Audio length: 50:17 minutes
Transcript published: July 16, 2011
In his continuing series on the names of Jesus, Fr. Thomas looks at the meaning behind the scriptural references to God's chosen ones through whom came God's Chosen One.
We continue now with our reflections on the names and titles of Jesus found in the New Testament, and we’re going to reflect now on the fact that in the Scripture, Jesus, like Israel as a whole in the Old Covenant Scriptures, Jesus is called God’s chosen one and God’s beloved. He’s called the one who is elected and also the one in whom God is well-pleased, or upon whom or in whom is God’s evdokia, God’s good will, God’s good pleasure.
That word, “evdokia,” we know it’s in the glad tidings of the angels to the shepherds in the infancy narrative in Luke where it says, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill among men”: evdokia among men, God’s good pleasure. But we want to think now about this “chosen and beloved.”
First of all, it’s obvious, I think, to everybody who knows the Scriptures at all and the Christian faith at all, that the chosen and the beloved of God are the people of Israel. God chose Abraham, and then he chosen Isaac and Jacob, and that choice of God appears even sometimes in Scripture to be rather arbitrary. We meditated on Ancient Faith Radio about the firstborn, and how you have this firstborn as a very symbolic personage or reality in Scripture: firstborn animals, firstborn or firstfruits of plants, and then Israel being made the firstborn, and the firstborn being the one who inherits everything and has everything.
But God very often doesn’t choose the firstborn. With Isaac, of course, Abraham’s child Isaac, in whom the promise continues, he’s the one who chosen, but he’s not the firstborn. He’s the only-born of Sarah, but he’s certainly not the firstborn. Ishmael is born before him. And then you have, of course, Jacob, whose name becomes Israel. Jacob and Esau: and we know all the story about how the birthright is stolen and deceit is made and God decides not to choose the firstborn. He chooses Jacob rather than Esau. He chooses Isaac rather than Ishmael.
And then, even later on, he chooses David to be his king, and the king that will be the one who has the promise that of his kingship there will be no end, and one of the sons of his body shall be set upon the throne, and that the Messianic king who brings the final, ultimate kingdom of God to the world is David’s son. But it’s certainly not David’s firstborn. In fact, God comes and chooses the seventh son, the weakest, the lowliest; the smallest of the sons of Jesse is made king by God.
So God often doesn’t operate, so to speak, by the rules. He doesn’t even operate by his own rules sometimes. He’s not arbitrary, but he knows what he’s doing, and he’s acting by grace. And he’s doing what he is doing, that he has to do, in order for his plan to be accomplished, the plan which, according to St. Paul in the New Testament Scriptures, was his plan from before the foundation of the world. God had this plan and how to deal and interact with people, and, simply put—we just review again this basic Christian conviction—and that is that God created all people, all human beings, male and female, in his own image and likeness, to literally share his divine life, ever more perfectly forever.
That he created all human beings, male and female, to be prophets and priests and kings over the whole of creation; to know the will of God; to be wise and not fools; to consecrate everything; to offer everything to God; to name everything properly; to intercede and to mediate for the whole of creation; and to govern the creation; to be like the pastor of all that God has made; to be the king and to rule over all things. We know that that’s what God created human beings for; at least, that’s the Christian conviction.
But we also know that human beings sinned. Wherever you have human being, you have an apostasy; you have a rebellion. You have people not keeping the commandments of God; rebelling against God; listening to their own mind; listening to the serpent, the wisdom of this world; disobeying God; not trusting God; not loving God; not glorifying God; not thanking God. And so we have the world the way we know it.
But then the Christian conviction is also that God continues to interact with his creation, and that he has his chosen people, his beloved people, his elect people. And those people are the children of Abraham, and they’re Isaac and Jacob and the patriarchs, Jacob’s children; and Joseph in Egypt; and then Moses, the great seer of God who talked face-to-face with God and gave the covenant to people and led the people out of Egypt and slavery and fed them with manna in the wilderness and followed the pillar by day and the fiery cloud by night and through the desert. And then we know how God chose not to have Moses enter the promised land, but it’s Yeshua, it’s Joshua, which is “Jesus” in Greek: “Iēsous.” He’s the one who crosses Jordan with Caleb. He enters the promised land.
