I Will Raise Him Up At The Last DayFr. Barnabas Powell
Christ is risen!
“Pie in the Sky thinking is bad!” Well, that’s what he insisted was true. He insisted that my claim that we should live our lives with an eternal perspective was wrong because he insisted I would neglect the “right now” for the “Pie in the sky.”
Even the great poet Henry David Thoreau, on his deathbed, when asked if he had any thoughts about what comes next, famously said “One world at a time.”
But is that true? Should we only deal with “One world at a time?” You may be surprised to hear me say ” Yes and No.”
Look at our lesson today in John 6:40-44:
The Lord said to the Jews who believed in him: “This is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.” They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered them, “Do not murmur among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
This whole chapter in John’s Gospel is filled with Jesus saying provocative truths and revealing Himself as not just a messiah, but God in the flesh! Before our current passage, Jesus said He was the bread from heaven. Of course, this was a direct reference to the “bread” (manna) that came down from heaven in the Jewish story of the Exodus and the Jews wandering in the desert. God fed them miraculously with this special bread that was sent to them every morning. John writes these accounts of Jesus interacting with the religious leaders of His day specifically to reinforce the main purpose for him writing this Gospel – “so that you will believe” Jesus is the Messiah and the savior of the world. By the way, it’s a long chapter, but try reading the whole of John 6 today. It’s worth it.
By the time we get to our passage today, the religious leaders have been sewing over the Lord’s words for a while. So, when Jesus insists that believing in the Son will see you raised from the dead “at the last day” they were even angrier and His words.
Mainly because they seemed to struggle with thinking about just one world at a time. They were worried about their status, the political situation at the time, how uncomfortable they were at this Jesus and how He was disrupting their current calm. Jesus was making clear statements about learning how to think of two worlds at a time is necessary for this world to be right! You had to think of “the last day” during this moment if you were going to do God’s will now and enjoy the fruit of doing God’s will on “the last day.” These critics of Jesus wanted to focus on their version of His credentials and His “family tree” rather than seeing the Lord open to them the whole will of God right in front of them.
You see, the Orthodox Faith insists that, if I am ever going to have this life of mine ordered well and completely at peace, I have to deal with the moment AND eternity at the same time. This very ability is a gift of God. Being created in God’s image means my true purpose is to be “like” Him.” And He sees the end from the beginning.
So, what does this ability to live in the now and in the future do for me? It allows the ultimate destiny of my true self to discipline my actions and inform my choices right now. I live as I live with the priorities I have BECAUSE I am attentive to the “last day.” If you don’t know that your true self is meant to be like God, then you thrash about in life not knowing who you are or what you were meant to be. You try this path, and then that path, and the chaos of your own uninformed self, all to discover at “the last day” you should have been focusing on preparing for eternity.
Today, do your priorities reflect your attentiveness to “the last day?” Are you able to think of two worlds at the same time? The beauty and wisdom of our Orthodox Faith are designed to help you be attentive to the moment you are in AND attentive to your ultimate purpose. The spiritual disciplines of the Faith, and being attentive to my last day, are all possible when you’re Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. Dear Lord, I confess that too many times I’m distracted by the present to remember my “last day.” I confess that my inattentiveness to the future actually diminished my present. I make short-sighted choices and set priorities that seem only to address the present. Forgive me, Lord. And help me so practice the Faith that it shapes my no and prepares me for my future with You forever. Amen.