I greet you on the Feast of Feasts of the Orthodox Christian Church, Great and Holy Pascha, or Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We sing a hymn during this feast that encompasses the whole purpose of the Resurrection: “Unto us He has given eternal life, let us worship His resurrection on the third day.”
But we need to ask, and to understand: What is “eternal life”?
Often we think of eternal life as the life to come after our physical death, that is, life in heaven. But the Gospels make clear that eternal life does not mean “afterlife” but rather “new life.” Jesus came to give us “new life.” He came to give us the opportunity to have His divine nature within us. That is why He, the Son of God, came, died, and rose again!
Eternal life is not a future gift from God. It is the gift of God Himself, living within us.
Jesus was able to give us this gift, the gift we had lost when our fore-bearers Adam and Eve, disobeyed God and disconnected themselves from God. Jesus Christ, the sinless One, the perfect Human Being, reversed their wrongdoing and restored our communion with God our Father.
How? By exhibiting His perfect obedience to His Father.
On our behalf, Jesus became the “New Adam,” that is, the human being who would obey His Father perfectly, giving up His own will, even to the point of death on a Cross.
Reversing the sins of all humanity—past, present, and future—would demand a huge act of obedience. It would demand extreme humility. But Jesus was willing to take up this task. He was willing to take upon His own shoulders every sin of humanity, every disobedience to God, and to make it null and void by His own obedience.
His obedience to His Father led Him to a death of utter humility and shame, the death of a criminal. There was no other path for Him to follow, no other way for Him to reverse or to atone for all of humanity’s disobedience. The weight of our sins demanded His extreme and tortuous death. All our acts of disobedience had to be wiped away by a final, ultimate act of obedience by the Son of God. He had always been obedient to His Father, but His death on the Cross was the consummate act of self-denial and obedience…for our sake.
By dying upon the Cross, He reversed the curse of humanity and opened up the path to eternal life, new life…the path of obedience.
The Letter of St. Paul to the Romans (Romans 6: 9–11) states this perfectly: “Death no longer has dominion over Him…the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise, you also reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God.”
Let us embrace the message of the Risen Lord during this Bright Season. Let us continue to put to death all sin in us, in obedience to our Heavenly Father, and we will experience new life, eternal life!
Wishing you the joy of new life, Father Steven, Pastor