So God, as it says in Scripture, does whatever he wills, but what he wills to do is to choose certain people, to elect certain people. And here, throughout the entire Old Testament, and here you could just get a biblical concordance and look up “chosen” as a word. Look up “elect”; look up “beloved” and see how often that is repeated about Israel: “Israel, my beloved,” and even “my son, my firstborn son; Israel, my chosen; Israel, the one with whom I am well-pleased.” “With whom I give my good pleasure” is perhaps more accurate: “upon whom I lavish my own good will.”
And we know here, even, that God has sworn and cannot change his mind, as it says in Scripture, in the Psalms; that he has chosen Israel. But we know also—and this would be certainly the Christian teaching—that Israel is chosen to produce the Christ, in whom all the people of the whole world will be saved, in whom the Gentiles will hope, who will be the light of the Gentiles, as Isaiah says, the seed of Abraham, in whom all the families of the earth will be blessed and saved. And this is certainly the Christian teaching, and so it is that definitely the Christian teaching that all of Israel, all of God’s people, to whom God has given the covenant, to whom God has given the commandments, to whom God has given according to the flesh the Messiah and Savior of the whole world, that all those people we can say are reduced to one Person. And that one person is Jesus of Nazareth.
All of Israel is reduced to that one person who finally fulfills the will of God, as his chosen, as his beloved, as the one in whom his good pleasure and his good will is resting, and in whom and through whom it comes to the whole world. That man, Jesus of Nazareth, is the fulfillment of Israel and the suffering servant of Isaiah. If you read from chapter 40 to the end of the Prophecy of Isaiah: how many times that is repeated: Israel, my firstborn son, my beloved son, my chosen, my elect, the one on whom is my good pleasure, the one to whom I have sworn, the one to whom I will be faithful, the one through whom I will save the whole universe. That’s just repeated again and again and again.
When we get to the New Testament—Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, the Book of Acts—it is very, very clear that Jesus is proclaimed by God the Father himself as his Son: My Son, and the one who is my beloved, the beloved; and the one in whom my good pleasure abides.
For example, and there are two wonderful examples, and they’re what we want to think about exactly most in this present meditation, in this present reflection, and that is: when Jesus is baptized, and the Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist in the Jordan is given in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and, of course, it’s referred to also in John, but in Matthew and Mark and Luke, when Jesus is baptized by John in the Jordan River, the voice of the Father is heard, and the Spirit descends in the form of a dove and rests upon him; and that is seen, and John bears witness, the Scripture bears witness.
It says that Jesus knew that the Spirit came upon him. John the Baptist is told in John’s Gospel that the one upon whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is the one that God is sending as the anointed one, and that this one is God’s very own Son, the Son of God. But in Matthew and Mark and Luke, it’s so interesting that at the baptism, the voice of the Father says these words: “This is my Son, the beloved (or the beloved of me) in whom I am well-pleased.”
“In whom I am well-pleased.” So this is a… I’ll read it to you from Mark, exactly as it’s written in the Revised Standard Version. In Mark, the words that exist in Mark, which begin with the baptism of Jesus… It’s simply the 11th verse, right in the beginning of Mark’s Gospel. It says:
In those days, Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, was baptized by John in the Jordan, and when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove, and a voice came from heaven: “Thou art my beloved Son. With thee, I am well-pleased.”
Or “in thee I am well-pleased.” That could also be translated, as the note says, “Thou art my Son, the beloved, in whom I am well-pleased” or “in whom I express my good pleasure.” And those words are exactly the same—exactly, word for word—in Matthew and in Luke. In Matthew 3:17, Luke 3:22, you have exactly the same words in the Greek text, exactly the same words. The voice of the Father is heard, and what the Father says is, again—this time I’ll read it from Matthew. I’ll even read it from Greek in Matthew, where, when he is coming to be baptized, the heavens are opened, and you have this saying:
Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water, and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting upon him. And lo, a voice from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased.”
