2017年4月11日星期二

WALKING WITH THE RISEN LORD

Luke 24:13-35
On the Road to Emmaus
Christ is risen, Χριστὸς ἀνέστη !
Now, on the same day when Jesus has risen, two of the disciples were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. Jerusalem was very meaningful to the disciples. Earlier, they had great ambitions as they entered triumphantly with Jesus into Jerusalem, the centre of religion and power. But later Jesus was arrested and crucified. So, the disciples were scattered with dismay.  
As they walked along, they were talking with each other about everything that had happened in Jerusalem. Jesus came up and walked along with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him. The Lord Jesus from a stranger became their fellow traveller in the journey. What twist of life will this travel narrative bring?
As we journey in life, it is inevitable for us to experience distress, pain, dissolution and confusion. Who will journey together with us? Who will heal our wounds and lead us back on track?

Jesus asked them, ‘what are you discussing together as you walk along?’
They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
Jesus asked, “What things?”
They replied, “About Jesus of Nazareth. He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.”
To redeem Israelmeans Israel would be liberated once and for all from pagan domination, free to serve God in peace and holiness. But now Jesus was crucified, dead and gone; instead of having defeated the pagans, he has died at their hands!
Cleopas continued saying: ‘And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.’
Cleopas’ narration showed that their knowledge of Jesus was shallow and erroneous. Although he grasped the facts on the surface, he failed to gain insight into the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the salvation that was accomplished.

The disciples thought that Jesus came solely to overthrow the Roman occupation and restore Israel. And now there were rumours of Jesus rising from the dead spreading around and this caused them to be even more puzzled.

Jesus said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”
So, Jesus patiently explained to them the Books of the Law of Moses and the Prophets, so that they could understand that the sufferings, death, and resurrection of Christ did not point to an end, but to a glorious new beginning. Everything that had happened was in accordance to the Heavenly Father’s plan of redemption.

The Jews had expected God to redeem Israel from suffering. But instead, the central theme of the  Bible as Jesus espoused is about how God would redeem Israel through suffering; through, in particular, the suffering taken on by an Israel’s representative, the Messiah—he himself.
The Messiah took Israel’s suffering, and hence the world’s suffering, on to himself, died under its weight, and rose again as the beginning of God’s new creation. Jesus is raised, so he is really the Messiah. Easter was the beginning of God’s new world, the long-awaited God’s renewal of creation.
This fellow traveller, Jesus, the Eternal Word, became the life couch for the two disciples and fed them with the Word, so that they could be enlightened by the Word and break out from their old mind set.

As Jesus and the two disciples approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, ‘Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.’
So he went in to stay with them. The scene switched from the road to the room. Jesus switched from being a stranger to a fellow traveller to being their guest of honour now. His relationship with the disciples became even more intimate.

Then the two disciples had dinner with Jesus. Their guest of honour, Jesus, made a twist in His role. He took bread and blessed it, broke it and gave it to them.  At this time, the eyes of the disciples were suddenly opened and they recognised that this person was Jesus, and he disappeared from their sight!

They asked each other ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’
Jesus’ action of breaking bread was a reminiscence of His feeding of the five thousand (Luke 9:10-17). It also brought to mind what He did during the Passover supper in Jerusalem just a few days earlier (Luke 22:14-23). Jesus turned an ordinary supper into a Holy Communion with His real presence that caused the disciples to finally come to their senses. Jesus from guest became their Lord.

It turned out that Jesus had always been by the side of the disciples. He had never abandoned them. So, in a state of ecstasy, the disciples reversed their original plan and immediately set out to return to Jerusalem and declared the good news of the Lord’s resurrection (v. 33).

