From Faith and Life, here is another reading for Palm Sunday, this one being from Cyril of Jerusalem:
We were enemies of God by means of Sin; and God ordained that the sinner should die. Of two things, then, one must needs have happened; either that God should adhere to His word, and destroy all men, or that by giving scope to His benignity He should annul His sentence. But see the wisdom of God. He secured, at once, reality for His sentence, and active operation for His benignity. Christ “took on Himself our sins in His body, on the Tree, that we, being dead to sins” through His death, “should live unto righteousness.” He that died for our sakes was not of small account. He was not a literal sheep, He was not a mere man, He was not simply an Angel, but He was God Incarnate. The iniquity of the sinners was not so great as was the righteousness of Him that died for them. Our sins did not equal the amount of His righteousness, who laid down His life for us, who laid it down when He pleased, and when He pleased resumed it.
–St Cyril of Jerusalem, Lecture xiii. 53.
Because He is God, and infinitely holy, all our iniquity, though great indeed it is, cannot outweigh His righteousness.
From Faith and Life, here is a reading for Palm Sunday that comes from the “Epistle to Diognetus.” It is not known who wrote this, but the Epistle to Diognetus is an early example of Christian apologetics – along the lines of the writings of Justin Martyr.
When our unrighteousness was consummated, and full proof was given that punishment and death were to be looked for as its reward, and the time was come which God had preordained for the manifestation of His own loving-kindness and power, (for the love of God, which proceeds from His transcendent benignity, is peerless,) He did not hate us, nor repel us, nor did He remember evil, but showed His long-suffering, bore with us, Himself took upon Him our sins,—gave up, of Himself, His own Son as a ransom for us, the Holy for the lawless, the Innocent for the wicked, the Just for the unjust, the Incorruptible for the corruptible, the Immortal for the mortal. For what else but His Son’s Righteousness was able to cover our sins? Wherein was it possible for us, the lawless and impious, to be justified, save in the Son of God alone? O that sweet Substitution! O that unsearchable plan! O those unexpected benefits! That the transgression of many should be covered by one Righteous, and the Righteousness of One should justify many that were unrighteous.
–Anonymous Epistle to Diognetus, c. 9 (early in the second century).
It is remarkable how beautiful are the writings of so many from this time – and this one is as beautiful as those by Melito of Sardis. Truly, God was and is so merciful, that “the transgression of many should be covered by one Righteous, and the Righteousness of One should justify many that were unrighteous.”
Courtesy of The Gospel Coalition, here is Part 2 of a series on Genesis by Dr. D.A. Carson, titled “The God Who Does Not Wipe Out Rebels”. In this video he expounds on Genesis 3 and the Fall. The title of this is indeed quite meaningful.
A helpful tool for reading the Greek New Testament: Peter Misselbrooks’ “Read The Greek New Testament”
If you have an elementary knowledge of New Testament Greek and would be interested in actually reading the New Testament in Greek, Peter Misselbrooks has compiled a most helpful site called Read the Greek New Testament. This site will help you complete the reading of the Greek New Testament in five years – quite a worthwhile spiritual discipline. The order of the readings is interesting, and I believe, well thought-out:
The reading plan begins with Luke’s Gospel and then continues with Acts. With these two books we gain an overview of the entire New Testament story from the pen of one of its major authors. From here we move to the letters of Paul . It is remarkable that these two companions and authors account for more than half of the content of the New Testament. Having completed Paul’s letters (in chronological rather than New Testament order) we return to the Gospel accounts, looking now at Matthew. Matthew is, perhaps, the most ‘Jewish’ of the Gospels and his account of the life of Jesus is thus followed by letters written for Jewish Christians, namely Hebrews and James. Next we turn to Mark’s Gospel, which represents not only Mark’s eyewitness account of the Saviour but also that of Peter. For this reason it is followed by Peter’s letters. These are followed by the letter of Jude, which includes a section that is very similar to part of 2 Peter. Last, but by no means least, we have the writings of John: his Gospel, his letters and the book of Revelation.
