The Promise Fulfilled

The Promise Fulfilled

It is said that a captured Islamic terrorist once told his interrogator during his questioning that, though he has been captured and will probably never be free again, he was convinced that his Islamic army will eventually win the war. His questioner asked why he thought that, and the terrorist replied: “You will lose to us because you think in years and decades, and we think in centuries. We will win because you will give up eventually.” Wow, I guess perspective is everything.

What is it about cultures and societies that can master a long-term communal memory? I confess it was this aspect of Orthodoxy that was so attractive to me when I first began exploring converting to Orthodoxy. As a relatively ahistorical typical American, I began to feel the weight of my disconnection with history, and specifically the history of my Christian faith.

The truth is if we ever hope to have a multi-generational faith that is robust enough to stay strong from generation to generation, we have to be disciplined enough to have a long-term perspective and think beyond just short-term gains. No wonder the Church insists we both remember the saints and events of the past AND pay attention to catechizing our young to stay connected to the Faith!

Look at our lesson today in Acts 13:25-33:

IN THOSE DAYS, as John was finishing his course, he said, “What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but after me one is coming, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.” Brethren, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you that fear God, to us has been sent the message of this salvation. For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize him nor understand the utterances of the prophets which are read every sabbath, fulfilled these by condemning him. Though they could charge him with nothing deserving death, yet they asked Pilate to have him killed. And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead; and for many days he appeared to those who came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people. And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus.

St. Paul’s sermon here in the Book of Acts is him speaking at a synagogue service where there were both Jews and Gentile converts, often called “God-fearers.” He and St. Barnabas were spreading the Message of the Risen Christ in this area of Galatia, and Paul is attempting to help these people see their ideas of salvation will need to be adjusted in light of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

And he starts this adjustment with the ministry of St. John the Forerunner. St. John makes it clear he is not the One Who is the Messiah. And this means if I am ever going to understand just what God means and has always meant by “salvation” I have to start and finish with the Identity of Jesus Christ. Jesus IS salvation. He is fully God and fully man, and He is Who I have to contemplate and focus on if I’m ever going to understand what salvation really is.

Paul reinforces this central reality that Jesus is Who I have to “get right” by reminding us that the leaders of the day did not recognize just Who Jesus is AND they didn’t recognize Him BECAUSE they didn’t understand the scriptures they heard every week in worship. They misunderstood the scriptures and that caused them to miss Jesus!

What a powerful reminder to us today. God had been speaking for centuries before the coming of Jesus, and telling the people of God just what to expect. He sent prophets to make promises that a Savior would come. And God even told the people about the Lord’s bloodline from King David’s family. But in spite of all that faithful teaching from God and His complete trustworthiness in keeping His promises, they missed Jesus! And they missed Jesus so bad that they considered His Message of repentance and salvation dangerous. So they had Him executed!

But that didn’t stop God from fulfilling His promise of salvation. Jesus came out of the tomb alive and confirmed that salvation is all about new life in Jesus Christ!

Today, do you know what salvation really is? It is all about becoming like Jesus Christ. And the whole of the Faith is meant to form the character of Jesus within you IF you and I will be Orthodox on Purpose.

P.S. Dear Lord, You are the God Who keeps His promises. You promised us that You would come and save us, and You did just that in sending us Your Son, our Lord Jesus. You destroyed death by death even when the world turned against You and You brought Jesus from the grave at Pascha for our salvation. You can never be defeated, and You have provided us with everything we need to be connected to You through Your Church. Help us, O Lord, to embrace this great salvation by staying faithful to Your Son. Amen.

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