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Advent 1: Taking Christ seriously; on deception

By Emmanuel A.S. Egbunu
27 November 2022   |   4:36 am
As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. ‘Tell us,’ they said: “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age...

Egbunu

“As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. ‘Tell us,’ they said: “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you.” (Matthew 24:3 – 4, NIV)

Advent ushers us again into the beginning of the Christian Year, heralding the approach of Christmas — the breaking in of God into humanity to change our story. Advent calls us to recall the predictions and preparations for the first coming of the Lord; it invites us to take the promise of His return seriously and to prepare appropriately. This Advent series will focus on the question the disciples of Jesus Christ asked Him, and His response.

He was walking away from the temple area when His disciples drew His attention to the magnificent Herod’s Temple, begun in 18 BC, undertaken at great cost and labour, and finally completed in 65 AD. At the time of Christ’s ministry, even what had been accomplished was breathtaking. For the disciples, such a national pride should not go without commendation. Christ’s response was disappointing, but also jolting. That prompted their questions cited above.

Preachers and Bible scholars through the ages have wrestled with the precise interpretation of the various aspects of Christ’s response. Not everything is cryptic though, and we will take in bits what is clear. His first statement was a word of caution: “Watch out that no one deceives you.”

Deception is a deliberate falsification of truth. Its main intention is to lead the unsuspecting astray. It is as old as human history when the serpent lured Eve to believe a lie rather than what God had clearly told them. The devil is at the root of all deception. This is what our Lord Jesus said about him: “He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies,” (John 8: 44).

Strangely – and unfortunately – religion has been a fertile ground for deception. People decorate error with an appearance of truth to deceive. People go to great lengths to make falsehood appear like truth, and many are the victims.

Such a scenario must make us feel afraid and helpless. Thankfully, for there is a brighter side from the opening words of John’s gospel: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, ‘full of grace and truth . . .’ For the law was given through Moses; ‘grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”’ (John 1:14,17).

The same gospel of John says more about access to the saving truth through Christ: “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32, NIV); “Jesus answered: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” (John 14:6,). Right up to the time of His trial and death, His mission was never out of sight, for when Pilate plied Him with questions, He made this statement which baffled the Roman Governor: “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered: “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me,” (John 18:37, NIV). Pilate then asked: “What is truth?” That is the question we must ask afresh, and seek to answer, especially this Advent. It is a question that points us to Jesus. Jesus had warned, “For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many,” (Matthew 24:5, NIV). We see them all around us. Make up your mind to go beyond the façade of religion and escape to Christ from the deceptions of our age.
• Most Rev. Emmanuel Egbunu is the Diocesan Bishop of Lokoja; and the Archbishop Emeritus of the Anglican Province of Lokoja.

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