14 January OS 2016 – Leavetaking (Apodosis) of Theophany; St. Nino of Georgia; St. Savva of Serbia; St. Hilary of Poitiers
The reading from the Gospel today is John 10:39-42
At that time, the Jews sought again to take Jesus: but he escaped out of their hand, And went away again beyond Jordan into the place where John at first baptized; and there he abode. And many resorted unto him, and said, John did no miracle: but all things that John spake of this man were true. And many believed on him there.
The daily Gospel readings during the Afterfeast of the Theophany, as might be expected, relate to the Lord’s baptism. Today’s reading from St. John tells us that Christ escaped from “the Jews” (i.e., those who had rejected Him) when they wanted to stone Him after He had made the bold statement, “I and my Father are one (John 10:30),” and He went to the wilderness of Jordan, to the place where John had baptized.
There are several lessons here, of which let us speak of three: one theological, one relating to our spiritual life, and one relating to the mission of the Church.
- The Lord “escaped out of their hand,” because His time had not yet come. St. John, more explicitly than the other three Evangelists, makes absolutely clear that the Lord’s Passion and Death were completely voluntary – He always had complete control of the situation. For example, St. John is the one who records that when the mob approached to arrest Him in Gethsemane, they all fell to the ground simply because He spoke the Divine Name: “I AM” (Ego eimi). He is always Master of human events. He calmly and deliberately goes about His Father’s business, right up to the Cross and Death.
- We too, His followers, must calmly and deliberately go about our Father’s business. All the events surrounding us, no matter how disturbing or frightening, are – whether the perpetrators of evil like or not, or intend it or not – part of God’s plan for the salvation of those who believe in Him. But following the example of Christ Himself, we must “…go again beyond Jordan…” i.e., we must have constant recourse to the baptismal grace that is within us by retreating into the “wilderness” of prayer and divine study.
- Retreating into the wilderness, whether literally or figuratively, does not defeat our mission to “preach the Gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15),” because, if we are living authentic Orthodox Christian lives, “every creature” intended by God to come to us, will come to us. In this passage, the Lord goes beyond Jordan, and yet multitudes go out to seek Him, and “…many believed on Him there.” We see this over and over again in the history of the Church: God’s saints flee to the wilderness, and other earnest souls follow them without any coercion or persuasion. They simply want to be near the source of life. In our time, those who come will probably not be multitudes, but they will be those who are responding to God’s call. The number does not matter.
Let us therefore:
- Be absolutely convinced that all is beneath God’s Providence for our salvation.
- Establish and constantly re-establish disciplined lives of prayer and spiritual effort, and
- Share this life with those who come to us seeking the Fountain of Salvation, Our Lord the God-Man Jesus Christ, Who gives abundantly of His Spirit to those who seek Him in sincerity of heart.
O Christ our God, baptized in Jordan for our sake, glory be to Thee!