God has done many great things for us. This ultimately includes bringing us with Him to Heaven when He ascended. In our daily life we are reminded of His love for us, and our obligation to Him for such a great gift.
TRANSCRIPT Sponsor a Transcript
Thank you for tuning in to another episode of Be Transfigured, where we invite you to live a new life in Christ. We pray that this episode is a blessing to you and will inspire you to rededicate your life to Jesus Christ. We invite you to join us for worship or study at the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral, in Tarpon Springs, Florida, where visitors are always welcome. We'll be back in a few moments to share some more information about our ministry.
So this morning, my brothers and sisters, the Lord gives us some-well timed reminders. And the first reminder in this morning is Gospel, the very first words the Lord speaks. He says, "No one has ascended into heaven, but he who came down from heaven, that is the Son of Man who is in heaven." No one has ever ascended into heaven except Christ, the Son of Man. So the question has to be in our mind then, how do we suppose to get there? If our life is about getting to heaven and Christ says, "No one has ascended but the Son of Man," how are we supposed to get there?
So this morning we're going to spend a few moments looking at some of these points Christ makes. So we have a better understanding, not only of what Christ has done for us, and he still does for us, but a little bit too of our responsibility to him. So let's just take that first bit. Only Christ has gone to heaven because he ascended to heaven and he will take us with him. But how? When we are baptized, we are forever United to Jesus Christ in a real way. And so if Christ ascended to his throne in heaven, we celebrate that, when? 40 days after Pascha the Feast of Ascension, and we have been United to him, then this passage is also guaranteeing for us that we're going to get to heaven.
If we're guaranteed to get to heaven because we have been baptized, we have been united with Christ, and Christ is taking us to heaven with him, then why all this work? Why all this stuff that we have to do? It's a good question and I'm going to get to it in a moment.
The next thing that Christ says in this morning's gospel is he says, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." This is a reminder from the Old Testament history of their day. Whoever had been studying the Old Testament, and that should include us, but it doesn't always include us. Okay, I get it. So I'm going to tell you what it means. In the Old Testament, in the actual history of God's relationship with his people, they were being bitten by snakes, serpents, and every time they were bitten by the snake, they would die. And so God tells Moses to build a golden snake. And that every time that Moses would lift up that golden snake, if the people would look at it, even if they had been bitten, they would not die. We see that staff every time the bishop comes to visit us. The bishop's staff has the serpent on it.
And so Christ is telling us that as that was the case in the Old Testament, Christ has to be raised up. He has to be put up on the cross, and so that if we look at the cross of Christ... We can see the cross behind the Altar today. If we look at the cross of Christ and believe in God's power, even if the demons snip at us and bite us and try to attack us, we will not die. It says it very clearly by the Lord, "He who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life."
Next verse, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that who believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life." This is, I call it the football verse. You see it in almost every football game. John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." The love of God is so great that he dies for us. He's lifted up on the cross so that even though life takes its bites at us like the snakes, just as Moses lifted up the staff, Christ goes up in the cross because he loves us and we will live forever if we believe in him.
Now, the difficulty my brothers and sisters is this, for me today, I want you to dwell upon this expression, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son." God the Father gave his Son to us in real time, in a real body, in human form. Prior to Christ, the only thing that people had from God was some words about him, the Old Testament. And so pages after page, after page, century after century, after century, the people, good God loving people, studied and memorize the Scriptures, but that wasn't enough to save them. And this is where it gets to the things that we do in life. You see my brothers and sisters, simply reading about Jesus Christ in the Bible is not enough. We must live like we believe.
And what did Christ say? Although it wasn't in this morning's Gospel, we know it is... Later in the Gospel of John Christ says, "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him." He's talking about Holy Communion. This is why I want you to dwell on that word, he gave his only begotten Son in a real physical way. We could not be receiving Holy Communion, we could not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood if it was only reading the Holy Scriptures. Christ came so that we could have a living relationship with him, not just an intellectual relationship with him. And for me, the proof in the pudding. How many of those faithful, zealous Jewish people who memorized the Scriptures, who were waiting for Christ their entire life, he finally got there in front of them and they didn't recognize him, and they didn't love him.
And then the last verse, "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved." The only way to be saved from all of this struggle in life, the only way that we can avoid death is through Jesus Christ in our baptism, in our Chrismation, in receiving Holy Communion, in living like we believe him. It's not enough to believe and know about him. That wasn't sufficient. Otherwise, he wouldn't have sent his Son. Our opportunity, and on this day the Sunday before the Feast of the Holy Cross, when we're remembering Christ's crucifixion, we remember this opportunity to live what we believe.
And so my challenge for you this morning, my brothers and sisters is first and foremost to ask yourself, do you believe that God sent his only Son for us? If you do, then let's start living like we believe it. Let's start living like we believe the opportunities that he's given us to live in communion with him, to as we say, in the Orthodox tradition, to sanctify our entire life. From before we are born, until after we're in the grave, we are asking God to be a part of our life in a real tangible way because he came for us and that's how much he loved us. That's how much he loves us. He didn't just leave it at calling down from heaven, "Okay, everyone down there, your sins are forgiven." That was the easy part, but he couldn't come and bring us with him up to heaven unless he came down and we joined ourselves to him, and that we lived united to him, and then he can bring us up to heaven. You see, we have a role to play.
Our salvation is a gift from God, but it is a gift that must be accepted by us, must be experienced by us, and most importantly has to be wanted by us. God is not going to force himself upon any of us. This is why he says he doesn't come to condemn us, comes to save us. Our condemnation is in our refusal of allowing God to help. Our condemnation is when we do not believe in Jesus Christ. Not because he wants to condemn, but because that's the only way to get to heaven, is to be united with him and to have him bring us up with him. Glory to God for all things.