On Suffering for the Kingdom

Meditation on Luke 23

When Pilate learns that Jesus is a Galilean, he sends Him to Herod, as Galilee is in Herod’s jurisdiction. Herod is elated at the news, because he had heard of this Man’s teaching, and the miracles that He had performed, and he wishes to be entertained. Jesus, however, refuses to acquiesce. Elsewhere, in St Matthew’s Gospel, we read the words of Jesus, “Woe to you…for if the mighty works done here had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago…but I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you in the day of judgment.” (Matthew 11:21-22).

See, it’s this very idea that Tyre and Sidon had never received these teachings, or these miracles; thus their unbelief was to much less condemnation than it was for these other nations, who had received this witness and still rejected the Truth. Jesus here knew that Herod would never come to believe, thus His silence here was an act of compassion. Had He revealed such great mysteries in the face of such unbelief, such blasphemy; He would have brought Herod to even greater condemnation. Herod here represents all unbelievers, all unrighteous, who, if they choose not to recognize Jesus as the Christ, will never be able to see His miracles or understand His words. Consider those who disbelieve, how strongly they usually do so. The Psalmist tells us that all of creation bears witness to His glory (Psalm 18:1 LXX), and St Paul teaches us that “since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes are clearly seen.” (Romans 1:20). Herod represents those who “suppress the truth in unrighteousness,” those who, having lost communion with God through tasting the tree of human knowledge, continue to hide behind that tree; thus blinded by human wisdom are unable to see the witness of creation of proof of His existence. He represents all who will believe any theory of men before they would ever consider to accept the Truth of God. Consider how many times we see evidence of the existence of God, and yet, those who refuse to believe will find any human logic that would discredit that belief.

After meeting with Herod, Jesus is sent back to Pilate, and upon His return, the people demand that Jesus be crucified. Thrice does Herod seek to free Him, and the people refuse to allow it to be so. They demand that Barabbas, a rebel and a murderer, be released, while Jesus be crucified. A man named Simon, meanwhile, is tapped to help to bear the cross as they march to Golgotha. Simon, whose name means “obedience,” represents all the faithful who, to follow Jesus, must bear the cross that He places on them. Barabbas, on the other hand, whose name means “son of the father,” represents the world, the children of Satan, who is the ruler of this present world (John 14:30).

Thus, in this passage, we see this stark contrast between Simon and Barabbas. Barabbas, who represents those who “are of your father the devil,” (John 8:44-45) will escape this earthly persecution and will be allowed, be accepted by the world. Meanwhile, Simon, who represents all who are obedient to Christ, will face this earthly persecution and must bear their cross, suffering for the kingdom of God. However, it is those who bear their cross that shall be remembered in the kingdom of God.

This is the example that we must always bear in mind. Rather than seeking the ease, the comfort, the acceptance of the world; we must always remain steadfast in the faith, willing to endure endless persecution and suffering for the name of the Lord. We must obediently bear our own cross, neither grumbling nor complaining, aware that at the last, it is those who suffer for the kingdom that are counted worthy for entrance into it.

“Blessed are you when men shall revile and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven.” (Matthew 5:11-12, Divine Liturgy); “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets.” (Luke 6:26).

May the grace of the Lord be with us all, my beloved family.

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