Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Rise, take the Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the Child’s life are dead.” And he rose and took the Child and His mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus reigned over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. And he went and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, “He shall be called a Nazarene.” Matthew 2:19-23 (Gospel Reading-Sunday after Christmas)
Good morning Prayer Team!
Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
There are hundreds of prophecies in the Old Testament that are fulfilled in the New Testament. In these series of reflections we have already encountered several:
Behold a Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son and His name shall be called “Emmanuel.” Matthew 1:23. Originally stated in Isaiah 7:14
And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will govern my people Israel. Matthew 2:6; originally stated in Micah 5:2
Out of Egypt have I called my son Matthew 2: 15, originally stated in Hosea 11:1
A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children, she refused to be consoled for they were no more. Matthew 2:18, originally stated in Jeremiah 31:15
He shall be called a Nazarene. Matthew 2:23, alluded to in Judges 13:3 and Isaiah 11:1
For hundreds of years, and in hundreds of places in the scripture, prophecies were written about a coming “Messiah”. So, when Christ came to earth at the Nativity, and in His ministry that followed, these prophecies began to be fulfilled in rapid succession. There are literally hundreds of prophecies in the Old Testament, and all of them were fulfilled in a single person: Jesus Christ. This provides “irrefutable” evidence that this man is the Christ. How could all these things happen to one person and Him not be?
Saint Matthew wrote His Gospel primarily to a Jewish audience. Saint Luke wrote primarily to Gentiles. So, St. Matthew in his Gospel, made the most references to the prophecies, as a way of telling the people, “See, this is the person that has been prophesied about for hundreds of years and ALL of these prophecies are being fulfilled in HIM!!!”
And so begins almost a domino effect. The dominos, so to speak, are set up in the Old Testament prophecies and Jesus Christ begins to knock them down, so to speak, one at a time, so that as His work began, people would begin to see in Him, the signs that they had heard about for centuries. And when His work was finished, there would be no doubt that this is the Christ, the Son of God, the promised Messiah.
There are still some skeptics who wonder if it is all true. There is an historical record, in addition to the prophecies being fulfilled, which supports the ministry of Christ. The slaughter of the innocents is an historical event. It happened, in about 4 B.C. There was a King Herod, who died shortly thereafter. The crucifixion took place on the 13th day of the Jewish month of Nisan in what we now call 29 A.D. There was a person named Jesus who was preaching, and teaching and healing—this is historical record as well. What is a matter of faith is did this person, Jesus Christ, who was crucified and buried, did He rise from the dead? This is where historians disagree. The Bible says that Jesus was seen risen from the dead by over 500 people. (I Corinthians 15:6) And the sheer amount of evidence in prophecies fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ, hundreds of prophecies fulfilled in ONE person, leaves no doubt that this person the world saw as Jesus IS the Christ.
The prophecies are important because they set the stage for what was to come and give us a checklist, so to speak, to verify that Jesus is the Christ. Jesus also made a number of promises to us, especially about the Kingdom of God. And just as the prophecies of the Old Testament came true in Christ, His prophecies and parables about the Kingdom of Heaven will come true for us. It takes faith to believe and to wait. The New Testament is all about promises of the Old Testament being fulfilled. And everlasting life will be all about the teachings of Christ being fulfilled to the faithful forever.
Jonah, as he sat in the sea’s deepest caverns, implored to come to You and out of the tempest. But as for me, by the tyrant’s arrows wounded, I pray to You, O Christ, the Destroyer of evil, come to me quicker than my soul’s own indifference. (Iambic Katavasias of the Nativity, Trans. Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Stay faithful today!
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The Orthodox Christian Network (OCN) is an official agency of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops. OCN offers videos, podcasts, blogs and music, to enhance Orthodox Christian life. The Prayer Team is a daily devotion written by Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis, the parish priest at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, Florida. Devotions include a verse from scripture, a commentary from Fr. Stavros, and a short prayer that he writes to match the topic.
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