Holy Bible

Faith and the Divine Fellowship The Lord Jesus Christ came to search for us as a Shepherd looking for the lost sheep to embrace him and to uplift him to heaven. As a Father, He asks for His prodigal son to make him a joyful banquet, and He also asks His bride, the church to search diligently for us as a lost co9in, until she finds us and washes us with His blood, and thus carry His divine image (Luke17: 15). As we have seen in the previous chapter, to receive this friendship, we are committed to leading a life of wisdom, asking what is for our own construction in the eternal life, and not for the temporal pleasure (such as the dishonest manager). Let us bear the suffering thankfully as poor Lazarus, and not follow the example of the rich man who indulged passionately in his pleasures, and was cruel hearted to his brother. Now He is offering us the basic factor for this fellowship, which is the faith. This has to be interpreted actively in our life through our actual behavioral life, and the inward facts in the soul, in the expectation of the Lord’s coming. 1- Avoiding obstructions in our conduct 1- 2 2- Having a forgiving heart for those who have wronged us 3- 4 3- Increase our faith 5- 10 4- Gratitude and the faith- the ten lepers 11- 19 5- Faith in the inward kingdom 20- 21 6- The inward kingdom and the eternal one 22- 37 + + + 1- Avoiding obstructions in our conduct: Our fellowship with the Lord Jesus is based on a hidden partnership inside the heart, through which we are blessed with the new life by means of His Holy Spirit. This partnership is best manifested practically in our actual conduct; particularly in avoiding offenses by having a lovable heart specially to those who have unjustly treated us. We therefore have to declare our Christ, the Lover of mankind, who has loved us even though we were still enemies. He has reconciled us with His Father (Rom.5: 10) “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God though the death of His Son”. As for avoiding offenses, the evangelist says (Luke17: 1, 2) “Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come. It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble”. The Lord Jesus confirms that the obstruction is present. But His assurance does not excuse, those who cause others to stumble, from the judgment or responsibility, for no one is obliged to act as a stumbling obstruction. He is a physician diagnosing the disease, and He sees in humanity some who have absolutely rejected the food, by rejecting the faith in Him, and so they slide to perdition and become an offense to others. These words followed how the Lord Jesus revealed the money obstacle, that was worshiped by the Pharisees in their innermost hearts, and have cherished a god other than God. They have become a stumbling block in the salvation way. It is as if the Lord Jesus when He tackled in the previous chapter the subject of ‘the love of money’, He asked His disciples to beware this stumbling god to the soul. Otherwise thy will become like the Pharisees. An offense to the people. + What are these offenses or obstructions the Lord Jesus says have to happen? There are two kinds of obstruction: the ones against the glory of the greatest Being, resisting the Jewel who is above all, or the other offenses that occur every now and then against ourselves. All what it brings the harming of our brethren, our partners in the faith. The heresies and the new concepts that resist the truth, are in fact offenses that resist the glory of the most sublime godliness. It with draws those caught to god, and thus corrupts their correct and accurately sanctified edification. Concerning these offenses the Savior Himself says (Matt.18: 7) “Woe to the world because of stumbling blocks!” Those offenses have to come, but woe to this person by whom they come. Such obstructions that the evil heretics urge are not addressed to o9ne particular person, but rather to the whole world, that is, to all the earth inhabitants. The devout St. Paul rebukes those ones who provoke these stumbling blocks, saying (1Cor.8: 12) “But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ”. These stumbling blocks should not overcome believers, and therefore God says to the ministers of the correct Word of Truth and those skilful in its teaching (Is.62: 10) “Go through, go through the gates, prepare the way for the people; build up, build up the highway, clear it of stones”. The Savior has set a bitter punishment for those who put such stumbling blocks in people’s way. St. Cyril the great The Lord Jesus assures us (Luke17: 1) “Occasions for stumbling blocks are bound to come” as a real fact at every age, since the adversary does not cease to attack the believers through the heretics, as well as through the errors of some priests, servant and believers from among the congregation so as to9 destroy the weak souls. The Lord Jesus warns us of two aspects: that we be not stumbling blocks to others, and that, we are not hindered as little ones in the faith through others mistakes. When discussing these evangelical expressions (Matt.18: 6,7; Mark.9: 42) we have seen that it was a Jewish custom when they have lost all hope in someone, and when they wish him to be set as an example to others, they would tie his neck to a rock, and throw him in the sea, and he would never appear again. This is how Pope Gregory the great sees the servant or the priest who acts as a stumbling block to his congregation, he has to leave his job as a shepherd and flee so as to save his soul and disappear. This is better than being condemned for the souls he has obstructed in his service instead of being the means of saving them by the cross. We emphasize with St. John Chrysostom his words, if this is the punishment for him who obstructs the little ones, then what is the reward for him who saves the weak and obstructed souls? “If the salvation of one single soul had not been so very great to Christ, He would not have threatened with such a punishment for him who acts as a stumbling block to someone”. 2- Having a Forgiving Heart for those who have Wronged Us: If we wish to have a well-based and deep fellowship with the heavenly Savior, then we have to embody His work in us. We have to be concerned about the salvation of every soul, and should not allow ourselves to be a stumbling block to those ones weak in the faith, neither should we ourselves be obstructed in our salvation way due to others’ drawbacks. The first drawback for an offense is to be intolerable at heart, and not to have enough love towards others particularly to those who have unjustly treated us. This is why He says (Luke17: 3,4) “Be on your guard! If another disciple sins,. You must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive. And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, ‘I repent’, you must forgive”. In a loving heart, if a brother wrongs us, rebuke him. This is not to justify ourselves or to throw the blame on him, but so as to win him over in love, and win the salvation of his soul. This is why the Lord Jesus says on another occasion (Matt.18: 15) “go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one”. It is as if the purpose of this rebuke that is full of love is ‘to own himself’ as a gain to us, and thus we do not lose him as a member in the sanctified body. The Lord Jesus did not put a limit to love. He