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Homily for 9/25/11 - B4Cross - For God so loved the world

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  • Fr David Moser
    John 3:13-17 On this Sunday before the Cross, we are reminded of the crucifixion. We are reminded of the true scope and purpose of the crucifixion in the arena
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 25, 2011
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      John 3:13-17

      On this Sunday before the Cross, we are reminded of the crucifixion. We
      are reminded of the true scope and purpose of the crucifixion in the
      arena of this world. This passage, or at least part of it, John 3:16, is
      well known thanks to the efforts of some groups of Christians who
      recognize it as a summary of the work of Christ. But as we hear today,
      this one verse does not stand alone but fits into a context that
      illumines and explains the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross.

      “No one has ascended into heaven but he who has descended.” This play on
      words seems, at first hearing to be a bit obscure and difficult to
      understand – but it is no less than the declaration of the divinity of
      Jesus Christ. In order for Him to ascend into heaven He must have first
      descended from heaven. Only God originates in Heaven and thus for Jesus
      to have descended from heaven, He must be “true God of true God”. He
      descended to this world by His incarnation, was born in a miraculous
      manner of a Virgin, and assumed every aspect of our life, including
      death, that in the end He might again ascend into heaven and take us
      with Him. This simple statement then sets the stage for Who it is we are
      talking about. This is not just some superman or demigod (as the Arians
      would have it) nor is this an angel or other creature – but this is God
      Himself Who had descended from Heaven and Who having assumed flesh will
      ascend again, taking with Himself those of us in the flesh who embrace Him.

      “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness…” And here we are
      reminded that Jesus Christ has come to fulfill all of the law and the
      prophets. Just as Moses lifted up the serpent, so Jesus Christ is lifted
      up. When the Hebrew people were wandering in the wilderness leaving
      behind Egypt and traveling to the promised land, they were attacked by a
      horde of venomous snakes. Many were bitten and fell sick and even died
      from the venom of these snakes. God instructed Moses to make a brass
      serpent and lift it up on a pole so that those who were bitten could
      lift up their eyes and look upon this brass serpent and so be healed.
      This Old Testament miracle, just like the miracles of the Gospel, serves
      to teach us about our spiritual lives. The serpents that afflicted the
      people in the desert are the same as our own passions which war against
      us. We are “bitten” by our passions and so fall sick and some even die
      due to the venom of sin that affects us when we fall under the power of
      our passions. The healing from the effects of the passions is beyond us
      and so we must look to the One Who is without that venom – to the One
      Who is without sin. In looking to the God/man Jesus Christ and placing
      our hope and faith in Him, we are delivered from the deadly effects of
      our sins and are healed from the bite of the serpent. Just as the brass
      serpent was lifted up for the healing of the people in the wilderness –
      so is the Son of Man, that is Jesus Christ, lifted up on the Cross for
      our healing.

      When Jesus began His teaching, showing Himself as God to the world,
      teaching the apostles (and through them teaching us) the path of
      salvation and the way into the Kingdom of God, at first He was tempted
      by the evil one. At that time, on the Mount of Temptation, Jesus
      rejected the temptations of the devil which were linked to the passions
      of pride and love of pleasure. But the devil does not just go away when
      we reject him once, but continues to tempt us in various ways and with
      various passions. In causing Jesus to be lifted up upon the Cross the
      devil was tempting Him, this time with the passions of grief and anger.
      But again Jesus rebuffed the temptor and rather than despair and turn in
      anger towards those who had tortured Him and would kill Him, Jesus
      forgave them. The temptation of the Cross which had been meant as the
      means of Jesus’ defeat was instead conquered by Christ and became not
      the means of defeat, but the means and symbol of His victory – the
      victory over sin, death and the devil which He in turn bestows upon
      those who believe and put their hope in Him.

      “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that
      those who believe on Him should have eternal life.” This is the crown on
      the previous two verses which remind us Who Jesus Christ is (i.e. the
      incarnate God) and what He came to do (to fulfill the law and the
      prophets, to ascend the cross and so defeat sin, death and the devil and
      open the way for us to enter into the Kingdom of God) The reason that
      God became man and dwelt among us and assumed our flesh as His own; and
      the reason that He then ascended the Cross and suffered death for our
      salvation; is summed up here for us. God loved us – that is the reason
      for all that has gone before. God loved us to such a degree that He
      Himself descended from heaven and came into the world. He Himself was
      afflicted with our passions and being without sin Himself took on the
      venom of our sins that we might be healed. He Himself suffered death on
      the Cross and by doing so destroyed death making the Cross the symbol of
      our victory that He won for us and making the Cross the key that opens
      the path to the Kingdom of Heaven.

      “God sent His Son into the world not to condemn the world but that
      through Him the world might be saved.” We know that any encounter with
      God is a small judgment. Whenever we enter into His presence, whenever
      we see His hand in our lives, we are made aware of our own sinfulness
      and our own unworthiness before Him. And so in order for Him Who is
      All-Holy to come into the world and not immediately bring judgment
      required a great measure of gentleness and meekness. He had to become
      like us so that we could approach Him without fear. He had to lower
      Himself and assume our flesh so that He could then walk the path of life
      with us and show us how to avoid the pitfalls of sin and how to be
      healed of those times when we did fall. He joined Himself to us, even
      though we were still sinners, and assuming our sins, He pulled the
      poison of sin from us that we might be healed. He joined Himself to us
      that we might join ourselves to Him. Having joined ourselves to Himself,
      then, when He ascends to heaven, He takes us with Himself so that we
      might live in His eternal presence.

      The Gospels tell us that God is love. They also tell us that God is an
      all consuming fire. Thus to experience God’s love is to be in the midst
      of an all consuming fire. See how gentle is the coming of God to us in
      His incarnation. He has set aside His nature as an all consuming fire,
      and taken instead our nature as His own so that we might approach Him
      and be joined to Him. The only way that we can survive the encounter
      with the all consuming fire of God’s love is if we have ourselves taken
      on the same nature as the fire. By joining Himself to us that we might
      be joined to Him, Jesus Christ has made this possible. By becoming man
      like us, He has made it possible that we might become like Him. Thus
      when we enter the fire of His love, we are not consumed but as the bush
      of old burned and was not consumed so we also have become like the fire
      Himself and so burn but are not burnt. How great is love of God, but
      also how great is His gentleness, His meekness and His compassion.

      Because of His great love for us, so that we might approach Him, He
      descended from Heaven and became like us, taking on our flesh. And
      finding us filled with the venom of sin, He was lifted up on the Cross
      that we might be healed and delivered from that venom. Defeating sin,
      death and devil through the Cross He has turned our mouring into dancing
      and that which was meant for our defeat has become the symbol of our
      victory. He has joined Himself to us and so opened the way into the
      Kingdom of Heaven so that we who join ourselves to Him might in turn
      ascend with Him into Heaven. So great is the love of God which has left
      us with the Cross, the key which opens the way to live with Him in His
      love throughout eternity.

      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/
      Website: http://stseraphimboise.org
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