failure and from the status of death that overcame humanity since the fall of Adam & Eve. Yet, along the various generations there shone some heavenly glimpses; expressed by the angel of God descending to Stir the water of the lake. It was only meant to remind humanity that salvation will be fulfilled through the advent of the savior.
There came the savior and stood beside the invalid man asking him :Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered, “Lord, I have no one…” The reply of this sick man recalls the very words in the book of Isaiah, “So justice is driven back and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shams evil becomes a prey. The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, He was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm worked salvation for Him, and His own righteousness sustained him. He put on righteousness as His breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; He put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak. (Is 59:14-17)
Exactly as the invalid man said “I have no one”, the Lord knew that “no one” … it means there was no human, so it is said “(the Lord) saw that there was no one and was appalled that there was no one to intervene.” It was a must that He Himself would fulfill salvation of Man, because no one else could fulfill it except the Lord Himself, that’s why you read, “His own arm worked salvation for Him …. He put on righteousness as breastplate (a shield) and the helmet of salvation on his head.”
The Lord Himself became the savior, that’s why it is written in the Bible “… the word (logos) was God … the word became flesh, and dwelt in us and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten (Son) of His father full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1-14)
v He became my salvation:
Isaiah, the prophet delighted in the idea that, “God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid, the Lord, Jehovah is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation … with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” (Is 12:2,3).
Jehovah himself became salvation. He was incarnated for He is the savior. He is the priest and the sacrifice. He is the lamb and the shepherd. He is the temple and the offer. The Virgin Mary said joyfully “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” (Luke 1:47). So it was mentioned about the Lord the Christ on His birth, “and you will call Him Jesus (God) for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matt. 1:21). The name ’Jesus’ means “Jehovah the Savior”. The word of God (logos) that has the same nature of God the Father was incarnated and fulfilled redemption. God Jehovah is the Savior. The ‘word’ in nature is Jehovah. He is the son born of God the Father, himself is Jehovah in nature. God said it very clearly in Isaiah, the prophet: “I am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior … you are my witness, declares the Lord, I am the Lord.” (Is 43:12)
How great and amazing is your love O! Lord, for when no one was there to save humanity you sent forth your only begotten son to be born, incarnated of the Virgin Mary, and being human like us, without sin, He himself fulfills redemption. He offers Himself as a mediator and dies on our behalf, thus giving us resurrection with him as he conquers death. The Lord himself became the savior, He fulfilled salvation by His arm and His righteousness backed Him up.
v “Rise, carry your bed and walk …”
The Lord told the invalid “Rise, carry your bed and walk away” (John 5:8). His soul was disabled lying down in the body (bed) uttering one word, the Lord gave it power to rise carry ‘ the body’ and move in full spiritual health. The soul had the power to lead the body because it is guided by the spirit of God and receive spiritual strength by grace of the Holy Spirit. No longer has the body become a place for the soul to reside disabled towards eternal life, rather, the soul is able to lead and guide the body, even carry it to the House of God the Father.
What a wonderful word uttered by God, “Rise”. Every believer who enjoyed salvation will hear this word on the day when the Lord calls out upon those reposing to rise up in spiritual bodies to inherit eternal life. When God calls upon man to “Rise” (from the dead) he will definitely rise … It is the word of God Almighty that is capable for ever and ever.
v On the cross:
On the cross the scarified one was hanging with stretched arms towards Heaven. He is the greatest priest who climbed up to the altar to pray and He offers his scarified self which is accepted by God the father to save humanity. He was the priest and the sacrifice at the same time.
He was risen while being slaughtered as seen by John in the revelation amidst the throne. (Rev. 5:6) The Christ was not slaughtered and left to lie on the ground, but rather He was hanging on the cross in between heaven and earth, for He is the way leading unto God the Father … unto eternal life, and He is the mediator between God and humans, between heaven and earth. Whoever looks upon Him in faith shall know the way leading unto the kingdom of God. The Lord Christ stretched out both arms to announce welcoming the gentiles as well as the Jews to reach up to the bosom of God and enjoy salvation and eternal peace. For this reason was His accusation written on top of His head in Greek, Latin and Hebrew. Salvation is meant for all peoples. Romans and Jews both shared in the Lord’s crucifixion, for He died because of the sins of the gentiles as well as the sins of the Jews to free all humans from the power of sin upon them … all humans who believe, repent and be baptized.
On the cross, the Lord the Christ took upon him the curse of sin. For it is written “Damn by God whoever is hanged on a cross” (Deut. 21:32)
Thus, “the One with no sin become sin for our sake, so that we may become righteous in him.” The Lord the Christ bore all blame insult from Satan for it is written: “the insults of those who insult you fall upon me.” (Psalm 69:9) But resurrection erased all Satan’s insults and it proved that the curse was wiped off because the sacrifice was accepted and Divine Justice was fully paid. That’s why St. John saw the Lord the Christ dressed in an apparel that was soaked in blood and He rules and judges fairly and His name is the ‘word of God’ and “He treads alone the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty” (Rev. 19:15) The Lord the Christ previously said, as uttered by His prophet Isaiah: “I have trodden the winepress alone; from the nations, no one was with me.” (is 63:3)
The Lord the Christ ascended unto His glorified throne on the cross … that’s why the church enchants the hymn of the psalm on Good Friday; “ the throne, O God, will last forever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.” (Psalm 45:6) Thus we can see clearly that the Lord has his kingdom on the cross. The Lord chose to be a carpenter during His life before crucifixion … Hence the son of the carpenter made a cross from the wood of the tree to save the world. Saint Afraam El Souriani says; “Blessed is that carpenter who made a bridge with His cross for all redeemed to pass upon.” The tree caused the fall of man in paradise, so the Lord meant the tree to cause the salvation of man to be restored to paradise and on the tree (the cross) He told the thief on His right hand side, “Today you be in paradise with me .”
