Sunday, April 30, 2017

Worse Than Judas? But God Loves Us

Good morning!

Greetings in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him.  Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do. (Matthew 26:49-50a)

Jesus was with His disciples with three years teaching the truth and the love of God.   It was one day before the Passover celebration.  Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father.  He came this world as the lamb to be sacrificed for us to forgive all our sins and transgressions.   This was His love toward his disciples and all of us, who were and are not ready to receive this unfathomable gift of God – the salvation.   

Even so, Jesus had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and he loved them to the very end.   It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus although the other disciples did not know except Jesus and Judas.   Jesus also fully knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. 

To show His love toward His disciple, Jesus got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.  When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”   Peter did not understand what Jesus was doing.    Then Jesus lovingly replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.”    “No,” Peter, one who was stubbornly trying to do a right thing, protested, “you will never ever wash my feet!”    Jesus patiently replied as a parent told his/her own child with love, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.”  Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!”

Jesus replied, “A person who has bathed all over does not need to wash, except for the feet, to be entirely clean. And you disciples are clean, but not all of you.”  For Jesus knew who would betray him. That is what he meant when he said, “Not all of you are clean.”   Judas also heard this.

Then Jesus was deeply troubled, and he exclaimed, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me!”  The disciples looked at each other, wondering whom he could mean.  Simon Peter motioned to him to ask, “Who’s he talking about?”  So that disciple leaned over to Jesus and asked, “Lord, who is it?”   At that time, Judas was still there, but soon he left the place.  The other disciples did not know why he left early.   They just thought that Judas went out to pay for the food or to give some money to the poor.

As soon as Judas left the room, Jesus said, “The time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory, and God will be glorified because of him.   Soon you will search for me, but you can’t come where I am going.”  Then Jesus gave a new commandment:  Love each other.   He said, “Love each other.  Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”  (John 13:34-35)

As soon as hearing this, Simon Peter asked, “Lord, where are you going?”   Peter did not know the real meaning of what Jesus was telling.   He was just curious why he would not be able to come to Jesus.   Peter diligently followed Jesus while throwing away his nets and boat catching fish for three years.  He was always brave and loyal to Jesus, and he thought that he was the most royal and the greatest among the disciples.   Thus, what was told did not make sense.

And Jesus tried to make Peter comforted and replied, “You can’t go with me now, but you will follow me later.”  Jesus could not explain what would happen next.   Peter directly asked, “But why can’t I come now, Lord?”  Peter continued pouring out his heart, “I’m ready to die for you.” 

Jesus could not hold up anymore what would happen, and He answered, “Die for me? I tell you the truth, Peter—before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.”    Jesus finally revealed what would happened to Peter, and especially, for Jesus, Peter’s denials soon would be one of the most painful things that He had to watch and experience. 

Now back to Judas.   As the Festival of Unleavened Bread, also called Passover, was approaching, the leading priests and teachers of religious law were plotting how to kill Jesus.  However, they were afraid of the people’s reaction.  What a coincidence!  Judas, who left the supper with Jesus and His fellow disciples, came to the leading priests and captains of the Temple guard.  He wanted to discuss the best way to betray Jesus to them.   They were really delighted, and they promised to give him money.  So Judas agreed and began looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus so they could arrest him when the crowds weren’t around.  To help their capture effort, Judas explained the usual pattern of Jesus, who usually went to the Mount of Olives to pray with His disciples.

After the supper, as usual, Jesus took the eleven disciples to the Mount of Olives although he already knew Judas would sold Him.   Jesus prayed and also asked for His disciples to pray because the time was coming quickly.   However, those disciples were sleeping.    A crowd approached, led by Judas, one of the twelve disciples. Judas walked over to Jesus to greet him with a kiss.  But Jesus said, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?”  

