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Jesus and the Worship of God

June 16, 2011 Length: 45:57

How do people worship when they believe in Jesus? Fr. Tom looks at the four gospels to think through what they say about Jesus relative to the worship of God.

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We continue preparing ourselves for our detailed commentaries on the Liturgies of St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil the Great, specifically, I should say, as these Liturgies are now celebrated in the Orthodox Church. Today we just want to say a few words about Jesus and the worship of God. We reflected on the Old Testament. We went through Genesis. We spoke about Cain and Abel and their sacrifices. We spoke about Abraham and Noah, and Abraham, the passover exodus, and Moses, the law of Moses. We spoke about Joshua and the judges and the kings, the prophets, especially Daniel and the Three Youths. We kind of set the stage, so to speak, for how to understand worship in the new and final covenant of God with his people and with the whole of creation in his Son, Jesus of Nazareth, who is the Messiah of Israel, the Savior of the whole world, the one, great high priest who offers the perfect sacrifice to God; also the King, also the Prophet, also the Teacher: Jesus, who is himself divine, the Son of God incarnate, the living Word of God.

How do people worship when they believe in Jesus and believe in the Gospel of Jesus? What we want to do today is to see what can we say about Jesus himself when he was on this earth? What kind of points can we make, so to speak, reflections that we should keep thinking about and points that we should hold in mind, as we move to considering Christian worship, the worship in spirit and in truth of God the Father about which Jesus spoke with the Samaritan woman at the well.

If we just take the four gospels… and that’s what we’ll do now, and again very simply, very superficially, quickly, but still, let’s hope that this is not a waste of time but is a good use of time, just to take half an hour or so to think through certain points about the four gospels and what they say about Jesus himself relative to the worship of God.

The first thing that we would want to say is that Jesus of Nazareth and his family—his father, Joseph, his legal father; his mother, the holy Theotokos, the Virgin Mary—were what we could call today observant Jews. They kept the Law. They practiced the Jewish practices. When Jesus begins to preach and to teach, we see that he does not identify himself with any particular party of the Jews. He has a lot in common with the Pharisees, but then he is critical of the Pharisees. He certainly has in common with the Sadducees the understanding of the priesthood and the temple; nevertheless, he parts company with the Sadducees about resurrection, about spirit, about soul.

Jesus probably had very little to do with the Zealots, who thought that the Messiah would bring a kingdom on earth where Jesus would rule and Jews would rule the whole creation; nevertheless, Jesus was certainly zealous for the law of God. He was a zealot: he cleaned out the temple, he spoke prophetic words, and he brought the kingdom. He did bring the kingdom, the kingdom of God that will be through all the earth, when all knees will bow before Jesus at the end of the ages.

It’s important for us to remember, and we will say this again and again: when we say that Christ’s kingdom is not of this world, that does not mean that it doesn’t belong to this world and it’s a purely spiritual reality. Not at all. The fact that when we say Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world, it would be the same way as saying God’s Gospel in Jesus is not of men or according to men. Jesus’ kingdom is not simply a human kingdom; it’s a divine kingdom. Nevertheless, as we will see, when Jesus comes in glory in his kingdom, being already King by being raised and glorified and enthroned at the Father’s right hand, at the parousia at the end of the ages, God’s kingdom will be throughout the whole of creation.

It will not simply be at all a simple, so to speak, spiritual kingdom or heavenly kingdom. It’s not somewhere else. God’s kingdom is this world, made into the kingdom of God. It’s God’s good creation, saved, redeemed, sanctified, glorified, deified, by the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, glorification of Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon all flesh. So we are expecting the whole of creation, with all the plants, the animals, the birds, the beasts, the fish, everything that is, to be in the kingdom of God at the end. But it’s a heavenly kingdom in the sense that it comes from heaven, it comes from God, it is divine, but it is not simply heavenly in the sense that it is not earthly or simply doesn’t involve creation. That’s simply not true, but that it is not of this world. It is not a kingdom of men or according to men, and it is certainly not a kingdom as simply like all other kingdoms on this earth. It is not. Jesus is the King of kings, the Lord of lords, and his kingdom is the only kingdom that is and that endures forever and that comes at the end.