rather asked us to forgive those who have wronged us, and come back to us repentently seven times in one day. This means he repents endless times, because the number seven refers to perfection. If the Lord Jesus asks us to forgive those who have wronged us in this way everyday, how much more so He would forgive us whenever we come back to Him? With these words of His, He opens for us the door of hope, that is incessant, so we come back to Him in repentance, and confessing our sins. +What wisdom does God have! After He had mentioned the parable of the rich man’s suffering in the place of pain and agony (Luke16) He resumed His words commanding us to forgive those who come back in repentance and regret, so no one would despair in departing from his sins. What great wisdom! Man should not be hard-hearted in offering forgiveness to others, and should not be careless in his mercy. He should not clash with others in violent rebuke, and should not continue in careless wrong-doing. This is why He said on another occasion (Matt.18: 15) “go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone”. The friendly rebuke is much better than the open accusation. The former implies shame, but the latter arouses wrath. It is better that the one who has wronged you would consider you as a friend and not as an attacking enemy. It is easier for man to accept the advice than to yield to violence. This is why the apostle says (2Thes.3: 15) “Warn them as believers”. Fear is a weak guard when persisting, whereas shame is a good teacher for duties. + It is well said “if a disciple sins against you”; the situation is different when sin is against God or against man. this is why the apostle who is the real interpreter to the prophecy, says (Tim3: 10) “after a first and second admonition, have nothing more to do with anyone who causes divisions. The deviated faith is not forgiven, as well as an error or sin against man. St. Ambrosios + You are called ‘a son’; if you therefore reject to follow God’s example and forgive your brother, then why do you ask for His inheritance? + I wish you to forgive, since I see you asking for forgiveness. St. Ambrosios If He has asked us to admonish our brother who has sinned against us then let us not stop at the admonition, but rather let us take him lovingly to forgiveness. But to what extent should this be? To seven times, that is, endlessly. + He says if the person who has sinned against you repents and knows his mistake, forgive him, not only once but many times. It is appropriate for us not to seem incomplete in sharing love, and careless in our loterance. It is possible that everyone fails and sins more than once. We rather have to follow the example of those who treat our physical diseases. They do not treat the patient once or twice only, but whenever they fall sick, they do so. Let us remember that we ourselves are exposed to infirmities, and we can be subjected to certain whims and drawbacks. We therefore ask those who have the right to admonish, and it is in their authority to do so, to discipline us, and to be tolerant with us, and to forgive us. Likewise it is our duty to have sharing feelings, and that we feel the weakness of others, and bear the yoke of each other. In this way we fulfil Christ’s law (Gal.6: 2). St. Cyril the great St. Ambrosios offers us an explanation of our forgiveness to our brother, who has sinned against us, seven times every day. The number seven reminds us of the seventh day in which God rested of all His work (Gen.1: 2). Thus the seventh day is sanctified among the Jews, also the seventh month, and the seventh year...etc. The Lord rested on the seventh day, which means He found His rest after He has created man on the sixth day, and has made the whole world for his sake, and the Lord rejoiced with it. Likewise when He sees that we forgive our brethren incessantly, He rests in us, for He finds His divine work is fulfilled. This is the Lord’s joyful Sabbath, when He finds His children having His quality of the Lover of mankind, and forgive others sins in a warm and loving heart. The Lord’s Sabbath is not a mere day, but rather ‘a life risen in Him’. He who keeps it, lives in resurrection through Him. He does not yield to the death of hatred, or the vengeance corruption, but he rather lives in freedom with god’s all encompassing love. 3- “Increase Our Faith”: The apostles may have relised that what the Lord Jesus commands is above the natural standards, and so they asked for God’s help. Thus they would be able to forgive by nature others’ mistakes by means of faith, for the evangelist says (Luke17: 5,6) “The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’ The Lord replied, ‘If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea’ and it would obey you’”. In the above words we notice the following: Firstly: If ‘faith’ is the secret behind the power of the church, without which we shall not be blessed with Christ’s nature, that which is risen and is active in us, and without which we are unable to offer the true and forgiving love to others’ mistakes, then this ‘faith’ is God’s gift, with which we are blessed if we ask Him with the apostles ‘Increase our faith’. This is God’s gift but not with a negative aspect on our side. + What necessarily gives joy to the saintly souls is not to obtain the earthly temporal goods, because such things are corruptible, and are easily lost. It is rather to be blessed with the honorable and blessed goods that are spiritually blessed, and are God’s gifts. One of these blessings is ‘the faith’ that has special appreciation. I mean to enter the faith in Christ our Savior of us all. St Paul knows Him as our greatest blessing, for he says (Heb.11: 6) “And without faith it is impossible to please God”. ‘It is this faith those of old have achieved martyrdom to God. Notice how the saintly apostle followed the example of the saints’ conduct in the Old Testament. What have thy asked of Christ? ‘Increase our faith’. They did not ask for mere faith, lest you think they had no faith. They rather asked of Christ to increase their faith and to strengthen it in them. Faith partially depends on us, and on the other hand it is the divine and blessed gift. At the beginning it depends on us; we can either accept it or reject it. We have the authority to trust in God and to believe in Him. As for making the faith strong and firm this requires the divine grace. For this reason, because all things are possible with God, the Lord has said, (Mark9: 23) “All things can be dome for the one who believes”. The strength that falls on us through the faith is from God. The devout St. Paul knows this and he tells the Corinthians (1Cor.12: 8,9) “To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit”. You can thus see him putting the faith in the list of spiritual blessings. This is what the disciples asked to obtain from the Savior. He therefore granted tem this after He proided the fulfillment of the descent of the Holy Spirit on thim. For before the resurrection their faith was fragile and little. The saint spoke of the disciples’ attitude at the tempestuous sea as an example of their little faith (Matt.8: 26; 14: 31; Luke8: 25; John6: 19). There is no surprise when they ask for their faith increase from Christ the Savior of us all. He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but rather to wait the Father’s