Rv 11:4-12; Psalm 144:1, 2, 9-10; Lk 20:27-40
It is sometimes difficult for modern Westerners to appreciate this feast because it has no literal Biblical reference. In the Eastern Church, however, there is great insistence about the importance of celebrating it. The Presentation of the Theotokos proclaims an important truth about The Mother of God: From the beginning of her life, she has been totally open and receptive to The LORD. Indeed, the Blessed Virgin Mary herself became a greater temple than any made by human hands. The LORD God came to dwell within her in such a marvelous manner, and The LORD God sanctified her for her unique role in salvation history. At the same time, the magnificence of the Blessed Virgin enriches us, her children. We, too, are temples of The LORD, and we are sanctified in order that we might enjoy and share in God’s saving work. By our lives of faithful witness we declare all the wondrous deeds of the Lord Jesus. We are glad and exult in him; we sing praise to the Name of the Most High. Indeed, our enemies—death and the fear of death—are turned back, overthrown and destroyed forever. “O Christ, Our God, by dying you have destroyed death! Alleluia!” All the nations and the powers of this world who persecute and try to destroy the poor ones of the Lord Jesus sink into the pit they have made, in the snare they set, their foot is caught. “For the needy shall not always be forgotten, nor shall the hope of the afflicted forever perish.”
The LORD has many witnesses after the Lamb opened the scroll. The two olive trees are called the two lamp stands; they model for all of us who are called to give ourselves as witnesses. As olive trees we bear fruit that is pressed into oil for the healing of the nations. As lamp stands we hold high the light of Christ so that everyone can see the truth that will liberate them. Now in this time after the scroll is opened the witnesses of the LORD and the Lamb have great power in the Holy Spirit. They breathe fire, close up the sky, turn water into blood, and afflict the earth with plagues. After this time of testimony then the beast will arise from the abyss to wage war and destroy all the powerful witnesses. Their corpses will lie in the main street of Sin City, call it Sodom, or Egypt, or even Jerusalem. There the Lamb was sacrificed for the glory of the Father, in the power of the Holy Spirit. Many will gloat over the destruction of the powerful witnesses, but after three and a half days they will be filled with the breath of the Holy Spirit and rise and ascend on high to witness the final days of the world as we know it. Like the Lord to whom we give witness, we are taken up into heaven in a cloud as our enemies look on.
This loving care with all its intensity and faithfulness does not end even when we die. Death is not the end of God’s love. His love is as fierce as death and more relentless than the nether world so the Song of Songs proclaims. The good news of our Lord Jesus was attractive to the Pharisees because they believed in personal resurrection and angles and demons, but the Sadducees completely rejected such teaching. They were the biblical literalists of the day. They only believed what was written in the text of the Torah. It is with this text itself that the Lord Jesus counters their “ad absurdum” argument about a childless woman. The Lord uses one of the high points of revelation in the Scriptures to make his point about the God of the living. He points to the Lord’s self-revelation in the burning bush encounter with Moses; the text literally says that God is the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob not was. This was challenging enough for these literalists, however, the Lord Jesus had yet another challenge. He summoned them the think outside the box. To be able to see heaven as it is, not as man would design it. In heaven we are all celibates and we are all married to God. To this revelation of spousal intimacy with God and of an eternity living like angels, praising God because we want to and always ready to do his will because we want to, all this was too much. Sometimes it’s too much even for today. Sometimes our response is still, “Teacher, you have answered well.” After that, we dare not ask anything else.