According to the Armenian tradition, Apkar, King of Edessa, is the first king who during the lifetime of our Lord Jesus Christ heard of His miracles and believed that He is in fact the Son of God. Based on the historical sources of Movses Khorenatsi, the Armenian Church recognizes Apkar as a king of Armenia. The tradition tells us that Apkar had a serious illness and sent a letter to Christ asking Him to come to His own city to heal him and live there. In the same letter, King Apkar also confessed that the works and miracles that Christ did no one could do only either the God or the Son of God. Our Lord answered that He must finish His mission in Israel and then promised to send him one of His disciples to heal Apkar and to spread the Gospel of eternal life. Apkar’s messenger along with Christ’s answer brought His imprinted icon which the Lord had imprinted Himself with His face on the fabric. After the ascension of Christ one of His Apostles Thaddeus came to Edessa, as Christ promised, healed Apkar and preached Christ’s victory over the death. The whole city believed in Christ and converted and was baptized. Then the Apostle Thaddaeus went to Armenia to preach to Apkar’s nephew King Sanatruk of Armenia. And so, the faith of Apkar became the light of Christianity in Edessa and later in the entire Armenian world.
Through the word of His prophets, God had foretold the day of His coming. But though many people knew the prophecies, when God appeared to do His mighty work of salvation, many of his own did not recognize Him. They were like the deaf man of our reading, they could not hear nor could they understand. Their spiritual ears were completely deaf. Why? They were deaf because they were not tuned in to His voice. Even though many people had been given every blessing: the prophets, the Scriptures, God’s promises but now they couldn’t even hear Him because they had long stopped listening intently to His Word. They concentrated on vain things to check if Christ performed miracles on the Sabbath or not but they did not want to hear and understand that the incarnate God was among them.
Jesus knew the apologetic state of their once vibrant religion. The great prophet Isaiah, hundreds of years earlier, had seen it coming. Jesus rebuked those who had led God’s once faithful people down this path of pride in themselves and indifference to the heart of God revealed in His Word. Quoting Isaiah Jesus cried out to them: “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of man”. The people had thus stopped their own ears and could no longer spiritually hear and understand the voice of God.
The people were amazed that Jesus could do such wonders, but it had all been foretold. They saw it but they didn’t understand. They didn’t understand that God had appeared in their midst just as He had promised. Their confidence that what God promises He will surely do had long since disappeared. Today, when Jesus looks at each one of us what does He see? Will He be grieved at our lifestyle, or our lack of understanding of Who He really is? Do we not understand that Our Lord is the Almighty God that all Creation must obey? King Apkar never saw Christ but he believed in Him and sent his messengers asking Christ to come to his land and live there. Apkar was aware of how people treated Christ in Israel and for that reason asked Him to come to his land and find fitting honor. Today’s story is a marvelous example of how we need to believe in God and tune in our ears to Christ’s life changing words. King Apkar knew that Christ was offering more than anyone else in the world and that those words had the power to resuscitate and resurrect people and turn over mountains. Christ’s words were diamond for King Apkar and it has to be for us as well. If we put these diamonds in a simple box, the box would turn into a jewelry box. On the other hand, we put a useless item in a box then it would become a useless box. It is Christ words and life that change our souls and hearts just like King Apkar’s.
Today Christ offers us His salvific words and the great privilege to turn our bodies into jewelry boxes with His pure words and life. Let us not ignore Him and stop our ears from hearing His voice. Instead, may our ears be open, may our spirits be tuned in to every word that comes from the mouth of God. May we truly understand Who He is and give Him all our love, devotion and obedience. May our tongues be freed to proclaim how wonderful He is; how gracious, how loving and kind to those who love Him. Then we will be truly the people of God and all the world will be changed because of it. Amen.