43- THE END OF THE LAW, July 9, 2023

Romans 10.1-10

Matthew 8.28-9.1

‘Christ is the end [teloV] of the Law,’ says St Paul in our epistle this morning (Rm 10.4). The Greek word for ‘end’ means perfection, completion, or goal. What, then, is the ‘end’ or the goal of the Law, what is its perfection and completion if its ‘end’ is Christ? It is the death of death. It is the LORD’s Holy Pascha.

‘Christ’ – the One anointed with the Holy Spirit – is the title given to the Son of God when He becomes flesh. The Name given to Him when He becomes flesh, Jesus, means ‘God saves.’ Why did the WORD of God become flesh? Obviously, it must have to do with His Name, with Him saving us from our sins. So, how does His becoming flesh save us from our sins? Our Gospel this morning makes visible what happened invisibly in the LORD’s death and burial when He saved us from our sins; and we are given a glimpse of how terrible and wondrous is the LORD saving us from our sins.

The end of sin, says St James, is death (Jm 1.15 apotelesqeisa - built off the same word in Rm 10.4). Through sin, says St Paul, death came into the world and spread like a toxin (from the Elevation of the Cross) through the whole of our nature (Rm 5.12); the whole of creation fell into the bondage of death and corruption (Rm 8.21), and we were held fast as slaves of the devil, chained to his evil tyranny over us through the fear of death (Heb 2.15). Our soul became a dry and weary land where no water is (Ps 63.1); our heart, from which the springs of life flow (Prov 4.23), became a tomb (St Macarius 11.11), and we were found dead in our sins and trespasses (Eph 2.1).

Ponder our Gospel this morning and consider if we don’t see a reflection of our inner man either in the misery of the demoniacs, or in the zombie-like indifference of the townspeople. For in the anger, the bitterness, the loneliness we feel inside when we are not at peace (and, we are not at peace when we do not keep the commandments of Christ our God, when we are friends with the world and enemies of God (Jms 4.4; when our hearts are far from Him, even as we confess Him with our lips (Isa 29.13)), we are in the tombs, our souls are zombies. We are living on this earth in the narthex of hell, sickened in body and soul by a cold ache – the spiritual manifestation of the chains that enslave us to death and corruption.

We were not made for this. We were made in the image of God’s own eternity (Wisd 2.23). We were made for righteousness and immortality, because righteousness is immortal (Wisd 1.15).

When the Immortal Son of God ‘denied Himself’ (Phil 5.6) and became a partaker of our human nature through the Beloved Panagia, what was His end? What was the completion of His Incarnation? If He is the end of the Law, will not His ‘end’ be the end of the Law?

So, what was His end? It was His death on the Cross and His burial in the Tomb. The end, the completion, the perfection of the Law, then, was God becoming a partaker of our human nature, of the Immortal One becoming a partaker of our death, of the Righteous One who knew no sin becoming sin for us (2 Cor 5.21). And what do you think happened to death when God clothed Himself in it? How could it not be destroyed!

St John says: ‘In Him was Life and the Life was the Light of men; and the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot put Him out’ (Jn 1.4). ‘Death could not hold Him’ (Acs 2.24). He is the New Wine that makes glad the heart of man (Ps 103/104.15). And what does the LORD say happens to old wineskins when they are filled with New Wine? They burst, He says (Mk 2.22). The old man in us is the old wineskin. When the Blood of Jesus, the New Wine, pours forth from His side on the Cross and into the old wineskin of our old man, the death and corruption that holds us captive – like the chains holding the two demoniacs this morning captive in the tombs – burst. So, if we flee the corruption that is in the world through the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, and if we run to Jesus to live in His Blood, the old wineskin of our old man will burst; and, we are clothed in the New Wineskin of Christ’s Body. The hidden man of our heart is freed. Our stony, dead heart becomes a fleshy, living heart.