But he is zealous for that kingdom, without any doubt, and he is expecting that all the nations of the earth will worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who is his Father and who is even he himself, as the messianic King who is divine with the same divinity as the one God and Father.

Jesus, of course, was not an Essene. There was the Essene type of Jews, although, perhaps John the Baptist, maybe Martha, Mary, Lazarus came from the circle of the Essenes, but those Essenes were apocalyptic. They did expect the coming of the end of the ages. That’s what Jesus preaches. That’s what John the Baptist preaches. The end of the ages is upon you. Jesus, I think we can say; we’d be a little bit careful about this, but we can say that Jesus never was opposed to the temple as the Essenes were. We’ll see that he affirms the temple. Nevertheless, as the Essenes, Jesus saw that the temple not only needed to be purified and cleansed; there had to be a new temple, and that new temple would be his own body. The Essenes considered the Echad, their community, as the temple of God. They didn’t need that temple in Jerusalem, and they thought the priesthood was corrupted and so on.

The Christians would definitely have that in common with the Essenes, because the temple was destroyed in the year 70, and the Christians certainly thought that the God who made heaven and earth does not dwell in temples made by human hands—that’s what Stephen is going to say, that’s what the Apostle Paul is going to preach—and that, in fact, on earth, when Christ comes in glory, his temple is the community of his believing people. The people of God constitute the temple of God, and we will speak about this when we discuss the issue of church buildings and temples in the worship in spirit and truth of the Christian era, of the new covenant community, because a new covenant community will not have physical buildings as temples.

And I will criticize in due time the fact that we have come in America to speak about our church buildings as “temples.” They are not temples! They are houses for the Church of God. They are the buildings in which the living temple of God gathers, which is the people of God. We do not need a temple, a physical building, to have worship in spirit and truth. In fact, the earliest Christians did not have such buildings, but they certainly had worship in spirit and truth, and celebrated the Eucharist in the homes and then on the tombs of the martyrs, and then when they began to build buildings, it was buildings for the gathering of the Church who was the living temple of God.

We will even see in due time that when Christians began to build buildings and then when they began to consecrate them, to bless them, to sanctify them, they treated them like people. They baptized the building, they chrismated the building, they offered the building, they transformed the building into not a Jerusalem-type temple where God dwells, but as a place where Christ dwells in his people who gather and meet in that particular building.

We want to take a look at what Jesus really did hold, if he wasn’t a Pharisee, wasn’t a Sadducee, wasn’t a Zealot, wasn’t an Essene, what was he? He was the unique Messiah who surprised everybody. Nobody understood at first who Jesus was and what he was doing until he was crucified, raised, glorified, and the Holy Spirit had come upon his disciples, all of whom, on the day of Pentecost, were Jews. Very quickly, the God-fearers came in, I mean, those who accepted the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and then even the formerly pagan Gentiles would come in and become part of the Christian community, the Christian living temple of God, where they would worship in spirit and truth.

But that all will develop after Jesus is crucified, raised, and glorified, and the Holy Spirit is given, when the Jerusalem temple is destroyed, when the city of Jerusalem itself is razed to the ground, and when you had actually a new group of Jews called Christians who included also, by faith and by grace, all the nations of the earth, all the peoples of the earth. That will come, when everything is accomplished, and Jesus is crucified, raised, and glorified, and the Spirit is poured out and the new covenanted community called the Christian Church emerges in Christian history.

But for today, what can we say about Jesus when he was on earth? What can we say about Jesus in his humanity, being the Son of God as a real man on the face of the earth? What can we say? What do we need to know? One thing we do need to know, probably the first and most important thing that we need to know is that Jesus himself claimed, and it is written in Scripture, that he claimed to fulfill all righteousness; that his parents did everything for him according to the customs of the Law; that he was upright according to the Law; that he kept the Law and interpreted the Law properly.