Encounter Jesus through 
the Opening of the Scriptures
It seems that Jesus’ body, emerging from the tomb, had been transformed. It was the same, yet different – a mystery which we shall perhaps never unravel until we ourselves share the same risen life. But the fact that the disciples could not recognize Jesus at first seems to result from their ignorance of the events that had just happened as the salvation plan of God revealed in the Bible.
Perhaps Luke is saying that we can only know Jesus, can only recognize him in any sense, when we learn to see him within the true story of God, Israel and the world. For that we need to learn how to read the Scripture; and for that we need the risen Lord himself as our teacher. The risen Lord is ever ready to walk with us as companion, as teacher, as guest and as Lord in our everyday lives to comfort us and enlighten us.
Let’s pray for his presence and sense of guidance whenever we open the scriptures, individually, in small groups or seminars. And we need to be prepared for him to rebuke our foolish and faithless readings, and to listen for his fresh interpretation.
Many a time, we are puzzled and anxious over many things. The risen Lord Jesus on road to Emmaus, again and again will come to surprise, comfort, and commission us through the opening of the scriptures. Only with him at our side, will our hearts burn within us. And only with him at our side, will lead us to the point where we see him face to face.
Encounter Jesus through 
the Breaking of the Bread
Luke also invites us to encounter Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Think of the first meal in the Bible, Gen 3:6-7, “The woman took some of the fruit, and ate it; she gave it to her husband, and he ate it; then the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.”
Partaking of the fruit of “the tree of knowledge of good and evil” is the beginning of the woes that had come upon the human race. Death itself was traced to that moment of rebellion. The whole creation was subjected to decay, corruption, futility and sorrow.
Now Luke, echoing that story, describes the first meal of the new creation—the resurrected Christ: ‘He took the bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them; then the eyes of them both were opened, and they recognized him’ (v.31).
The couple at Emmaus, probably Cleopas and Mary, husband and wife –discovered that the long curse has been broken. This bread, the body of Christ, liken to the fruit of “tree of life”. Partaking of the bread results in death itself has been defeated. God’s new creation, brimming with life and joy and new possibility, has burst in upon the world of decay and sorrow.
How could this happen? In Jesus’ death and resurrection, he acts on behalf of all of us and of the whole creation. In dying he takes upon himself the judgment of the world, in rising from the dead, he inaugurates the renewal of the whole creation.

Jesus had led the way for us into the age to come, marked our path into the kingdom of God. We can enter that kingdom as we follow him—enter first in foretaste on this side of the completed kingdom and at last enter it fully on the new heaven and new earth.

Though Jesus is no longer physically present today, we, God’ people still encounter him living with us and in us through the symbolic action of ‘breaking of bread’, practiced since the early church (Acts 2:42).
Many a time, we are puzzled and anxious over many things. The risen Lord Jesus on road to Emmaus, again and again will come to surprise, comfort, and commission us through the breaking of the bread. 
Scripture and sacrament, word and meal, are joined tightly here. Take Scripture away, and the sacrament becomes a piece of magic. Take the sacrament away, and Scripture becomes an intellectual or emotional exercise, detached from real life. Put them together, we will dwell in the risen Lord’s presence.
Conclusion
In today’s passage, Luke has invited us to accompany him on the road to Emmaus –a journey of faith that the risen Lord will take us through disillusion, anxiety and sorrow.
Jesus died and rose from the grave. He has accomplished his Father’s work, and longs to share the secret of it with us, that is the gift of his own presence, a new creation, a new world of His kingdom.
In the face of so much that is wrong with the world, with the country, with the church and with us; the slow, sad dismay at the failure of human hopes; let us turn to our risen Lord— Jesus Christ. He is willing to help us to face and go through turmoil of life and make it right all the wrongs in us and out there.
Let’s hear Jesus’ voice in the Scripture and our everyday walk with him in life. Let’s experience Jesus in the breaking of bread. By these, God’s new world is revealed — God’s kingdom is unfolded before us, ushered in amidst us where life, new fellowships, love, joy, peace, and grace abound.

Christ is risen, Χριστὸς ἀνέστη !

2017年4月10日星期一

WERE YOU THERE WHEN THEY CRUCIFIED MY LORD?

