A Homily for the Tenth Sunday after Trinity
4 August 2013
Holy Apostles Anglican Church, Pewaukee, WI
Mr. Zachary Braddock, Seminarian
“And he went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought; saying unto them, It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but you have made it a den of thieves. And he taught daily in the temple.”
(Luke 19:45, 46, 47)
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
It is perhaps fortuitous that this gospel reading ended up on this particular Sunday. Or, then again, maybe God has a sense of humor. I say that, because on Tuesday, we celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration, wherein we get a glimpse of the Uncreated Light, which is God. I say that, because while Jesus is on Mount Tabor with the Apostles and with Moses and Elijah, and while he is transfigured, God confirms that Jesus is His son. But what connection between Jesus’ actions this morning and the transfiguration?
I don’t know how many of you know who Reza Aslan is. If you’ve never heard of him, you will know of him soon. He’s written a new book, called Zealot, which is ostensibly about Jesus Christ. To give you some context, Aslan is a Muslim scholar who specializes in New Testament Studies. But his argument in the book, is that Jesus is not divine, is not the Son of God, and never claimed to be. He said as much this past week in an interview on Fox News. The reason I bring him up is that the accusation that Jesus was not truly God incarnate (which we of course believe to be absolute truth), but that he was rather an “enlightened teacher”, a “prophet”, a “good old pal who wants us to be nice to each other,” is one that is often; and increasingly, thrown around.
Aslan cites two specific episodes in the gospel. One, the cleansing of the Temple, is mentioned in this morning’s gospel lesson. Jesus drives out those who are selling and declares, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer’”. The other occurs in the next chapter. It is in Luke 20 where Jesus is recorded as say, “render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and to God the things that are Gods.” According to Aslan, Jesus never once claims to be Divine.
Scripture, however, tells us a different story. In Scripture, there is no dividing Christ into “the historical Jesus” and “the Christ of Faith.” What you have… is Jesus the Christ. Now, there is nothing wrong with studying Jesus this way from an academic perspective, indeed; this can be helpful. But when the academies have been worn away by time and all you have left is Holy Mother Church, and the Jesus which she hands us at Baptism… you will have Jesus the Christ.
In John’s account of Jesus’ life, we see this clearly. John describes in his prologue of how, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. And the word became flesh… and dwelt among us.” These familiar words, which we hear Sunday after Sunday proclaim a radical truth: That the infinite entered the finite. Jesus himself makes this claim. In John, chapter 8, verse 58, he says, “Truly, Truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” Not only is he here saying that he existed before Abraham, any Jew who heard him speak would immediately make a connection with God appearing to Moses in the Burning Bush. In chapter five, verses seventeen and eighteen, he calls God his Father… and claims equality with him. In the second chapter of the Gospel according to Mark, Jesus explicitly claims the title of “Son of Man”, and proclaims that he has the authority to forgive sins. And then he does so, telling the paralyzed man that his sins are forgiven… and telling him to rise… and walk. But God is the one who forgives sins, as the prophet Isaiah reminds us.
Jesus claims at least twice, some authority over the Temple in Jerusalem. In the second chapter of Luke, when he is twelve he remains in the Temple after his parents have departed, and refers to it as “his father’s house.” As he approaches Jerusalem for his Passion, he cleanses the Temple, as we read this morning.
On Tuesday morning, we celebrate Morning Prayer for the Feast of the Transfiguration. If you were to read the lessons for the Mass, however, you would read that Jesus goes up on Mount Tabor with Peter, and James, and John; the Apostolic “inner circle”, as it were. While Jesus prays on the mountain, his appearance changes, and the Apostles see Him in his glory. They see Jesus arrayed in the Uncreated Light. And as this happens, they hear God speaking from Heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son…”
Is it any wonder that the Pharisees wanted Jesus stoned? Is it any wonder that when Jesus was brought before Pilate that he was presented as going against Caesar? He was, my brothers and sisters, claiming just what the Church has always taught that he claimed: that he was the Son of God, the Word incarnate. Jesus is not claiming to be a “good teacher”. He is quite clear. Either he is, in fact, who he says he is, or he is insane.
Those who deny that Jesus is who he says he is are not new. The tendency to see Jesus as other than what he is is only increasing. What you ultimately end up doing is either 1) abandoning the faith altogether because you’ve lost Jesus or 2) you devalue Scripture to the point where ultimately, neither it nor Jesus holds any weight at all, and you end up with a pseudo-Christianity that can be adapted at will. Neither option is good. Neither option presents us with anything that can redeem the world. No matter how hip or cool you want to make the Gospel, if you take away Jesus… there is no Gospel. It might be uncool or politically incorrect to say what we actually believe about Jesus…. But to say anything else is to look at Jesus on the Cross and deny him. If this isn’t about Jesus… then it is about us. It’s not about us.
As Blessed Charles Grafton would say, “Press on the Kingdom.”
To God be the Glory, now and forever. Amen.