Satan was concealed in the old python and deceived humanity to disobey the holy commandment, and eat from the tree of knowledge, good and evil. Eve saw the fruit of the tree enjoyable to watch and delicious to eat. Thus, the Lord, the Christ concealed His divinity from Satan. Being in human status, He obeyed God the Father unto death. He was hanging on the tree. Satan viewed Him on the cross and thought the fruit was enjoyable to watch and good to eat … so, death dared to devour life … thinking to devour whoever is more powerful and its opposite. Thus, death was devoured by life, in the same way as when light devours darkness. So, Hell failed to devour who has Divine life conquering death … rather the locked doors of Hell were destroyed by power of the crucified. That’s why St. John Chrysostom wrote, “O, life (Lord) who never perishes, when thou descended unto death: thou conquered Hell with the lightening of your divinity. When thou brought the dead unto life and rose-up from their graves, all heavenly troops announced: O, the Christ the God granting life, glory be to thee.”
v The hammering of the nails:
The hammering of the nails in the Lord’s hands and feet was actually axes destroying the kingdom of Satan. The hand that was nailed to the cross is united with divinity … it is the hand of God that offered good, all good to His creation. It is the hand that formed Adam and Eve as mentioned in the psalm “Your hands made me and formed me” (Psalm 119:73)
The hammering of the nails echoed over calvary while the Lord the Christ was nailed to the cross, at the same time the axes hammering down the fortresses of Satan was ringing loudly as heard by the angels who stood astounded at the endless sacrificial love of God.
The whole creation was disturbed, the earth quaked, as if it shivered out of shock at the cruelty of humans towards God the incarnated word of God (logos). As a result the mountains trembled and the earth quaked, the rocks were shattered by the sound of the hammering of the nails. Nature was outrageous with how the sinners treated the creator of nature the one who endowed nature with magnificent beauty!!
The moment, the only begotten son was stripped naked off his clothes, the sun concealed its rays in shame; its creator who clothed the universe with beauty and glamour is treated in such a way. The Lord allowed the inanimate man for his cruelty. The rocks seemed to be more passionate than hard-hearted humans who were more cruel and harder than the rocks due to their sins that blocked their insight. That’s why nature roared loudly to waken-up man’s heart to make him realize the value of the slaughtered one on the cross .. He is the word of God, incarnated to redeem man saving him from the curse and death .. Oh! dear Lord how amazing is your undescribed love.
v On the third day, He will rise:
Six days before the day of transfiguration, the Lord the Christ informed His disciples about His coming pains, sufferings, death and resurrection. St. Matthew, the evangelist recorded this as follows, “From that time onward, Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” (Matthew 16:21)
The Lord, the Christ meant for them to understand that He will deliberately Himself unto death and will rise up by His own Divine power and authority.
His resurrection was the most powerful evidence for His divinity and that He is free from Adam’s original sin. It is a proof that He is all righteous absolutely pure during His incarnated life as a human. Also, it is a proof that His sacrifice on the cross was accepted before God the Father for the forgiveness of sin.
The Lord the Christ, in order to inform His disciples about His resurrection, He has to tell them about His death, because there won’t be resurrection without death. Had it not been for His death, there would not have been the resurrection.
v The resurrection is the core of testimony:
The resurrection of the Lord the Christ from the dead is the axis of Christianity. It is the testimony of the disciples before the whole world as uttered by the Lord Himself as a commandment to them, “You will be my witnesses.” (Acts 1:8).
Also when they wished to choose one to replace Judas Esclariot and occupy his place of leadership, they said, “it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection. (Acts 1: 21,22)
This apostolic witness distributed the chief priests of the Jews, the Pharisees and Sadducees and tried to stop them by all means, by threats, torture and persecution. But in answer to all that the disciples said, “we cannot but speak out what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20)
When St. Peter and St. John the apostles healed the lame man at the temple gate called ‘Beautiful’, “the priests and the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly distributed because the apostles were teaching people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day … The next day, the rulers, elders and teachers of the Law met in Jerusalem. Annas, the high priest was there and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and the other men of the high priest’s family.” (Acts 4:1, 2, 5, 6). Then the apostles said to them, “Know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.” (Acts 4:10).
In all their preachings, the apostles used to proclaim the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead:
v On the 50th day, while preaching, they said: “But God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him.” (Acts 2:24). They also said, “Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on an oath that He would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the \Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did His body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life and we are all witnesses of the fact.” (Acts 2:29-32)
v During their sermon at the temple gate, called ‘Beautiful’, they said, “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant, Jesus. You handed him over to be killed and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised Him from the dead. We are witness of this.” (Acts 3: 13-15)
In addition to all what we have mentioned about the dialogue that went on between Peter and John on the one side and the chief priests of the Jews on the other side after the healing of the lame person concerning the resurrection of the Lord the Christ, there is still another dialogue that went on after arresting the apostles and putting them in jail, and the angel of God released them during the night and were brought the following morning … “Having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest.” We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” Peter replied: “We must obey God rather than man. The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead - whom you had killed hanging him on a tree.” (Acts 5:27-30)
Moreover, while Stephen the archdeacon was giving his speech in the Synagogue, he said, “Behold, I see heaven open and the son of man standing at the right-hand of God” (Acts 7:56). Also when God sent Peter to preach the word at Kernylious house who was a member in the Italian Regiment, he said, “We are witness of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen - by us who ate and drank with Him after he rose from the dead.” (Acts 10:39-41)
v Also in Pisidian Antioch, Paul, the apostle, talked about the Lord the Christ in the Synagogue, he said, “When they had carried out all that was written about Him, they took Him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised Him from the dead and for many days He was seen by those who had travelled with Him from galilee to Jerusalem. They are now His witness to our people. We tell you the good news: what God promised our fathers he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second psalm: ‘You are my son, today I have become your father. The fact is that God raised Him from the dead, never to decay.” (Acts 13: 29-34).
In this speech St. Paul linked the fact that Jesus is the Son of God when it is proclaimed in the psalm “today I have become your father” (psalm 2:7) and the resurrection, because the resurrection is a natural outcome of the unity between divinity nature and human nature .. for the one who died on the cross, on the physical level is himself the living Holy One who never dies as far as the divine nature is concerned. He rose up from the dead by His own divine power and authority conquering death, for he accepted to die by His own free will. St. Paul, once again connected both incidents together in his epistle to Romans as he said, “the gospel he promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy scriptures as regards His son, who as to His human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom 1:1-4). Then the resurrection is a clear powerful evidence that the Lord, the Christ is the son of God the father.
