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Homily for 9/23/12 - B4Cross - John 3:16

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  • Fr David Moser
    John 3:13-17 John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world…” This is one of the most oft quoted verses of the Bible. We see it everywhere: on billboards, on
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 23, 2012
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      John 3:13-17

      John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world…” This is one of the most oft
      quoted verses of the Bible. We see it everywhere: on billboards, on
      signs held up in camera friendly places at sporting events (including in
      the eye black of athletes at those games), on posters and tracts. This
      verse seems to pop up everywhere. And there is a good reason for that –
      because these words proclaim in a very succinct manner the abundant and
      limitless love of God for us. God, our Creator, loves us, His creatures,
      to such a degree that He did not send to us a servant or an angel or an
      archangel, but He sent to us His only-begotten Son. God does not have
      many sons but rather there is only one Son who is of the same essence
      and being as God and thus in sending His only-begotten Son, God Himself
      has come to us.

      As much as we see this particular verse referenced in isolation, it does
      not stand alone. In order to truly grasp the truth that it reveals to
      us, we need to take it as a part of the greater context in which it is
      found. The Gospel reading today does this for us, it gives us not just a
      Bible verse in isolation, but gives us instead a whole saying that works
      together to express God’s love and provision for us in a profound manner.

      First it is made clear to us that Jesus Christ is indeed God incarnate
      for He says to us: “no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came
      down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven” In very clear
      terms here, Jesus told His listeners, as well as us, of his origins
      answering the question posed by the Psalmist (as we pray when we prepare
      the lamb), “Who shall declare His generation?” He, Himself, tells us
      here that His “generation”, His origin, is in heaven and has claimed for
      Himself the messianic title “Son of Man”. In calling Himself the “Son of
      Man” He also proclaims the mystery of His incarnation by applying these
      words that describe His divinity also to His humanity. The One Who is in
      Heaven, has descended from heaven and has taken flesh of the Virgin Mary
      and has become man. He did not bring His flesh from heaven, taking
      nothing from the Virgin – but rather He joined Himself to our nature,
      fusing together the divine nature with humanity. In addition by using
      the words “ascend” and “descend” He tells us that this was a voluntary
      act for He was not “cast out” or “sent” or “pushed out” but rather of
      His own will He descended to us from Heaven.

      Having established that He is God and that of His own will He has come
      to us, Jesus then restates everything in a different form saying, “God …
      gave us His only-begotten Son…” By using the words “only begotten Son”
      we have a clear message: the Son is of the same essence as God for this
      is indeed the meaning of “begotten”. The Son is not made; He is not a
      creature – but He is begotten, that is He shares the very essence of
      God, just as an earthly son is not “made” by his father, but is
      generated from the essence of his father. Not only is the Son “begotten”
      but He is the “only-begotten” that is there is no other – there are not
      “Sons” of God but only one unique “Son” which shares His essence.
      Therefore in order for a man to become a “son of God” he must be joined
      to this “only-begotten” Son for there are no other “sons” of God. In
      speaking this way of His generation, our Lord does not again use the
      word “descend” but this time says that God … gave His … Son”. Now this
      does not negate or contradict what He just said before about the
      voluntary nature of His coming, but rather this affirms that the Father
      and the Son are in complete harmony of will. God sent and the Son
      descended – no force was applied, no coercion can be assumed, but rather
      a description of the complete unity and harmony of will between the
      persons of the Trinity.

      See the greatness of this act? God has given us not a servant, not an
      angel, not a prophet – but a son. And again not just “a son” but “His
      only-begotten Son” – the only Son of God, of one essence with the
      Father, Who has voluntarily come to us, joined Himself to our flesh
      which He received from the Virgin Mary and has become man. To what end
      has God done all this for us?
      The answer to this final question is revealed to us in the next moment
      by Jesus Christ saying, “God sent not his Son into the world to condemn
      the world; but that the world through him might be saved” Consider for a
      moment the import of this statement. Remember that this is being said to
      those same Hebrew people for whom to see God is to die. God has come to
      us, not to cause us harm, not that we might die, but instead that we
      might be saved, that is that we might live. Although Jesus Christ did
      not come to condemn us, by not receiving Him, by opposing Him, by
      crucifying Him, we have indeed justly brought condemnation upon
      ourselves. And yet, despite our own rebellion, despite our own
      sinfulness, despite the darkness of our own souls, He still does not
      condemn us, but offers to us salvation.

      What is this salvation that He gives to us? For this we must step back
      and finish out the previous statement, “God … gave His … Son that we
      might not perish but have everlasting life” Here is the salvation that
      He offers us. When He created us, He gave to us the breath of life and
      His life coursed through us. But by sinning, Adam and Eve (and all who
      share their essence by being begotten of them) were cut off from the
      source of the life that filled them. We, as a race, are dying as that
      life expires and inevitably seeps away. It cannot be renewed in us for
      we are no longer connected to the source of that life. But God, the
      source of that life, out of His great love for us, has come and joined
      Himself to us that we might once again, through the God/man Jesus
      Christ, be able to draw upon that life and have it renewed in us. Our
      salvation then is “everlasting life”, but it is not this earthly life
      that we receive, but rather, through Christ we partake of the divine
      life of the Trinity. Thus our salvation is to be joined (or re-joined)
      to the One Who is the source of all life. Our salvation is to be united
      to Christ.

      In discovering the great love of God and the salvation that He offers us
      through His love, we have not yet mentioned what this has to do with the
      cross (for indeed this Sunday stands apart as the prelude to the
      Exaltation of the Cross). Remember that our Lord also invoked the memory
      of the Old Testament narrative saying, “And as Moses lifted up the
      serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
      That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal
      life.” In these words we see how it is that the God/man Jesus Christ
      will accomplish this bestowal of life. The lifting of the serpent in the
      wilderness was a remedy for the plague of serpents that afflicted the
      Hebrew people as they wandered in the deserts. These poisonous serpents
      would bite the people and as a result many were sick and dying. But God
      instructed Moses to lift up a brass image of a serpent on a pole in the
      midst of the camp instructing those who were suffering to look upon it
      with faith and be delivered from the poison of the serpents. This is a
      clear image of the crucifixion. The God/man Jesus Christ would be lifted
      up upon the cross because of the sickness of our own sin in order that
      those of us who suffer from this poison might be healed. In the
      wilderness the serpent was the source of the poison that afflicted the
      people and it was the brass serpent (a representation of all the
      serpents) that was the source of the healing from that poison. In this
      world it is our flesh which is the source of the poison of sin and it is
      the flesh of the God/man Jesus Christ lifted up on the cross that is its
      antidote. Thus, just as the source of the poison in the wilderness
      became the source of its healing so also our flesh, the source of our
      sin and death, has been assumed by God and has been transformed by Him
      so that His divine flesh is the source of our healing and life.

      Moved by His love for us, our Creator has descended from Heaven and has
      joined Himself to us by taking our flesh from the Virgin. He has joined
      Himself to us so that through Him we might be reconnected to the source
      of life and through Him we might share in the life of the Trinity. He
      took on our flesh and transformed it, so that His Body has become for us
      the antidote of the poison of sin that infects us, healing us and giving
      us life. Indeed God has loved the world – has loved us – and has come to
      us joining Himself to us that through the God/man Jesus Christ we might
      also be joined to Him and share in the everlasting life that is His.

      --
      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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