Or “This is my Son, the beloved, in whom I am well-pleased.” And in Greek, it’s identical in Matthew, Mark, and Luke: “Houtos estin ho huios mou ho agapētos, en hō evdokēsa.” Now, this is exactly the same: “My Son, my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”
In Matthew and Mark, these are exactly the same words that are spoken by God on the Mountain of the Transfiguration. I’d like to mention that if you read Matthew, Mark, and Luke chiastically—which means you have an introduction, a beginning activity, a high point in the middle, and then an ending that refers back to the beginning and recapitulates it, and then ends in the Passion of Christ and his death and Resurrection—if you read that Scripture that way, if you see how that’s constructed literarily, the center of Matthew, Mark, and Luke is the Transfiguration.
The beginning is the Baptism, the center is the Transfiguration, and the end is the Crucifixion and Resurrection and the empty tomb. That’s the order of Matthew, Mark, and Luke; that’s how the material is arranged, even though these three authors, three Evangelists, are inspired to tell the story differently and to make different emphases and different theological points and for different purposes, Matthew, Mark, and Luke appear to be very much the same. They’re called “synoptic,” but at the same time, when you read them really carefully, you see that there are very remarkable and interesting differences in each of them. But the same, identically the same words, however, in each one, are at the Baptism: “This is my Son, my beloved, in whom I am well-pleased.”
In the Transfiguration, you have Matthew and Mark having exactly the same words. At the Transfiguration of Christ, after Peter confesses Jesus to be the Christ, then Jesus tells him that he has to be crucified. Peter says no, Jesus says yes. Jesus calls Peter Satan, says, “Get behind me if you’re against the crucifixion. I came to be crucified.” Then Jesus says in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, “And if you will be my disciples, you will have to take up your cross; you will have to be co-crucified together with me in order to enter into the kingdom and to reign with me.”
And then after that exchange takes place, in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, then Jesus at the Feast of Booths, which was the feast of the indwelling of God with his people of the Old Covenant, the feast of Sukkot, Jesus goes up to the mountaintop, and he transfigures in front of the disciples and he shows his divine glory. And Moses and Elijah are there, and, of course, they stand for the Law and the Prophets. They stand for heaven and earth: Elijah’s taken into the heavens; Moses is buried in the earth. They stand for the living and the dead, because Elijah never dies and Moses dies. This is showing that Jesus is the whole fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. He is the fulfillment of all that is given through Moses and all that is given through the Prophets.
Then on that mountaintop, Peter, James, and John are there, and they behold the glory and the splendor shining from the face of Christ. St. Paul will use this very same imagery. For example, in Ephesians and Colossians, he’ll say, “That light of glory that in the past shone from Moses on the mountaintop and Elijah was taken in the fiery chariot, now all of this is tabernacling among us, on earth, in person of Jesus, in the face of Jesus.” So Paul will say that glory of God, the kabod Yahweh, the doxa Kyriou, that is all now shining radiantly apo tou prosopou tou Kyriou, from the face of the Lord, from Jesus Christ himself.
And this is what Peter and James and John see on the Transfiguration mountain. And all this takes place according to our interpretation, certainly to our liturgical interpretation, so that when we would behold him crucified, that we would know his suffering is voluntary, that he is God’s Son, that he is the beloved, that he is the chosen one. So what you have here, in Matthew and Mark, are exactly the same words as at the Baptism. God the Father says, while there is this cloud overshadowing them, and it says, “And behold, a voice came out of the cloud, which said, ‘This is my beloved Son’ ” or “ ‘This is my Son, my beloved, in whom I am well-pleased.’ ” And then it adds, “ ‘Listen to him.’ ” Listen to him. Hear him.
So you have exactly the same words: “Houtos estin ho huios mou ho agapētos—This is my Son, the son of me, the beloved of me, in whom I am well-pleased.” And then there’s an imperative added: “Listen to him.” Listen to him; hear him. And then it says, “When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were afraid, and Jesus touched them and said, ‘Stand up. Don’t be afraid.’ “And then they lifted up their eyes and they saw Jesus alone, and then they descended from the hill, the mount of Transfiguration. Jesus again repeats that he has to be crucified and die and be raised and glorified.
