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April 25, 2024

Homily Eighteen on the Passion (St. Luke of Simferopol)

Homily Eighteen on the Passion

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered in 1954)

At all the Passions you hear the terrible story of how one of Christ's Apostles, Judas Iscariot, betrayed his Teacher and Lord, even to death. All the horror of this deed cannot be contained in our consciousness...

How, for more than three years, did he constantly follow Christ, listen to His Divine teaching, see the innumerable miracles of Christ, in which His Divine authority was manifested – after all this, did he betray his Teacher?!

Never, never could we find an explanation for this unbelievably vile and terrible betrayal, could we never understand what was going on in Judas's soul. The answer to this question is given to us by the Gospel, for we read in the great Evangelist John the Theologian about Judas that he was a thief: he carried a box into which donations were put for the great teacher and His apostolic retinue, and stole part of this money.

We also read another terrible word about Judas. You know that at the Secret Supper our Lord Jesus Christ said to His disciples: "One of you will betray Me."

The disciples are astonished, the disciples are in fear and bewilderment: who, who will betray You? "Is it I, Lord?" ...

And Judas also asked, "Is it I, Lord?" And Jesus answered quietly, "Yes, you," and added, "What you will do, do it quickly."

And it is written that He gave Judas a piece of bread, soaking it, and Satan entered into him with this piece.

Oh, Lord, Lord, how terrible... How could Satan enter into an apostle of Christ?! That demons and even Satan himself can enter the human soul, we know from the story of the Gadarene demon-possessed, who was possessed by a whole legion of demons.

Still, how do we know that Satan could have entered the apostle's heart? Can Satan enter into every soul, and can all demons enter as well? They have no access to the souls of holy people, for the Lord Jesus Christ said: "Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make a dwelling place with him" (John 14:23).

Is it possible that Satan can enter the heart in which the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have made a dwelling? Of course not, of course he won't have access to it.

The Holy Apostle Paul said of himself: "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me." If Christ lived in him, how could Satan enter into his heart? Satan can enter only into an unclean heart, and in the heart of Judas he had access: there was a small crack in him through which Satan could enter his soul. That crack was his passion for money — it ruined him, it made it possible for Satan to enter his soul.

But was Judas like a black crow in the flock of the apostles during his sojourn with Christ during his sojourn with Christ? No, no! He was also like them: he, like others, was sent by the Lord to preach the Gospel, he, like others, was given the power to perform miracles, the power to miraculously heal the sick, to cast out demons. It means that he was not a black crow among pigeons, it means that there was something very pure, very deep, very bright in him.

And yet he allowed passion in his heart, and that one passion ruined him.

The apostle John said that he stole money from the box in which the offerings were dropped. They didn't put a lot of money or gold in it, and if he stole, it was only for trifles.

And think how many of us, even among Christians, there are those who do not consider very petty theft to be theft at all, to be a grave sin.

Thus Judas may have been oblivious to his passion for money, and yet this passion gave Satan access to his heart.

We must also think about this, and with deep attention examine our hearts, to see if there are any low passions in it, similar to the passion that took possession of Judas. And if we find in it the impurity of the passions, which makes it possible for demons to enter it, then we will be afraid, then let us concentrate all our attention on purifying our hearts, in order to expel all petty passions, to expel even the smallest sins, and to purify our hearts.

The Lord Jesus Christ said: "When the unclean spirit goes out of a man, he walks through waterless places, seeking rest, and finding none, he says, 'I will return to my house from whence I came.' And when he comes, he finds it swept and cleaned" (Luke 11:24-25).

What does it mean to be "swept and cleaned"?

This means that this heart has been swept out for Satan, that man has swept away from it all that is good, all that is pure, all that is holy, leaving behind the filth that Satan and his demons need.

Be afraid of this, take care that your hearts will never be a place for demons, so that there will be no possibility for Satan to enter into them, for if we do not do this, if any passion remains in our hearts, then Satan may enter our hearts and destroy us, as he destroyed Judas.

Here he is hanging from a tree, strangled by Satan... Let us turn our eyes in horror from this terrible sight and think about ourselves, let us think about whether there is anything so sinful in us that Satan can easily enter our souls.

But Judas was not the only one who betrayed Jesus into the hands of His enemies and was the culprit of His crucifixion - He was also betrayed by Pontius Pilate, the ruler of Judea, who suffered the same terrible fate as Judas: he hanged himself in the grave exile into which the Roman emperor sent him.

Let us go to the courtyard of Pilate's praetorium. It is filled with a crowd of people who live not by their own thoughts, but by the thoughts and suggestions of their leaders. These leaders—the chief priests, scribes, and Pharisees—brought Jesus before Pilate and demanded His death. They make many accusations against Him, slandering Him, as if He forbade giving tribute to Caesar.

Pilate listens casually until the accusation that Jesus Christ claims to be the Son of God reaches his ears. Then Pilate's heart trembled. Although he does not believe in the God of the Jews, such an accusation is politically dangerous. And Pilate takes Jesus to his inner chamber to question Him privately. Jesus' enemies slandered him as if they knew no kingdom that was not of this world. He brings Jesus out to the people, says that he has found no fault worthy of death in Him, and offers to release Him, for it was their custom to release one prisoner at the feast of the Passover.

But the crowd, instigated by the priests, demands that the murderer Barabbas be released and that Jesus be crucified.

"Shall I crucify your king?"

"Crucify Him, crucify Him, His blood be on us and on our children!"

Pilate is now trying in every possible way to save the Righteous One, for he knows that out of envy His enemies demand His death.

He sends Jesus to Herod, the ruler of Galilee, who was then in Jerusalem. And Herod also does not find guilt worthy of death for Jesus. But even this does not calm the crowd...

And they shouted to Pilate: “We have no king except Caesar! If you let go of this One who calls Himself King, then you are not a friend of Caesar!”

And this dangerous word decided the fate of the Lord Jesus. And Pilate sinned mortally... He was afraid that they would report him to the emperor, and he put his own safety above the truth... He was overcome by the cry of the violent crowd and the evil enemies of Christ, and Pilate decided to act on their demand.

The soldiers took Jesus to their barracks. They beat Him severely, and instead of a royal crown, they put on Him a crown of thorns and scarlet clothing befitting kings.

Pilate made a last attempt to save Jesus: he placed the beaten, thorn-pierced, dishonored Sufferer before the riotous crowd and, pointing to Him with his hand, said: "Behold the man!"

Oh, poor Pilate! How hard you tried to save Jesus! But lowly cowardice and selfishness have ruined you. If you valued holy truth above all else, you would not be afraid of denouncing yourself to the emperor.

After all, you could easily convince him that Christ did not call Himself a king of this world. We have nothing to hate Pilate for, we need to feel sorry for him and think about how many of us would have done better than he did. How many of us have courageous hearts that put the truth above all else, ready to go to death?

Let us think about this with all sincerity – and let us fear God's judgment on Pontius Pilate. Let us put the holy truth above all else.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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