Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Triad Of Completion: A Sunday Rumination

     There are certainly a lot of “threes” in the Bible. Some are more visible than others: the Trinity and Simon Peter’s three “denials” of Christ during the Passion, for example. But one other “three” is on my mind this morning, owing to a passage in the Gospel According to John:

     So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. [John 21:15-17]

     A bit reminiscent of Lewis Carroll’s “What I tell you three times is true,” isn’t it? Yet it has traditional significance. The “tell me three times” practice is believed to remove all doubt, to answer a question finally and beyond dispute. Peter was to become the first Bishop of Rome (a.k.a. Pope) and set the Church on its course through the centuries. It would cost him his life, as Jesus foretold in the next verse:

     Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girded thyself, and walked whither thou wouldst: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldst not.

     The Redeemer wanted to be certain that Peter believed himself the right man for the job before He was to pronounce such a doom. For another “three” was in the process of completion, the triad of miracles that capped Christ’s ministry among men: the Resurrection, the Ascension, and the event Christians commemorate today: the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles:

     And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
     And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.
     And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galileans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.

     The Paraclete bestowed upon the Apostles a “three” of his own:

  1. Understanding, that they might preach plainly what Jesus had taught them;
  2. Tongues, that each hearer should hear their preachments in his own language;
  3. Courage, to accept the hardships and hazards of evangelism in the cause of Christ.

     All three of those gifts would be required for their mission.

     The Pentecost miracle is the final element in the miraculous triad that completed Christ’s journey among men. It wasn’t merely a stroke of generosity, but a reinforcement of the proclamation of duty He had laid upon them: the Great Commission. The Son of God would not leave His Apostles without the things they needed to fulfill His charge.

     Despite persecution, doctrinal missteps, and misdeeds and lapses in judgment among its clerics, the Church of which Peter was the first primate has flourished. Christianity has spread throughout the world: not by force or intimidation, but by the power of its messages of forgiveness, love, and eternal life. Yet it’s important to remember that like all that lives and grows, the Church had a birthday: the Pentecost, which completed the triad begun by the Resurrection and the Ascension, invested understanding, tongues, and courage in the eleven Galilean fishermen who witnessed them, and powered their fulfillment of Christ’s command to “Go, and teach all nations:”

     Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. [Matthew 28:19-20]

     May God bless and keep you all.

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