Who is Jesus Christ?

Jesus asked his disciples a question. ‘Who do you say I am?’. In fact this is the central question which all people are called to answer for themselves. What do we say about Jesus Christ?

Jesus certainly existed. There were tens and even hundreds of thousands of people in the Roman province of Judaea who had seen and heard him for themselves. And after the resurrection he showed himself to hundreds of his followers who shared their eye-witness testimony. The Gospels of St Matthew, Mark, Luke and John have been shown by scholars to be carefully written accounts of the life of Jesus, based closely on the vivid recollections of his Apostles, and the other people whose lives he touched. The Gospels are not accounts written many years after the events by people who did not know Jesus for themselves, but are eyewitness testimony that can be trusted.

These early followers of Jesus Christ were so convinced by his life that they were willing to suffer torture and death rather than abandon their faith in him. This would have been impossible if they had simply made up everything they wrote about him. It might be possible to imagine a great con-trick being played if the Apostles stood to make money out of their message about Jesus, but in fact all but one ended up being killed, all suffered imprisonment and hardships. Humanly speaking they lost everything. It doesn’t make any sense that they would stick by their stories about Jesus if they were made up.

This perseverance even to death makes it clear that the Apostles and other followers of Jesus certainly believed he was special, and that they believed that what they had written about him was true. But this forces us to ask the question once more – what do we think about Jesus?

If the accounts of the life of Jesus found in the Gospels represents what the Apostles understood and believed and saw happen then it seems to only leave three options when we speak about Jesus. Either he was a crook, or he was mad, or he was who he said he was. Let’s look at each of these options in turn.

It is possible that even if the Apostles were good, honest men it was Jesus who deceived everyone and was a charlatan. Perhaps when he turned the water into wine he used some cheap trick – but the guests thought it was the best wine they had ever tasted. Perhaps when he raised Lazarus from the dead he had simply fainted – but he had been in a sealed tomb for three days and would surely have suffocated to death. Can we really believe that people in the time of Christ didn’t know when someone had died? Were they constantly in the habit of burying people alive? Maybe when the bread and fish were multiplied and everyone had something to eat it was simply that everyone pulled out their packed lunches – but why would that impress the Apostles so much that they all wrote about it? Yes, it is possible to go through every single one of the miracles and find a ‘reasonable’ explanation for it which shows that Jesus was a clever manipulator of people. But it doesn’t answer the objection which was raised in regard to the Apostles. Why would Jesus allow himself to be taken and tortured, then executed by the most painful death possible, if he was simply a con-man? It doesn’t make sense, it isn’t a reasonable explanation.

But perhaps Jesus Christ was a mad-man? Perhaps he had convinced himself that he was someone special, and had managed to convince his disciples too. This doesn’t stand up to investigation either. When people met Jesus they clearly felt that they were in the presence of someone special, not someone who was crazy. He spent some time talking to a woman at a well and she ran back to her villager, urging everyone to ‘come and see a man who told me everything I ever did’. Jesus healed people without even seeing them, a Roman soldier asked him to heal his servant, and when Jesus told him that his servant was healed he ran back home and found that the man he had left dying had recovered exactly at the time when Jesus had said that he was healed. A mad man would not be able to pray over the body of a widow’s only son and raise him from the coffin in which he was being carried to the cemetery. Could a mad man teach the people in such a transforming way, with words which still resonate around the world. What other mad man has ever had such power? The madness of an Adolf Hitler or a Stalin is displayed in their complete cruelty and self-centredness, but none of this was seen in Jesus Christ. He was not paranoid, he shows no signs of delusion. On the contrary he appears always completely balanced. His words and his miraculous actions are not those of a mad-man.

Could he truly be a prophet of God then, as Islam teaches? Not at all. He never claimed to a prophet, he claimed to be the Son of God, saying, ‘I and the Father are one’, and when the demons were cast out of many oppressed souls they cried out, ‘Jesus, Son of God’. When the disciples were in a boat and were saved by Jesus from the storm they knelt before him, saying ‘Truly you are the Son of God’. When he was crucified by the Jewish leaders they insisted that it was ‘because he said he was the Son of God’. Jesus himself asked his disciples who they thought he was, and Peter answered, ‘You are Christ, the Son of the living God’, and Jesus did not correct him, he did not say, ‘No, I am just a prophet’, rather he commended him and said, ‘My Father in heaven has revealed this to you’.

What are we to make of Jesus? He certainly existed and changed the lives of his followers so that they were willing to give up everything for him. Their eye-witness testimony is found in the Gospels, and these accounts show us a Jesus Christ who is neither a bad man, nor a mad-man. We can reject him, but he claimed to be the Son of God. His disciples took this message to the ends of the world, and Christians continue to share their experience of a Jesus Christ who is not dead, but who is the Son of God and who lives forever and offers a life-changing and transforming relationship with God. This relationship has changed our lives, and we invite you to investigate the claims of Jesus Christ further so that he might touch and transform your life as well.