What does this mean? This means that when he was born his parents did for him according to the customs of the Law. We have this in Luke’s gospel. They circumcised him on the eighth day; they named him Jesus, as [they were] supposed to do. On the fortieth day they came for the purification of the woman who gave birth, the Theotokos, because she was involved in this divine action of the Incarnation of the Son of God. They offered the proper sacrifices in the temple, and they fulfilled all righteousness in that way.

Also, we know that Jesus and his family—Jesus with his family, we should say, or how he was raised as a Jew—honored the temple. He went to the temple. The only thing that we know, for example, about the child Jesus, the young Jesus, is that when he was twelve years old, it says in the gospel according to St. Luke that his family went up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. We know that Jesus kept all the feasts: he kept the Passover, he kept the Tabernacles, he kept Pentecost, he kept the feast of the dedication. Jesus kept all the feasts that were celebrated according to the law of Moses, and even the subsequent feasts, like the dedication when the lamps were relit in the temple; Jesus kept all those things. We will see that he even changed them; in St. John’s gospel, the theological gospel, we will see how already in Jesus’ time you have the seeds of all the transformation of these feasts into Christian feasts.

But let’s just remember that when he was twelve years old already, Jesus and his parents went up every year at the feast of the Passover to Jerusalem. They went up from Nazareth in Galilee, up the mountain to the temple mount, and celebrated Passover. Then it says:

And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to the customs, and when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the company they went a day’s journey. Then they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintances, and when they did not find him they returned to Jerusalem, seeking him. After three days, they found him in the temple (so he’s sitting in the temple!), sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. (And he’s only twelve years old!)

When they saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.” He said to them, “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” And they did not understand the saying which he spoke to them, and he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was obedience to them, and his mother kept all these things in her heart.

Jesus is in the temple, and they’re amazed at his answers, and he knows all things. Later on, they will say, “Where did this Man get this wisdom? He never studied. He’s a public teacher, called Rabbi.” And by the way, the term “rabbi” wasn’t commonly used. In fact, one of the first earlier uses of “rabbi” that we have are in the New Testament Scriptures, the Christian Scriptures, where the rabbis were those who were in the Pharisaic tradition, and Jesus himself was called “Rabbi” because he was a public teacher, but they’re going to wonder where he got these teachings.

In our Christian Church tradition, what’s going to happen is that the feast of mid-Pentecost that we have in our Church, after Resurrection of Christ, after Ascension into heaven, before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, on the middle of the 50 days of the holy Paschal season, we have a Church celebration called mid-Pentecost, in the middle of the feast. It’s interesting that in our iconography, the icon for that day is Jesus as a twelve-year-old boy in the temple, being the incarnate wisdom and word of God, teaching the people already as a child. We certainly have the affirmation of the festivals, and we have the affirmation of the feasts.

We can talk about the feasts a little bit here, because according to the Scriptures—Matthew, Mark, Luke, John—Jesus kept them all. He kept the Passover; he kept the Sukkoth (the Booths, Tabernacles); he kept the fifty days, he kept Pentecost; he kept the feast of the dedication. But as I already mentioned, we have already, in St. John’s gospel, the theological gospel, the beginnings and the roots of the changes of all of these feasts. We can begin with the most important, so to speak, and the central feast: that’s Passover/Exodus.

Jesus will keep the Passover, he’ll eat the Passover meal, but he will sit at the table and tell his disciples, “From now on, you do this in remembrance of me, not in remembrance of Moses. You do this in remembrance of my death and resurrection, not in remembrance of the deliverance from Egypt and the entrance in Canaan. You do this in remembrance of my entrance into the kingdom of God, glorified at the Father’s right hand. And the bread that you eat on that feastday, the meal will be me. It will be my body and my blood. I will be the Lamb of God, the Paschal Lamb that you will eat. I will be the Bread of Life that comes down from heaven. No longer will you have azims, but you will have the leavened Bread of Truth, the artos.” So you have this transfiguration, transformation of Passover.