By following this plan you will be introduced to the variety of literature and authors that together make up the New Testament. The Greek of some is more straightforward than that of others. Moreover, the Greek of a single author can vary in style and complexity as is evident from a comparison of Luke’s Gospel with the book of Acts. But this variety of styles goes hand in hand with a singleness of message and of purpose: the intent of every author is to declare what God has done for us in the Lord Jesus Christ and to communicate the message in a way that would readily be understood by those who read it, capturing their attention and speaking to their hearts. It is immensely thrilling to be able to read the words these men actually wrote, to be able to understand what they were writing and to find that it commands our attention today no less than it did those for whom it was originally written narly two thousand years ago.
Take a look at Peter Misselbrooks’ work, Read the Greek New Testament – very well done indeed.
This sermon comes from a somewhat new source for me: it is by the Rt. Rev. Jerry Ogles, Presiding Bishop of the Anglican Orthodox Church. Considering the state of the family in our culture now, it is a very relevant message indeed.
“Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.” (Ex 20:12)
Here is a Commandment of far greater depth of meaning than most in Christendom have understood. Of course, it must be understood that the Ten Commandments are not ten separate laws each of which stand alone – the Ten Commandments are a unified Code of God’s Laws to be obeyed out of love and not fear. However, many in our day separate the Tables of the Law thusly: The first four Commandments are considered to reflect our duty to God alone; and the last six are considered to reflect our duty to mankind alone. Though this argument has some merit, I believe it fails to recognize the fifth Commandment as belonging to the first four and ALSO to the last five as well! I consider the fifth Commandment a transition Commandment between the two major divisions of duty and love.
You will recall, again, the summary of the Law given by the Lord Jesus Christ: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matt 22:37-40) There is a unifying thread that summarizes, even in greater detail, these two summaries – that is LOVE! The kind of Love Jesus tells us to show to God first is the same kind of love we are to harbor for our neighbors. How is that reasonable? Because Love itself is indivisible! We are told to love God first because, without love for God, we cannot love our neighbors in the way that we are commanded to do. In fact, the unifying force that binds the Ten Commandments into one great Unified Law is that of LOVE. We cannot, in any wise, keep the Commandments out of a sheer sense of duty and responsibility – we can only keep them all out of what Jesus refers to as AGAPE love (a love that places its object above every personal consideration). If we love our neighbor as ourselves, our neighbor will not go naked, hungry, or without shelter while we have the means to provide for ourselves.
So the Fifth Commandment, without overtly stating the obvious, places LOVE at its heart. God has given us the benefit of a mother and father so that we can know the kind of love He has for us better. The human infant is born as the most helpless of all creatures. The foal of a horse can immediately struggle up and walk after birth. Baby chickens can soon hop about spritely after hatching. But the baby human is totally dependent upon parents for its subsistence. It cannot speak, understand words, walk, or express love. It can only express greed and want and dissatisfaction with its condition. It cannot control its bodily constitution and must be fed, cleaned and pampered by a mother and father who gain no visible reward from their labors – except satisfaction of the love they have for the ungrateful, crying and mess-making baby. Only a mother could believe a screaming child with dirty diapers is so sweet and beautiful! The baby is a drain on the family resource of physical, financial, social existence.
Is that not exactly how we must appear to God in our lost and depraved state as willful sinners? We are constantly making a mess of ourselves. We make decisions that only a fool could admire. We dress disrespectfully, and we consume things we should not. But God knows us – He knows that we are His (if we are) long before we know it. He watches and broods over us. He saves us from destruction when we have not merited a kind thought from His Divine Majesty. He may allow us to wander into dangerous playgrounds, but He is there watching. He places challenges and restraints before us to preserve our lives until we are grown up enough to realize that we have not made ourselves, but it is He that hath made us. He slowly teaches us HIS language and His thoughts. In time, if we become His Chosen Ones, our thoughts will be His thoughts even if our outward manifestations fail to reflect the inward grace of His love.
