Remember Jesus Christ!Fr. Barnabas Powell
Years ago when I was 11 or 12, my brother and I loved to watch Saturday morning cartoons before we went to our bowling league! And one of my most favorite shows wasn’t a cartoon at all, but a short history lesson from Walter Cronkite on his show “You Are There.” His famous line at the end of the show was great: “What sort of day was it? A day like all days, filled with those events that alter and illuminate our times… all things are as they were then, and you were there.”
It was great to imagine the wonderful moments of history as regular days that enabled extraordinary moments to occur, and simply “remembering” these dusty, old moments wasn’t enough. To really get the significance, you had to put yourself in the moment and relive it, not just recall it! Who knew this desire was at the very heart of the very purpose of remembering in the first place?
Look at our Lesson today in 2 Timothy 2:1-10:
TIMOTHY, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier on service gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to satisfy the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hardworking farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will grant you understanding in everything.
Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descended from David, as preached in my gospel, the gospel for which I am suffering and wearing fetters like a criminal. But the word of God is not fettered. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain salvation in Christ Jesus with its eternal glory.
St. Paul is teaching his spiritual son, St. Timothy, what he is going to need to know and do as a young priest. So he tells Timothy to “be strong in the grace that is in Jesus Christ.” He tells him to take what he has learned and not keep it to himself but entrust it to “faithful men” who will, in turn, teach others. He encourages Timothy to be ready to suffer “as a good soldier” staying focused on his purpose and his devotion to Christ.
But then St. Paul reveals the key to being able to do all these things in his next phrase to St. Timothy: “Remember Jesus Christ” Remember that Jesus is risen from the dead, that He is the descendent of King David, which is a reference to the prophesy that the Messiah would be from David’s family and be the final King in David’s lineage. But St. Paul adds that this also means staying faithful to the “gospel” (the evangelion, or “good news) preached by Paul.
And this “remembering” isn’t just recalling old facts as much as it is the power of continuity with the way of life God has been teaching His people since the beginning. And this whole way of life is summed up and personified in the Person of Jesus Christ, specifically in the Lord’s victory over that old enemy of humanity: death. That enemy that was unleashed by our first parents in the Garden of Eden when they fell for the temptation to a shortcut to be like God and tried to do it their own way had been plaguing humans since then and instilling fear and jealousy and wars and resentment and all manner of destruction on human hearts up till our Lord destroyed death by death at His glorious resurrection. To remember that Jesus Christ is an invitation to reject the wrong notions of trying to “update” Jesus to a more acceptable figure by reducing Him to a guru or a “good teacher” or merely one more religious philosopher among many.
No, remembering this Jesus Christ has everything to do with staying faithful to the message of the prophecies about the Lord in the First Testament and also staying faithful to the message St. Paul preached as well. This remembering means I reject all the attempts to remake Jesus into a “tame” memory. I stay faithful to the message preached, taught, preserved, and proclaimed since the beginning!
Today, when you “remember” Jesus Christ, just Who is it that you are remembering? Is it the Lord of glory that defeated death and that has been proclaimed by the Apostles since the beginning, or is it a version of Jesus of your own making that fits in with the modern and “sophisticated” times? One memory of Jesus Christ leads nowhere; the other leads to being Orthodox on Purpose!