Divine Revelations of Christ
by Chris Andreas
Let us begin today’s Gospel message by thinking back 2000 years to the time of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and putting ourselves into the shoes of His disciples. Almost everyone in the Holy Land lived in abject fear; they lived under the very worst long standing dictatorship in the history of the ancient world, the Roman Empire lasting for hundreds of years. Life was extremely difficult. Death was everywhere; quite often we saw condemned individuals on the roadside hanging from crosses.
Suddenly and out of nowhere along comes an individual Who proclaims some Good News that gives us tremendous hope. He says things that we have been waiting to hear for a very long time: The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand! He declares God as Father, His and ours. He also preaches the message of love taking it to new heights, heights never before imagined. Coupled with this He also begins to perform unbelievable wonders, those which no one has ever seen before nor could have dreamed of. In astonishment, we see the sick and blind healed, and the ears and mouths of the deaf and dumb opened; people who we know to be possessed with the very essence of evil are cleansed and made whole again; even the very dead being called back to life.
What can we possibly conceive about such an Individual but that He is from God, and that God has revealed something very special to us through this Person. All of us become His disciples, many following Him into open fields for days on end just to hear Him preach and to be near Him.
Tragically, however, during a major holiday, as suddenly as He appears before us He is now taken away being hung on a cross like a common criminal and dies. We looked at Him as the Messiah, the Savior of the world, the One through Whom a new earthly and Godly kingdom was to be established. Now He is no longer among us and all hope is gone. Or is it?
Did not this very Jesus promise that He would rise again within three days of His Crucifixion? It is from here, brothers and sisters, that we begin to understand the essence of faith, true faith in the eyes and heart of the Church.
Make no mistake, faith is difficult especially in the modern world, and it will become even more so with passing generations. The Apostle Paul explains that faith is hope in things not seen (II Cor 4:18 & Heb 11:1). He also says that it is only by the Holy Spirit that we can confess that Jesus was resurrected from the dead. Jesus Himself chastised those of His own Disciples for their unbelief in His Resurrection. After all, they were with Him for three years and saw Him perform so many signs and prophesy so many things.
But the question for us is would we today be any different from those of 2000 years ago. If we saw an individual who was filled with the Holy Spirit, and even performed many miracles, but was suddenly cut down in the prime of his or her life, would we believe in the possibility that that person could rise from the dead? Would we believe witnesses who claimed to have seen that person alive and well? Let’s be honest, at most, we would probably be saying that it was no more than the person’s spirit, an apparition, his or her ghost perhaps, that was witnessed.
Our initial understanding of faith in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ centers around that first group, that inner circle of Disciples that He appears before and chastises for their unbelief. But there is one who is missing, Thomas who is not present during the first appearance and therefore refuses to believe. A week later our Lord Jesus appears again, this time with Thomas among the group. To the man who later becomes known as the Doubter, Jesus says, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." Then Thomas, seeing Jesus in front of him, says, "My Lord and my God!" He becomes the first man in scriptures to openly proclaim the Savior as Lord and God! At this point Jesus responds indicating the essence of truth faith, "Do you believe because you have seen? Blessed are they who have not seen and yet have believed." (John 20:27-29)
But faith, though perhaps one of the most if not the most important element(s) of our teachings, is still only part of the story. The fact that everyone should have had faith does not preclude what Jesus always intended to do, and that was to appear before them. For when we have faith, we need to know and fully understand what we have faith in. The Roman pagans who guarded our Lord’s tomb saw an apparition. They did not see the Resurrected Lord because He did not yet appear before unbelievers. They saw only an angel who showed them an empty tomb. They were frightened out of their wits and went to tell the religious leaders what they had witnessed. What was the result? They were paid to keep their mouths closed. Fear of Pontius Pilate and the love of money caused them to forget what they had beheld with their very own eyes.
Now Mary Magdalene enters the scene. She sees Jesus, tells the others about it and is derided for her efforts. Finally they too see Him. For it was always the intent of Jesus to show Himself to all of His disciples, to reveal Himself as a living, breathing human being, not in the form of a spirit, but One Who possessed flesh and blood, corporeal matter.
Our Lord’s appearance before His disciples was completely necessary. Why? Why was it necessary for Him to have appeared before them if faith by itself should have been enough? Well, first and foremost, they did not believe, and Christ knew this from the beginning. Though He was hard and demanding with His small group of followers, He also knew their failings having traveled with them all over Israel and into other lands for three years. But second and more importantly, it was His Resurrection that would become one of the main cornerstones of our faith for all eternity. It is to His Resurrection that the Church has witnessed for 2000 years now. Without His appearances, the true essence of Jesus Christ would not have been revealed to us for an empty tomb is just that, nothing more than an empty tomb. But through the Resurrection, Jesus affirms Peter’s confession that He is indeed the Christ, the Anointed One, the Savior, and God Savior as well. Through and because of His Resurrection, we are able to see Him ascending bodily into Heaven, perhaps the most spectacular of visible miracles, and the sending down of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
This, brothers and sisters, is true Revelation of God and Savior. Through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, all things concerning Heaven, salvation and His own true nature are revealed to us.
But this by no means is the end of the story. Christ in His love and plans for the world does not only reveal Himself to His Disciples, but also to an unbeliever, an absolute enemy of Jesus and the Church. Christ saw that though this person was persecuting the Church for misguided reasons, he was also very sincere, unlike his colleagues among the Pharisaic Party to which he belonged. He was well educated in the Law and the Prophets having studied under the famous teacher, Gamaliel. Christ saw much good in this person and revealed Himself to him on the road to Damascus. Saul of Tarsus was traveling there in order to rake havoc of the Christian faith. But he encounters Jesus face to face. Our Lord Who understands the motives of Saul, stops him dead in his tracks and turns him into a protagonist and evangelist, and certainly a very illustrious Apostle of the Early Church. His Epistles explain poignantly the true nature of Jesus and of His salvific message.
Lastly, let us return to the 50th day of the Resurrection, and ten days after our Lord and Savior ascended into Heaven. Christ is no longer physically with us but is sitting on His throne at the right hand of the Father. And on that first Pentecost after the Resurrection, a promise is kept, a promise from the Old Testament as well as from Jesus Himself. The Prophet Joel had written, "I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy; . . .I will show wonders in Heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; . . .And it shall come to pass that whoever calls upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved." On that first Pentecost, the Holy Spirit of God is poured out upon the Disciples of Christ, and they are filled with all knowledge; they are filled with wisdom; they are filled with the ability to speak and be heard in every language; they are filled with the ability to perform the same sort of wonders of Christ Himself; they are filled with the ability to preach the Gospel and thus bring thousands into the Church on that first day alone. When Jesus said to His disciples, "I will baptize you with fire," that was no mere expression but a reality, for it was through tongues of fire (!) that God revealed Himself once again in a most spectacular way.
Rest assured, brothers and sisters, Divine Revelation persists to this day for those of us who make the sacrifices for Christ and become His chosen. I pray that we can all experience such an event. Amen and God Bless....