Jesus the Saviour

October 17 2014 | by

RECENTLY a film called Son of God made its round of movie theaters. The film uniquely portrayed the life of Jesus straight through his Ascension, whereas most movies about Jesus seem to end with his death.

In this film, Jesus is personable. There’s a scene where Jesus sees Peter at the seashore, preparing to go fishing. Jesus asks if he needs any help. Peter declines. He can do it on his own. As he pushes away from the shore, Jesus watches. Then, as if prompted interiorly, he strides into the water and climbs into Peter’s boat. Peter, incredulous at this boldness, asks, “What are you doing?” to which Jesus replies, “Going fishing.” Peter shrugs and they set out. The pickings are slim and Peter is discouraged. Jesus then tells him to cast the net again in a certain spot, and now he can hardly pull it in for the huge number of fish. Peter looks at Jesus, wondering, “How did you do that?” Jesus ignores the question, saying, instead, “Come with me. We have work to do.” “What are we going to do?” Peter asks. Jesus replies, “Change the world.”


We are darkness


Saint Anthony would have understood this scene. Jesus comes directly into Peter’s boat, without being invited and despite being repulsed. Doesn’t he do that in our lives, too? He can only catch fish by going after them. Jesus said that he was going fishing. In time, Peter would understand that he himself was the fish. Anthony marvelled that Jesus came solely to save the world. He delineated that intention very well in one of his sermon notes.

There will be signs in the sun and in the moon. The sun, which shines alone, is Jesus Christ, who alone dwells in inaccessible light [cf. 1Tim 6.16]. In comparison with his brightness and holiness, all brightness of the saints suffers loss. So Isaiah says: We are all become as one unclean (i.e. leprous) and all our justices as the rag of a menstrous woman [Is 64.6]” (Sermons for Sundays and Festivals; Volume III, p. 205; Messaggero di Sant’ Antonio-Editrice)

Only Christ is light. We are darkness. Even the saints have their uncleaness. No one is perfect but God, who is manifested to us in the Son. The Son of God movie portrayed this aspect of Christ well. While he looked as human and unextraordinary as anyone else, while his clothes were dusty from walking and his hair dishevelled from the wind, he, nevertheless, had an authority about his gentleness. He said clearly what Christ says in the Gospels. “Others tell you to do this, but I say to do this.” He pointed to himself as the authority, even though there was nothing in him physically to make us pay attention to him. What caught our attention was his poise, unassuming confidence, and love.


God repented


Anthony explains this masking of the Lord under a human veneer. “The sun, as the Apocalypse says, became black as sackcloth of hair: [Apoc. 6.12] He covered the light of his divinity with the sack-clot of our humanity: I made haircloth my garment. [Ps 68.12] What has sack-cloth to do with you, O Son of God? That is the garment a criminal should wear, not God; a sinner, not the Creator. It is the robe of the penitent, not of one who forgives sins. What, then, has sack-cloth to do with you? Much indeed, and it is in every way necessary for sinful man; for: It repenteth me that I have made man. [Gen. 6.7]” (Sermons III, p.205)

In our pride, we tend to forget that God repented of making man because man turned bitterly against God. The Son of God movie effectively portrays the animosity of the ruling class, both political and religious, toward Jesus. He was threatening their control, and they were determined to stop him. Before condemming the Herods, the Pontius Pilates and the Caiphas’ of Jesus day and of our own, we might examine how much control we permit God to take from us. Are we willing to give him our careers, families, health, looks, possessions, money? We don’t have to crucify Jesus to get him out of our lives. We simply have to ignore him.


Divine antidote


Anthony goes on to the incredible conclusion that God feels that he, God, should be punished because of man’s sins – he made man who sinned. So punishment for those sins should be foisted on God. Anthony explains: “That is, a punishment is due to me for man’s sake. Isaiah says, Thou hast made me to serve with thy sins; thou hast wearied me with thy iniquities. [Is 43.24] And, I am weary of bearing them.” [Is 1:14]

God grew tired, Anthony reasons, of bearing with the sins of man whom he created. He felt guilty, in a way, for his creation. God had his own remedy for this, and it was not exterminating the human race. Why didn’t he choose cremation for mankind instead of redemption? Because God loves us. Anthony can hardly contain his amazement at God’s love.

“What meekness of divine love! What patience of the Father’s kindness! How deep and unfathomable the secret of the eternal mind!... Yet you, O most Merciful, were silent and still. You would rather that one person, however dear to you, should be spat on and struck, than that your whole people should perish. Praise and glory to you! From the spitting, the smiting, and the striking that your Son suffered, you make for us an antidote to drive the poison from our souls.” (Sermons I, p. 64-65)

God wanted mankind to live, not to be annihilated. “So the sun became black as sack-cloth, the brightness of eternal light [cf. Wisd 7.26] hid itself beneath the sack-cloth of flesh.”… So, the sun became black like sack-cloth. O First! O Last! O Highest! O humble and lowly! Isaiah says: We thought of him as it were a leper; and as one struck by God and afflicted. [Is. 53.4] (Sermons III, p.206-206)

The reason Christ entered the world as a human being was to take upon himself, being the Creator of humanity, the punishment due to humanity for its ingratitude and sinfulness toward its Father. He did this eagerly and with total love.

“The Gospels show clearly enough how great a concern he had for thirty-three years, to finish his work. He says in the Psalm, I ran [Ps. 61.5]. He ran to the Cross as to a furnace, with so great a desire to bake and complete his work that he made no reply to Pilate, lest perhaps the business of our salvation might be delayed.” (Sermons III, p.207)


Full control


In the Son of God movie, Christ is unafraid of death. He goes toward it calmly, in full control of all that is happening. While he suffers, one senses purpose and fulfilment despite his anguish. When three days are past and Christ is raised, he comes to the apostles in peace and love as a father with a wayward child whom he’s gently calling home. A scene in the credits shows Peter, huddled in despair and isolation, when the resurrected Christ appears in the doorway of the hovel and smiles at Peter as if to say, “It’s all right. I understand. I love you.”

Anthony writes, “The word, that is the Son of God, by whom we know his will, is alive and confers life. He is effectual, capable of giving full effect easily to whatever he wills.” (Sermons I, p. 377)

The Son of God wills that we have life, and he has given it to us.


Updated on October 06 2016