Also when St. Paul spoke in Athens in the Areopagus, he testified to the resurrection of the Christ. He said, “God commands all people everywhere to repent, overlooking the ignorance of the past. For He has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man He has appointed. he has given proof of this to all men by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30,31).
Also in his speech before Agrippa, the king, St. Paul said, “… that the Christ would suffer, and as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to His own people and to the Gentiles.” (Acts 26:23)
Thus it is clear that our fathers, the apostles were so much concerned to testify to the resurrection of the Lord the Christ, preaching the gospel, teaching the people and proclaiming their faith.
v The apparitions to Mary Magdalene after the resurrection:
Pope Shenouda III explained that Mary Madeline visited the grave 5 times at dawn on the Sunday of resurrection … the first four visits took place in between the late darkness of the night “it was still dark” (John 20:1) and the first beam of light at dawn time, which amounts to half an hour in any usual day. Mary Magdalene used to visit the grave, then go back to the city of Jerusalem in no time. Then it would come back to the grave very quickly paying another visit while running very quickly. The grave was near to Jerusalem (John 19:20,41) and that’s why it took her a short time to go and come back more than once. It took her 5 minutes in between the visits to the Holy grave and back to Jerusalem … due to the chronological importance of the incidents related to the resurrection, here is a record of the 5 visits of Mary Magdalene to the holy grave as mentioned by the four evangelists chronologically:
v The first visit:
St. Mark the evangelist mentioned it as follows: “when the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” But when they looked up, they saw that the stone which was very big, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed” he said, “you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, “He is going ahead of you into galilee. There you will see Him, just as He told you.” trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.” (Mark 16:1-8).
The proof that this was the first visit is that Mary Magdalene and Mary mother of James were wondering “who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” (Mark 16:3) This proves that Mary Magdalene had not yet seen the stone being rolled away.
v The second visit:
After Mary Magdalene came back from her first visit to the tomb, she didn’t mention what the angel told her in the first visit because she was afraid. She went back once again accompanied by Virgin St. Mary to see the tomb.
This was recorded by St. Matthew the evangelist without mentioning Virgin Mary by name, but just referred to her as “the other Mary”. “After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightening and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as He said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: “He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him. Now I have told you.” So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy and ran to tell His disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them, “greetings,” He said. They came clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to galilee; there they will see me.” (Matt. 28:1-10).
When St. Matthew said, “there was a violent earthquake”, it doesn’t mean that it took place at that moment, rather it preceded even the first visit. St. Mark mentioned this visit in the bible very briefly, and he mentioned it after mentioning the first visit: “when Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.” (Mark 16:9-11)
It is very clear that the Lord the Christ honored His mother the virgin Mary, mother of God: for He did not appear to Mary Magdalene during her first visit with Mary mother of James and accompanied by Salome, rather He appeared to her when she was accompanied by His mother the virgin Mary. In this second visit the wish of Jesus Christ to inform His disciples about His resurrection was quickly fulfilled. This was mentioned by Mathew: “so the women hurried away … and ran to tell His disciples.” (Matt. 28:8)
Hopefully we pray to be accompanied by virgin Mary mother of God in our spiritual life so that we may experience witnessing the Lord the Christ within our inner self, preaching His resurrection without any hesitation, because the virgin Mary is an example to us all as far as obedience and surrendering to the Lord is concerned. She excelled among all saints.
v The third visit:
After informing the disciples, breaking to them the news that the Lord the Christ has risen, Mary Magdalene and Mary mother of James wanted to go once more to the tomb, together with several women. St. Luke recorded this visit in the bible after relating the incidents of the burial of Jesus on Holy Friday and the Sabbath day of the rest: “the women who had come with Jesus from galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how His body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightening stood beside them. In this fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen! Remember how he told you, while He was still with you in Galilee: “the son of man must be delivered unto unto the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day he raised again.” Then they remembered his words. When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary mother of James and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women because their words seemed to them like nonsense.” (Luke 23:55, 24:11)
v The fourth visit:
She went to the holy tomb while it was still dark. St. John the evangelist mentioned this visit as follows: “early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “they have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. They still did not understand from scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead. Then, the disciples went to their homes.” (John 20:1-10)
What’s really astonishing is that Mary Magdalene after this fourth visit started reiterating a speech different completely from what she said after the second and third visits when she announced to the disciples that she had seen the Lord mentioning His very words to them and the words of the two angels about His resurrection.
After the fourth visit she started uttering words that imply doubt about the resurrection of the Lord the Christ despite His previous apparition to her and the apparition of the angels.
She told John and Peter the disciples, “they have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don’t know where they have put Him!” (John 20:2). Following this, after knowing that the guards flee from the site of the tomb, Peter and John, the disciples went to the tomb followed by Mary Magdalene. This was her fifth and last visit on the Sunday of resurrection. This last visit was significant for the events that took place that changed the course of Mary Magdalene thought and life.
v The fifth visit:
St. John the evangelist mentioned the instances of this visit as follows: “But Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Women, why are you crying?” They have taken my Lord away.” She said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. “Woman” He said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary”. She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!”” – which means teacher – Jesus said, “do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Instead, go to my brothers and tell them, “I am returning to my Father and your father, to my God and your God.” Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” and she told them that He had said these things to her.” (John 20:11-18).