The same thing with Sukkoth and Booths. Jesus will transfigure on the mount in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, on the feast of Booths. They will dwell with him on the mountaintop and they will enter into the cloud and they will see him discussing with Moses and Elijah, who symbolize the Law and the Prophets, earth and heaven, the dead and the living, and they will know, even before the crucifixion, Peter, James, and John will know and later remember that they had that mystical experience, so that when they would see him crucified, as we sing in church, they would know that his suffering was voluntary, that it is God’s Son who is suffering.

It’s very interesting that on the feast of the Tabernacles and the Booths and the dedication, the Jews would bless water in the temple. They would have water-blessing and water-sprinkling, and it would be praying for the crops and the waters to come. We know how, especially in St. John’s gospel, Jesus will refer all of that to himself. He will say, “I will give you the living water. The water I give to you, you will drink it; you’ll never thirst again.” He said that to the Samaritan woman. On the feast where they were filling up all these gallons and so on with water, he spoke about giving the Holy Spirit as the living water that would bubble inside people’s bellies. We say “hearts” now, because it sounds a little more civilized, but in Hebrew it said their bellies, their guts: the Holy Spirit of God, like living water, would come forth. He is the giver of the water, not some jars.

Then, of course, at Cana of Galilee, he even changes the water into wine, to show that he is bringing a new reality of joy into the world. Then with the lights, the dedication of the feast of the lights, he will come and he will say, “I am the light of the world. As long as I’m in the world, I am the light of the world. You are walking in darkness. The children who sat in darkness have seen a great light.” And the Christians will take that festival of the dedication of the temple and the lighting of the lamps and the Chanukkah, and they will make it into Christmas and Epiphany. We know all this from other podcasts.

Already, in Jesus’ own activity, he is transfiguring everything. Now we could even mention the sabbath. Jesus kept the sabbath. He certainly did! However, he also taught that something greater than the sabbath is here. He said that about himself, and that he said, “You don’t even understand the sabbath. The sabbath is made for man, not man for the sabbath. It’s not illegal or wrong to do good on the sabbath day. Even David ate the show-bread on the sabbath day when his people were hungry. If your cows and donkeys fall into a hole, don’t you pull them out on the sabbath? Don’t you circumcise a child on the sabbath?” So he gave the true meaning of sabbath, and then he kept the sabbath rest himself according to ancient Christianity, when he rested in the tomb on the Great Saturday before Easter. When he was crucified on Friday, he [lies] dead on sabbath, he rests from all his work—God’s work is now completed when Jesus is dead in the tomb—and then the Christians worship on the day following sabbath, the one after sabbath. Sabbath, for Christians, is still Saturday, but the Lord’s Day, the Kyriakē hēmera, is Sunday. It’s the first day; it’s the eighth day.

All of this, all the seeds of the transformation are in that already, because Jesus is raised from the dead on Sunday, not on Saturday. He sleeps on Saturday, the sleep of death, trampling down death by death. Then he’s raised up and the tomb is seen to be empty on Sunday morning. Then he appears, in John’s gospel, on Sunday evening, and he gives the Holy Spirit to his disciples on the very Pascha day itself, the day of resurrection itself in St. John’s theological gospel. Then eight days later he comes again, the doors being shut, and he appears, and he shows Thomas his side, and Thomas worships him as “my Lord and God!” The sabbath is transformed, too; the time is transformed. History comes to an end when he’s crucified and glorified. A whole new reality enters into the world. As it will say in the Book of Acts, the leaders of the people, the Jews, will say, “This Man is turning the whole world upside down.” That is what he’s doing; he’s bringing the new heaven, the new earth, the new worship, and the new creation. This is what he’s doing, and the seeds of it are all in Jesus’ life himself.

