by Rev. Dn. Vijay Thomas
Gospel Reading: St. Luke 3:23-38
Glory be to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one true God. Amen.
In the February 2011 edition of Christianity Today, a Western Christian Magazine, there is an article about the conversion of Muslims in the Middle East. After decades of unsuccessful missionary ventures into these Muslim nations, a new translation of the Bible in Arabic has been released in order to overcome some of the theological roadblocks that hinder Islamic readers. The main change has been that the term "Son of God" has been changed to "beloved of God". For Muslims, the term "Son of God" poses a great challenge because, for them, this term is blasphemy against the holiness and otherness of God. Many in this Islamic culture confuse the term "Son of God" to mean that God procreated with Mary in a physical relationship. Thus, these missionaries have dropped the term from their vocabulary in order to engage in a meaningful discussion with those of this Arian-like faith.
For the Orthodox Christian, the term "Son of God" is at the heart of our faith and our understanding of God. It is a term that we cannot remove from our vocabulary. Jesus of Nazareth is the one eternal Son of the Father who created all things. This term defines Jesus and proves that he is the anointed one, the messiah – the Christ.
Today's Gospel reading, the Sunday before Christmas highlights the importance of this term. St. Luke 3:23-38 is the genealogy of Jesus through the line of Joseph. This passage is a hard passage to read because it seems that it lacks spiritual content. Thus, we often gloss over all the names in order to get to the more narrative portion.
However, this passage portrays one very important idea that we need to remember during this Christmas season.
To understand this important idea, we must first analyze the words "son of". The passage is full of this phrase as it is repeated over and over again. Is there any relevance to these words?
In Hebrew this phrase is translated "Bar". Thus, we see St. Peter's full name is Simon Bar Jonah or Simon, "son of" Jonah. Peter may have been the son of a man named Jonah. But the lives of Peter and the Prophet Jonah are also parallel in that both men fled from God, only to realize their sin and repent. In another instance, the name Barnabas means "son of" encouragement. Barnabas, the companion of St. Paul in the Acts of the Apostles, was the one who encouraged Paul in his ministry.
The phrase "son of" helped inadvertently to identify the person and their character. This idea is not so far from our own culture in which we associate a good family background with a suitable marriage proposal.
Jesus being the son of Joseph, who is a descendent of David, Jesse, Boaz, Judah, and all these figures of the Old Testament, help to show the depth of God's plan of salvation. For example, Jesus comes from the line of Boaz and this adds profound meaning to the story of Ruth.
The realization that these Old Testament figures and the struggles that they endured have an ultimate purpose and goal in the incarnation of the messiah is powerful. But even more remarkable is that it speaks to the very real humanity of Jesus. This Son of God is also the son of all these men and women who are not perfect but are human.
Jesus truly becomes one of us and we can trace his lineage and his bloodline. We know his family background and the history of his family. We know Him. As St. Luke writes, He is "the son of Adam." We are all children of Adam. But it is through Jesus that the children of Adam become the children of God.
The Son of God has become a son of man. As we think on this revelation, this truth reveals that God is the Father. He is the Father of Christ and through Christ, he is our Father. In St. Mathew 23:9, Christ definitely states, "For One is your Father, He who is in heaven."
When I think about this idea, I am reminded of the story of Moses. This boy grew up adopted as a child of the Egyptian Pharaoh. He grew up not knowing his father or his people. But he grew to know the truth about his origin. He realized that he was the child of the chosen people and that he was found by Pharaoh's daughter in the water. In Exodos 2:10, it states, "So she called his name Moses, saying, "Because I drew him out of the water." The name of Moses has a root in Hebrew word for "draw out". But in the ancient Egyptian language, the name "Moses" had another meaning. It meant "son of". It was common in this culture to name a child the son of a pagan god, for example, Rames is short for Ra-Moses or Son of Ra (the Sun God).
When Moses was confronted by God and came to know the true God, he must have dropped the first part of his name that identified him as the son of an Egyptian pagan god. And Moses then became simply the "son of". Moses, the orphan who was adopted by another people, reclaimed his true father, which is the Heavenly Father and God. He became a child of God.
During this Christmas Season, as we contemplate the incarnation of this holy, unknowable, incomprehensible, almighty God, we should reflect on the importance of understanding of this term "Son of God". We should realize that through the Son of God, we have all come to know our Father.
Sermons, Bible Commentaries and Bible Analyses for the Sunday Before Christmas (Genealogy of Jesus Christ)
Malankara World Christmas Supplement (additional Sermons, articles, devotionals, etc. on Christmas)
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