In this fifth and last visit we witness Mary confused, susceptic and crying reiterating the very same words she had mentioned to the two disciples Peter and John. She said the same thing even to the two angels sitting inside the tomb; “they have taken my Lord away and I don’t know where they have laid him” (John 20: 13) She even said the same thing to the Lord the Christ himself (not recognizing him) when He appeared to her for the second time “Sir, if you have taken him, tell where you have laid him and I’ll get him” (John 20:15) thinking him to be the gardener, not knowing He is Jesus (John 20:14,15) When the Lord the Christ, called her by name, “Mary” (John 20:16) meant to blame her for all this confusion and suspicions that she raised about His resurrection, doubting the fact that He is Risen in glory. Also on her desire to hold onto Him lest He disappears once again as when she kneeled to him and held His legs in the previous apparition when she accompanied the virgin Mary to the tomb (Matt. 28:9)
This second time he told her blamingly, “don’t touch me for I have not yet ascended to my Father” (John 20:17). This was a harsh reproach to her because she debuted His resurrection. As if He was not the God of life equal to God the Father, His heavenly Father, in power, glory and sovereignty. Which means that from her point of view He hasn’t reached up to God the Father … also, she wants to stop Him from disappearing so as not to doubt His resurrection. Thus, as if she is stopping Him from ascending to God, the Father unto heaven … Then what would be the case when He ascends to sit on the right side of God the Father. That’s why He ordered her very clearly, “go to my brothers and tell them, “I am returning to my father and your Father, to my God and your God.” (John 20:17)
He meant to tell his disciples that your God meaning \God the Father’ became my God when I was incarnated as a human being, and my heavenly Father (who is my Father in nature) will become your Father (by adoption) when I ascend unto Heaven, sending you the holy spirit that will give you spiritual birth in God in baptism. So, descending from heaven, I took what is yours and by my ascension unto Heaven, you take what is mine.
This time, Mary Magdalene understood that she must accept the concept of the ascension of the Lord the Christ who hadn’t yet ascended, despite His disappearance after his resurrection. He even stayed for forty days on earth after his resurrection after which he ascended unto Heaven in front of His disciples and saints. That’s why “Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord and that He said these words to her.” (John 20:18)
As the Lord had helped Thomas out of his doubts on the Sunday following the Sunday of his resurrection, so had He helped Mary Magdalene out of her doubts about His resurrection, by simply appearing to her once again on the Sunday of his resurrection in the garden.
The Virgin Mary was amazing and unique in her faith. She believed before seeing the Lord the Christ risen from the dead. She believed when she saw him, she believed when she held onto his legs and knelt before Him … she accepted His ascension in complete surrender, because she knew that He must sit in the right side of His heavenly father in His everlasting kingdom, as she was told by the angel, before the ‘Word” (Logos) was set in her womb-incarnated … That’s why Elizabeth explained, “Blessed are you among women … blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” (Luke 1:45)
v The first risen from the dead:
St. Paul interwinde the resurrection of the lord the Christ with the resurrection of the dead in an exclusive way, so he said: “if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been risen” (1 Cor. 15:13). The Lord Jesus Christ experienced death – by grace of God – for the sake of every human, and has risen also for the sake of every and each one of us – humans. By His death He paid off our debt and by His resurrection He granted us the grace of resurrection after death and a new eternal life to come. As He died for our sins He offered us a solution to the problem of sinning, and by His resurrection He granted us a solution for death.
St. Paul meant to say that what would be the benefit of the resurrection of the Lord the Christ if there were no resurrection of the dead!! Believing in the resurrection of the Lord the Christ is inter-locked to believing in the resurrection of the dead.
The belief in the resurrection of the Lord the Christ is strongly related to the belief in the resurrection of the dead. St. Paul considered the belief in resurrection is the basis of apostolic preaching. He said, “If Christ has not risen, then our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised him if in fact the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep (reposed) in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have reposed>” (1 Cor. 15:14-20)
The resurrection of the Lord the Christ is a clear evidence that He himself is the only begotten son of God the father before all ages, who conquered death by His resurrection. It is also an evidence that the sacrifice of the crucifixion had paid-off all debts of human sins because it is the sacrifice of the only begotten son that has the power to forgive sins of the whole world. It is an unlimited sacrifice, as far as its value is concerned, because it is the sacrifice of God incarnated. His blood that was shed is Divine blood with His divinity able to absolve all sins.
That’s why St. Paul said, “If the Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile. You still reside in your sins”. There is no forgiveness of sins except through the sacrifice of the only begotten son. This is the real sacrifice able to fulfill salvation for all humans. St. Paul, clarifying our faith in eternal life as granted us by God in Jesus Christ, he assures us that our faith in the Christ such faith which includes sacrifices in this present life would be futile and useless without the resurrection and the heritage of eternal life.
The resurrection proved that the human soul outlines the physical body after death and it reunites with its physical body at the moment of resurrection. The soul gives life to the physical body … so for the body to come back to life, it needs the reunion with its soul. Believing in resurrection means believing in the afterlife and in paradise as a resting place for the souls of saints who reposed peacefully. The Lord, the Christ promised the thief on his right hand side, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43) No wonder that St. Paul said, “I desire to depart and be with and be with Christ, which is better by far.” (Phil. 1:23) and he said, “to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:21)
That’s why St. Paul stressed the fact for those who do not believe in resurrection, that “if the Christ has not risen … then those who reposed are lost.” (1 Cor. 15:17,18).
This means that believing in the resurrection means that you believe in the existence of the person in his same self even after the temporary repose of the body … because the soul survives and will reunite with its risen body on the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Thus the resurrection of the Lord the Christ is an early announcement of the eternal life. That explains St. Paul’s statement, “Now the Lord the Christ has risen from the dead and because the first fruits of those who have reposed.” (1 Cor. 15:20)
v The Necessity of divine incarnation:
St. Paul assured the humanity of the Lord the Christ because the sacrifice of the only begotten son of God the father is a human sacrifice offered to redeem the human race. The only begotten son offered it through His divine incarnation, thus being the son of man, the full human nature in communion with His divinity since the first moment of incarnation. That’s why St. Paul said, “for since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For, as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” (1 Cor. 15:21,22). In the same way as Adam disobeyed unto death, so did the Lord the Christ obeyed – as far as His humanity is concerned – God unto death.