Having said that he affirmed the temple, that he even cleansed the temple… In Matthew, Mark, and Luke he does it at the end of his ministry, after the entrance into Jerusalem and before his passion; in St. John’s gospel, he cleansed the temple—or we should say the cleansing of the temple is given in the narrative—in the beginning, because he shows that the whole thing’s going to be purified; the whole thing is going to be renewed. Jesus honored the temple, he honored the priesthood, he honored the high priest. He didn’t say, “You don’t need all of this.” But we know that, when it comes to the temple, not only was he in it, did he honor it even as a twelve-year-old child, but the accusation against him in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and in John has to do with the temple; it has to do with the temple, because what the witnesses claimed against him was that he was going to destroy the temple. Now, there was some truth in that, too, because if again you take the theological gospel of St. John, when the Passover of the Jews was at hand already in the second chapter of St. John’s gospel, Jesus cleanses the temple. It says:

“In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons and money-changers at their business. Making a whip of cords, he drove them all out, with the sheep and the oxen, and he poured out the coins of the money-changers, overturned their tables, and he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away. You shall not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”

His disciples remembered afterwards… They always remember afterwards, by the way. Here I think it’s important to remember: people say, “Oh, if I were alive when Jesus was on earth, I would have understood everything, I would have seen everything,” and so on. Well, all I can say is, “Excuse me, but that’s baloney.” They didn’t understand anything. Even his apostles didn’t understand things. I always think on Ascension day, when the Lord is finally taken up in glory, they say to him, “Are you now going to establish the kingdom of Israel?” They just didn’t understand, until the Spirit came and until they studied the Scriptures. Once the Spirit came and the risen Christ opened their mind to understand the Scriptures, then they understood everything, but they didn’t understand it when he was still on earth. So they were not any better off or worse off than we are. In some sense, we’re almost in better condition than they were, because we see the whole story; they did not see it yet when Jesus was still on earth.

But then he says:

“It says, ‘Zeal for thy house will consume me.’ ” The Jews then said to him, “What sign have you to show us for doing this?”

Then you have this incredible sentence:

Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Then the Jews had said, “It has taken 46 years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he spoke of the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered (again, they say [they] remembered after he was raised) that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus has spoken.

In the trials of Jesus, in the synoptic gospels and in John, the witnesses accuse him of claiming that he would destroy the temple, and they even accused him of “destroying” the temple when he was at the trial, and they mocked him in that way. It’s very important; this whole business about the temple is very important. I’ll just read to you the Matthew version.

Now the chief priests and the whole council sought false testimony against Jesus, that they might put him to death. When they found none, though many false witnesses came forward, at last two came forward and said, “This fellow (they called him “this fellow”) said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.’ ” And the high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make? What is this that these men testify against you?” But Jesus was silent, and the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said, “You have said so, but I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of power, coming on the clouds of heaven.” The high priest tore his robes, said, “He has blasphemed. Why do we need any witnesses?” And they decide to crucify him.

Even when he’s hanging on the cross, in St. Matthew’s gospel, the robbers who were with him and reviled him, they say, “You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself. If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross. This relationship of Jesus to the temple and the destruction of the temple, it’s there, but it’s already written that the temple would be his body. The body of Christ, which will be constituted by his people, will be the living temple of God. Then, of course, by the year 70, that physical temple, as we mentioned already, was, in fact, destroyed. It was, in fact, razed to the ground, and it was not there any more.

Then the Christians had to understand what to do about that, because the first Christians did continue praising God in the temple. It says it in the gospels. In St. Luke, it says after Jesus was taken from the earth and enthroned in the presence of God, they remained constantly in the temple, praising and glorifying God. So that temple was affirmed until it was destroyed, and then, of course, when the Christians were separated from the synagogues and so on and put out and became, so to speak, a very particular group of Jews who then preached to the Gentiles that Jesus was the Messiah, then of course there was [not] ever any temple again any more.

By the way, we should mention here—we have done it before on Ancient Faith Radio—that’s why apostates, like Julian the Apostate in the fourth century, were so eager to try to rebuild the Jerusalem temple, because it was a common idea by the fourth century that one of the proofs that Jesus was the Messiah was the destruction of the temple. You just don’t need it any more when the Messiah comes. In fact, there was a teaching among Hasidic, mystical Jews, the kind of mystical tendency in Judaism, they would ask this question: What will be the first act of the Messiah when he would come? And the ancient answer was: He will destroy the temple. Because you don’t need it any more; his presence is there filling all creation.