And then, as one of my students once said, “It was all downhill from there.” Then he’s in contestation with the leaders of the people, they have these conversations back and forth, and then ultimately they decide to kill him. And they particularly decide to kill him when he uses the text of Psalm 110, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I put all the enemies under your feet.’ ” He says, “If David in the psalm calls the Messiah ‘Lord, Kyrios,’ and enthrones him at the right hand, how can you say he’s David’s son?” And then they decided to kill him.
An interesting point here, and very pertinent to mention, is that in the Gospel according to St. Luke, the Transfiguration account in the Gospel according to St. Luke, it is not exactly the same as Matthew and Mark at the Transfiguration, and in Matthew and Mark it would be the same at the Baptism, nor is it the same as you would find in Luke at the Baptism. In the Baptism narrative in Luke, you have exactly the same words as in Matthew and Mark, but not at the Transfiguration. At the Transfiguration, you have a slightly different sentence, a slightly different sentence when they’re on the mountain in Luke.
This is how it goes in Luke. It says: “While he thus spoke, there came a cloud and overshadowed them, and they feared as they entered into the cloud.” This is on the mountain of the Transfiguration, right? “And then there came a voice out of the cloud, saying…” And then in Luke it says, in the King James version, it simply says, “This is my beloved Son. Hear him,” but in Greek, it’s not that; and in the Revised Standard, it’s not that. In Greek, it says: “Houtos estin ho huios mou—This is my son.” Then it doesn’t say, “ho agapētos—the beloved of me” or “my beloved.” It says, “Ho eklelegmenos”: the one who has been chosen, the chosen one, the one having been chosen, present participle. And then it does add, “Aftou akouete—listen to him; hear him.” And then it ends the same way: after they hear that, the voice is past, Jesus is alone, and they descend from the mount of Transfiguration.
So here you have the word, not “ho agapētos,” but “ho eklelegmenos”: “my chosen one.” Now, this is very, very nice—in the British sense of the term “nice”: very clever, very nuanced—that change, because, in the Old Testament Scriptures, the elect, the chosen, the elect and the beloved, the chosen and the beloved—are the same! And they’re God’s Son: elect, chosen, beloved, on whom is God’s good pleasure.
In the New Testament also, beside at the Baptism and at the Transfiguration, in Matthew’s Gospel, you have a very long quotation of the Prophet Isaiah, which is very, very instructive. In Matthew’s Gospel, it’s the twelfth chapter where Jesus is doing all the Messianic signs: he’s healing people; he’s casting out demons; he’s pronouncing the good news; he’s walking on the water; he’s calming the winds; he’s raising the dead. He’s doing all the things that it was promised that the Messianic figure would do, that Messianic prophet and the priest, the high king, the chosen one of God. And in Matthew, you have actually a direct quotation of the Prophet Isaiah.
This is what it says. It says Jesus is doing all of these things—healing on the Sabbath; forgiving sins; casting out demons; calming winds—doing everything that God alone can do, and now he is doing this as a man. Then it says that as he was doing all of these things and the great multitudes followed them and he healed the people, then it says he commanded them—he kind of warned them, he entreated them—not to manifest him, that it should not be made manifest yet. They should not make him known. They should not reveal him yet.
Then it says the reason being that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the Prophet, saying… And now I’ll read it to you from the King James version: “What was spoken by Isaiah the Prophet, saying, ‘Behold my servant, whom I have chosen, my beloved (the beloved of me), in whom my soul’ ”—God speaks about having a soul here; it’s interesting: my life—” ‘is well-pleased.’ ” And you have that same verb: “evdokisen.” You see? In the Baptism, it was “evdokisa.” “In whom my spirit”—or there, it was simply “I”—“have my good pleasure,” my goodwill is upon him.
And then it continues: “I will put my Spirit upon him, and he shall show judgment to the Gentiles. I will put my Spirit upon him—thēsō to pnevma mou ep’ afton—I will put my Spirit upon him and announce,” it says. Or even “evangelize—apangeleion.” It’s the same word that you get the word “Gospel” from. “Pronounce the glad tidings of krisis, of judgment, to all the nations of the world.” All the Gentiles.