Article source: http://www.orthodoxmedway.org/whoisjesuschrist.php

What is the Orthodox Church?

Someone has calculated that there are more than 35,000 groups in the world all claiming to be the Church. Many of these are very tiny, some consisting of only a single congregation. But these numbers of different groups all claiming to be the Church make it important that we ask – well where is the Church?

When Jesus Christ gathered his disciples around him he formed the beginnings of a new community of faithful people. These were the chosen people of God, they were called to spread the news of God’s love around the world. Jesus Christ appeared to them after his resurrection from the dead, together with several hundred other followers. He taught them carefully and promised that the Holy Spirit would descend upon them and fill their lives with a sense of peace and a knowledge of the truth after he had returned to heaven.

On the first day of Pentecost as the disciples were gathered together in prayer with some of the other followers of Christ, and with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the Holy Spirit came upon them in a visible manner, like a heavenly flame and they were given a sense of courage to go and share what God had done for them. This is the beginning of the Christian family, of the Church.

We can see what happened to this community. In the important city of Antioch these followers of Christ were first called Christians. At first they were led by the disciples of Christ, the Apostles, who chose other men as bishops, or overseers, of the new communities which sprung up in more and more countries as the message about Jesus Christ spread. There were other false groups which emerged but the true Church could easily identify which communities had bishops who had either been appointed by the Apostles, or had been appointed by bishops who had been appointed by Apostles. It was impossible for a group to suddenly come into existence separately from the continuous life of the Church established by Christ.

In the same way, if someone came to our home claiming he was a cousin, we would ask, ‘who is your mother and father’, and if they were not related by close ties of blood then we would not accept their claims.

Over the centuries many groups have chosen to seperate themselves from this true Church, this original Church, but that doesn’t mean that the original Church ceased to exist. The Western Church started to develop new teachings which were condemned by the Church in the first 1000 years of Christian history, and eventually it became a new group, the Roman Catholic Church. Within the Roman Catholic Church there were further developments of new teachings which the original Church rejected, and this caused division between the Roman Catholics and Protestants. Within Protestantism there were many more divisions based on new ideas being taught, so that in the present day we find tens of thousands of Protestant groups all teaching something different.

But remarkably, the original Church, the Orthodox Church, still teaches the same things which were taught by the followers of Jesus Christ. We have many documents left by these earliest Christians outside the Bible, and Orthodox Christians today believe and teach the same things. Since the Orthodox Church has not changed what it believes, and since the Orthodox Church can show that it has a continuous history back to the very beginning of the Church, the Orthodox Church makes the claim that it is the Church, it is the community of faithful believers which Jesus Christ formed.

This does not mean that Orthodox Christians are perfect or claim to be perfect. Far from it. But we do believe that the things which we are taught within the Orthodox Church are the complete Christian faith, and provide the greatest possibility for people to experience the presence of God in their lives. We recognise the love of God which is found in other Christian communities, but each of these other groups has added new things that are not part of the original faith, or had taken away things which the first Christians, the original Christians, thought were necessary to the Christian life.

We invite you to explore our Orthodox Faith with us. Not because we are perfect or better than others, but because we believe that the faith we are being taught and which we try to live in an authentic and honest manner, is the true faith, the original faith, the whole faith.

Article Source:http://www.orthodoxmedway.org/orthodoxchurch.php


Giving Thanks Always

Then our giving thanks to God has no specific occasions but it is “Always”. And as long as it is continuous, it covers the whole life and therefore the expression “Life of Thanksgiving” applies to it. The same teaching was explained in the first epistle of the Thessalonians, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks” (1 Thess 5:16-18).

On account of this, the Prayer of Thanksgiving precedes all prayers:

All the church rituals and masses begin with the prayer of Thanksgiving, also the seven prayers (in the Agbia) either in the morning or at night. We always give thanks to God “evening and morning and at noon”. Also we says the Psalmist “at midnight I will rise to give thanks to you, because of  your righteous judgments”. In addition to the general prayer of thanksgiving, we give thanks in absolutions of the hours: In the first Hour we say ” We thank you O Eternal King, for you permitted us to pass this night in peace and brought us to the day break ” … we thank Him for keeping us safe during the night and giving us a new day in life. In the Third Hour we say “We give you thanks for raising us up to pray at this holy hour, where you poured Your Holy Spirit in abundance, upon your disciples and honourable apostles like tongues of fire” In the Sixth Hour, we say “We give thanks to you O our King The Almighty, Father of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ, we glorify you because you made the time of suffering of your Only Begotten Son , a time of prayer and comfort”.

In the Sunset prayer, we say ” We thank You , O our Compassionate King, for you granted us to pass this day in peace, and brought us thankfully to the evening, and made us worthy to see the light until sunset. We thank God for every hour that passes in peace. Then, it is a continuous thanksgiving either at the beginning of every prayer or at certain occasions.