But we see this paradoxical teaching. Jesus affirms the temple, just like he affirms the Law. St. Paul will affirm the Law in the same way. It’s holy, just, and good, but there’s a whole understanding of it in the fulfillment of it by Jesus the Messiah that the Christians will understand and that they will preach. This is how we understand his relationship to the temple.

What about worshiping God? You could ask this question: Did Jesus worship God? Well, the answer would be yes and no. I think if you were speaking in patristic parlance, if you would speak kind of according to the holy Fathers, you would say: In his humanity he worshiped God his Father, and in his divinity he was one with God the Father. Theologically, he is divine with the same divinity as the Father and the Holy Spirit, so in that sense, there is not worship in the sense of a creature worshiping God, because Jesus is not a creature. Nevertheless, it is also teaching that for us and for our salvation, the Son of God came on earth, lived a human life, lived in the conditions of created reality, lived as a real human being, and that in that humanity he definitely did obey, praise, glorify, and thank God his Father. But you never find any place where Jesus had to ask God what he was supposed to do; he knew because he was in communion with God.

So it’s very, very important… If we would put it this way… Let’s put it this way. Do we know anything that Jesus ever prayed? We know that Jesus prayed. I mean, it says in the Scriptures, especially Matthew, Mark, Luke, that he went up apart to pray. He spent the whole night in prayer to God. But do we know what he prayed? Do we know what he said? Think about it. When you think about it, I came up with only four or five different places where we know what he said; otherwise we don’t know what he said. What he said sometimes is not really petitionary prayer, although there will be a couple of petitions, we’ll see in a minute, but basically you have Jesus thanking God. For example, in Matthew and Luke, Mark, you have Jesus at one time declaring… It says at that time, Jesus declared, “I thank thee, Father”—and Jesus always calls God “Father,” “the Father,” or “my Father”: “Abba”—

“I thank thee, Abba, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and the understanding, and revealed them to babes. Yea, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been delivered to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father; no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

That’s Matthew. You have a very similar situation, the similar event is given in gospel of St. Luke. This is the way it says it in Luke:

In that same hour, he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit, and he said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and the prudent, and revealed them to babes. Yea, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been delivered to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

And then Luke continues:

Then turning to his disciples, he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes which see what you see, for I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and they did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and they did not hear it.”

So Jesus does say, “I thank you, Father.”

It’s interesting also that in St. John’s gospel, when he’s going to raise Lazarus from the dead, there’s also a place where he addresses God as Father. This is what we find in the eleventh chapter of the gospel according to St. John. Jesus is coming. They say to Jesus, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” He says, “I am the resurrection and the life.” He says, “Did I not tell you that if you would believe, you would see the glory of God?” They took away the stone from the tomb where the dead man was rotting and the stinking, and then it is written:

Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. I know that thou hearest me always, but I have said this on account of the people standing by, that they may believe that thou didst send me.” When he had said this, he cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!”

He addresses the Father publicly so that people could hear, but he says, “I know that I don’t have to do this. I’m with you always. I know everything.” And in St. John’s gospel, everything that Jesus says and does, he claims that he heard from the Father before he even became a human being, that he learned all this from the Father before the foundation of the world. Unlike Moses, who had to go into the tabernacle and speak to God in the cloud, Jesus comes and speaks what he heard in heaven, what he heard in God. He was with God before the foundation of the world, and then he comes into the world and he teaches these things.

There are a couple other times when Jesus prays, and we know what he says. It’s prayer in the technical sense, petitionary prayer. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, in the Gethsemane garden, you have Jesus praying that the cup would pass from him. He kneels and he prays and he sweats blood and he says—in Mark, he says: “Abba, Father”—he calls him Father specifically, even the word “Abba” is used in Mark; it’s the only time “Abba” as a word, Aramaic word, is used in the four gospels. You have “father” all over the place in Greek, but here he even says, “Abba, Father”; and what does he pray? What does he actually say when he says this prayer? He said:

Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Remove this cup from me, yet not what I will, but what you will.

