Monday, April 6, 2015

We know the father of the children by their works

THE GREAT DESCENDANT

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires.  He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he lies, he speaks out of his own character,  for he is a liar and the father of lies.  John 8:44

WHEN the mother of our race chose to listen to the Snake they became fast friends.  Like so many young girls today she made a bad association, and it turned out to be the worst mistake of her life, but that is not the end of the story because God intervened.  The Lord Himself came to the scene of the crime, came as the Good Samaritan to render aid to the fallen and to make right what humanity had made ever so wrong.  This is what our God does!  He doesn't only create and preserve us, but because He loves His whole creation, He redeems through Christ as well.

The first gospel promise ever spoken was addressed to the mother of our race after she and her husband had perpetrated history's original sin.  After the word of God's Law crushed all hope of repairing the damage themselves they received history's first absolution, one based on a promise that the Lord addressed to the Snake, but within earshot of the woman.  The Lord said to Satan, "I will make enemies of you and the woman, of your offspring and of her Offspring; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel."

Why did He say that?  Because the woman and the snake had indeed become friends, and befriending the snake is like the mythical Hotel California where you can check in but you can't check out again.  It is a door people thoughtlessly open every day, lured in perhaps by the occult or by one of the seven deadly sins, but one that they cannot close again!

In today's gospel lesson we see the promise fulfilled!  Jesus is the Descendant that God promised in the garden that day and the people disputing Him are the offspring of the Snake.  Listen again to the Lord's words, "I came from God...but you are of your father the devil."

What made these particular people the "brood of vipers" that they were?  Like all people they were conceived of sinful parents.  They were born spiritually dead, with a will that is in bondage to sin.  That is the human predicament, so that while we might be able to explore the Mariana Trench which lies 14,000 feet below the ocean's surface, or fashion new body parts with 3D printers, or fill outer space with satellites and space stations... for all of humanity's much celebrated progress we are unable to get at the real problem, unable to repair the human heart, unable to make ourselves righteous before God.

All of this is bad enough, but when Light came into the world these men loved the darkness more than the Light, because their deeds were evil.  Rather than hear the living words of the Man from heaven they disputed Him and tried to domesticate Him, and when nothing worked they plotted to silence Him once and for all.  This made them descendants of the one who was a murderer from the beginning.

There are still descendants of the devil to be found today, more of them than us to be sure.  At times they are crude and violent like the most recent Fort Hood killer.  At others they are refined and charming, hoping to enlist the children of God in their wicked works and wicked ways.  This is why St. Peter warns in his first epistle that we should be "sober and vigilant," and in his second epistle that we should, "supplement faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge and knowledge with self-control;"  why Jesus instructs his disciples to be "as wise as serpents," but also, "as harmless as doves."

Though St. John's gospel is probably the best-loved book of the New Testament it may also be the least-understood.  It is no mistake that both Genesis and St. John begin with the same words: "In the beginning."  Genesis is the narrative of the original creation,  the one God spoke into existence by His Word, but was compromised by sin.  What we read in the opening verses of St. John, "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God," is not merely theological information about the Person Jesus (though it is that), but rather it is the narrative of the New Creation, of the Second Adam, of the Word made flesh who came to dwell among us full of grace and brimming over with truth.

This Creation will not go bad like the first one did because it is founded on Him who is the Author and Finisher of our faith, built on "nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness," so that the gates of hell cannot prevail against it.  

We know, too, from St. John that in the end the descendants of the blood-thirsty snake would have their way.  With the aid of the Roman State they would crucify the Lord of Glory, but what they meant for evil God meant for good.  Your good!  Your salvation!  Your victory over the grave. By His death our Lord Jesus Christ crushed the Satan's ugly head and brought life and immortality to Light by the Gospel.

Why?  So that we might be purified from the deceit of our sins, so that we might find strength to speak true words, even as He himself is True.  And there are none truer, none purer than the ones we pray in the church's liturgy each Sunday whereby we proclaim the Lord's death until He comes again in glory, comes to judge all things in our favor, comes to open our graves and to give unending life to all who are born anew of water and the Spirit.  By God's mercy we are those people.  Let us, then, live up to the high calling that we have in Christ.  Amen

~ Rev. Dean Kavouras

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