Mark 15:33-47
The Death and Burial of Jesus
In Mark 15:33-47, the depiction of the death and burial of Jesus is extremely bleak.
Jesus died on the cross at Golgotha. Despite being touted as “the king of the Jews,” at Golgotha, there was not a crowd of people lining up to pay their last respects. There were only a few women watching from afar (v.40). In addition, Jesus’ burial was done hastily.
Verses 44-46 say, “Pilate was surprised to learn that Jesus was dead. So he granted the corpse to Joseph Arimathea. And Joseph bought a linen shroud and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.”
At Golgotha, people either stayed away in order to avoid him or drew near in order to humiliate him. What did Jesus do that resulted in him hanging from a cross, abandoned by the people, and subsequently buried in a hasty fashion?
At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus was recognized as a teacher who, unlike the scribes, taught with authority. The crowd was attracted by his teaching. He preached brilliant parables, told gripping stories, and gave incisive expositions. He showed empathy to those in the margins of society, interacted with them, and healed them. His teachings were offensive to certain people, especially the powerful.
He was able to cast out demons and once he even drove out the Legion demons at Gerasenes. However, it appears that he could not penetrate those greedy people who were only concerned about politics and the economy.
Jesus was also a healer. In his three-year ministry, he brought healing to countless patients. Most importantly, he healed the brokenhearted so that those who felt hopeless had their hopes rekindled.
Yet, can the Healer heal himself from the whippings, the humiliation, and the betrayal he received?
Finally, we ought to remember that Jesus could perform miracles. With just some loaves of bread and some pieces of fish, he fed thousands. He walked on water and calmed the storm. He brought a young girl back to life and caused a fig tree to wither.
Now there he was, alone upon the cross, and those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and laughing at him, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross! You saved others; you cannot save yourself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe” (Mark 15:29-32).
Jesus of Nazareth was nailed to the cross all alone. He was a teacher who taught with authority unlike the scribes. He was close to the grassroots, a bringer of hope, and a powerful and incisive preacher. He performed all kinds of miracles. But now he was hung on the cross in despair and powerless. According to Mark’s record, all he said was, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
No wonder the people avoided Jesus; No wonder there wasn’t a queue at Golgotha mourning his death. In the eyes of human beings, Jesus represented failure. May I ask who will ever be inspired by such a powerless and dejected person, much less admire such a One?
But when Jesus cried out with a loud voice and breathed his last, a Roman centurion exclaimed, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (v.39)
I think that the centurion was inspired by Jesus’ prayer to God amidst humiliation and agony.
Jesus may not seem to be a great and successful person in the eyes of the world. But the truth is that Jesus is the Son of God the Father, even though he descended into the valley of the shadow of death – all alone and helpless. His life, his teachings, his ministry, including his final words on the cross, reveals that he never ceased trusting God.
His state of mind is aptly captured in the lament found in Psalm 31:9-14, “Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also. For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away. Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach, especially to my neighbors, and an object of dread to my acquaintances; those who see me in the street flee from me. I have been forgotten like one who is dead; I have become like a broken vessel. For I hear the whispering of many—terror on every side!—as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life. But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.”
No one ever thinks that the funeral at Golgotha is something glorious. Yet, what happened there was the manifestation of complete trust in God, even if the situation was dark, cruel, ruthless, desperate, helpless, and estranged. It was such faith in God that propelled Jesus to overcome the violence and hatred directed at him.
The crucifixion of Jesus gives meaning to what Isaiah wrote in Isa 50:6-9, “I gave my back to those who strike; and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting. But the Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame. He who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who is my adversary? Let him come near to me. Behold, the Lord GOD helps me; who will declare me guilty?”
Once again we are made aware of the pain, trauma and estrangement Jesus experienced. If the funeral on the hills reveals that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God, it also reveals that he understands and shares in the fears and sufferings of the people of the world, for he himself has experienced suffering, vulnerability, adversities, and powerlessness.
Jesus experienced the torment and suffering, and God the Father remains his object of faith. By this he becomes the channel for the people of the world to become God’s children. Now, we who cry in pain, darkness and injustice may become the children of God, the citizens of God’s kingdom, and rest assure that we are not alone and forsaken.
Hebrews 4:15-16, “This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”
This is the secret of the power of the powerless, weak and oppressed. No present realities—intimidation, oppression, accusation, poverty and sickness, could hinder us from coming to God’s throne of grace.
Christ has died and risen, so nothing, not even death could be king over our lives. There is nothing in this universe that could separate us from the love of God, who is the Lord of the universe. Christ has come to our midst to build a community that belongs to him. We are this community who will experience the power of Christ’s salvation, through embracing each other and watching over each other.
Paul espoused the power of the Cross, in 1 Cor 1:18-21, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’ Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.”
Conclusion
Jesus was all alone hanging from the cross. Though weak, he was resolute to show to us, who walk in the valley of the shadow of death that God is silently present with us. Let us fix our eyes upon Jesus and let his heart be our heart for this is the only way to walk through darkness and adversities.
In Philippians 2:5-11, Paul exhorts us, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
We are not unfamiliar with funerals. At funerals, we always show respect and gratitude to those who have profound influence upon our lives. Let us look back to the Good Friday 2000 years ago where Jesus died on the cross at Golgotha.
We should give thanks to Jesus of Nazareth who poured out his life so that we may have life and become God’s children and citizens of God’s kingdom. The grace and love of God follow us throughout our lives.
In Christ, we are made right with God. The purpose of our being made right with God is that we may follow in the footsteps of Christ, and likewise empty ourselves, offer ourselves up as a living sacrifice unto God, and walk into sufferings, to make the world right with God.