time to be clothed with power from above (Acts1: 4). When they were blessed with the power from above, they have truly become brave and strongly kindled in the Spirit. They scorned death, and had no fear of any hazards the unbeliever threatened them with; rather, they have become capable of performing miracles. St. Cyril the great Secondly: In the apostle’s words ‘Increase our faith’, the true faith has been unfolded. It is not a solid thing that we have received and then it stopped. It is rather the experience of an existing life’. It is our faith in accepting God’s work in us, with no hindrance or cessation until we reach the desire of our teacher St. Paul the apostle (Eph.4: 13) “to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ”. As, St. Augustine says, “Our faith increases when ‘God’s wisdom” in declared openly, face to face with His saints”. Our faith are not just words we keep repeating, neither is it a philosophy we have adopted. It is life and working experience with God who works continuously in us. He works by our means to give witness to Him at all times, and so we bring souls to the account of His kingdom. Thirdly: The answer the Lord Jesus gave was (Luke17: 6) “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree ‘be uprooted and planted in the sea’ and it would obey you”. This unfolds our need not for a materialistic increase in the amount-wise, but in an increase regarding the quality of our faith. There is no comparison between the mustard seed that the Jews considered the smallest of all seeds, and the mulberry tree that is so huge. Our live faith as the little mustard seed is able to make impossible things, such as the uprooting of the mulberry tree, with all its root from the earth, and planting it in the sea amidst the waves! The live faith is the maker of all impossibilities. Fourthly: The two saints Ambrosios and John Chrysostom think the mulberry tree here refers to Satan. If our life has become an earth, the enemy will plant a mulberry tree there. With faith we can cast out Satan and all his works from our life, and there will be no place for him in us. He will be thrown in the sea, in the very deep sea. This is just as when the Lord allowed the devils to go out of the man in the Gadarenes, and enter the swine; thus the whole swine herd rushed from the cliff top down to the water and were choked (Luke8: 33). Pope Cyril the great thinks the mulberry tree here means the power faith has to fulfil what seems impossible to us. With faith the tree is uprooted from the earth despite its deeply tangled roots, and with faith it is planted firmly in the moving sea waters. It is as if faith makes what is impossible, for he says “He who trusts in God does not rely on his personal strength, but he attributes all what he accomplishes to Christ. He confesses that through Christ all goodness in human souls is fulfilled, and that it is appropriate for people to prepare themselves to accept this great blessing. Faith has the authority to move what is firm and well based in the earth. There is nothing at all that faith is unable to do whenever it is necessary to do so. The earth has actually shaken when the apostles prayed, as mentioned in Acts of the Apostles (4: 31). On the other hand, faith can stop what is movable, just as when the rapid river flow in Jordan did (Josh.3: 16), as well as the movement of sunshine was stopped, that never ceases to do so in the sky (Josh.13: 10). What has to be noticed very well is that God does not wish to offer what is brilliant and amazing in a false or purposeless way. Such a thing is far away from the essence of God who knows no pride or haughtiness. He only makes what is for the good of people and for their peace. I say this so that no one expects the sanctified faith and the divine power to make changes that are useless, such as changing certain properties and transforming them into others, or moving mountains or fields. This will be fulfilled if there is real benefit, and hence, faith will have nothing to keep it back from acting”. Faith is the mystery in the power of the church, not for performing awesome deeds of no purpose, but it is primarily to obtain the life risen in Jesus Christ . thus we may live in a loving and forgiving Spirit for other’s mistakes, and with faith we can cast out the evil spirit and all its deeds. We thus uproot it from our lives as the mulberry tree, and throw it in the sea depths and in the abyss of the oceans. What ruins our faith is when we rely on our own personal righteousness and thus we forget that what we were gifted with such as being God’s sons, and the sanctified deeds, and the ability to carry out the commandments- all of these are free gifts from God. In reality, we are idle slaves, whatever our conduct may be like. This is what the Lord Jesus confirmed, for what He said directly after speaking of the faith (Luke 17: 7-10). “Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink, later you may eat and drink’? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves, we have done only what we ought to have done’”. What did the Lord Jesus mean by this parable? He wished to assure us of our real position when away from His grace, that we are worthless slaves, that is, God’s slaves that have not given Him His due right as should be. For if we make Him foremost in our life, and offered everything for His account, we remain indebted to Him with our own life. We feel deep inside us we are worthless, but by His grace we have become sons to Him. What we practice is of His gifts, freely given to us, and is not a price for our personal struggle or is due to our own goodness. + The Lord wished to manifest that despite committing us to every commandment, yet He grants His sonship to people in deserving His blood. This is why He said, “When you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, “We are worthless slaves, we have done only what we ought to have done”. Likewise is the kingdom of heaven; a gift given by the Lord to the believing slaves, and not as a reward to our work. The slave does not ask for freedom from him bondage as a reward for his work. He only tries to offer all his effort as a debtor, and he waits for freedom as a gift. (1Cor.15: 3) “Christ died for the sake of our sins”, and He grants freedom to those who well serve Him, for He says (Matt.25: 23) “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put yu in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your Master”. + Some assume they believe in the Truth, though they do not commandments, expect the kingdom as a just reward for their own personal merits. Both of there act wrongfully against the Truth. + Christ has died for our sakes (2Cor.5:15) “And He died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died and was raised for them”. It is clear that we are committed to serving Him till death. Then how is it that we regard sonship as a just reward for our personal deeds? +We are the ones who are granted the eternal life. We perform the good deeds not for the sake of reward, but rather to keep the purity that was granted to us. St. Mark the hermit + In the previous words, the Lord addressed us in an important and long discussion, to show us the ways that lead us to honor. He declared the glories of the blameless life so we progress in it, and develop in it zealously until we reach an amazingly