Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America
A Further Role to Play Hey Had Witnessed The Resurrection of the Lord; received his triumphant assurance about mankind’s salvation. Yet the disciples still did not understand that there was a further role for them to play. At their Master’s urging they gathered on a mountaintop, and there listened to the last earthly words of Jesus Christ, before he ascended to his Father in heaven: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. For lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Christ’s final command, known as the Great Commission, marked a turning point in the activity of the early Christians. Previously, Jesus and his followers had never ventured more than a hundred miles from the place of Christ’s birth. But now the disciples were commanded to travel the world, spreading the Good News to all nations. The “disciples”—followers and students of Jesus—would become “apostles”: teachers, advocates, and living examples who would bring Christ’s message—and Christ himself—to the rest of the world.
What they carried with them in their missionary travels—which included travel to our homeland of Armenia—were their personal memories of living side-by-side with Jesus, throughout his earthly ministry. They forged the church as the vessel which would transmit the Gospel message down through the ages. And through it, we too have been given the opportunity to stand alongside those early followers of our Lord. In the mystical setting of the church, we can enter the Gospel stories at the crucial moments of our Lord’s ministry. We can listen to him, and learn from him, as his disciples did.
This is especially true of the profound drama we enter every year during the church’s sacred observance of Holy Week. From Holy Thursday through Easter Sunday, each service leads us, in heart and mind, to stand among Jesus and his disciples.
We stand with them in the Upper Room, where Christ taught the deepest meaning of leadership, when he washed the feet of his disciples as a humble servant. Christ asked them to “do as I have done,” and he asks the same of us. We are called to serve—and we must consider: How will we serve the Lord—not just today, but in the course of a lifetime?
We follow our Lord into the Garden, where he was abandoned, betrayed, and disappointed by those he loved. With his disciples, we hear his plea: “Stay here, and watch with me.” And we learn that we are asked to stay with Christ—against the distractions, temptations, and opposition of the world. We must honestly ask ourselves: Have we lived up to his simple request?
We stand among the crowd at the Crucifixion, viewing with horror and pity our Lord’s passion. We are reminded that the burden of suffering has always been felt by God’s people—as it was surely felt by our own Armenian ancestors. In their memory, we bear witness that we are called to be at the cross. And having stood in the cross’ shadow, we must reflect on the meaning that Christ’s crucifixion holds for us, as individuals and as a people.
Finally, we stand at the Tomb—the one place where Jesus is not present. “He is not here; he is risen!” was the angel’s amazing announcement to the women who arrived at the tomb early on the first Easter Sunday; and he followed it with these words: “Go and tell the others.” At last we stand face-to-face with the miracle of Easter, and its lesson could hardly be more direct: we are commanded to go and tell.
This is the journey of the spirit we should embark upon, as a church, through Holy Week and Easter. It culminates in our proclamation of the Gospel: the Good News of Christ’s victory over sin and death. In our own Diocese, throughout the coming months, we will strive to deepen our understanding of the Good News, and equip ourselves to share it with others—in word and deed—through this year’s theme: “Living the Gospel of Christ.”
In the most basic sense, to live the Gospel is to recognize that there is a further role for us to play in Christ’s mission. He invites us to draw near to him as disciples, but he also sends us out as apostles. “Go forth and make new disciples…” said our Lord in the Great Commission. “Go and tell…” said the angel at the Empty Tomb. We are asked to take up this mission as believers who have stood with Jesus and accepted him into our hearts. And as we stand with him, we should be aware that Jesus stands with us, also. For did he not promise that “I am with you always—even unto the end of the world”?
That is the great lesson, the beautiful promise, which unfolds before us during Holy Week. It is the truth we should hold in our hearts this Easter Sunday, as we go forth into the world, fulfilling the angel’s command with our joyous greeting:
Krisdos haryav ee merelotz! Orhnyal eh harootiunun Krisdosee!
Christ is risen from the dead! Blessed is the resurrection of Christ!