2017年4月5日星期三

Thy Kingdom Come, on Earth as in Heaven

Matthew 28:1-20

The Jewish Concept
of Resurrection

What we find in the Gospel records are not naive and credulous disciples who badly want to believe that Jesus is alive. Rather, we find highly skeptical disciples who are only gradually convinced of the truth—by Jesus’ appearances to them.

In the Passion Week, Jesus had suffered the typical injustice of the world; he had mounted a strange and apparently ineffectual demonstration in the Temple; and he had died at the hands of the pagans rather than defeating them gloriously in battle. No Jew could have possibly imagined, after his crucifixion that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the Lord’s anointed— Messiah. Every single disciple knew what it meant: we backed the wrong horse. Jesus is not the Messiah. The game is over!

But now Jesus is raised by the Father. He appears to Mary and the other women, to two disciples walking along the road to Emmaus, to the small band of disciples for several times, and to a larger gathering of his followers. By this way, the disciples come to accept the fact that Jesus is indeed alive, raised from the dead, vindicated by the Father. He is really the Messiah.

But what does it all mean for them? What did Jesus’ followers understand about resurrection?

At the end of the Old Testament and throughout the inter-testament period, the language of “resurrection” is used literally to describe the event of physical life actually returning to a body that has been dead. The Jews believed this would take place in the last day, and not as an event occurring to an individual, but as a whole company of God’s people would be fully restored to life in a renewed creation.

From that time, “the resurrection” became a vivid image in Jewish thought, implying the coming of the end of the age and the renewal of the cosmos, in which God’s people would participate by their return to physical life. The resurrection of human bodies was but one element in the cosmic renewal—renewal of creation as a whole, and the coming of the kingdom of God.

Jesus’ Resurrection: 
The Beginning of that Age of New Creation

When we turn to the New Testament, we are told that the early followers of Jesus joyfully proclaim the resurrection of Jesus to be good news. Easter was the beginning of God’s new world, the long-awaited God’s renewal of creation, the resurrection of the dead. Their future hope centered firmly on resurrection.

The resurrection of Jesus has implications beyond his own return to life. In Jesus’ death and resurrection, he acts on behalf of all of us and of the whole creation. He is the resurrection: in dying he takes upon himself the judgment of the world, in rising from the dead, he inaugurates the renewal of the whole creation, including the physical bodies of men and women. 

Therefore, whoever believes in Jesus will live and share in this resurrection. Jesus’ return from the grave is the dawn of the new day: God’s people and all creation will share in his resurrection life.

For Christ is the firstborn from the dead.

Col 1:18, “And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the first born from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.”

Rev 1:5, “and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by this blood.”

Jesus’ siblings (believers like you and me) will follow their elder brother in his new life.

Christ is also described as the first fruits, the first part of the agricultural harvest to be brought in as a guarantee that the whole harvest is to follow.

1 Cor 15:20-23, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.”

So the Easter message is that: Jesus is raised, so he is the Messiah, and therefore he is the world’s true Lord; Jesus is raised, so God’s new creation has begun!

Jesus Commissions 
His Disciples

After the resurrection, Jesus gathers his disciples and charges (or “commissions”) them to carry on the task that he has begun.

Matthew reports these words from the risen Christ: “All authority in heaven and on earth is given to me” (28:18).

Matthew underscores the cosmic scope of Jesus’ authority with a fourfold repetition of the word “all.” Jesus is given all authority; his followers are to make disciples of all nations. They are to teach the disciples to obey all Jesus has commanded. And Jesus will be working among them all the days that remain for the earth (Matthew 28:18-20).

Just as Jesus taught his followers to pray that God’s kingdom would come on earth as in heaven, so now he claims that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him, and on that basis he commands the disciples to go and make it happen—to work, in other words, as agent of that authority and agent of change. 

Resurrection doesn’t mean escaping from the world; it means mission to the world based on Jesus’ lordship over the world.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus is portrayed as the One sent by the Father into the world to bring life. On the evening of resurrection Sunday, Jesus appears among his disciples and tells them to continue what he has been doing: “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21).