Immediately, there was a small fight between the disciples protecting Jesus and those who tried to arrest Jesus.   Jesus shouted “No more of this,”  and stopped the fighting.   Then He healed the high priest’s salve eye, which was cut off by one of His disciple’s sword.   Then Jesus voluntarily gave Himself up to the people, and Jesus was arrested and bounded.   As soon as this happened, all of the disciples fled except Peter.   He cautiously followed Jesus with distance.   Peter was standing before fire to watch Jesus in distance.   Soon Peter was challenged by a young girl, and other people gathered around fire to warm up themselves, and Peter denied three times: “I don’t know Jesus,”  “I am not one of them,”  and “I don’t know what you are talking about” 

At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Suddenly, the Lord’s words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.”  And Peter left the courtyard, weeping bitterly.  (Luke 22:61-62)   Peter thought that the most brave, righteous and greatest among the disciples, and it was true till He miserably failed.   Jesus also had to watch over this painful moment, which added a deep sorrow in His heart.   Peter bitterly wept.

What did happen to Judas?     When Judas realized that Jesus had been condemned to die, he was filled with remorse.   Yes, he felt same as Peter.   After he realized what he did was wrong, Judas took the thirty pieces of silver back to the leading priests and the elders, not like Peter, bitterly weeping, he hid himself in fear with other disciples. 

Let’s continue following what Judas did.   He said, “I have sinned for I have betrayed an innocent man.”   “What do we care?” they retorted. “That’s your problem.”  Then Judas threw the silver coins down in the Temple. (Matthew 27:4-5a)

Judas was brave enough to openly tell what he did was wrong, and protested about the wrong doing of the leading priests and the elders.   It was not like Peter, who was just wept and cowardly hid himself for his protection. 

How do you want to compare between what Peter did and what Judas did after Jesus’ arrest?   Peter was truly coward to preserve his own life.   Judas protested openly and threw the silver coins as a sign of wrong doing against Jesus by the high priest and the elders, who were the highest authority at that time.    Yes, Peter’s behavior was really coward when compared with what Judas did.

However, Jesus found Peter after His resurrection, although Peter fled, dined and hid himself while Jesus was tortured and killed, after His resurrection.    Why?  Jesus loved Peter, who was worse than Judas in our earthly standard.   But Jesus came to Peter.   This is the mystery that we cannot fathom.   God loves us.  As He did to Peter, although we might be worse than Judas, Jesus loves us.   Just come to Jesus.   Jesus is always waiting for us while opening wide His both arms.   Give thanks to Jesus!   This is the reason why we have our complete and absolute assurance in Him.   Praise Him!  His is Our True Savior!

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”  Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”  Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.  (John 21:17)

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Receiving Mercy, Following Jesus, and Praising God

Good morning!

Greetings in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Luke 18:40-41a)

As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind beggar was sitting beside the road.  He heard a noise of a large group of people.   He asked what was happening.  They told him that Jesus the Nazarene was going by.   As soon as he heard the name of Jesus, he began shouting, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Luke 18:40b)

However, the people around him responded badly.  “Be quiet!” the people in front yelled at him. (Luke 18:39a)    Even so, the blind man was not deterred, and he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”  

His loud voice grabbed Jesus’ attention.   Jesus stopped, and looked at the blind man.    Then He asked his disciples to bring the man.   One of the disciples ran down to the blind man, and brought him back to Jesus.  The blind man was led by the hand of the disciple to Jesus.    As he was getting near to Jesus, Jesus asked “what do you want to me to do for you?” (Luke 18:41a) 

The blind man had already heard about Jesus, and His power of miraculous healing.  For a long time, the blind man really wanted to see Jesus to be healed  by Jesus so that he could get out of his misery of blindness and could see like others.   Upon the question of Jesus, from the deepest part of his heart, he expressed his longing desire with his earnest voice, “Lord, I want to see!” (Luke 18:41b)    Yes, he really believed Jesus would heal him.   Jesus, who could see through one’s heart, saw the faith of the blind man, said “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.”   Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.  (Luke 18:42-43)

Yes, the bind man received his sight, and he could see like others.    Before meeting Jesus, he could only hear.  One day, he heard that Jesus was passing by.  With faith, he grabbed the opportunity to meet Jesus and get healed.   However, there was no way by himself to walk up to Jesus because he was blind.   Thus, he shouted.  Although there was no guarantee that he was heard by Jesus, he did shout, which was only thing that he could do at that tie.  He shouted to get Jesus’ attention.  