awesome level, and so obtain the reward for our call from above (Phil.3: 14). Man’s natural thoughts tend towards vain glory—which is a very serious transgression that God hates. Moreover, the serpent, which is the source of evil leads people to such thinking. They therefore assume that God has granted them the honors from above for the sake of their glorious life and distinction, that is, for the sake of their personal merits. This is why the Lord wished to pull us away from there tendencies that imply the vain thoughts of glory. He put before us these lessons that have just been read to us. By this parable He teaches us that the royal and divine authority of God asks of the slaves to submit to Him as a debt they are entitled to fulfil. He says that the Lord offers no thanks to the slave, and even if He does, He did not need to, because he is only a slave. I ask you to notice here that the disciples and all those who yield to Christ the Savior’s track, they are all urged to persist. But they do not do the service as a favour on their part, but it is as if they are fulfilling the obedience debt the slaves are committed to doing. In this way the disease of malignant vain glory is detached. If you do what is your duty to do, then why do you boast? Can you not see that if you do not fulfil your debt you are in danger, and if you fulfil it, then you deserve no praise for this? This truth was well learnt by the slave, the amazing St. Paul, and he was absolutely aware of it. For he says, (1Cor.9: 16) “If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel”. Also (Rom.1: 14) he says “I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish”. If you therefore do good, and have kept God’s commandments, and have obeyed your Lord, then do not ask for God’s honor as a meritable thing to you; rather, draw closer to Him and plead for the goodness of His gifts. Yes, even though we are slaves yet He calls us His children, and He crowns us with His children’s glory. St. Cyril the great + As long as we are alive, we have to work continuously. Admit that you are a slave, committed to performing many services. Do not be slothful, since you are called God’s son. Yield to the work of grace, without ignoring nature- that you are only a slave. Do not boast if you are a good slave, for this is a duty you are committed to doing. For the sun does its job, the moon also obeys, and the angels minister, and the chosen vessel the Lord used for the Gentiles says, (1Cor. 15: 9) “For I am least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God”. On another occasion, when he referred that he did so ignorantly, he added (1Cor.4:4) “But I am not thereby acquitted”. Therefore, I wish we would not seek to obtain glory for ourselves; and not to be ahead of God’s judgment. Do not guess the Judge’s judgment, but let us wait for this till the right time comes, for He is the real Judge. St. Ambrosios + St. Augustine links the apostle’s request to the Lord Jesus to increase their faith, and with this parable mentioned by the Lord. In it he could see the slave who goes to the service in the field to upturn the soil, or the shepherd tending the sheep to enter his master’s house to eat and drink there, as if through the increasing faith he moves from the service in this world to the life of meditation, or to go from the life of struggle and toil to being blessed in the eternal kingdom- for He says, “Those who do not truly understand this faith, assume that the Lord did not answer the disciples’ request; for it seems there is difficulty in linking their request to increase their faith and this parable, unless we believe that the Lord means by this parable to go out from faith to faith. That is, from the faith by which we serve the Lord to the faith by which we are blessed with the Lord. Our faith increases at the beginning when we accept the gospel word, then are blessed after this with the existing Truth. We thus achieve the joyful meditation and the perfect peace, that is granted us in the eternal kingdom of God. I wish the slave toiling in the field or shepherding the flock, that is, doing his temporal job honestly, and serving the foolish people as a flock, that he returns home after work, that is to unite with the church, and be blessed with a life of mediation. + As the slaves of Christ keep working, that is, proclaiming the gospel, our Lord eats and drinks the faith of the Gentiles and their confession to Him. He goes on to say (Luke17: 8) “After this, you eat and drink”. It is as if the Lord is saying “After I am pleased with your preaching mission, and I Myself feed on the food of your repentance, at this point you come and be blessed with the eternal banquet, the banquet of immortal wisdom. St. Augustine 4- Gratitude and the Faith- the ten lepers: We have mentioned that the faith is the mystery behind the power of the church, with which we are blessed with God’s fellowship. This faith is not possessed by one nation only or a certain race, but it is rather offered to all humanity. This was made clear by the evangelist when he mentioned the encounter of the Lord Jesus with ten leperous men who asked Him to have mercy on them. At this point He commanded them to go and show themselves to the priests. As they were running, they were healed. Then one of them returned to give thanks to Him, and he was a Samaritan, but it was only he who deserved to hear from among the others (Luke17: 19) “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well”. We notice in this miracle of the cleansing of the ten lepers, the following points: Firstly: The evangelist says (Luke17: 11, 12) “On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As He entered a village, ten lepers approached Him, keeping their distance”. The Lord was heading towards Jerusalem, but He actually went through Samaria and Galilee, Jerusalem was the center for the worship of the Jewish people, for He has come to the lost sheep of Israel to regain them without disregarding Samaria. Also in Galilee there was a big number of Gentiles, and He wished for the fellowship of everyone. The Lord Jesus remains moving towards His Jerusalem, that is, His heavenly city or eternal kingdom, where the temple is, that is not made by hands. He goes there, carrying the members of His body of every nation and tongue, from Samaria to Galilee. He encountered the ten lepers out of the city. According to the law of Moses, the leper does not live among the people in the city or the village- he rather lives out of the walls or amidst the graves. He also has an open cloak, his head uncovered, and he covers his moustache, calling out ‘defiled, defiled’ (Lev.13: 45). We have seen in the book of Leviticus in our interpretation of it, what this ritual means. This reveals the ugly defilement of iniquity, and destroying it for man, and depriving him of sharing the sanctified community. These ten men represent humanity that has become, through sin, deprived of the ‘sanctified partnership’. This humanity lives out of the fence walls in enmity with heaven and the heavenlies. It carries its defilement on itself. The Lord Jesus has met them out of the village, for He has come down to us from His heavens as a stranger, so He meets us and carries us on His shoulders, and enters with us to His holy heavens. Secondly: These men stood physically from afar, but they drew very