So, it is written about Him, “and being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death – even death on the cross.” (Phil. 2:8). This man: Jesus Christ … is no one but the only begotten son of God the Father. He Himself became man maintaining His divinity. That’s why St. Paul announced clearly, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Heb. 13:8) He is the god from eternity and He is the savior who was incarnated, crucified and is risen from the dead to give us resurrection together with Him.
v The times are in the authority of God the Father
Before the Lord the Christ ascended unto Heaven He told His disciples never to depart from Jerusalem before they receive power from the Holy Spirit. “They asked Him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel? He said to them: ‘It is for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority.” (Acts 1:7,8)
During His incarnation, He would give glory and authority to God the Father, until he restores His glory once more by ascending unto Heaven as stated in the scripture, “God has ascended amidst shouts of joy, the Lord amidst the sounding of trumpets.” (Psalm 47:5) Also it is mentioned, “O, ye Gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the king of glory may come in.” (Psalm 24:7) It is the king of glory who ascended in glory.
When the Lord the Christ ascended unto Heaven, He ascended with His body as Senior to us all and as the Head of the church and as the Chief Priest … “He entered the most holy place once for all, by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.” (Heb. 9:12). And there, in His glory exercised His divine authority exactly as God the Father in the same glory and dignity. That’s why the priest, while praying during mass, says: “He ascended unto Heaven and sat on your right side O God, the Father and assigned a day for judgment, when He shall come again to judge fairly all humans, giving each one his due according to each one’s deeds.” (St. Basil liturgy)
While on earth with His disciples, He said, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority.” (Acts 1:7) But when He entered unto the most holy place in Heaven, i.e. entering unto His glory, the authority of the Father is His as well, as has been since eternity. But during incarnation He referred divine authority to the Father.
As far as His second coming is concerned, the Lord the Christ said, “When the son of man comes in His glory, and all the angles with Him” (Matt. 25:31) Also, “For the son of man is going to come in His Father’s glory with His angles ..” (Matt. 16:27). So, His glory in His second coming for judgment is the same glory of His Father. This is clear in the words of St. Paul, “the son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being.” (Heb. 1:3)
The Lord the Christ, in amazing humbleness during incarnation used to speak about the authority of the Father with real self-denial, aiming at fulfilling His message of redemption, through complete obedience even unto death, death on the cross. “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:9-11)
It was also mentioned that the Lord the Christ is himself “the Lord of glory” (1 Cor. 2:8) Since he is the Lord of glory and the Lord for the glory of god the Father … it is normal that after fulfilling His message cleansing our sins, that He sits on the right side of the almighty up in Heaven. (Heb. 1:3) and assigning himself the day of His second coming for judgment.
Daniel the prophet, in his revelation, spoke about the authority of the Lord the Christ and his glory, so he said, “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the ancient of days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power, all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:13,14)
The Lord the Christ set a model and an example to be followed in humbleness and in being obedient to the will of the heavenly Father and in giving up any sense of arrogance, as when He told His disciples, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority.” Thus, relating authority to his Father: whilst the authority of His Father is His authority as well and the glory of his Father is His glory as well and the kingdom of His father is His kingdom. Moreover the kingdom of the Father is related to the son as mentioned in the holy script, “the kingdom of the son He loves” (Col. 1:13)
v The Lord’s preaching not to fight back evil people:
The Lord the Christ said, “Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matt. 5:39). He also said, “And if someone wants to sue you and take your twice, let him have your cloak as well.” (Matt. 5:40). However, this doesn’t mean that we do not resist sin, for the holy scripture gives advice, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Resisting evil means to resist sin. But Jesus meant not to fight against each other as human beings. The holy scripture also gives advice: “if you enemy is hungry, feed him, if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom. 12:20,21). You will be rewarded by god, as it is written, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay, says the Lord.” (Rom. 12:19).
Also St. Paul, the disciple asks us to follow in Jesus Christ’s steps for “When they hurled their insults at Him, he did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:23)
When the Lord the Christ heard their insults, He never answered back for He entrusted Himself to him who judges justly. As a result when he rose from the dead, thus conquering death, those who insulted Him were in great shame. The one whom they insulted and considered to be misleading them, was found to be the saint of saints, the source of life as proven by His victory over death and His glorious resurrection. Thus the Lord the Christ has set a practical example by His life for what He preached to His disciples and to the multitude.
v Conquer by love and meekness:
The Lord the Christ love humiliation on the cross in deep pain and agony … but later all this turned into glory. That’s why when the Lord the Christ said, “Do not resist evil people” He meant it to be for own good. Because whoever may resist evil will be hurt by it. And when Jesus said “love your enemy, bless those who insult you” (Matt. 5:44) He meant that we overcome our enemy through love because love not hatred may conquer your enemies.
The one who follows violence in dealing with people doesn’t deserve to be a Christian and it will result in his own destruction. Violence never lead to victory or glory, rather it leads to destruction of oneself more than could be expected. The commandments of Jesus Christ are not meant to restrict us, as some may think them to be, but the truth is that the Lord the Christ seeks our own good. Following His advice will save your soul.
v Overcome evil by virtue:
Don’t be conquered by evil, rather overcome evil by virtue. If you offer loving acts to the one who is against you then you win him through love and you are victorious. This means that you become victorious, not by using weapons but by exercising the powerful love that lurks within you. When the Lord the Christ orders us to do so, He is not asking us to be cowards, for He said, “do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.” (Luke 12:4). He encouraged His children to become martyrs; an example is the martyr St. Demiana and the 40 nuns.