So you have a petition. You have Jesus in his humanity, in the oikonomia of salvation, saying to God, his Father, calling him Father, to remove this cup. Now, why is that given? It’s to show that the suffering was voluntary. It’s to show that he came and had to suffer and die. It’s to show that he is doing the will of God. It’s to show how horrible and ungodly suffering and death is. It’s for us. It’s for us, that he would pray and take on all this suffering, because he knew that he would experience the situation of being in the condition of sin, and he was no sinner at all. He was not.

So we find also in Luke the same thing. He says, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will but yours be done.” Then when he rose from this prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. So you have that Gethsemane prayer.

Then you have the prayer from the cross. The prayer from the cross would be, in Luke’s gospel: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” You also have: “Father, receive my spirit.” So, in a sense, these are prayers: “Forgive them, receive me.” You have Jesus saying these things that people can hear, so you have these words of Jesus giving a petition, and then, of course, in St. John’s gospel, the 17th chapter, you have the long, chapter-long prayer that Jesus says at the upper room with the eleven disciples after [Judas] has left, that he has accomplished his work and that he’s going to be glorified, and he asked God to glorify his name, and then he prays for the apostles, that they would be one as he and the Father are one, that they would continue in his word, that they would sanctify his name, that they would teach his truth, that they would participate in his glory, that they would share his joy, and that they would have the same love for one another and for him that he has with God.

This long prayer—and that long prayer in John, the 17th chapter—it begins with that very same expression: “Father, I thank thee.” Just like you had “Father, I thank thee, that you hear me always…” “Father, I thank thee, that thou hast [concealed] these these things from the wise and the prudent and revealed them to the children…” So in [the] 17th chapter of John, you have: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him power over all flesh.” You have this long prayer in John 17.

But these are not prayers that sinful people would make. For example, it’s important to remember the Lord’s prayer—Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name—Jesus never said that prayer. Jesus couldn’t say that prayer. He couldn’t say, “Forgive us our trespasses.” He didn’t have any trespasses! He wouldn’t say, “Give us this day the super-substantial bread of the coming kingdom.” He was that bread. So we must remember that the Lord’s prayer, the Our Father, is given to Jesus’ disciples. He told them to “pray, then, like this.” He said, “When you pray, say…” in Matthew and in Luke, Matthew 7, Luke 11 or 12. That’s where you have the Lord’s prayer given, but the Lord’s prayer was never a prayer that Jesus himself said, but he did pray in the Gethsemane garden, he did pray from the cross, he did have the final prayer before his suffering in St. John, and he had these utterances where he said, “Father, I thank thee.”

When it comes to worship, however, it’s very, very interesting and very important in affirming the divinity of Jesus that when people fell down and worshiped him when they bowed before him, when they prayed to him for forgiveness of their sins, for healing of their diseases, for comfort, he never said, “Stand up, I’m a creature just like you.” Never. Isn’t that important to remember? When Jesus was worshiped, he never told people, “Don’t worship me”; never.

You have in the Book of Acts where the people were worshiping Peter and Paul and John and others, thinking that they were gods who had come because of the power they had. They said, “Hey, we’re men just like you. We’re just creatures.” Even in the Apocalypse, when the angel of the Lord comes, John falls; he says, “No, I’m a creature just like you. We’re creatures of God. Human beings and angels are creatures. They glorify God. They petition God. They thank God. They praise God.” Well, Jesus certainly thanked and glorified and praised his Father. He even asked him for certain things, for the sake of our salvation, but when people worshiped and prayed to him, nowhere does he ever say not to do it. He accepts it. When people fall on their face in front of [him], he doesn’t say, “Stand up, I’m a man just like you.” Now, he was a real man, and he really was just like us, but he was the Son of God who had become a man. He had become human. He was divine; he was divine and human. Therefore, he was able to be worshiped.

