This Sunday is the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost.
The Christian Almanac records that on June 22, 431 A.D. the Third Ecumenical Council began in the city of Ephesus, on the west coast of modern day Turkey. This council was called to deal with yet another controversy related to the nature of Christ. One of the central debated points was whether or not Mary, the mother of Jesus, might be rightly called “Theotokos,” that is, the “God-bearer.” The term was not meant to imply that the second person of the Trinity originated with Mary, but rather, it asserted that Mary truly bore in her womb God in the flesh. It insisted that from the moment of conception, the person of Jesus was both fully God and fully man. Nestorius and his followers taught, on the other hand, that the person of Jesus was merely human until a certain point when God came to dwell within him in a unique way. Cyril of Alexandria, following in the footsteps of Athanasius the Great, contended for the orthodox faith by insisting that the person who was born of Mary, lived a perfect life, died on a Roman cross, and rose again on the third day was really and truly God in the flesh, the second person of the Trinity incarnate. Jesus was not merely an inspired or God-filled man; he was God as a man. He was Emmanual, God with us.
We often look back on these controversies and wonder why they matter that much. We get confused with all the foreign sounding names and dates and places. But we must recognize that these great events mark God’s faithfulness to His people, the Church, preserving for us the gospel of grace. If Jesus the man was anything less than God himself, then how can we be sure that God is really for us? How can we know that we have really been reconciled to God? Thanks be to God for faithful men like Cyril of Alexandria who clung to the Scriptures and refused to compromise with those who preferred reason and logic and philosophy to what the Word of God clearly taught. May God give us the faith to do the same.
Our lessons for this Sunday will be from Ex. 12:21-51, Gal. 2:15-21, 3:10-14, and Lk. 7:36-50.