Then it continues: “He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed shall he not break; a smoking flax shall he not quench, until he sends forth judgment unto victory.” That’s a wonderful [saying]: “eōs an ekvalē eis nikos tēn krisin”: until he has put forth unto victory, he has led into victory, the judgment of God; until he is victorious. And then this little quotation ends, “And in his name—kai tō onomati aftou—in his name will the Gentiles, the nations, place their hope, place their trust—elpiousin—place their trust.”
So this quotation from Isaiah, it’s a very important quotation, actually, because it is that quotation that this servant of Yahweh, “My servant, the pais mou,” and remember, we reflected on that term, “slave” or “servant of Yahweh”; the servant of the Lord is “pais.” It can mean “son”; it can mean “servant”; it can mean “my boy.” It means the one that is belonging to me, the one who does my will. This “my servant” is also “my beloved” and “my chosen.” He’s called here “my chosen.” “My servant, whom I have chosen, my beloved.”
I’d like to just point out: there’s a very interesting connection of this text with the Magnificat of the Virgin Mary in St. Luke’s Gospel, and I think it’s worthwhile taking the time to reflect on this. In the Gospel of St. Luke, as you probably know, when the Virgin Mary receives the glad tidings from the angel Gabriel, that she will give birth as a virgin, to the one who will be God’s very Son, and in that particular text, Mary asks how that can be, and then [he says] the Spirit of the Lord will come upon you and the one to be born of you will be called holy, the Son of God, and he will be the Savior who is Christ the Lord.
All this is found in the Gospel according to St. Luke, but when Mary hears that, and she greets Elizabeth and John the Baptist leaps in the womb of Elizabeth and Jesus leaps in the womb of Mary, and Elizabeth says, “Blessed are you among women; blessed is the fruit of your womb. Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord,” Mary sings her son. It’s called the Magnificat, and it’s used in Christian church services of the ancient Church consistently ever since. In the Western Church, it’s sung at vespers; in the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Eastern Church, it’s sung at matins.
But that song of Mary goes like this: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God, my Savior.” That’s what Mary says.
For he has regarded the lowliness (the emptiness, the nothingness) of his female slave (his handmaiden). For behold, henceforth all generations will call me highly favored, greatly blessed, full of grace. For he who is mighty has done great things for me, and his name is holy. His mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation. He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their thrones. He has exalted again those of low degree (the tapeinous). He has filled the hungry with good things, and he has sent the rich away empty (kenous).
It actually rhymes in Greek. And then it says—and this is the line I want for today—it says:
And he has upheld his servant Israel…
His pais his slave Israel, the suffering servant Israel.
...in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed forever.
Interestingly, this sentence: “He has upheld his slave Israel in remembrance of his mercy,” that term “slave” or “servant,” it’s a singular and it’s a male singular. So as the Magnificat begins by saying, “He regarded the low estate of his female slave,” then the Magnificat ends poetically, with a poetic inclusion. It ends with, “And he has upheld his male servant, Israel.” But all the Christian tradition understands that as referring to Jesus himself, that it is Jesus who is upheld, and that is exactly what is just quoted, what I just read to you from St. Matthew’s Gospel.
What he says in St. Matthew’s Gospel, he begins by saying, “Behold, my slave, whom I have chosen, my beloved, and the one whom I have upheld.” And then it says, “In whom my soul is well-pleased.” So God says about him, that God says his own soul, his own life, is well-pleased in Jesus, whereas Mary says in her song that her soul magnifies the Lord. Well, at the end it says that the Lord is well-pleased in her child, and his soul is well-pleased.
And then, when Mary says, “My spirit rejoices in God my savior,” this particular sentence ends in Isaiah by saying that “I will put my spirit upon him, the one in whom my soul rejoices. It’s on him that I will put my Spirit.” And then, of course, in Luke, Isaiah is also quoted, that text, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, to pronounce the Gospel to the poor, to preach freedom to those who are in captivity, to pronounce the glorious freedom of the children of God to the world, the beginning of the new age.” That’s what Isaiah is predicting about Jesus.
But in that text again, I just want to read it to you as it exactly says in Isaiah. It puts it this way here. He says:
Behold my servant whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights. I have put my spirit upon him. He will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice or make it heard in the street. A bruised reed he will not break; a dimly burning wick he will not quench.
In other words, he’s not going to quench anything; he’s going to keep everything going.