In the same way that Jesus himself carried out his mission, the newly gathered community is to carry out its mission. Specifically, it is to deliver the good news, which includes the forgiveness of sins. 20:23, “If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.”

This mandate is bracketed by two actions that help to deepen our understanding of its meaning. Before Jesus speaks these words, he shows the disciples his wounded hands and side, the marks of his conflict with evil (20:20), as if to say, “You too will encounter evil in your mission; you too will suffer. Your mission is to be carried out in the shadow of my cross, and in that shadow there will be conflict and suffering.”

After commissioning the disciples, Jesus breathes on them to symbolize the giving of life and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (20:22) To accomplish Jesus’ mission, the disciples must receive the Holy Spirit—by whose power alone their task can be carried out.

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus commissions the disciple to be “witnesses,” a word from the justice system identifying someone called to testify to what he or she has experienced. This new community is expected to testify, first to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and then to his offer of repentance and forgiveness for all peoples.

Again, Luke emphasizes that this witness cannot begin until the Father has sent the promised Spirit and clothed Jesus’ followers with the power they will need to carry out the task.

So the Easter message is about: Jesus is raised, so God’s new creation has begun—and we, his followers, have a job to do! Jesus is raised, so we must act as his heralds, announcing his lordship to the entire world, implement his achievement which means making his kingdom come on earth as in heaven!

What’s more to come, 
and what am I to do?

The goal of God’s redemptive work is to restore his creation from the effects of sin upon it. In his death Jesus has conquered sin, and in his resurrection he completes the inauguration of God’s kingdom, that the new creation has begun.

Jesus’ followers are commissioned by the Lord, to claim this world for the kingdom of God, for the lordship of Jesus, and in the power of the Spirit, so that we can then go out and work for that kingdom, announce that lordship, and effect change through the power of the Spirit.

We are to colonize earth with the life of heaven. That, after all, is what the Lord’s Prayer is about, “May your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”Being “citizens of heaven” (Philippians 3:20) does not mean we are supposed to end up there. Instead, we are to bring the life of heaven to birth in actual, physical, earthly reality.

What we do in the present as the mission of God’s people include:

—preaching the gospel and teaching the Word, so that people would accept Jesus as savior and Lord, follow him in discipleship, prayer, holiness, hope, and love. Such transformed people will in turn be the agents of transformation of this earth, to partner God in building for God’s new world here and now.

--other things we do like: painting, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, feeding the street folks, loving your neighbor as yourself and etc; will last into God’s future final new creation. They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.

When Paul wrote his great resurrection chapter, 1 Corinthians 15, he did not end by saying, “So let’s celebrate the great future life that awaits us.” He ended by saying, “So get on with your work because you know that in the Lord it won’t go to waste.”

God’s new recreation which began with the resurrection of Jesus and continues mysteriously as God’s people move in the risen Christ and in the power of his Spirit, means that what we do in Christ and by the Spirit in the present is not wasted. It will last all the way into God’s new world, and will also be enhanced there when God’s kingdom consummated.

Now, every act of love, gratitude, and kindness; every work of art or music inspired by the love of God and delight in the beauty of his creation; every minute spent teaching a severely handicapped child to read or to walk; every act of care and nurture, of comfort and support, for one’s fellow human beings and for that matter one’s fellow nonhuman creatures; 

And of course every prayer, all Spirit-led teaching, every deed that spreads the gospel, builds up the church, embraces and embodies holiness rather than corruption, and makes the name of Jesus honored in the world—all of this will find its way, through the resurrecting power of God, into the final new creation that God will one day make.

Today, there are so much wrongs, setbacks, corruption, and brokenness here and there. However, the Easter message is that a new world has intruded in. Let’s not rob ourselves of the hope that comes forward from God’s future to sustain us in the present. 

We must hold on to God tightly, glorify Him and joyfully follow Jesus closely into this new world. And the Holy Spirit’s empowering presence shall be with us to preach, to heal and to bless, making real and effective signs of God’s renew creation to birth here and now.

Christ is risen, Χριστὸς ἀνέστη! God’s new world has begun. Let’s celebrate and start building for His kingdom!

2017年3月29日星期三

FOLLOW JESUS ON THE WAY

Mark 10:46-52  

Luke 9:51 says, Jesus had “steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem”, knowing full well what would happen to him there. They were appointments, not accidents, for they had been determined by the Father and written centuries ago in the Old Testament.

