福音告訴我們一些非常戲劇性又奇特的事情。Caiaphas這句話並非出於他自己，而是出於聖靈的力量，因為，他是祭司長，擁有最高祭司的權力，也擁有聖靈的力量。我們可以說，他預言了這一切，正如約翰福音中所說的：他將耶穌送上十字架。這是一件讓人恐懼的事情，因為，它此時此刻正在發生。上帝不斷影響著世界，我們都有責任變正直 —- 正直就是正直，我們不可能一半正直、一半不正直，就好像我們不可能一半懷孕、一半沒懷孕。此時猶大也一步步走向他的命運，很快我們就會看見。
在我的家中，有一幅新殉道聖人St. George of Ioannana的聖像。我的曾祖母將這幅聖像送給我的曾祖父。St. George of Ioannana過去擔任土耳其人的僕人，當時他已婚，育有一個一歲的孩子。他的雇主強迫他拋棄東正教，改信伊斯蘭教，他抵死不從，最後被吊死。三天之後，在黑夜裡他的身體發出光芒。他們將他埋葬之後，他又行了許多奇蹟直到今日。她的太太雖然沒有工作，然而，她每天都在桌上發現一枚硬幣，這樣就足以買食物養活自己和孩子。即使耶穌的安排沒有符合我們的期待，讓我們所愛的人從死亡中復活，但是，耶穌會一直幫助我們，他會用各種我們預料不到的方式支持我們，等待時機成熟我們就會知道。
2013.04.28 Palm Sunday Sermon
on the Entrance into Jerusalem and the resurrection of Lazaurus: Christ is with us now, as is Judas.
Sermon by Father Jonah
Today we celebrate the glorious entrance of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem. And from today starts the Holy Week; every evening starting at 7:00 we have services for all the events of the Passion of Jesus Christ. Of course, Saturday night we celebrate the Resurrection.
Now I say the glorious entrance to Jerusalem because when Jesus entered there were so many people there to see him; but it was also his entrance into loneliness and abandonment. There were so many people with the palms that we have today and hold in our hands, but what happened then? When this crucial week of the Passion started, all the people who were saying “Hosanna!” after a few days were saying, “Crucify him!” Nobody appeared to say to say, “He is a good person,” or “He helped me,” or “He performed a miracle for me;” nobody. So, we see from one point of view that Jesus is entering as king because he is the real and only king; and from the other point of view, he is entering into loneliness and abandonment. Only the Holy Mother understood in her silence and in her deep pain, having the pains that she did not have while giving birth, as any other woman would have had.
The Church tells us to hold these palms today in order to understand that the entrance of Jesus Christ, and all the other things in the Bible, they are not just events that happened two thousand years ago. The Church is not a social event; it’s not a club. We are the people who have the opportunity to exorcize their sickness, their pride, or their other psychological needs for torturing or pretending anything. Because in the Church, time is reversed or the Church is actually above time, so by holding these palms we become one with these people, we are close to them. We must think to ourselves, “Yes, I am there, how do I treat Jesus Christ?” Do we treat him with a little bit of love – I don’t say too much? Or do I abandon him from today, not wanting to participate even a little in His Passion, and I don’t say my own passion. Obviously for many Orthodox the Passion of Jesus Christ is a time of celebration, a time of social meetings, of good food, and of a lot of showing off. We should understand that the Entrance – and this is why we throw down the palms during the Gospel and during the Entrance – every time this occurs, every time we are at the time of Jesus Christ, or as if by a time machine, that time is here and now. So from this point of view, once more I will say that we should all, including myself, examine ourselves for how we use these palms. After five minutes will I refuse Jesus Christ, or will I be with him? Do I love Him, or do I use Him?
You see, on the previous day, Jesus was with the family of Lazarus and they made a small dinner in the village of Bethany, which is only two kilometers from Jerusalem. Mary and Martha were there and Mary had bought a very expensive perfume, which she put on his legs, using her own hair to wash his feet. This was very, very humiliating for a woman to do this, but it was also an expression of the deepest respect and gratitude because he had brought her brother back to life.
As the Gospel says, Judas was always with the disciples, but at the same time he was not with them, and he started saying that this cost three hundred denarius, which was a person’s salary for one year. So he dared to say to his Master, who is Love, “Why should the money be wasted on perfumes for you, and not give it to the poor?” He did not understand Jesus at all; he had his own thoughts on his mind always. We have seen these things ourselves, seeing students of theology being like Judas, confessing but not really confessing, living in the Church and receiving the Holy Communion, but with another thought: to destroy and create a schismatic group, as they have created. The thought of Judas gradually developed. He did not suddenly betray Jesus Christ – for what? Gradually he came from one thing, hiding, hiding, conspiring, pretending to be a disciple, gradually of course he led Jesus to the Cross. As the priest who was here doing this [making the movement of breaking bread with his hands] for the body of Jesus Christ, who is broken but not divided, and finally he crucifies Jesus Christ and he will do so for Easter.
The Gospel contrasts Judas and Mary. The Gospel says that Judas did not really care for the poor, did not really care for the Church. He cared only for power, to steal money, because when there is a collection of money, someone can put a little bit in his pocket. Judas did miracles, as all the other disciples did because Jesus sent them to do so; he was teaching; he had the power of God. He was not a spy or a poor theological student. And finally he betrayed Jesus Christ. We see in the Gospel for yesterday that when Jesus had brought Lazarus back to life, spies went to Caiaphas, the high priest, and told him that people were following Jesus. Caiaphas said, “It is better to have one person die so that the people may be saved.”