The Christian is ready to confront emperors and rulers heading for the crown of martyrdom if challenged to renounce his Christian faith. As when St. Demiana was asked to offer incense to the idols and worship them. She even urged her father mark, who reigned over Berolos, to become a martyr and she herself became a princess among lady-martyrs.
v The concept of courage in Christianity:
Christianity is not a call for cowardness rather it calls upon all believers to be brave and daring. Yet bravery doesn’t include carrying weapons. Those who think that they find safety by carrying weapons are in reality lacking peace of mind. As for saints, they are always enjoying peace of mind. Why? Simply because “the angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him and He delivers them.” (Psalm 34:7). The true Christian has faith that angels guard him and that spirits of saints protect him and intercede for him. Thus feeling protected, he enjoys peace of mind, believing in the words of the Lord the Christ that, “the very hairs of your head are numbered.” (Luke 12:7), and that “not a hair of your head will perish” (Luke 21:18). In this sense a Christian doesn’t need a weapon, because using a weapon means kindling fire, while the holy scripture says, “do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil by good.” (Rom. 12:21). The best weapon is that of love and timidness. The Lord the Christ said, “blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (Matt. 5:5)
v The Meek ones will inherit the earth:
What is meant by “they will inherit the earth?” The meek person is loved by his neighbors, his relatives and family and through this love he is able to inherit the earth, as all people love him, as if he owns them all, i.e. he rules over their hearts. They become dedicated to him with all their possessions. On the contrary hatred makes a person isolated, neglected and cast away by others. Therefore, the one who hates loses, while the one who loves others wins and is successful.
The last weapon to conquer your enemy is that of love, not hatred. St. John says, “the best way to get rid of your enemy is to turn him into a friend.” So you got rid of him as an enemy and won him as a friend, not through killing or harming him but only through loving him.
v The Sun of Righteousness that heals:
The Lord the Christ said, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” (John 12:64) He also said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
The Lord the Christ was able to change many people, turning them away from the life of evil into the life of saints. Thus the whole of humanity turned from a torn miserable life dominated by death into a dignified risen life. The holy scripture says, “To all who received him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12) As it was said by Isaiah, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.” (Isaiah 60:1) Also, it was mentioned in Malachi, “But for you who revere my Name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.” (Mal. 4:2) What is this sun that carries healing in its wings??!
v The sun of righteousness that carries healing in its wings:
Our Lord Jesus Christ who was hanging on the cross with his arms stretched on the cross is the sun of righteousness with its left and right wings calling out, “come to me, all ye who are weary and burdened and I will give ye rest.” (Matt. 11:28). On the cross, He resembled the bosom of God wide open to Humanity. He also resembles the light that shone on the dark world that was dominated by sin. He came unto the world, the light for sinners to repent and start anew with God.
v Being set free from the domination of Satan:
Many sinners who were possessed by demons were freed at the hands of the Lord the Christ. He freed Mary Magdalene of seven demons … also the insane, blind and dumb man was freed from six thousand demons at the hands of Jesus Christ, for Satan said “my name is legions for we are many” (Mark 5:9). Legion means a battalion containing six thousand soldiers. That’s why when the legions were ordered to leave that man and were allowed into the herd of pigs, the herd dashed into the waters of the sea, choked and died and were nearly two thousand in number. (Mark 5:12-14)
This was to illustrate the power of Satan that he had on the poor man who was set free from this satanic dominance by the Lord the Christ. “demons came out of many people, shouting, “you are the son of God!” (Luke 4:41). They used to shout out, “What do you want with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?” (Matt. 8:29) The monsters of darkness flee from His presence. That’s why the Lord said, “Do not believe me unless I do what my father does.” (John 10:37).
v The light has shone:
He is the light that shone on humanity, no devil can confront Him … This light spreads everywhere to disperse darkness as it spreads here and there. So wherever the Lord the Christ goes the kingdom of Satan was shaken. That’s why the Jews wondered, “what is this new teaching with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey Him.” The multitude were stunned at Christ’s ordering evil spirits out of humans.
No prophet, before the Lord the Christ, was able to order devil out of any human being. That’s why the Lord the Christ said to the Jews, “.. if I drive out demons by the spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” (Matt. 12:28)
Many sinners repented at the hands of the Lord the Christ, as the woman who was a sinner who washed His feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. (Luke 7:36-50). Also, Zauchaeus, the chief tax-collector who was unjust and indulged in financial affairs that he sought dearly. (Luke 19:1-10). Levi, as well, sitting at the tax collector booth “Jesus told me, Follow me and Levi got up and followed him,” leaving everything behind. (Mark 2:14) Moreover “the woman who was caught in the act of adultery” … Jesus told her, “neither do I condemn you,” … Go now and quit the life of sin” (John 8:4) What happened!? The light was spreading everywhere giving a new life in the same way as when the sun shines and spreads its light all over the earth or life fire that sets out in a field of hay, no one can extinguish it. That’s why Satan felt that his kingdom is threatened and had no other way except to plot against the Lord the Christ in order to kill Him.
v The only solution:
Satan couldn’t bear to see that his fortresses are being pulled down one after another. His fortresses were falling down and his kingdom is being shaken. So, he had no choice but to plot against the Lord, the Christ to kill Him.
Although he feared the killing of the Christ, because all prophecies made it clear that the killing of the Lord the Christ will bring forth salvation and redemption to humanity, yet he found no other solution.
v Caught between a rock and a hard place:
Satan was in a very critical situation; the prophecy that said, “the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Is. 53:6) and accepted to be “a guilt offering” (Is. 53:10) and “ … he was pierced for our transgressions” (Is. 53:5), on the one hand and Satan’s own defeat before the Lord the Christ.
But the Lord the Christ concealed His divinity in some situations, showing human weakness to cause confusion to Satan. So he may get tired after walking a long way, he feels hungry and thirsty. When Satan witnesses this, he feels comfortable and believes that he can get rid of the Lord the Christ. When he saw Jesus crying at the grave of Lazarus, he was encouraged to carry on his conspiracy that he had started.
v Why does the evil one take risks?
Why would he take risks as he plots against the Lord, the Christ? Because the power of hatred within him exceeds the power of caution.