close to Him in their faith, for (Luke17: 13) “They called out saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us”. Being leperous, they were deprived of living among people. They might not have witnessed with their own eyes any of the miracles that the Lord Jesus made. They just heard of it, but in their faith they drew very close to Him and have obtained the cleansing, whereas many of the Pharisees and the Sadduccees saw the Lord Jesus and have witnessed His amazing deeds, but due to their lock of faith they deprived themselves of His fellowship. Thirdly: The Lord Jesus commanded them to go to the priests to show themselves to them. This is to confirm that He did not come to break the law but rather to fulfil it, and also to show the Jewish priests an actual evidence of His power to heal and to cleanse. This was not done by the law, and they may believe that His grace is above the law. In this action, also, the Lord Jesus directs us to submit to the church. He also teaches the servants the spirit of modesty. On the other hand, He is giving a chance for those ones who have been healed, to offer a sacrifice of gratitude to God. Fourthly: Something that no one expected happened all of a sudden: one of the ten, when he saw he has been healed, returned to give praise to God in a loud voice. He offered worship and thanks to the Savior. He fell on his knees at Jesus feet in gratitude, and he was a Samaritan, even though none of the other nine who were Jews returned to give thanks. This is why the Lord said (Luke17: 17,18) “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then He said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well”. Then ten were physically made clean, but this foreigner has usurped his own salvation and purification by means of his practical life of faith interpreted in thanks and true worship. Fifthly: St. Ambrosios thinks those ten lepers have a symbolic meaning. They refer to those who rejected the correct faith, and lead a life of heresy and new concepts. These live out of t he city for they are deprived of the church membership. If they offer repentance and encounter the Lord in their return to the true faith, He asks them to show themselves to the priest, which is, to return to the church membership so they are granted acceptance and forgiveness. As for the nine who did not return whereas only one of them returned, and he was a Samaritan, to worship the Lord till the ground, offering a sacrifice of thanks and praising Him, this could be explained that it is not enough the heretics return to the faith theoretically or wordily, they rather have to return whole-heatedly and in deed as well. The Samaritan represents the serious man in his faith, because the word ‘Samaritan’ means ‘guard’. He who is alert and is on his guard by means of the Holy Spirit for the salvation of his soul, comes to the Lord in a contrite spirit, worships Him in lowliness, and thanks Him for His overflowing love in being accepted as a partner in His Holy Body, that is, the church. St. Augustine thinks the grateful one is the church of Christ, for it is only one, and should not stand and division. Sixthly: The Pope saint Athanasios the apostolic presents to us in his elaborate sixth epistle this Samaritan leper is a living example of the life of gratitude that unfolds a heart clinging to the Donor of gifts, more than the gift itself. He says, “The Lord loved the one who offered his thanks, whereas he was frustrated with those ungrateful ones, for they did not know the Savior. They were rather preoccupied with their healing of leprosy more than with Him who has deansed them. 5- The Faith in the Inward Kingdom: The Lord spoke to us of the faith as the way to be blessed with God’s kingdom, and He cautioned us of a shut up heart that corrupts the faith; as well as pride and arrogance. He asked us to follow the Samaritan’s example; how he had practical and active faith by means of his open witness to the Lord Jesus, in a spirit of lowliness and thanks giving. On listening to the Lord’s words, the listener’s hearts were kindled in eagerness to be blessed with this fellowship. The Pharisees then began to ask, not as to how they could be blessed with it, but they asked about the timing of this fellowship. They asked, (Luke17: 20) “When will the kingdom of God come?” This is not an unusual question; the aim of the adversary is to preoccupy us, away form the salvation of our souls, with other temporal things. We notice this clearly at the present time; such as in the United States of America, many scholars study the book of the Revelation, not as a book from heaven to kindle the heart towards the eternal coming of Christ, but rather to search for the end of this age and its time. Thus the Lord Jesus warns us “You are not to know the time or the age”. The Lord Jesus answered their question by directing their thoughts from the searching of the time and knowing the age to being concerned about their blessing by the kingdom as a present one: and inward kingdom in the depths of the soul. In other words, He wants us to be concerned about our relationship with Him, on the level of the inward heart, instead of being preoccupied with other matters, and the mere philosophical discussions. + He has given the answer beneficial to all mankind: that God’s kingdom does not come by observation; look for God’s kingdom inside you. He says not to ask about the time in which God’s kingdom comes, that is, this depends on your self-will, and it is in your authority to accept or reject it. Every person who accepts the justification in Christ’s faith, and is adorned by every righteousness, is counted worthy of the heavenly kingdom. St. Cyril the great + The kingdom of God is in you means the joy the Holy Spirit implants in your hearts. This is and icon and a first step to the eternal joy the souls of the saints are blessed with. St. Gregory, bishop of Nicus + To reach the heavenly castle is easier than reaching Britain or Jerusalem, because God’s kingdom is in you. St. Anthony, and the hosts of Egypt’s monks, and those between the two rivers, Pontuis, Cabadocia and Armenia, have not seen Jerusalem; yet the door of paradise has been opened to them. The devout Hillarion, though he was an inhabitant of Palestine, has not seen Jerusalem except for one day, for he did not wish to ignore those blessed sites since he was so close to them. At the same time he did not wish to limit God to any local boundaries. St. Jerome + Inside yourselves, you either have the knowledge of truth, or your ignorance of it; the joy in righteousness or the joy in malice; in this way we prepare our hearts either for Christ’s kingdom or Satan’s kingdom. Father Moses I wish, therefore, that with the live and active faith, we accept the glorification of Christ’s kingdom in us. He would thus be declared king in us, and would direct our feelings, senses, thoughts and all our spiritual, psychological and physical potentials to His eternal kingdom account. In this way our security against the adversary’s attacks and against evil, to exist on the inward depths in the Lord, and that it could actually never be overcome. This is what Father Biamon confirms, saying, “We cannot flee from the ordeal tempests and the adversary’s attacks, if we depend when protecting our patience, not on the strength of our inward man, but to just shut the door of our cell, or merely delve into the desert, and accompany the saints, or any other protection of any sort”. 