And the Gospel says something very dramatic and very strange. It says that Caiaphas did not say this on his own; he said it by the power of the Holy Spirit because he was the high priest. See this very dramatic and strange thing, because Caiaphas was officially the high priest for this year, he had the power of the Holy Spirit. And from the other point of view, he – who had the power of the Holy Spirit and who had given a prophesy, as the Gospel of John says – he crucified Jesus. See this thing, and we should all feel the fear because, you know, already it is happening here. God works, but there is also the personal responsibility for honesty – somebody cannot be half-honest just like he cannot be half-pregnant. But leave Judas to his fate, as will happen soon.
Jesus said about the woman who was anointing him with perfume, “Don’t bother her. She did this for my burial.” This was a very important thing because Jesus was not buried yet; that did not happen for another week. And this reminds us that our poor actions, our palms, our small offerings to Jesus, to the Church (not to me), your voices, your food, they go, even more than to the present situation, they go to Jesus Christ himself. Jesus will not say, “Oh, in that church after two thousand years they were thinking of me.” He will know that you are thinking of him personally. You feed me. Mary did something that counted, and Jesus accepted it eight days later. And Abraham received the Promised Land, which is not Israel, but is Heaven as Paul says in Hebrews. Jesus will count us today as those people who were waiting for him in Jerusalem to say, “Hosanna!” which means “saved now” in the Aramaic language. So remember, whatever you give – a small flower, a small prayer – it is not something for two thousand years. It goes to Jesus Christ, who – as the Gospel says – yesterday and today and tomorrow He is the same; He is here. And the myrh-bearing women are not only those women, it is you also, all of us, the Disciples and everything; for us Jesus is very, very alive.
I will also say something very important to you about death. Jesus love Lazarus, whose resurrection we celebrated yesterday, so much; he did not cry for anybody else other person other than Lazarus. Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, He did not go at once. He allowed him to die, and to remain dead for four days. Somebody could ask, “Why, where is His love?” How can I answer this? The only thing we can do is to humble ourselves and to understand that our love is not more than Jesus Christ. And the is a deep mystery as to why Jesus is working so late, so slowly, but He gives us very deep lessons and very precious gifts by working so slowly. He brought Lazarus and gave him life, not only life but the unique experience of knowing the condition of death. And he gives us the teaching that life is not that my heart is beating and I have some health, but life is Jesus Christ. And the tradition of the Church says that after this Lazarus was always putting too much sugar in his food because he had seen the pain and the bitterness of death.
Well, you may say, “Jesus resurrected Lazarus, but how many times have we prayed for our beloved ones and yet Jesus did not resurrect them? What about this? But in any case, Lazarus eventually died as bishop of Cyprus. So we should remember that even if He were to resurrect our beloved ones, they would die again. Yes, they could be with us a little bit more. But maybe God loved them too much. Maybe God found that their position was with him, much earlier that we were expecting.
But why do I speak of death since there is no death in the Church? This is why Jesus never spoke the word death when he met some dead person; He said sleep. And when we do the Liturgy, who is here? Yes of course we are here, but also there are so many angels and all the souls of our beloved ones, they are here. They are so happy to see us, and they help us in ways that God knows.
In my family we have an icon of a new martyr, St. George of Ioannana. This icon was given by his wife to my great-grandmother. He was a servant of a Turk, married, with one kid about one year old. The Turk forced him to convert to Islam and refuse the Orthodox Church. Of course he would not and so they killed him by hanging. For three days there was light coming from his body during the night. After they buried him, he did a lot of miracles until today. And his wife was finding one coin every day on the table, which she needed to buy some bread and feed her child since she had no job. So you see, even if Jesus is not doing what we want, to bring back our beloved ones from the dead, He helps us, and they help us by other ways that we don’t know but we will know when the time comes
So remember Jesus, and remember to see Him as He wants us to see him, not as the common people or as the Jews were considering him. He entered Jerusalem, as I said, as the one and only real king, but as a king of love, not as a king of power. The Jews were understanding only the power. We should accept him, and in every Liturgy when we have the entrance, to say that we are there, and for us He is the King of our heart, that he is our live and our life and our hope. May the Holy Jesus protect all of us. Amen.
Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. 3 Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” 4 When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. 7 Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8 The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are You going there again?” 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 These things He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.” 12 Then His disciples said, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.” 13 However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.” 16 Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” 17 So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles away. 19 And many of the Jews had joined the women around Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. 20 Now Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. 21 Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” 28 And when she had said these things, she went her way and secretly called Mary her sister, saying, “The Teacher has come and is calling for you.” 29 As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly and came to Him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the town, but was in the place where Martha met Him. 31 Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and comforting her, when they saw that Mary rose up quickly and went out, followed her, saying, “She is going to the tomb to weep there.” 32 Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. 34 And He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, “See how He loved him!” 37 And some of them said, “Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?” 38 Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” 41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” 43 Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” 44 And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.” 45 Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him. 46 But some of them went away to the Pharisees and told them the things Jesus did. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, “What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. 48 If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation.” 49 And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, 50 nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.