He will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not fail or be discouraged until he has established righteousness on the earth, and the coastlands will all wait for his law.
That means the Gentiles. So here you have Israel being called “my servant, my chosen, the one [in] whom my soul delights,” and therefore “the one who is my beloved, the one in whom is my good pleasure.”
All of this is Jesus. That’s the point today: all of this is Jesus. He is the elected one; he is the chosen one; he is the beloved one; he is the one in whom is God’s good pleasure. And you have this expression, “chosen of God,” repeated very often in the Scriptures. For example, at the Passion narrative in St. Luke’s Gospel, they say, “Well, why is all this happening to him? Why is he being crucified? Why is God not helping him? Why is God not saving him? He saved others; let him save himself.” So, for example, in Luke’s Gospel, you have this sentence: Jesus is on the cross; they’re crucifying him, with thieves. Jesus cries out from the cross, “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.” And then they cast lots to divide his garments; that’s the fulfillment of the psalm. And then it says the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the chosen one, the one who has been chosen.”
And then they even continue: “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” And they had the inscription over him: “This is the king of the Jews.” So you have this: “If he is the chosen one.” And in the other letters in the New Testament, you have Jesus called the chosen, and those who are in Jesus are also called the chosen, those who belong to Jesus, because he’s the firstfruit and the firstborn of many brethren. All who are in Christ now become chosen and beloved of God. They become sons of God.
For example, in I Peter, the author writes that this man who was crucified, who was raised and glorified, who is God’s Son and Lord, he is rejected by men, but, it says in I Peter, chosen by God. Rejected by men, but chosen by God. And that is a statement also that you can apply even to the followers of Jesus, because all those who follow Jesus and keep the commandments are also basically rejected by men, but chosen by God. So you have [this] example in [I Peter]; I’ll read the text totally. It says to the Christians:
This is the good news, the Gospel which was preached to you: So, put away all malice and all guile and insincerity and all slander, but like newborn babies, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you make grow up to salvation, for you have tasted the goodness of the Lord. Come to him, to that living stone rejected by men, but in God’s sight chosen and precious. And like living stones, be yourself built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
So this is what it says: “Come to him, that living stone rejected by men, but in God’s sight chosen and precious.” When we know that Jesus is the chosen, the beloved, God’s own Son, in whom is God’s good pleasure, we know and we affirm and Scripture teaches and the Liturgy prays and the Creed says that all this is done for us and for our salvation. He is chosen; he is elected; he is beloved; he is sent. He is revealed, for our sake, as the chosen one of God.
That means that in him, by faith and by grace, we become everything that he is. St. Maximus the Confessor put it so nicely when he said, “A human being is a creature with a commandment to be by grace and by faith everything that Christ is by nature.” And Christ by nature is God and man. And Maximus even was mutilated and persecuted and put in prison, and died because he insisted that as a man, Jesus had a real human soul, a real human will, real human energies; he was a real human being. He became really like us in every respect.
He’s really human, but he’s also really divine, and his divinity is revealed through his humanity. And that divinity is revealed not only through his actions as the Messiah and his preaching and his teaching, but it is ultimately revealed when he is crucified. When he is crucified, the power of God is revealed, the truth of God, the wisdom of God, the glory of God, the love of God, the mercy of God, the forgiveness of God. All [of] this is given through him, and he is chosen and beloved exactly for that particular purpose.
What this tells us is this: those who are chosen in Christ, who is the Chosen One, those who are beloved of God in Christ as the Beloved One, are called to keep the commandments of God. They’re called to show forth the love of God, perfectly and totally. They are called to do the will of God, without qualification or condition. They are chosen to serve God in every possible way for the salvation of all the nations and the whole world. They are called to be holy as God is holy, and we’ll see that Christ, one of the titles of Christ is the Holy One of God. The chosen one of God and the beloved one of God, who is the Son of God and the Word of God, is also the Holy One of God.
Those who are called and chosen in him are called to be saints. It’s very interesting that practically every letter of the Apostle Paul in holy Scripture begins with the words “Klētoi agiois—called to be saints.” So we are all called to be holy. We’re called to be what Christ is, to do what Christ does, to live the Christ-like life. Now, of course, we know also when we think of this word, “chosen”—no one can know the Scripture without remembering right away how the Lord Jesus Christ said, “Many are called”—in fact, “many” there means also “the multitude.” In fact, it means “everyone”: Everyone is called. But he said, “Few are chosen.” Only few are chosen.