We cannot but admire our Savior and love him more as we see him courageously enter into his time of suffering and eventual death. We must remember that he did it for us.

Jesus sets out with the disciples toward Jerusalem for the final confrontation between the kingdom of God and the powers of darkness. Two themes now dominate:

1. The necessity of suffering – the suffering way of the Cross
2. The cost of being a disciple- discipleship in the Way of the Cross

As Jesus begins his last journey toward Jerusalem, he instructs the disciples that he must suffer and be rejected, betrayed, and killed (Luke 9:22, 44). But the disciples do not yet understand (9:45). He explains that he must undergo another “baptism” and is distressed until it is completed (12:49).

Responding to Herod’s threat to kill him, Jesus answers: “Go tell that fox, ‘I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal…..For surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!’” (13:32-33).

During this journey Jesus discusses the coming of God’s kingdom in relation to what lies immediately before them: “First he, the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation…. He will be handed over to the Gentiles; they will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again (17:25; 18:31-33).”

And still the disciples do not understand. They do not know what he is talking about (18:34).
Jerusalem is to be the scene of the final battle between the kingdom of God and the powers of evil. Many in Israel do expect a climatic military battle between God’s army of pious Jews and the pagan Gentiles, who oppose God’s will.

But this is not the battle for which Jesus is preparing. For Jesus, the battle will be won not by killing the enemy, but in allowing himself to be killed, to give up his life on the cross. That is why we say that this is “the necessity of suffering – the suffering way of the Cross.

The disciples do not yet understand Jesus’ mission of love and suffering. Like many of their generation, they still want to see God’s fiery judgment fall on those who reject his kingship. And even now, after all this time with Jesus, they still do not understand.

Time is short; there is an urgent need for “intensive training in discipleship.” The disciples must truly learn what it means to follow Jesus so they can continue what he has begun after he is taken from them.

This instruction on discipleship is closely tied to the theme of Jesus’ last journey. Discipleship as a “way” to be followed, a journey to be taken. And the disciples are literally on the way to Jerusalem, and at the same time they are being taught the way of discipleship. Both “ways” talk about suffering, love and rejection.

This last journey itself teaches the disciples that to follow Jesus means to walk the way of the cross.

Jesus speaks sharply to the half-hearted followers. The way of discipleship is costly: it demands total commitment, complete devotion and allegiance to Jesus and the kingdom of God (Luke 9:57-62).

Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (9:23; cf. 14:27). The decision to follow entails significant consequences: “For whoever wants to save his life will lost it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it” (9:24).

Discipleship training continues on the road to Jerusalem.

To follow him also means to participate in his mission (Luke 10:1-24). The disciples are likened to farmhands, sent out to help Jesus gather in the harvest. Their mission, like Jesus’ own, is to engage the powers of darkness by their words and actions: “Heal the sick….and tell them, “the kingdom of God is near you’” (10:8).

His disciples must also love God with their whole being, and love their neighbors as they love themselves (10:25-37).

During Jesus’ time, the Israelites are very bitterly against the compromising Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles. In this background, Jesus tells the story of a Jewish man beaten, robbed, and left for dead on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. The leaders of the Jewish people—represented in Jesus’ story by a priest and a Levite—do not help the man in his need. But a hated Samaritan takes pity on him and cares for him.  

The “righteous” Jew thus discovers that the “ungodly” Samaritan is his neighbor, the one whom God has commended him to love.

Jesus tells this story in respond to a lawyer’s question, “What must I do to have a share in the age to come?” and this is the answer:

“Follow Jesus in finding a new and radicalized version of observing the Law. Loving Israel’s covenant God means loving him as creator of all, and discovering as neighbors those who are beyond the borders of the chosen people.”

The cost of being a disciple of Jesus is “discipleship in the Way of the Cross” which includes, “endure suffering and rejection, and love your enemy”.

Conclusion

Jesus has defeated the power of Satan by allowing himself to be crucified on the cross. We are called to his disciples who walk the way of the cross. To walk this way is costly, that also means, to be Jesus’ disciples is costly: it demands total commitment, complete devotion and allegiance to Jesus and the kingdom of God.

To walk this way means to participate in his mission. We are to heal the sick, serve the needy and preach the Gospel. We must also love God with our whole being, and love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

Lord, I want to see, so that I could have a new life, and follow you on the Way

Let’s now look at a Bible character, Bartimaeus, who encountered Jesus and see what he did after that which can tell us what a disciple should do.