Honor is both a sense and a duty that we owe to a greater power in our lives. We owe duty and honor to, first, our parents because they are the first beings we are able to love. Loving them, and knowing them, will lead us to know and honor better our Father in Heaven who has not only given us life, but also parents to care for us until we are able to stagger along alone. “My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: pr.1.9 For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.” (Prov 1:8-9)
We owe honor to our nation and fellow countrymen so long as the laws of our country are subordinate to the Law of God – and they MUST always be so to be legitimate!
The Person of God is clearly reflected in His use of the term, mother AND father. It takes both mother and father to provide for us in the likeness of God. Both represent the Person of God in our early lives. The Lord not only gives us life, and bodies able to experience joy; but He also gives us, in addition to caring parents, a land upon which to place our feet and to conduct our earthly labors.
When we recite the 5th Commandment, what goes through our mind most exclusively? Is it not always our earthly mother and father? Have we forgotten that the 5th Commandment also refers to the Father of us all? “To Him be all Honor and Glory, both now and forever!”
Are you beginning to picture how the 5th Commandment fits so perfectly between the first four and the last five Commandments? It is a transition that God gives us between our duties of love to Him and those same perspectives toward our family, friends, and neighbors. The transition is the strongest example of sacrificial love that our mortal minds can grasp.
If we love and honor our earthly parents, our lives will be richly blessed by a lasting love and sacrifice those parents will make for us – even at the moment of death. Our lives will be rich with the green pastures of love at home where we feed in peace and joy. Our health, too, will reflect that better breeding that comes through honor and love of parents. God tells that keeping this Commandment will gives us longness of days upon the land He has given us. He goes even further in another part of His Word: “Thou shalt keep therefore his statutes, and his commandments, which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days upon the earth, which the LORD thy God giveth thee, for ever.” (Deut 4:40) Keeping the Commandments of God will inure to the benefit – not only of our personal spiritual and physical health – but also to the children with whom the Lord blesses us.
To summarize: the Fifth Commandment follows those Commandments that inform of us of Who God is, what He is NOT, and primary duties that we owe to Him as our Lord and Sovereign. The fifth Commandment follows on the same train of thought to inform us that we are to honor our mother and father. He is our true mother and father in the sense that He is the First Cause who gave us life, liberty and the joy that exceedeth all joys. Of course, if we are disobedient and disrespectful to our earthly parents whom we can see an touch, how much less will we be inclined to honor and obey, love and respect, the God of Heaven who speaks only through the medium of His Written Word to a warm and receptive heart? So all those things that we owe to Mom and Dad are the same, to an even greater degree, that we owe to God in Heaven – our Eternal Father.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. AMEN.
That is a very good point Bp. Ogles makes about the nature of this Commandment and its serving as a transition between the first four commandments and the last five.
From the Rev. Dr. Benjamin Bernier of Providence REC in Texas, here is an excellent sermon for the Fifth Sunday in Lent, titled “True Repentance: Love of Truth.”
True Repentance: Love of Truth
5th Sunday in Lent
If I say the truth why do ye not believe me? Truth is like the light, it continually shines forth and instantly dispels the darkness of falsehood, error and lies.
Why then does Truth have so few followers? It is not that it is too complicated, nor that it is hidden in riddles beyond our ability to unravel. No, truth is simple and clear, transparent and accessible.
Why then are there so many people against it? It is not that truth is not persuasive, nor is it for lack of evidence, neither is it for lack of good teachers.
There is no better teacher than Christ, nor is there any other truth in this world as well attested by God himself as the Gospel is, yet, how many would not believe it? Why?
During our Lenten Season we have been considering the meaning of true repentance in relation to fasting in preparation for the celebration of Holy week. Today we come to the last week of Lent before Palm Sunday. The beginning of the week devoted to following closely the suffering and death of Christ upon the cross for the salvation of the world.