Many are called, but only few are chosen, and those who are chosen are chosen basically to suffer with Christ. And in the Letter to the Romans, in the eighth chapter, you have this put very nicely again, very [clearly], very sharply, without any doubt, without any nuance, where you have the following said, that in that eighth chapter it says that the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in us, and God, who raised Christ Jesus from the dead, will give life to our mortal bodies through the Spirit dwelling in us. And then, through the Holy Spirit, we are led by the Spirit of God and are called sons of God, and we cry to God, “Abba, Father!” And then we become heirs of God and fellow-heirs with Christ. But then it adds, “Providing we suffer with him, in order that we may be glorified with him.”
Then Paul speaks about the sufferings about the present time, and what the Christians have to go through with patient endurance, but then he says, and we use this text when we were speaking about predestination in one of our talks on the radio, you have these words:
We know that in everything, God works for good with those who love him and are called according to his purpose. Now those who love him are those who know that they are beloved by him.
So it’s only the beloved who love God. As St. John puts it, we love God because he loved us first. So the beloved are the lovers. And then it says:
For those whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
So if he’s the called and the beloved, then he’s the first of many who by faith and grace through him become what he is and have his Spirit and have his relationship to God as Abba, Father. So then it says:
And those whom he predestined, he also called. And those whom he called, he also justified as those who were chosen. And those whom he justified, he also glorified.
So then it says:
What, then, shall we say to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things through him and with him and in him?
We know that we are called. Christians are called. The baptized are called. Those who are sealed with the Spirit, those who participate in the broken Body and shed Blood of Christ, they are the ones who prove that they are chosen. And we have this wonderful line in the psalter that’s used, perhaps in a little bit of a different way in the prayer for the dead: “Blessed are they whom thou hast taken and chosen, O Lord.” But those who are chosen by God are the ones who are chosen to suffer with him. And here, this is very important, because if anyone can claim, “I have been chosen by God. I am beloved of God and Jesus. I am together with him, one of many brethren who are firstborn and who have all of God’s election upon me,” then what I’m saying is, “I’m called to suffer. I’m called to keep the commandments. I am chosen.”
And you could even say that whom God foreknew and he called, those whom he chose are the ones whom he knew would keep his commandments; those whom he knew would love him in return; those whom he knew who would love everyone, including their worst enemies, the way Christ did and the way Christ commanded; those who would love with the love that Christ himself has loved us. And, by the way, it’s interesting that in the Letter to the Colossians, Jesus is not… It’s sometimes translated in English “beloved Son,” that Jesus is called the beloved Son in the Letter to the Colossians. It’s right in the beginning of the letter. This is what it says in the RSV. It says:
May you be strengthened with all power according to his glorious might for all patient endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.
And that means in Christ Jesus.
He has delivered us (or ransomed us) from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom…
And it says here in English:
...of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
So God has taken us and with endurance and patience and joy and eucharistic thanks to God, we are [inheritors] of the saints in light, together with Jesus and in him, because in him we have been delivered from the dominion of darkness. But here, where it says, “and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,” it’s interesting that literally it says in Greek, “has transferred us to the kingdom of the Son of his love—ho huios tēs agapēs aftou.” Not “beloved Son,” not “ho agapētos,” but “the Son of his love.”
So we become sons of God’s love in Jesus. That’s what the beloved son means: to be the son of his very love, made sons by his love, made sons because he loved us. But we repeat, and we complete our meditation here today by remembering and forcefully saying, as forcefully as we can: If we are indeed called and chosen in Christ, or, to use the words of the Apocalypse, the Book of Revelation, where it says that those who enter the kingdom are called, but they’re also chosen, and they’re also faithful. They are called; they are chosen; and they are faithful. It’s a wonderful statement. Let me see; I will find it here immediately to read it to you, because it speaks about those who have conquered in Christ. Those who have conquered in Christ as the King of kings and the Lord of lords, that they are the ones who are called and who are chosen and who are faithful. Let me try to find it here.