Understand: when, in the fear of God with faith and love, we draw near to Jesus, we do not draw near a God who is outside of us. We are drawing near the God who is very near to us (Dt 30.14). For when He became flesh, He entered into our heart as into His Holy Temple (Eze 44.2-3), all the way to our root (Heb 4.12) where we were dead in our sins and trespasses (Eph 2.1). And from inside our nature, not from outside of it, as from inside His Tomb (Col 1.26-27), He met the devil head on with all his host and all his pride. And, tearing the Cross, the devil’s instrument of a terrible death, from the devil’s hands, He wielded it as His own sword of victory. With it, He put the devil and all his host and all his pride to flight and cast them into the abyss. This is the spiritual reality of the Savior’s death and burial, this is the Gospel of Jesus Christ that this morning’s Scripture readings make visible.

So, dear ones, what if we were to draw near, in the thoughts and intentions of our heart, to this Living WORD of God, sharper than any two-edged sword, who clothed Himself in our flesh and penetrated our nature all the way to the division of our soul and spirit, even into the thoughts and intentions of our heart (Heb 4.12), and what if we rooted ourselves in the fear of His death and not in the fear of our death? Would we not find the end of our heart’s deepest longing completed? Would not the hidden goal of our soul come to its perfection?

What do you think has been man’s deepest cry from the moment he lost the Robe of Glory, the Robe of Immortality and was expelled from Paradise? Can you discern your own soul’s deepest cry? Is it not to be delivered from the misery of death to live in eternal peace and joy?

Can you see that the Son of God becoming flesh is the visible evidence that the LORD has heard our cry? In becoming man, He who knew no sin became sin for us, so that we, by becoming partakers of His death, can become partakers of His divine nature; we can become ourselves the Righteousness of God in the eternal life of Christ’s Holy Resurrection (2 Cor 5.21). This, dear ones, is the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

Moses said of the Law he received from the LORD on Mt Sinai, ‘The WORD of God is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it!’ (Dt 30.14) If Christ is the end of the Law, see how the WORD of God is very near to us because He has become one with us even in our sin and death. Therefore, we can do the Law because the perfection of the Law is Christ in you, the hope of glory. By His death on the Cross, the essence of the Law, Jesus Christ, has filled our death with His eternal Life. In the Savior’s His death and resurrection, the Law of God has shattered the chains, He smashed the bronze gates that held us captive and He opened the Gates of Heaven to all who believe in Him; i.e., to all who want to unite themselves to Him in the likeness of His death and resurrection. And all of this was foretold in the Law of God, in the Psalms and in the LORD’s holy prophets of old!

But if the WORD that we can do is Christ, then the end of the Law goes far beyond even our becoming righteous and immortal. Uniting ourselves to Christ, we become the Righteousness of God, says St Paul (2 Cor 5.21). We become partakers of the divine nature, says St Peter. We become children of God, says St John (Jn 1.13). But Peter, Paul, and John are but handing on to us the teaching of the Savior who said to the Jews as He had said centuries earlier to the Psalmist: ‘Did I not say you are gods, sons of the Most High?’ Receiving the sacramental mysteries of the Church, of Christ’s Body, we become bone of His bones, flesh of His flesh, for He has become bone of our bones, flesh of our flesh. United to Christ, we pass from death to life; we are deified, we become holy as He is holy. For united to Christ, it is no longer we who live but Christ who lives in us (Gal 2.20).

We can do this WORD of God, Moses assures us. And we see it in this morning’s Gospel. Not even a legion of devils could stop the two demoniacs from running to meet Jesus when He came to the Tombs of the Gadarenes, the visible image of His coming to us in the region and shadow of death. There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God, says St Paul (Rm 8.1); nothing can stop us from running to meet Jesus, to call upon Him in faith and in love, and to cleave to Him with our whole being every moment of our life, because Christ is not outside of us. He is in us (Col 1.27) as He was in His Tomb, destroying our death by His death, translating us to His marvelous Kingdom of Light and Life. To destroy death and raise ourselves to life is beyond us, for we are not Jesus, the Son of God; but to run to Jesus and to cleave to Him, this we can do. And, united to Christ, the end of the Law, we attain our end, eternal life in Christ. Glory to Jesus Christ! Amen!