6- The Inward Kingdom and the Everlasting One: When the Lord has directed our attention on His inward kingdom so we obtain it in us, instead of being preoccupied in knowing the time and the age, the Lord then spoke again to prepare us for His last coming since it is the extension of His present coming and His dwelling in us. In other words, His dwelling place is in us, and the declaration of His kingdom is in our deep souls, a first deposit to kindle our hearts for His last coming. It is as if our fellowship with Him begins right now, so that it grows all the more when we encounter Him face to face. These words of the Lord Jesus explain the following points: Firstly: The Lord Jesus showed how He would come at a time when the believers would covet one day of the days the Lord was on earth when they discover His personality, and taste the sweetness of His fellowship, for He says (Luke17: 22) “The days are coming when you will long to see o9ne of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it”. St. Cyril the great thinks that when the Lord Jesus spoke to His disciples of His inward kingdom in them, He wished to reveal to them the suffering the church will under go, and how the believers would fall under it. This will be counted by everyone that the days when the Lord Jesus was on earth, these are regarded as being easy when compared to what the believers will experience later on. They will covet the days the disciples lived in with the Savior, when the Lord bore all alone the pain whereas they were restful. In this way the Lord did not wish to scare them, but rather to prepare them to bear the hardship and face the difficulties courageously, for He has informed them of it ahead of time. + By saying so, did the Lord scare His disciples? Was He weakening them ahead of time? Was He making them unable to tolerate the difficulties and the tribulations that were too hard to bbear? This is not what He means, He rather, on the crontrary, wished to prepare them to accept all what saddens people, and thus be ready to endure it in patience, and be selected and enter God’s kingdom. He has previously warned them before His coming form heaven at the end of the world, that the tribulations and hard times will come ahead of Him, and that they would long for seeing one single day of the days of the Son of Man. that is to say, to see one of the days in which they spoke with Jesus. Even though the Jews, till these present times, have used no little violence against Him when they tried to stone Him, and have persecuted Him more than once, and have led Him to a cliff to throw Him from its top, and have mocked Him and deceived Him, and have left no malice undone by them, then how does He say the disciples desire eagerly to see one day of His days? This is in comparison to the many evils that would befall us, and thus this will be considered few and desirable. St. Cyril the great + If their life at that time was not a difficult one, because Christ was concerned about them and He sheltered them, the time will come when Christ will be uplifted and thus they will be exposed to danger. They would stand before kings and rulers, and they would desire eagerly the first days and their peaceful time. Father Theophlactius Secondly: Warning them of being Misled: When the Lord spoke to them indirectly of the suffering they would encounter before His coming, He began to warn them of being misled. This represents a more bitter danger because it implies deception to the disabled souls who are unable to discern between the coming of the anti-Christ and the coming of Christ Himself. The Lord made clear the discernment between them saying (Luke17: 23, 24) “They will say to you, ‘Look there!’ or Look here!’ Do not go, do not set off in pursuit. For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in His day”. There is no doubt the coming of the anti-Christ will be full of deception, for many will follow him and cry out his name in every misleading place. There will also be deceiving wonders of Satan’s doings, and the world will tend to him, and will search for him here and there. As for the real Christ, He will come gloriously on the clouds as St. Paul the apostle said (1Thes.4: 16) “For the Lord Himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet will descend from heaven” he will come in His splendor as lightning to be seen by all and He will need no one to proclaim Him. He will come to judge the living and the dead, shining in the hearts of all, and in the thoughts of all. Then everything will be clear to everyone, and the hidden secrets of men will be revealed! + He will come down from heaven at the end of times, not in a mysterious or hidden way but in the glory of His divinity, for He (1Tim.6: 16) “dwells in unapproachable light”. He declared this when He said His coming will be as the lightning. Indeed, He has been born in the body from a woman to fulfil the provision for our sake. For this reason He denied Himself, and became poor, and He did not manifest Himself in the glory of His divinity. He became lowly for the sake of the time, and to fulfil the provision. But after the resurrection from the dead, when He ascended to the heavens, and sat with God the Father, then He will descend again but not without His glory, and not in the modesty of humanity, but in the awesomness of the Father, guarded by the angelic hosts who stand before Him, for being the God of everyone, and the Lord of all. He will come as the lightning and not in secret. St. Cyril the great + Just as the lightning that does not need any proclamation of its coming, but it is rather seen in a moment in the world, likewise even to those sitting in their homes, the Son of Man will come, and will be witnessed at every place in one moment due to His brilliant glory. St. John Chrysostom Thirdly: Christ’s Rejection: The Lord urged His disciples to accept His fellowship to them on the everlasting level or the final level. He declared there is no doubt about His coming, coming as the lightning before everyone in the glory of His godliness. But before this glory there comes the world’s rejection of Him, for there is no way to glory unless by means of suffering and agony. Thus He urges us to accept the ‘rejected Christ’ so He accepts us in His glories. The Lord Jesus assures His disciples (Luke17: 25) “But first He must endure much suffering and be rejected by this generation”. The Head, that is Christ, endured much suffering and was rejected. But here He comes glorified, and we too, His body will not share Him His glories unless we are rejected by this generation, and be pressed under a lot of agony. As St. Paul the apostle says (Rom.8: 17) “in fact, we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him”. Fourthly: Watchfulness and Being Wakeful: The Lord Jesus does not cease to direct His disciples to a life of constant watchfulness, so that the Lord’s coming would not be a sorrowful surprise to them. Rather, it should be a truly joyful wedding the soul eagerly waits for inwardly. The Lord mentions two parables to us: the first one is the flood in Noah’s time, when the people were indulging in their own pleasures (Luke17: 27) “They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed all of them. “The second