Here’s where the Christians part company with the Jews and the Muslims, because Islam and Judaism say Christians are not to worship and glorify Jesus Christ, he’s just a man; Christians were accused of idolatry, of worshiping a man. In fact, one of the earliest sentences about Christians is found in Pliny, a pagan writer, who said, “These people worship Christus as their God.” And it says, “They worship him as God, as befitting God.” Certainly, according to the Scriptures, the people related to Jesus as to God. In fact, Jesus says his work is from the Father, his word is from the Father, his will is from the Father, he is from the Father, the life that he has from the Father—but he has it from all eternity, as a divine Person, who then becomes human by taking on the human nature, to use later theological language. He takes on the sin of the world, he takes on our humanity, but even when he is in the form of a slave, dying, he is still the Son of God who is to be worshiped, and he never ever rejects or rebukes anyone who worships him.

People say, “Does the New Testament really teach that Jesus was God?” Well, just read Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The devils already say, “You are God’s Son. We know who you are,” but when people worship him, when he has power over those demons, it’s because he’s divine, because no human, sinful creature, man, has that kind of a power. But God gives that power to men, but he gives it; it’s a grace. He gives the Spirit. It even says in the Scripture that everything he does, he does by the Spirit of God.

One of the gospels certainly teaches that all honor, worship, and glory is due to Jesus, even before his crucifixion, as to God the Father, because he is divine with the Father’s same divinity, but now in human form, revealing it in human form. You could actually say, as a doctrinal statement: Everything that is said and attributed to God the Father or to God generally in the old covenant, to Yahweh, to the Most High, in the new covenant it’s referred to the man Jesus. Everything. He forgives sins, he has powers over the winds, he can do physical miracles. Anything that God can do, Jesus does, and he does it by his communion with the Father by the Spirit of God. Every act of God is a Trinitarian act. It’s from the Father, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit, whether it’s creation, whether it’s preparation for the Gospel in the Old Testament, whether it’s the Law, whether it’s the Prophets, whether it’s Jesus as the incarnate Son of God and the Messiah—every act is God’s act, the agent of the act is the Son and Word of God, incarnate as the man Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

This is what we see in the New Testament when we think about Jesus and the worship of God. In his humanity, Jesus praises, glorifies, and thanks God the Father. He knows that he is the Son of God coming from the Father. He does all the works of the Father, speaks the words of the Father, that he heard from before the foundation of the world. He does the will of the Father, but he accomplishes and fulfills all that as a man, as a real human being. Therefore, he keeps the sabbath, he goes to the temple, he keeps the feasts, he worships according to the traditions, he offers the proper sacrifices. Nevertheless, he teaches that God wishes the mercy, the hesed, the eleos, and not external sacrifice. But when it comes to sacrifice, he sacrifices his own self to God as a living sacrifice, and then his people become the temple in which this perfect sacrifice of Christ to the Father in the Spirit is offered even by the believers in Christ themselves.

That’s what we’re going to see happens in the Divine Liturgy, the worship in spirit and truth, in the Christian Church. We will proceed to examine that. We will see how this Liturgy developed. We won’t speak too much about historical development through Christian history, but we’ll get quite quickly to the present Liturgy as we have it, and we’ll start to analyze it in order to see and to understand all these things, hopefully more accurately, more clearly, more deeply, and most important of all more salvifically: more for the salvation of our selves, of our life, in our world, so that we really could offer to the Father the worship in spirit and in truth that Christ has brought to the world.

He brought it in his earthly ministry, he fulfilled it in his crucifixion, he established it and glorified it in his ascension and enthronement, and he’s given it to us to worship by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon us so that we would have the relationship with God the Father that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, himself has in the Holy Spirit from before the foundation of the world. Then this worship will take place on earth, by human beings, as human worship, until Christ comes again at the end of the ages in glory. And then the whole of creation will become one big Liturgy, and everything will be the temple where God, who doesn’t dwell in temples made by man, will finally fill the whole of creation. This is what we will anticipate. This is what we will worship. This is what we will experience when we celebrate worship in spirit and truth in the Divine Liturgies of the Orthodox Church.


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