Brothers and sisters in Christ, today, we heard about how the Pharisees and the chief priests doubted the power and authority of Christ, questioning the origins of His authority and works, and in doing so, failing to see the work of God that is in Christ. For all the miracles and the wonders that Christ had done in this world, are the works of the Father, and in doing all that, He did not do it for His own glory, but for the Father who had sent Him.
Why did then, the Pharisees, and the chief priests, who are supposed to be people most knowledgeable in anything related to the Scriptures and the prophecies of the prophets regarding the Messiah failed to see that Christ is the Messiah, and failed even to see the works of God in Jesus? That is, brothers and sisters, because they are blind! They are blinded by their own weaknesses, by jealousy, by hatred, and by prejudice, and the pride they had in their own abilities, in their own intellect, and in their own worldly power.
The Pharisees claimed to serve the Lord and showed this through their external piety, through loud and well-recognised prayers in public places, and by their ultra-orthodox approach to the faith by very strict observation of the Law of Moses, and the norms of the society at the time, even to the little matters such as the washing of the hands prior to meals. But in their strict observation of that Law, they had in fact become corrupted by the power and authority that had been entrusted to them as priests of the people of God.
To them had been granted the authority, the same authority and priestly power as granted to Aaron, the brother of Moses, who became the first High Priest of the people of Israel after the Exodus from Egypt. To them had been granted also the responsibility of guiding the people to remain faithful in the path and ways of the Lord, that the people would not falter and stray in their lives, and remain in God’s grace.
Yet, they had, over the centuries, grown to trust men much more than they trusted God. They placed human glory and acclamation ahead of true, heavenly glory that only God can give. They had grown so accustomed to the privileges they had in their position of authority and power, that they themselves began to stray from the path that God has appointed for them and entrusted them to keep the people faithful in. They, the leaders of the people, out of all others had themselves been bought over by the evil one. Indeed, the saying cannot be further than truth, that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
In their position of authority, and with the privileges and honour they had grown so accustomed to, the priests and the elders had become arrogant, and jealous against anyone they see as rivals to their own authority and power, even if that rival is in fact the very Messiah that God had sent to save the people of Israel, and all mankind. This defiance against the Messiah was very evident today, given how they questioned the authority of Christ, which as God, has authority over all creation.
However, it is important to note that although it seems that those priests and elders look evil from how they were portrayed in the Gospels, but they themselves were not inherently evil. All mankind are inherently capable of doing what is good, and also what is evil. Ever since our ancestors, Adam and Eve, ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, we had been exposed to both good and evil, and therefore, are fully capable of doing both. Whether to do good or to do evil, is entirely within our own decision capacity.
That is why, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, it is important that we keep our faith in the Lord strong at all times, and anchor ourselves firmly in His love, so that we will not go astray, tempted and bought off by the enticing offers of the evil one, who had in his possession, all the world and all its ‘good’ things, that can easily tempt and seduce those who are weak-hearted, and those without firm faith in the Lord.
Today, therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, and from here on, we should always be reminded on the evils of this world, and the dangers that we constantly face in our daily struggles against evil and all that he employed in this world against God’s children. Especially, brethren, if we had been entrusted with positions of authority and power, do not abuse that power that the Lord had entrusted you, and do not let the sheep entrusted to you, their shepherd, to go astray from the truth of God.
But we need not fear, brethren, for Christ is amongst us, and He is always with us, if only that we remain faithful and obedient to Him and do all the commandments that He had given us, we are safe. The devil will have no power over us, and we will truly become God’s children. And instead of jealousy, we will be in complete awe and wonder for the glory of God, and with the angels and saints, we shall glorify Him forevermore when we are reunited with Him once again, in the eternal bliss of heaven.
Today we also commemorate the feast of a great early martyr of the Christian Church, St. Justin the Martyr, who died for the faith in the second century after the coming of Christ, in the early Church times. St. Justin was born a pagan and a philosopher, with a great intellect and quality education, that made him a very well-educated person in the society at the time. St. Justin encountered many believers of Christ in his journeys and travels, and despite being involved in arguments and debates with them, in fact, gradually, it kindled in him the love for God, and the steadfast faith in Christ.
St. Justin, despite his great intellect and knowledge, did not give in to his pride and human weakness, and instead put himself in God’s love and place his full trust in Him. That is why He was glorified in death, out of his steadfast and unfailing faith, even unto death, because, unlike the Pharisees and the chief priests, he did not let human pride and arrogance to get in the way of salvation. May we be able to follow in the footsteps of St. Justin, and become truly the disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ. St. Justin the Martyr, pray for us. Amen.