parable is the burning of Sodom in the days of Lot (Luke17: 28) “they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building”. Selling or planting and building. The sin is in man’s indulgence and preoccupation that makes him absolutely forget his own soul’s salvation. All of these actions could be sanctified and blessed when practiced by the spiritual man who is sanctified in the Lord. He is concerned about the Savior’s coming in expectation of the eternal wedding. + To show He will be manifested in an unexpected way, at a time that man does not know of, at the end of the world, He said that the end would be in the days of Noah and Lot. What does this mean, then? He asks us to be constantly watchful, and ready to answer before God’s judgment. As St. Paul says (2Cor.5: 10) “For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil”. He will then put the sheep on His right and the goats on His left; and then the King will say to those ones on His right hand (Matt.25: 33) “Come, you that are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world”. As for the goats, He utters a fearful judgment, for He sends them to unquenchable fire. St. Cyril the great Fifthly: Warning us of Retreating: Because the calls us to accept His present friendship as a first step for the immortal and eternal fellowship, He does not only ask us to be watchful, but also to grow continuously in our relationship with Him without any regression or retreat. He therefore provided us with three parables: (a) He who reaches the rooftop does not come down to the world floor levels searching for his possessions. He rather stays up on high, on the rooftop, watching with the eyes of faith active in him, the coming of the Groom from heaven. (b) He who goes to the service field to work for the account of god’s kingdom, does not go backwards to ask for the temporal matters. (c) He who leaves Sodom, does not look backwards as Lot’s wife, and becomes a pillar of salt. These are the examples the Lord presented to us, saying: (Luke17: 31, 32) “On that day, anyone on the housetop who has belongings in the house must not come down to take them away; and likewise anyone in the field must not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife”. We have previously explained the spiritual concepts of these words in St. Matthew’s interpretation (Matt.24: 17, 18; Mark 13: 15,16) as well the words of some of the fathers concerning this topic. St. Cyril the great thinks the man on the housetop is the rich one who has become as someone on the surface, known by everyone, famous among those around his house. I wish he would not put his heart in his treasury inside his house, but rather be concerned about his spiritual life, for the wise one says (Prov.10: 2) “Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death”. As for St. Hillary, the bishop of Poitier, he thinks the lofty one on the housetop is the perfect man is his heart, the one spiritually high and renewed continually; he need not be confused by temporal matters. St. Ambrosios thinks this is the man who is uplifted with St. Peter the apostle to the rooftop to realise the church mystery (Acts10: 9) that does not attribute defilement to certain people; it rather opens the preaching door to everyone. As for the one in the field, St. Cyril the great sees him as the man who has devoted his life to struggle and work for the sake of spiritual fruit, (Luke9: 62) “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God”. As for lot’s wife, she has been saved in going out of Sodom and not getting burnt. But she did not complete her way of salvation, and thus she lost everything by her heart’s return backwards. We conclude our words about these parables by St. John Caspion’s words, “When we reach safety at the surface top of the gospel, why do we come down to take something from the house, something you did not think much or prior to that? When you are in the field working in righteousness, why do you regress and try to wear the matters of this world another time after you have taken them off and discarded them? Sixthly: The Concern about the Soul’s Salvation: Indeed, ,man might work and think he is struggling in the way of the divine fellowship and being blessed with the kingdom. But he is unaware he has lost his goal by his deviation in being blessed with his own salvation. This salvation has the price of ‘Christ’s previous blood’; thus He is worthy that we reject everything and endure everything, for His sake, for He says, (Luke17: 33) “Those who try to make their life secure will lose if, but those who lose their life will keep it”. St. Augustine often spoke out of experience he lived; in short, that he who loves himself loses his soul; and he who hates himself or destroys himself, loves his soul. In other words, when man is enclosed in his ego, and thinks he lives for himself, feeding on his physical passions, or asks for temporal honor, he is actually destroying his own soul in this world and in the age to come. As much as man loses himself, so he lives freely out of his ego, and works for God’s kingdom and for the sake of people’s peace, and growth, he loves his soul and saves it by the loving God! Let us endow ourselves with the nature of giving, that is, the nature of our Friend the Lover of mankind. Thus we shall be blessed by the true life here and in eternity also. Father Theophlactius thinks the words here concern the believer’s attitude particularly in the days of the ‘anti-Christ’ when the believer will be subjected to many tribulations and death as well. If man asks his soul be saved, that is, to save his temporal life, then he is destroying himself. But if he does not care about the tribulations, even unto death, then as he is destroying his temporal life, he is actually saving it, for he does not yield to the despot, the ‘anti-Christ’ for the sake of holding on to life. St. Cyril the great says, “It is appropriate for those who are used to living in affluence, to stop0 this pride on this very day, and be ready to endure the toil. Likewise, those who struggle well, it is appropriate for them to persist courageously until they reach the sign set before them, for (Luke17: 33) “Those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it”. St. Paul showed clearly the path by which man loses himself so he saves it. He said concerning the saints (Gal.5: 24) “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires”. Those who have truly come to Christ our only Savior, crucify their bodies and offer them to death, through their constant struggle and persistence for the sake of righteousness and the deadening of the natural passions. It has been written (Col.3: 5) “Put to death therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire and greed”. As for those who live a life of lust, they may assume they are gaining for themselves a life of pleasure and pampering, whereas in fact they are losing and destroying their life, (Gal.6: 8) “If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh”. Surely he who loses his life saves it. This is what the martyrs did; in devotion they endured the difficulties until death and the shedding of their life. They crowned their heads with the true love to Jesus Christ. But as for those who denied the faith due to their weak minds and will, and have escaped from the death of the body; these have become killers