He knows he is taking a risk but he can’t help it. The malice, anger and grudge within him blinds him to being cautious in the deeds he intend to carry out!! This is exactly what happened: Satan motivated anger among the Jews and other evil ones. He put in Judas Eschariot’s mind and heart to hand over his master. He carried out the conspiracy and the crucifixion took place and the redemption was fulfilled. On the cross the Lord the Christ crushed down the kingdom of Satan and conquered him in his own battle-field. Then in hell, He broke open the locked gates and set the captives free sending them up to the third heaven, paradise. Then He returned from paradise to rise from among the dead on the third day. Then He appeared to His disciples assuring then that the power of life within him is more powerful that death which is our own lot. He told His disciples that He will go to prepare for them an eternal kingdom that will be announced on His second coming when He comes on the day of judgment to judge the whole world
v The physical body and the spirit:
Is the physical body needs food to go on living so does the soul. The soul needs spiritual nourishment to flourish and grow in grace. That’s why the Lord the Christ said, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that cometh from the mouth of God.” (Matt. 4:4). By this He means that beside the bread that is essential for the physical body, man needs the word of God to nourish his soul.
The Lord the Christ also said, “the words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life” (John 6:63) He also said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for life of the world.” (John 6:51) The soul needs spiritual nutrition to flourish and grow in grace in the same way as the physical body needs food to grow and survive.
v The five senses:
Every human being has got five physical senses and five spiritual ones similar to them. The Lord the Christ said, “flesh gives birth to flesh, but the spirit gives birth to spirit.” (John 3:6) The man born of the flesh is led by his physical senses but the man born of the spirit is led by his spiritual senses. The spiritual sense of hearing enables man to hear the voice of God clearly. As when the Lord the Christ said, “the sheep listen to His voice.” (John 10:3) He also said, “everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” (John 18:37)It is also written in the psalm, “I will listen to what God the Lord will say; He promises peace to his people, his saints and to those who turn back to him whole heartedly.” (Psalm 85:8).
The spiritual person can listen to the voice of God very clearly throughout his life. He listens to the voice of the spirit and is led by that voice within his inward self, “those who are led by the spirit of God are sons of God.” (Rom. 8:14)
Let’s take as an example, the wireless phone. Each phone has a certain range to receive electronic waves. The stronger the sense of spiritual hearing is the clearer the voice of God becomes, within one’s heart, mind and life. The wireless phone batteries need to be charged to be able to receive the electronic waves. The same applies to man. The spiritual person needs to be spiritually charged i.e. to be filled by the holy spirit to be able to recognize the voice of God listening and obeying. This can only be achieved through participating in spiritual acts and holy sacraments, as repentance, confession and Holy Communion. In addition to that, one should practice the different spiritual endeavors as fasting, praying, tolerating hardships, pain and tribulations, as St. Peter said, “… rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” (1 Peter 4:13,14).
The one who tolerates pains and hardships becomes lawful for “the spirit of glory and of God to rest on him.” Living and practicing spiritual life and being keen on one’s prayers fervently with a humble heart makes man worthy to be filled with the holy spirit. Continuous reading in the holy scripture with a praying spirit with a true desire to know God makes one worthy to be filled with the holy spirit. That’s why standing humbly in church during liturgy while the holy scripture is being read qualifies us to be filled with the holy spirit while our souls are nourished by the words of the bible and the sense of hearing becomes enhanced within us.
v Being born from up-high:
How do the spiritual senses exist in mankind? This was explained by the Lord the Christ to Nikodemos, when he told him, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the spirit” (John 3:3-5). This means that the holy spirit creates in us through baptism five spiritual senses that qualifies us for inheriting eternal life. One of these senses is the sense of spiritual sight by which one can witness the kingdom of God. That’s why St. Paul said, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” (2 Cor. 5:17) The holy spirit creates in us theses spiritual senses and enhance them through spiritual means of grace.
v The wise virgins:
We have mentioned, in the previous article, the five spiritual senses that the holy spirit creates in us believers through baptism as for example the spiritual insight which enables us to witness the kingdom of God. The illuminated five spiritual senses symbolizes the lanterns of the five wise virgins. And the jars that are filled with oil symbolizes the heart of man being filled with the holy spirit that illuminates the senses. As when Jesus said, “ If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light.” (Matt. 6:22)
The senses that are inspired by the holy spirit affect the whole body, turning it into a holy, illuminated body with no trace of the darkness of sin. That’s why it has been mentioned about righteous people that they “will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their father.” (Matt. 13:43) Your right hand consists of five fingers and those whose senses are illuminated shall be placed on the right hand side of the King, the Christ. While on the His left will be placed those whose five senses were not illuminated, for the goats will be placed on His left hand side.
- These five senses are; the sight, the hearing, the smell, the touching and tasting.
- The sense of spiritual hearing enabled the spiritual one to listen to the voice of God and the heavenly hymns and praises.
- Through the sense of smell one could enjoy the aroma of Jesus Christ, the aroma of the holy life as when the bride in the book of ‘the song of songs’ addresses the Lord the Christ, “pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes; your name is like perfume poured out. No wonder the maidens love you” (song of songs 1:3) She also says, “while the King was at His table, my perfume spread its fragrance.” (song 1:12) This aroma fills the spiritual man with spiritual ecstasy and enhances his love to the Lord the Christ and becomes entangled by it. That’s why the best expression noted about the death of the Lord the Christ is the valuable pure expensive perfume which is the aroma of love. Wherever there is love, there is life for “God is love”. Hence it is mentioned by a French philosopher, “To love means that we exist”, which means that existing without loving is meaningless.
- Thus, when the Lord the Christ accepted the perfume offered by the lady pouring a pint of pure nard on his feet, meant that He accepted to die out of love to humanity. That’s why the Lord said, “leave her alone, it was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial.” (John 12:7) It is accepting death for the sake of life i.e. it a reviving death, the aroma of life to life, giving life to those saved.
