22nd Sunday After Pentecost
Fr Andrew Gliga
I want to start off today with a very powerful quote: “I am trying to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him (Jesus): “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic–on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg–or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. We are faced, then, with a frightening alternative. This man we are talking about either was (and is) just what He said or else a lunatic, or something worse.. I have to accept the view that He was and is God.” This quote is given to us by CS Lewis in his book Mere Christianity. This ties in very closely to the Gospel reading for this Sunday.
In the Gospel reading we hear about the familiar story of Christ removing a demon from the Gadarene demoniac. Christ is able with a single word to expel a whole Legion of demons from a man. He allowed them to go into a herd of swine which in turns the swine runs into the water and drowns. There are two points in this event in Christ's life that I would like to examine. The first is the fact that after this great miracle occurred and people saw a man healed of a demonic possession, they still rejected Christ. They asked him to leave and did not want anything to do with him. The second point of interest in this Gospel is actually the closing line. The Evangelist Luke cleverly ties in a dogmatic phrase which attests to the divinity of Christ. The Gospel ends by Christ telling the man: "Return to thine own house, and shew how great things God hath done unto thee" (Luke 8:39). And then the next line instead of saying he went his way to tell what great things God has done, instead says: "And he went his way, and published throughout the whole city how great things Jesus had done unto him" (Luke 8:39). This subtle hint to Christ's divinity is here present in this Gospel.
In many modern circles there seems to be this common trend to remove Christ's divinity from the scriptures. Many modern people speak of how Christ is a great teacher of social justice. They like the sermon on the mount, but don't really buy all the great miracles. And most of all, they also label Jesus as being just a great teacher but not the messiah sent by God to save us from our sins. And this is where the quote by CS. Lewis comes into play. There is no way to separate Jesus from God. He is not just a teacher and one that came to give us a good philosophy, but rather He is more than that. If Jesus claimed he was God and was not, then he would be either crazy or a demon, there is no other way around that. And if Christ is not God, then all his teachings are for naught, who would want to learn the teachings of demons or lunatics. But if He is truly God, then how valuable and priceless are His teachings.
We see that many modern thinkers try to divorce Christ from His divinity. And these people, to me, seem like those people in the Gospel who asked Jesus to leave after seeing a great miracle. The people in the Gospel rejected Christ not because of his mighty miracles, but rather because their source of sin and pleasure was taken away from them. This is because these Jews were keeping pigs for material gain. As is known in the law of Moses, having swine was prohibited. What should have happened is that these people should have gotten on their knees asking forgiveness for their sin they have committed. Rather they wanted to stay enslaved to sin and asked the one True God, Jesus, to depart from them.
This is exactly the same problem that modern thinkers also fall into. They want to separate Christ from his divinity and keep around the teachings of Christ that they like, like to love one another or judge not. They want to do away with all suffering, as well as with the notion of hell. This way they can live out their life in any way they can without any consequences. In fact the whole notion of love in our country has such a skewed meaning. Love in their mind is what gives someone the most enjoyment. This is why society is full of all sorts of justified sins such as promiscuity, living like married couples without being married, and even sodomy. All of these are all justified as love is love, and love wins. In fact, this kind of attitude is what is causing so much destruction and division in our society. How can there be any sort of order, when anything goes?
This is why our faith is different from any other belief system. We don't have a philosopher whose teachings we can skew and change to fit our needs. Rather we have Jesus Christ, who is truly God, who came down to free us from the bondage of sin. And if this man is truly God then we should be bowing on our knees towards him, offering Him the worship due. And this worship should lead us to want to free ourselves from sin, because anyone who is a doer of sin, is in bondage to sin. Let us therefore be like the man who was healed in the Gospel, who worships the Lord Jesus and goes out to preach his name to all men as the one True God who saved him.