Our Gospel lesson reveals to us part of the confrontation the Lord had with the unbelieving Jews. There we can see the hostility Jesus encountered against him and his teaching which would eventually led him to the cross.
He the only sinless man who ever lived was falsely accused and publicly disrespected, by people who could not receive his word and thought that it was their religious duty to kill him! And why? because of the things he said. Things they could not believe to be true.
The Lord said quite a few extraordinary things.
In this very passage he is quoted as having said:
“I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” 8:12
He claimed that to know him was also to know God his Father:
“Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also.” 8:19
He told the proud Pharisees that they were wordly, while he came from above:
“Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world.” 8:23
He also said that without acknowledging him as the true Messiah there is no salvation:
“I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.” 8:24
He claimed that his teaching was not his, but was the teaching of God, the Father:
“26 I have many things to say and to judge of you: but he that sent me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I have heard of him.”
He expected those who believe in him to continue trusting and obeying his word and promised that:
“If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” 8:31-32
This verse is often quoted out of context as if Jesus was referring to knowing an abstraction of the truth, which is what makes people free. But when Jesus said, ye “shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” he was speaking about himself:
“If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” 8:36
Those who heard these words did not understand them nor received them. And they were seeking to kill him.
As Jesus said to them: “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham; but now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham.” 8:39-40
Which leads us to consider the reason why they were seeking to kill him? Why would they not receive the Truth, which Jesus heard from God and came down from heaven to reveal to us? The Lord gave us the answer:
37 I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you.
They could not even understand his word; and why: Jesus also tells us:
43 Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.
And why could they not even hear his word? The Lord also tells us:
“44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. 45And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not.”
We wrongly tend to think that human beings stand in a neutral position when it comes to deciding on matters of faith. That we are like impartial judges considering the case objectively based upon its own merits; that we are naturally capable of sound judgment in matters of life and death, truth and falsehood and faith and unbelief. But the truth is that we are not.
We are sinners. And sin enslaves all our faculties. Sin prevents us from hearing, understanding, receiving and obeying the truth.
Sin makes us like the devil: “Sin makes men and women partakers of the devil’s character now, and of his condemnation hereafter.”
Of course these truth are too horrible for us to imagine, we do not like to think ourselves as sons of the devil. But that is the necessary consequence of sin.
It only took one act of disobedience to have humanity expelled out of the garden. How many times have we been disobedient to God’s commandments? That makes us, and each and every other human being a slave to sin and a son of the devil, unless we receive the good news of the gospel which is the truth the only way by which we can be saved.
Notice that it was this enslavement to sin and this incapacity to receive the truth which motivated humanity to crucify Jesus. And it is the same reason why today so many are not willing to receive the free offer of salvation.
Most people are familiar with one of the most famous verses of the Bible John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
But most people do not know that this famous verse is followed by some other verses explaining and expanding its meaning:
17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
The reason God sent his Son into the world was to save the world. This is the meaning of the cross. The Son died to save us, who are already lost without him. This is also the message of the cross.
The sinful world is already condemned:
19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For every one that does evil hates the light, neither comes to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. 21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
People do not come to embrace the word of the gospel for one simple reason. Evil hates the light. Men loved darkness.
Light has come into the world, but sinful men would not receive him because they wanted to continue living in sin, without true repentance.
This is why the love of truth, the love of Christ, the love of the cross, is the only hope for salvation for us miserable sinners.
How do we respond to the message of the gospel will determine our eternal destiny, there is no middle ground. We either love or hate the truth, we either believe or reject Christ, and if we believe in him, we must abide by his word, so that he may make us grow more and more into his image until we are made completely free from all bondage to sin and the devil in every way; when we are made to be like him at his appearing.
It is sad to consider the end of this passage; how the more Jesus revealed the truth, the more hostile they become, to the point that they took stones to stone him right there in the temple. But the time was not yet.