However, the environment was not friendly to him.   People around him did not like the blind man’s shouting “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”   Perhaps it was too loud or just bothered them.   Thus, they rebuked him, and even yelled back at him, “be quite.”   How the stone-cold hearted people around him were!   They knew the person was blind, and he was in desperation, but they despised him.   There was no sympathy toward the poor blind man at all.   They essentially blocked his plea for Jesus’ mercy.   By the way, the stone-coldness of people around us should not be foreign to us.   When we make a plea to Jesus for his mercy with our prayer, the world that we live in often tears apart us from Jesus or simply is in the way to Jesus.  

The blind man was not deterred although those people were rebuking and yelling at him.  He even more raised his voice, and shouted louder, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”   For this time, his loud and persistent voice could grab Jesus’ attention.  Against rebuking and yelling of others, the blind man shouted while tenaciously holing on his faith till Jesus turned his face toward him.  He truly believed Jesus would heal him.   This was the faith that the blind man had.  

When he was brought to Jesus, and Jesus asked “What do you want me to do for you?”   Why did Jesus ask this question?   The answer was plainly obvious to the blind man as well as all the people around Jesus.  Even so, Jess asked.  He, who was full of mercy and love, wanted to hear the blind man’s own voice from the deeply scarred heart, but he also had the unquenchable hope in his heart.  One simple sentence, “Lord, I want to see!” uttered by his own lips before Jesus, was his true confession about his hope and faith built upon the year-old agony and frustration of his life.  It was the very moment that he was venting all of his heart full of the pains and misery out of his blindness.  Finally, the blind man’s unquenchable faith joined with Jesus.

Jesus answered, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.”    As he believed, Jesus indeed healed the blind man with His miraculous healing power.    Jesus did not stop there.  He added “your faith has healed you.”   The miracle came through the blind man’s faith that could not deterred by all obstacles around him and in him.  This great faith of healing is not an isolated case in Bible.  Apostle Paul also performed a miraculous healing on a man who was lame in Lystra.    The lame man had been that way from birth and had never walked.   The lame man was listening to Paul and receiving God’s word from Paul’s mouth in his faith.  Paul being driven by the Holy Spirit  looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk. (Acts 14:9-10) 

Let’s back to the blind man being healed.   What had he done after he received his sight?   As soon as he received his sight, he followed Jesus.   Not just following Jesus, he praised God.   We might easily think after such a miracle, “Following Jesus and praising God” should be natural and easy because the blind man received what really wanted.   Unfortunately, it is not.  Jesus was passing along between Samaria and Galilee.  He met ten lepers.   Like the blind man of the above, they asked Jesus for His mercy.  Jesus said “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” (Luke 17:14)   As they went to the priests as Jesus told, they found they were cleansed.    Among the ten, only one, who was a Samaritan being poorly treated as foreigner at that time, came back to give thanks to Jesus.    Why didn’t the nine, who were equally healed, come to Jesus, praise God and follow Jesus?    In fact, this reflects our heart and mind. 

Why do we pray?  Why do we really want something in prayer, whether it is getting healed, getting a job, getting rich or being famous, etc?   Do we really want them because they serve our own heart and desire?   If so, as soon as we get them, what we will do?   Most of us would continue walking while chasing down our heart and desire, rather than suddenly stop, change our walk to follow Jesus, who actually and mercifully grants us what we want.   Only will very few of us like the Samaritan and follow Jesus.  

Bible concludes the story about the blind man: “When all the people saw it, they also praised God.” (Luke 18:43b)   When the people saw the man who followed Jesus, praising God.  Then they also praise God.  We are always watched by people around us.   When they see us who faithfully follow Jesus and praise God, they will also praise God.   In fact, parsing God is the ultimate purpose of our existence.  God created us to praise Him.  Yes, let’s praise Him!  God is always merciful and full of love.   Especially, God loves to hear our own voice in prayer, because He is our true Father.  God is joyful when He hears our own voice.  He is pleased when we faithfully follow Jesus.   God loves to pour His blessings to those who are faithful to Him.  Give thanks to Him!  His name will be glorified forever!

For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD!  (Psalm 117:2)

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Our Risen Lord, Who Forgives and Loves Us Always.

Happy Easter!

Greetings in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. (Matthew 28:6)

Song by Sarah Detweiler)

Today is Easter Sunday, the most precious day to all Christians who have faith in Jesus Christ.   Jesus Christ was crucified for our sins and transgressions.  But we all sinned against Him.   Even one of His twelve disciples betrayed Him, and sold Him thirty pieces of silver.  

Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, went to the leading priests and asked, “How much will you pay me to betray Jesus to you?” And they gave him thirty pieces of silver. From that time on, Judas began looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus.  (Matthew 26:14-16)

The twelve disciples lived together with Jesus for three years.  They saw and experienced the miracles that Jesus performed, but their heart was not like that of Jesus. 

They were also there when Jesus forgave a woman who was caught in adultery.    The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought her, put her in front of the crowd, and asked.

“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery.  The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”  (John 8:4)

Jesus was calm and stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger.  They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”

Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.  Then the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman.  Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”  (John 8:11)

Even so, all of His disciples flew when Jesus was arrested.   None left.   Before His arrest, Peter insisted “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!"  (Matthew 26:35a), but he also flew.  Additionally, when Peter was confronted with people including a servant girl, he became even more sinful:

But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.”  And he went out and wept bitterly.  (Luke 22:60-62)

While Peter denying Jesus from the fear of being arrested, Jesus directly saw Peter.   Then Peter realized what he had just did – betrayed his Jesus.   Peter wept bitterly, and Jesus forgave Peter.   

Jesus was falsely charged by His own people.  He was bitten, mocked and despised not because of His sins, but of the sins of those who were whipping and nailing Him and those who betrayed Him.   Jesus forgave them and loved them, but the people crucified him on cross.   Despite of this injustice and under the extreme pain and agony of the cross, Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34a)   

The pain, agony and injustice did not stop Jesus forgiving people even on the cross.  While He was bleeding to death, He forgave one robber who was also crucified with Jesus.  The robber asked, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:42-43)   The robber received promise and peace from Jesus.   Most of all, Jesus had to endure the pain on the cross up till his death on cross for our sins.  

By this time it was about noon, and darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. The light from the sun was gone. And suddenly, the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn down the middle. Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” And with those words he breathed his last. (Luke 23:44-46)

Jesus had to endure the excruciating pain three more hours.  He experienced the eternal separation from God for our sins.  Then Jesus entrusted His spirit to His Father, while breathing the last breath on cross.   Yes, we have to die for our sins, but Jesus, who is sinless, died for us as Prophet Isaiah prophesized :

Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.   (Isaiah 53:4-6)

However, Jesus’ death was not the end of the story.    It was early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, two women, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb of Jesus.

Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it.   The angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.  He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. (Matthew 28:5a-6) 

It was the amazing scene that they could not believe.  Jesus was not there in the tomb, where His body was laid.   The angel did not stop there, and told “and now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.”  

Yes, Jesus rose again form the death on the Easter Sunday.  He conquered death. Thus, we have the hope in Jesus.    Why?  He became the first fruit of resurrection for all those who believe in Jesus Christ.  

Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  (1 Corinthian 15:20)

As death came through a man by sinning, but the resurrection for the dead comes from Jesus.   Today is the most joyful day to all those who believe Jesus as Savior because like Jesus, we will conquered the death.   Praise the Lord, who loves us and forgives all our sins!    Sing praises to the Lord, who became the first fruit for those who are believe in Him!    In Hope, we are eagerly waiting for His second coming.

“Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Act 1:11)

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Love God, Neighbors and Enimies

Good morning!

Greetings in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”  (Luke 10:27)

One day, an expert in religious law approached to Jesus to test Him, and asked “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”   Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”    The expert in the law, who had a walking knowledge about Bible, confidently (and rather proudly) answered, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” 

It was a really Biblical answer.   He was able to together two greatest commandments in the Old Testament:  “Love your God”  (Deuteronomy 6:5, 10:12, 30:6) and “Love your neighbor as yourself” in Leviticus Chapter 19.  Specifically, Leviticus 19:9-18 talks about God’s people’s personal conduct, and at the end, God commanded to love your neighbor as yourself in the last verse 18.   Leviticus 19:9-18 is as follows, which is the law of God for neighbors:

“When you harvest the crops of your land, do not harvest the grain along the edges of your fields, and do not pick up what the harvesters drop. It is the same with your grape crop—do not strip every last bunch of grapes from the vines, and do not pick up the grapes that fall to the ground. Leave them for the poor and the foreigners living among you. I am the LORD your God.