- The sense of touch could be used by the spiritual person to get in touch with the presence of God in his life and His acts of love in the whole world. The lady suffering from bleeding for twelve years, thought that, “If only I touch the hem of his clothes, I will be healed.” (Mark 5:28). Therefore, the person who gets in touch with the ‘truth; meaning the Christ and realizes the clear cut between light and darkness, would be similar to the one who touched His clothes and would be healed. Just a touch of the hand of the Lord Christ is capable of eliminating sin, as is the case of the man with leprosy when the Lord Jesus extended his hand and touched him saying, “I am willing, be clean”, immediately he was cured of his leprosy. (Matt. 8:3) There are many types of experiencing the touches of the Lord in one’s life that may be sensed by the spiritual person and would repeat the very words of the bride of the ‘song of songs’ when she said, “His left arm is under my head, and His right arm embraces me” (Songs 2:6) the one who gets in touch with God, the Lord becomes his supporter all through his life as it was mentioned about the bride in the “song of songs”. “Who is this one coming up from the wilderness leaning on her lover?” (Songs 8:5)
- As for the sense of taste, one can make use of it tasting the sweetness of the company of God. It is mentioned in the scripture, “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8) Also, the bride in “songs of songs” says, “like an apple tree among the trees of the forest is my lover among the young men. I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste.” (Song 2:3) This sweet taste drove many saints to forget about the pleasures and delight of the world, for the sweet taste of the love of the Lord was more delicious than that of all worldly delights. In this amazing company, the bride of the ‘song of songs’ was entangled into. She was so indulged in the emotions of pure love that she forgot every other thing and sang delightfully, “let Him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth .. for your love is more delightful than wine.” The more the person takes the time and opportunity to experience the sweet taste of the company of Christ, the more his yearnings increase.
v The narrow gate:
The Lord Jesus Christ said, “enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction and many enter through it. But narrow is the gate and tough is the road that lead to life and only a few find it. (matt. 7:13,14)
The Lord Jesus Christ has set, through his life the road to glory. He told His disciples, following His resurrection, “Did not the Christ have to suffer these pains and then enter His glory?” (Luke 24:26). The Lord, more than once repeated the words, that whoever wishes to follow Him must achieve self-denial, carry his cross and follow in the Lord’s steps. (Luke 9:23)
Becoming a follower of Christ requires that you carry the cross, for without the cross, Christianity becomes a bride with no groom. Being affiliated to Christ means that one shares in the Lord’s pains. Thus St. Paul said, “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death.” (Phil. 3:10). Also he said, “just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.” (2 Cor. 1:5)
Whoever wishes to meet with the Lord Jesus Christ should pass through the road of the cross, the road of sufferings, the tough road, the arrow one. There, despite the pain and suffering, man will experience many condolences. There are many who are ready to sacrifice all the treasures of this world for the sake of encountering the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Lord Jesus Christ has set the road for us, it is the road of the cross … for, we can never meet with the Lord Jesus apart from His cross, because His cross is the power of God for our salvation.
The cross is our power to overcome sin and to be victorious in our battles against Satan. The cross is the sign of God’s love to humanity and it is the sign of reconciliation, having fulfilled redemption and paid off our debts. Accepting to bear the cross is accepting the love of God and having a mutual relation with Him. The glory of love is to share the sufferings with your beloved one exactly as is the glory of the water spring is to wash and give water to the thirsty. Along the path of the cross, the human soul starts experiencing the spiritual wedding celebration and gets to realize the sweetness of the mutual love between the Lord Christ and the bride. When St. Paul said, “just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.” (2 Cor. 1:5) he meant that the hidden treasure to realize and experience the sweetness of the fellowship of Christ is through accepting to share the sufferings of the one who loved us and offered Himself up in pain as a redemption for our sins.
v Practical steps:
- The comfortable service is what most people seek, but unfortunately in such a comfortable mission one cannot get in touch with Christ’s power that kindles the spirit during service thus supporting us vulnerable humans. Yet, he whoever accepts the hard task serving God, will definitely experience the work of God in the service and God makes His work clear that glorifies God and everyone in the service may experience His presence which inspires the spirit of the service and the servants. That’s why the Lord Jesus Christ said, “whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My father will honor the one who serves me.” (John 12:26)
The whole story starts when you accept to bear the cross and shoulder the hard task … then the powerful work of God in the service follows in an amazing way that surpasses all human abilities. This is the true dignity and human that no human expects yet he experiences such condoling honor.
- Sacrifice and generous donation:
In order to shoulder the cross one must lead a life of poverty and austerity out of one’s free-will, in the same way as His grace. Bishop Abram bishop of El Fayoum used to conduct his service, in return God was glorified in the service and used to shower him and his service with many graces and a lot of money because ‘whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much” (Luke 16:10) Moreover, as bishop Abram was so concerned and compassionate with the sick and the needy, God granted him the gift to heal the sick and make miracles. Thus the Lord Jesus Christ said, “No one who has forsaken home, brothers … for me … will fail to receive a hundred times as much …” (Mark 10:29,30)
The Lord Jesus Christ came unto this world to testify to the ‘truth’ and said, “everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” (John 18:37) and He sacrificed His life for this testimony. In a world that is characterized by variables and inconsistency, testifying to the ‘truth’ becomes highly expensive. Jeremiah, for example paid for it dearly. His mission was to reproach his people of his own time calling upon them to repent. His holiness Pope Shenouda III explained that Jeremiah bore many hardships for the sake of his hard service among his people while he was meek, always in tears, wishing to avoid problems, yet it was the will of God for him to shoulder a very hard task that surpasses his abilities.
- Struggling against sin:
Struggling against sin is essential for a true fellowship to the Lord Jesus Christ. Hence it is mentioned in the holy scripture: ”but the one who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives.” (2 Tim 5:6). Light and darkness never meet .. so repentance is the beginning of the path to God. Jesus said, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” (Matt. 4:17) During his spiritual struggle one experiences the power of the holy spirit leading him victoriously all through to enjoy happiness among the righteous ones. Yet we need to struggle continuously and “let us run with perseverance … fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” (Heb. 12:1,2)
v Together with the groom:
Therefore it is now clear that in order to encounter Jesus Christ along the path of life one has to accept shouldering and hugging the cross. The won who escapes hardships is running away from God for he misses the opportunity to encounter Him amidst the tribulation to comfort him. Hence the very words of the groom, Jesus Christ to his bride referring to the sweetness she may enjoy amidst suffering, “I have come into my garden, my sister, my bride, I have gathered my myrrh with my spice. I have eaten my honeycomb and my honey; I have drunk my wine and my milk. Eat, O friends and drink, drink your full, O lovers.” (Song of songs 5:1)