Reminiscere Midweek Vespers
March 8, 2023 AD
I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
Again the high priest asked Jesus, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am; and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”
The Holy Scriptures are that book in which the Holy Spirit bears witness to Christ. That is what Holy Scripture is! That is what Holy Scripture is for! And what that means is that everything we find in the pages of Holy Scripture truly points to Christ. Sometimes that is very evident, and sometimes that is far from obvious, FAR from clear. But we never rightly interpret or understand the Scriptures unless we see ALL that is written there in the light of Christ.
In the portion of the Passion History we heard this evening, the high priest asks the Lord Jesus, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” meaning the Son of God. Jesus replies: “I am.” “I am.” But this simple answer doesn’t ONLY mean, “Yes, that’s true.” Jesus’ answer, “I AM,” points to the mystery of who He is. For “I AM” is in fact the name of GOD revealed to Moses at the burning bush. For after God appointed Moses to lead the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt, Moses said, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” Then God answered Moses, “I am who I am. Say this to the people of Israel ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” “I AM has sent me.” “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” “I AM.
It is especially in Saint John’s Gospel that we find the “I AM” sayings of the Savior: “I am the Bread of Life, I am the True Vine, I am the Light of the world, I am the good Shepherd, I am the resurrection and the Life, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life;” and perhaps the greatest of all of Jesus’ I AM sayings is when He says to His enemies, ‘Before Abraham was, I AM.” Saint John tells us that when His enemies heard those words they tried to stone Him because they believed that His claim to the very name of God was blasphemous.
And so in His answer to the high priest, our Lord again claims for Himself the very name of God, the great I AM. And He identifies Himself with the Son of Man in Daniel’S prophecy, the Son of Man who “comes with the clouds of heaven to the Ancient of Days and is given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations and languages should serve him, [whose] dominion is an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” Says the Savior, “You will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.”
Saint Paul wrote to Timothy, “Great indeed is the mystery of our religion: God was manifest in the flesh.” And in Jesus’ reply to the high priest Jesus Himself points to the mystery of who He is — as we say In the Nicene Creed, “God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God, begotten, not made; being of One substance with the Father, through whom all things were made” — Himself the Great I AM, truly One of the Holy Trinity.
But none of this could be seen by the high priest and his council and his guards. What they saw was an obscure Jew from the obscure town of Nazareth in Galilee whom His followers had acclaimed as the promised Messiah, but whom the high priest and his council saw as both a threat to THEIR power over the people; and so they envied Him and were jealous of Him. And they saw Him as a clear and present danger to the nation’s stability under the Roman rule, a Messianic figure under whose influence things could very easily get out of hand.
And so we see Jesus falsely accused and condemned as countless human beings have been falsely accused and condemned down through the ages world without end. But in judging HIM, His enemies were in fact judging themselves. As Saint John writes, “And this is the judgement: that the Light has come into the world and men preferred darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.”
In the trial of Jesus we see the works of darkness: the bitter fruit of envy and jealousy, of lust for power, of doing what seems to be expedient rather than what is right and good; we see the power of lies and deception. And so, as we again meditate on our Lord’s trial we must ask ourselves: How is it with me? Am I envious or jealous, do I take pleasure in dominating others? Do I do what is expedient rather than what is right and good? Am I guilty of lying and deception? Am I indifferent to the plight of the weak and helpless — as Jesus was weak and helpless in the hands of His enemies who falsely accused and condemned Him and spit on Him and beat Him without mercy?
It was Saint Augustine who said, “So far had our pride cast us down that only the humility of God could raise us up.” Saint Paul writes that though Jesus “was in the form of God, He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but humbled Himself.” Our Lord’s whole life was one of perfect humility, but it is especially in His passion that we see that perfect humility, silent before His accusers, accepting the miscarriage of justice, the spitting, and the beating without complaint as the meek Lamb of God.
In the trial before the high priest we see the One who will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead unjustly judged, accepting the condemnation which would bring Him to the cross where He would suffer In our place the condemnation we by our sin have deserved so that we might be acquitted, forgiven, fully and freely pardoned — in the hour of our death and in the day of judgment. And on that day we shall see the perfect and complete fulfillment of His answer to the high priest’s question: “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” “I AM.” And you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.”
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