But what it is saying about them [is that] they’re the ones who conquer with the Lamb, who is Jesus, and they conquer because they suffer together with him; that it says those who conquer, or those who have conquered together with him, they’re the ones who enter into the kingdom. But you only can enter if you have suffered with him. So this is what it says. It says:
They, the evil of the world, will make war on the Lamb…
The Lamb of God: that’s Christ.
...and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is the Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with him are called and chosen and faithful.
“Klitoi, eklektoi and pistoi,” it says in Greek. I like it in Slavonic also: “zvanih, izabranih, i vjerni.” I always, when I think of that text, I like to say—I’ve said it before on the radio—that the Metropolitan Hilarion of the Russian Orthodox Church, who’s now the head of the External Affairs, his mother, when he was a small boy, wrote a book, under the Communists, about being a Christian under Communism, and she named her book: “Zvanih, Izabranih, i Vjerni”: Called and Chosen and Faithful.
But those who are called, chosen, and faithful, are those who suffer. That’s the point. Only the suffering servant is the chosen and the beloved. Only those who suffer together with him are chosen and beloved. Only those who suffer with him are chosen, beloved, and [upon] whom the goodwill of God, announced at the birth of Christ by the angels, rests. The “goodwill among men,” that goodwill of God is only on those who keep the commandments of God, who do the righteousness of God, who serve God, who are slaves of God, even, by which they become sons.
They are only those who co-suffer with Jesus, who are co-crucified with him, who die with him, not just in the sacrament of baptism, but really, literally, every moment of their life; who are sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit, not only at their baptism, but are constantly sealed and acting by the Holy Spirit every moment, with every breath of their life; only on those who eat and drink at the table of the kingdom the broken Body and shed Blood of Christ, so their bodies could be broken and their blood could be shed, so that they could demonstrate and prove that they are indeed the chosen and the beloved of God, those who have answered the call.
Many are called, but only the few are chosen, and the chosen are those who suffer with him. That is clearly the teaching of the holy Scripture, and it’s clearly the witness of the saints. So Jesus alone is chosen and beloved, but we are chosen and beloved in him. But the chosen one and the beloved one, in whom God’s soul rejoices, as it says in Isaiah, on whom God has placed his Spirit, as it says in Isaiah, making him the Christ, the anointed one—that Jesus of Nazareth is the fulfillment of the calling and the choosing of Israel.
In fact, he is Israel. He is the male child, Israel, as the end of the Magnificat says: “For he has upheld his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed”—that’s Christ—“forever.” But he is that servant, the chosen and the beloved. And the Father himself, God himself, testifies to this when Jesus is baptized by John in the Jordan, and he testifies to this when Jesus is transfigured on the mountain before Peter, James, and John: “This is my Son, my beloved, my chosen. Listen to him.”
And then, when he’s on the Cross in total silence, the leaders of the people scoff at him: if he was the chosen, why can’t he save himself, come down from the Cross? But there they make that tragic error: he is hanging on the Cross, crucified and silent, because he is the chosen one, and as the chosen one, the beloved one, he gives his life to the Father. He fulfills all righteousness. He ransoms us from all sin. He forgives everything. He destroys death, as the chosen one, the beloved one. And he fulfills it all, as he fulfills everything, as he hangs dead upon the Cross. “It is fulfilled.”
So when he says in St. John’s Gospel, “It is fulfilled,” it means, “My being chosen; my being beloved; my being God’s real, only Son; my being the firstborn of creation and the firstborn of the dead is now being fulfilled. My chosenness, my belovedness is being demonstrated, when I give up myself for the life of the world.” And all those who belong to him, by faith and by grace, and by the Holy Spirit’s power, are called to be chosen and faithful and beloved for doing exactly the same thing, for being what he is and doing what he does, because he does it, not so that we don’t have to do it, but he does it so that we may do it together with him; that we, with him, may be chosen and beloved and be shown to be those upon whom the good pleasure of God descends, remains, and lasts, filled with the very Spirit of God, that made him the Christ and us the anointed; him the Son and we sons in him; him the chosen and beloved, and we also chosen and beloved in him.