|17 - THE BEGINNING OF THE GOSPEL, Jan 3, 2021|
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2 Timothy 4.5-8
The English translates our Gospel this morning, “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of God.” “Beginning” in what sense? The word is arche; it means head, chief, principal, root. It is therefore not necessarily a beginning in time. That St Mark finds the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Moses and Isaiah tells us that by “arche” he does not mean the year, month and day JnBapt began preaching in the wilderness. He is taking us rather to the spiritual root of creation, of time and of human nature, the spiritual essence that gives creation its shape and governs how it moves, where seasons, days and years, the passing of time, finds its meaning (Gen 1.14). This tells us that the ‘beginning’ of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is found in every moment of history because it is the mystery of the Kingdom of God that is within you (Lk 17.21). It is the spiritual root of our being.
So, if the Gospel is of Jesus Christ, and if He is the Son of God, then the Gospel is of God. The root, the beginning of the Gospel that is within you, then, is God. Jesus is the eternal WORD of God that Moses spoke of: “The WORD is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it” (Dt 30.14). That WORD has become flesh; it has been wedded to our nature. What remains is for us to wed ourselves to Jesus Christ in the arche, the root of our being, in our heart where our desire and our will originate. For what purpose?
It says, “the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Gospel is Good News of a specific kind. It is the good news of a military victory that ushers in a new world order of freedom, prosperity, security, peace. The Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is of a victory that is of eternal consequence; it reaches all the way back to the ‘beginning’ of creation, it penetrates into the future (Rev 1.8) because it goes all the way down to the ‘root’ of creation. It is a victory that heals and restores and sets things right. For, the victory of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is over ‘him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, who through fear of death, held mankind in bondage from the ‘beginning’ (cf. Heb 2.14-15), in the ‘root’ of our being, in our heart where we are deep, beyond all things, where the door that opens inside of us onto God was sealed off by the wall of enmity that we built from the stones of our sins and trespasses.
So, the Son of God became flesh. He wed Himself to us sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death, who were bound in affliction and iron. He did so for the purpose of bringing us out of our darkness, out from the shadow of death, to break our bonds, to shatter the gates of brass, and to cut the bars of iron in sunder, in order to save us out of our distresses. Am I quoting from the New Testament? No; I’m quoting from the Psalms. Jesus Christ is the WORD of God sent by the Father to heal us and to deliver us from our destruction (Ps 107.10-20). For what purpose? The Psalmist answers that question, too: “To bring us to the desired haven.” (Ps 107.30)
In this, we see that salvation is a journey, an ‘exodus.’ To be ‘saved’ is to get onto this Path (odos) that leads out of (ex) the darkness and shadow of death in which we are imprisoned, and to follow it on an ‘exodus’ to the ‘desired haven’. And so, the “beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” that is, the root or the chief principle of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a Path, a Way—not a geographical path but a spiritual path that leads inward, into our soul all the way into our heart, just as we see the LORD Jesus Christ making His way into the Tomb of His Sabbath Rest. For, Jesus Christ Himself is the Path. He Himself is the Way of the LORD.
Methinks I discern two paths or ways indicated in these prophets St Mark draws from. “Behold, I send my messenger before you who will prepare your way.” This actually is not from Isaiah. St Mark here is drawing from Exodus. This is the LORD’s WORD to Israel at Mt Sinai. He has just delivered Israel from Egypt. Their Exodus, their journey to the “desired haven” has begun. He has brought them to Mt Sinai. There, He gives them ordinances and laws. For what purpose? To prepare the spiritual ‘path’ of their inner man as they journey on the outer path that will take them to the Promised Land, “the desired haven”; that is, to orient their inner man toward the God who delivered them out of bondage to Pharaoh, and away from the world and its idols that enslaved them in the darkness and shadow of death.