Jesus and his disciples came to Jericho first, just before they arrived at Jerusalem. As they were leaving Jericho together with a large crowd, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out, "Son of David, Jesus! Have mercy on me!"

Using 'Son of David entering Jerusalem' echoes the popular expectation of the Messiah who is to come to revive Israel. This phrase likens to a political taboo under Roman rule. So many people rebuked Bartimaeus and told him to be quiet, yet Bartimaeus shouted all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"

This is Bartimaeus’ act of faith!

Jesus stopped, and said to the people, "Call him." So the people called the blind man, "Cheer up, and get up! He’s calling you."

Bartimaeus threw his cloak aside, jumped up and came to Jesus. The cloak is used to store the charity money from begging. So Bartimaeus even abandons his ‘rice bowl’ to respond to Jesus’ calling. He believes that Jesus is the Messiah, who will surely heal him.

Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?”

Jesus’ question to Bartimaeus addresses exactly that possibility: Do you, Bartimaeus, want to give up begging? Do you want to live differently, to work for a living, to have no reason to sit by the roadside all day whining at passers-by?

It is quite a challenge, and Bartimaeus rises to it splendidly. He said, 'Rabbi, I want to see!"
Jesus said: "Go, your faith has healed you." Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus on the way!

Bartimaeus wants the new life; not only sight. He want to follow Jesus. He makes a stark contrast with Jesus’ disciples. Remember how, when Jesus said to James and John, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’

They said to Jesus, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory (10:37). “They requested for power, prestige and glory.

Bartimaeus is a model to imitate. He is not like the disciples, who hadn’t really understood what Jesus was about. He is not like the rich man whose face fell and went away sad when he was challenged to follow Jesus, because he had great wealth (10:22).

Bartimaeus is already a man of faith, courage and true discipleship. He recognizes who Jesus is (son of David); he clearly believes Jesus can help him (your faith has saved you); he leaves his begging (the cloak would be spread on the ground to receive money), and he follows Jesus on the way, the suffering way to Jerusalem (“The way” was the early Christian’s word for what we now call Christianity).

As Jesus was entering into his Passion, Bartimaeus was waving to us, the readers of Mark, to give us a model of true discipleship to imitate. Imagine yourself as the blind man. It’s Jesus coming by. What do you do?

Call out to him, and when he summons you, put everything aside and go to him. And when He asked you what you want him to do, go for it. Don’t look back at the small, selfish comforts of victimhood. Ask for freedom, for salvation, for healing, for power. And when you get it, be prepared to follow Jesus wherever he goes next, even leading to suffering road.

Let us examine ourselves:

Today, do we trust in Jesus, and believe that following his steps is always good for us?

Maybe we have been too busy with ourselves and pushed God to the edge of our lives; our love for God fading, our service to him also dwindling; we grow cold or even doubt God's presence; or we become dependent on our own wisdom and wealth or the powerful people around us, rather than clinging to God alone; or we are blinded by the wealth, status and power that we derail from the way of servant hood and suffering.

Today, our Lord Jesus is asking you the same question: "What do you want me to do for you?”

We pray to God for health, wealth and power, for success in our careers and studies. It is nothing wrong to ask for such blessings, but the crux is, "Why are we pursuing these?"

The Lord is good to us. He has indeed led us all the way, given us enough grace to move up the ladder among the successful, in order that, we can be better equipped to follow Christ, to imitate Christ, to be disciples of Christ, to be channel of blessing to the world.

Let us act now like Bartimaeus, spring up from our seats at the sideline, throw the cloak aside, and then follow Jesus all the way, even if the way leads to suffering and servant hood.
Along the way, we will encounter difficulties, setbacks, losses, slanders or persecutions, but do not retreat. We shall overcome as Christ has already overcome on our behalf on the cross.

Let’s pray to the Lord:

O Lord Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross for me, to save me from the bondage of sin. O Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, I want to see! 

1
I want to see how to be better equipped to be a disciple after your own heart.
2
I want to see the problems that this world, my country and my church are facing.
3
I want to see how I can contribute to overcome these problems and overcome the evils prevailing.
4
I want to see how I can deliver the Gospel as a relevant message to this world.
5
I want to see how I can be the salt and light of the world to shine for Jesus.
6
I want to see how I can love my fellow brothers and sisters, and even my enemies.
7
I want to see how I can lend a hand to heal the sick and serve the needy.
8
I want to see how I can help the church to grow from strength to strength…..