Later on the murderous design revealed in this prophecy was made manifest upon the Lord’s last week of life upon this earth.
Yet, we must not forget, that that was not the end of the story. Many of those who partook of the events leading to the crucifixion, eventually became believers in Christ. See how on the day of Pentecost the apostle Peter finished his Sermon where he makes them responsible for the death of the Messiah:
Acts 2: 36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. 37 ¶Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 9 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
Yes, the children of the devil, who could not hear the word of God, nor understand it, nor receive it, after they crucified him, finally, received him just as the Lord said unto them:
28 When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. 29 And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.
The unbelievers, the liars, the murderers finally received the gospel and their sins were forgiven that very day. And they became the first generation of believers in whom all the promises of blessing to Abraham began to be fulfilled. And we at the end of time have come to join in the same fellowship receiving the same word, loving the same truth; and are also filled with comfort, knowing that if the mercy and love of God, and the power of the gospel was enough to deliver them from darkness and slavery to Satan, through the preaching of the word and they receiving it with faith in true repentance, so that same gospel, that same Lord, that same truth, that same preaching and that same hearing of faith, that same repentance is powerful to deliver us today who like them; do believe that He is indeed the Son of God who laid down his life to save all who repent and believe in him, the truth we love, who alone can make us free; to Him be all honor and glory, now and forever more. Amen.
by the Rev. Dr. Benjamin E. Bernier
For the Fifth Sunday of Lent, the book Faith and Life also had this from Athanasius, on “The Eternity of the Son”:
If He is called the eternal offspring of the Father’, He is rightly so called. For the essence of the Father was at no period imperfect, that what was properly its own should be an accidental addition to it; nor has the Son been begotten in the way that one man is by another, so as to be later than His Father’s existence; but He is God’s offspring, and as being the proper Son of the eternally existent God, He exists eternally. For it is the property of men to beget in time, because of the imperfection of their nature; but God’s offspring is eternal, because of the eternal perfection of God’s nature. If then He is not a Son, but has come into existence as a thing made out of nothing, let them first prove it, and then, as if speculating about a creature, cry aloud, “Once the Son was not,” for things which are made once were not in existence, and then come to exist. But if He is Son,—and that He is so, the Father says, and the Scriptures proclaim,—and Son means simply the Begotten of the Father, and what is begotten of the Father is His Word and Wisdom and Effulgence; what must we say but that by saying, “Once the Son was not,” they, like robbers, strip God of His Word, and openly affirm of Him that once He existed without His own Word and Wisdom, that the Light was once without radiance, and the Fountain once barren and dry?
–St. Athanasius, First Oration against Arians, 14.
And this has much to do with why Jesus is able to save: He is indeed the Word and Wisdom of the Father, from all eternity.
I posted this last year and it is well worth reposting. For the Fifth Sunday in Lent, the book Faith and Lifeoffers this selection from St. Augustine, on the natures of Christ:
I. THE MEDIATOR.
IT was necessary that a Mediator between God and men should have something like to God, something like to men; lest, if he were wholly like to men, he should be far off from God; or if he were wholly like to God, he should be far off from men, and so should not be a Mediator. The true Mediator whom in Thy mysterious mercy Thou hast manifested to men, and hast sent, that by His example they should learn humility itself, that Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, appeared between sinful mortals and the Immortal Righteous One; being mortal with men, righteous with God; that as the wages of righteousness are life and peace, He might through His righteousness, which was united to God, make void that death of those who were once ungodly and had been made righteous, which He was pleased to share in common with them. He was manifested to the ancient saints, that so they might be saved by faith in His Passion as then future, even as we are saved by faith in it as past. For inasmuch as He is Man, He is Mediator; in that He is the Word, He is not midway between us and God, because He is equal to God, and is God with God and One God, together with the Holy Spirit .
–St. Augustine, Confessions, xc 42, 43.
This is an excellent summary of the importance of our Lord’s being both divine and human. Truly, we have much for which to be thankful.