So, there is a path within us. It is invisible, immaterial; but it is not at all unknown to us because we are walking on this path every day, every hour every minute. It is the path we choose to walk according to our desire. It is the inner orientation of our soul that we choose. Either we are choosing to orient our thoughts, our hopes, our desires toward “friendship with the world”—this is the broad and easy path that leads to destruction for it leads back to Egypt, away from our heart and away from the “desired haven” in the deep of our heart where we would find God—or we are choosing to orient our thoughts, our hopes, our desires inwards, toward the LORD Jesus Christ, the Son of God in whom and by whom we were made. As it is very clearly set before us in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the LORD is found not in friendship with the world but in the “tomb” of our heart. And we see in the Gospel of Jesus Christ that the stone has been rolled away. Our heart now opens onto the Garden of the LORD’s resurrection and out onto His eternal Kingdom of Light in the deep, beyond all things.
By this, we see that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is of an inner, invisible path inside of us that will take us on an ‘inner exodus’ to “the desired haven”. “Prepare ye the Way of the LORD” (Mk 1.3). This is the passage drawn from Isaiah, 40.3. Through His prophets, the LORD calls us to prepare ourselves for His coming by stepping onto the path that is inside of us and turning our outward words and deeds together with our inner thoughts and desires eastward—this is repentance—orienting ourselves to the hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, so that we are not living, heedless, in friendship with the world which is enmity with God, but ‘redeeming the days of our life’ by directing our life onto the inner Exodus of the Gospel and onto the Way of the LORD that is the LORD Jesus Christ Himself, the Son of God coming to dwell in us that we may abide in Him. This Way of the LORD is the LORD coming out of Himself and into the womb of the Blessed Virgin to become flesh in order to become absolutely one with us even in our death so that we can become one with Him in His Resurrection.
In the Faith of the Church, we are given to know that this Way of the LORD leads us into the mystery of Eden; this is “the desired haven.” We read in Genesis (3.25): “The LORD God cast out Adam, and He stationed the cherubim and the fiery sword to guard the way (odos) to the Tree of Life.” Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the Tree of Life! If the Son of God has become flesh and dwelt among us, what can this mean except that “Eden has been opened to all, for the Tree of Life Himself has blossomed forth from the Virgin in the Cave! Her womb has been revealed as a spiritual Paradise (and so, our heart has been revealed as such) wherein is planted the divine plant. Eating of it (Holy Eucharist!) we shall not die as Adam but live (could it be any more plain!?), for Christ is born, renewing the image that fell of old!”
When the LORD is baptized in the Jordan, St John sees the heavens “splitting open,” just as the curtain of the Temple would split open when the LORD would send forth His Spirit from the Cross. The heavens that are opened are “the desired haven” that the Way of the LORD is leading us up into. They are a Gospel image, an icon, of the deep that Eden opened onto at the top of the Edenic mountain. They are the deep our heart opens onto. And, the Path that leads out of this land of darkness and shadow and into the opened heavens is the Way of the LORD—it is the LORD Himself—who leads us inward, into the tomb of our heart, where He has destroyed our death by His death and transfigured our heart into the Bridal Chamber. Here is where we come out into the Garden of the Song of Solomon. It is the Garden of the LORD’s resurrection. This Way of the LORD is the Path we are led onto in the Church of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
The LORD is “the beginning (arche) and the (telos)” (Rev 21.6, 22.13). He is the root and the blossom. The beginning or root of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is Jesus Christ Himself. The mystery of God hidden from the ages, the LORD Jesus Christ is in you, the Hope of Glory (Col 1.26-27). The “beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” then, is found within us. It is the root of our being. The Gospel of Jesus Christ, His victory over our sin and death, begins in us when we begin to prepare the way of our soul and begin to make straight the paths of our thoughts and desires, our words and deeds, so that we orient our whole being eastward. Then, our life in this world becomes an exodus on the Way of the LORD into our heart, the “desired haven,” where we become one with the LORD Jesus Christ and ascend with Him into the heavens in the deep beyond all things. Amen!