to themselves. They will slide to Hades, and will endure torment because of their wicked cowardice”. Moreover, the Lord Jesus wished to assure us that the concern about the soul’s salvation is usually a hidden matter, that no one knows about except God and the soul itself. As for man, it is difficult that he passes judgment on his brother whether he is concerned about the salvation of his soul, or not. This is why the Lord Jesus says, (Luke17: 34- 36) “I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding meal together; one will betaken and the other left. Tow will be in the field, one will be taken and the other left”. The Lord has presented to us three kinds of people, in each kind there is the one worthy of the kingdom, and the other has deprived himself of this kingdom. So what are these three samples of people? (a)St. Augustine thinks these three kinds of people represent three categories of people. In each category there are the two kinds. The first category are those two sleeping ones; this is the category of those who have no work neither in the world nor in the church. He may have meant the elite and prestigious people who live on their property earnings. These love the peaceful life referred to by the bed. As for the second category, this is symbolized by the two who were grinding. They are two women who work under the authority of their men. This is the category of those who work as with the grinding stone, and offer from the toil of their hands, which is the bread for the believers. These are they who perform their jobs of this world in honesty, and offer of their hard work charity to the poor. As for the third category that is symbolized by those who work in one field, these are the ministers and priests who work in the Lord’s vineyard. It is as if there are children of the kingdom among the rich, as well as among the strugglers in their daily life, and also among the ministers of the Word. There is also those who have no share in the kingdom among all of these categories. It is as if our fellowship with the Lord Jesus, and our blessing with His kingdom, this does not depend on our outer circumstances, and the kind of job we have, but rather on our hidden and inward life. (b) It may also mean that the two sleeping in one bed, could be a man and his wife. Even though they have become one body, and have come to know the secrets of each other, yet each of them has his private life with God, that the other one is not aware of, for he cannot investigate the depths of his heart or be aware of the innermost thoughts he has. As for the two women working on the grinding stone, these point to the friendship of colleagues at work, whereas the two laborers in the field refer to friendship in the service. In every circumstance for each person, there is the hidden and secretive life with his heavenly Friend. In addition to this, we notice the three examples included: a man and a woman, two women and two men. This means the human friendship on every level and between both sexes it could not penetrate the depths of the heart to be aware of other’s friendship with God. (c) In the first example He says, (Luke17: 34) “I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed, one will be taken and the other left”. The period before the coming of the Lord Jesus will be a period of jet darkness, ‘on that night’ are the Lord’s words. it is a bitter night in which the anti-Christ will appear, as well as the false prophets. There will be a regression even, if possible, among the elect, who will be misled. St. Ambrosios says, “The presence of those ones who are against Christ, means it is the hour of darkness, for the anti-Christ will pour a dark cloud over the human minds when he proclaims himself he is the Christ in the wilderness. Thus they will deceive the fluctuating hearts and mislead them. But as for the Lord Jesus, He will come as the powerful lightning, who pours on the world His glittering light. He will shine in His brightness and His lightning, so we see the glory of the resurrection in the midst of this night”. St. Augustine says, “He says ‘at that night’ which means, in the midst of these hardships”. St. Cyril the great thinks the bed here is the symbol for rest, and those sleeping together are the rich and wealthy, some of whom are malicious and covetous, whereas others are kind and merciful. Both parties have obtained wealth, but one of them poured the wealth and gained friends in the eternal shelter. The other party worhiped the money and the wealth. (d) If the first two refer to the rich, St. Cyril the great thinks the two women refer to those who are poor. Not every wealth in wicked, and not every poor one is righteous, for He says, “Some tolerate the burden of poverty in a mature way, and live an honorable, righteous and sensible life; whereas others have a different personality, for they rob and practice wicked and base deeds”. (e) St. Ambrosios thinks these two women who were grinding together represent the church and the Jewish syndicate. They grind the wheat to offer bread to God, for they both interpret the Old Testament, in its covenant and prophecies. But the Jewish assembly in its ingratitude, is left out; whereas the church of the new covenant that has received from the syndicate the Old Testament books, this church is now blessed with the heavenly wedding. What applies to the two women applies to the two men who were working in the same field. The assembly, in their literal thinking was unable to offer the fruit of the Spirit that rejoices God’s heart. But as for the church of the new covenant, this offers ‘its Head’ as real fruit of primehood that God the Father smells, and He is pleased with it. Seventhly: (Luke17: 37) “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather”, we have previously spoken about this elaborately in Matt24: 28. When the Lord Jesus was hung on the cross, and He accepted death out of His own will, the believers came as vultures round Him to find in Him their spiritual food that grants the resurrection and the life. And when the anti-Christ dies, the wicked ones also gather round him as the vultures that ask for what befits its nature. + What are these vultures? And what is this corpse? The spirits of the righteous one similar to the vultures, for they soar above and leave the world matters behind. They also live for very long, and this is why king David speaks of himself (Ps.103: 5) “So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s”. When we know the eagles, we never doubt the corpse, particular by when we remember that Joseph has taken the body from Pilate (John19: 38) Do you not see the vultures round the body? Such as Mary Jesse’s wife, and Mary Magdalene, and Mary the Lord’s mother, and the disciples- all of whom surround the Lord’s tomb? Do you not see the eagles when the Lord comes on the clouds, and every eye sees Him (Rev. 1: 7)? As for the body, it is this about whom was said (John6: 55) “My body is true food”; round it the eagles fly with the wings of the Spirit. These eagles are they who believe that Jesus has come in the flesh. (1John4: 2). This body is also the church; there, we are granted the grace of the baptism, the spiritual renewal, and thus there will be no old age, since youth and life are renewed. St. Ambrosios

< CH 16 CH 18 >

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