“Do not steal.  “Do not deceive or cheat one another.  “Do not bring shame on the name of your God by using it to swear falsely. I am the LORD.

“Do not defraud or rob your neighbor. “Do not make your hired workers wait until the next day to receive their pay. “Do not insult the deaf or cause the blind to stumble. You must fear your God; I am the LORD.

“Do not twist justice in legal matters by favoring the poor or being partial to the rich and powerful. Always judge people fairly. “Do not spread slanderous gossip among your people.
“Do not stand idly by when your neighbor’s life is threatened. I am the LORD.

“Do not nurse hatred in your heart for any of your relatives. Confront people directly so you will not be held guilty for their sin. “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:9-18)

As soon as Jesus heard the expert of the law, Jesus spoke out “Right!  You answered correctly.”   Jesus completely agreed with his answer.  Then Jesus continued, “Do this and you will live!”   Why did Jesus say this?   

At the time, breaking the God’s commandment was strictly forbidden, and severely penalized including stoning to death.  Thus, Jesus said “do this and you will live.”   If not, legalistically he should have been killed as a God’s lawbreaker.  

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”  (Luke 10:29)

Based on the above response, the expert of the law should have kept the law described in Leviticus quoted above.   He thought that he did everything that he need to be justified.   However, Jesus did not stop there.   

Jesus open up his mouth and told a parable to the expert in the law: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by.  A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.

“Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him.  The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’  (Luke 10:30-35)

At that time, Samaritans were despised by Jews.     Thus, Samaritans naturally did not like Jews.  However, Jesus told about a Samaritan who was different.   As walking along the road, the Samarian saw a Jewish person half dead beside the road, he felt a compassion rather than a haterism.  He stopped to help the Jewish person robbed and injured.  He delayed his journey, and approached to the Jewish person.  With a compassion and love, the Samaritan soothed the Jewish’s wounds with olive oil and wind, and bandaged them.    He carried the wounded Jewish person on his own donkey to an inn.  Then he paid his own money to the inn keeper, and asked to take care of the wounded Jewish person.   Additionally, he even promised when he returned to the inn, he would pay any additional costs incurred.   What a lovely story it was!

Then Jesus asked, “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?”   The expert in the law replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”  Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”  (Luke 10:36-37)

Jesus was patient with the expert of the law.   Jesus wanted for the expert of the law to get out of the legalism and to see the love of God.   Thus, Jesus asked who was the neighbor to the Jewish person attacked by bandits.   Surely Jesus already knew the answer that the expert of the law would give:  “The one who showed him mercy.”   Upon hearing his answer, Jesus replied “Yes, now go and do the same.”   Jesus want for mercy and compassion for him to go beyond just legalistically keeping the law as described in Leviticus.   Jesus wanted for him to show God’s love to his neighbors from the deepest part of his heart.  

Oh, God.  We are sinners who fall short of the glory of God.  Without your mercy, we should have been eternally condemned.  Through the blood of Jesus Christ on cross, we are completely forgiven regardless how sinful we are.   In fact, most of us are even worse than the expert of the law, who faithfully kept the law in Leviticus.   Even so, God loves us with His one-sided love.  Through the love, God has brought us into His Eternal Family.   He does not ask anything from us.   He wants to give back what we received – His unconditional love by loving God and our neighbors.   Yes, we must love our neighbors.   However, truly loving our neighbor is not easy, and sometimes, it is almost impossible, when our neighbors behave badly against us or gives harms to us as if they were our true enemies.   Even so, God wants for us to love our neighbors, which is the greatest commandment after loving God.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.  (Matthew 5:43-45a)

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Good Soil and Perseverance in Christ

Good morning!

Greetings in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. (Hebrews 12:1-2a)

Jesus made a tour of the nearby towns and villages, preaching and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom of God.  He took his twelve disciples with him with some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases.  One day Jesus told a story in the form of a parable to a large crowd that had gathered from many towns to hear him, which was perhaps one of the most famous parables:

“A farmer went out to plant his seed. As he scattered it across his field, some seed fell on a footpath, where it was stepped on, and the birds ate it.  Other seed fell among rocks. It began to grow, but the plant soon wilted and died for lack of moisture.  Other seed fell among thorns that grew up with it and choked out the tender plants. Still other seed fell on fertile soil. This seed grew and produced a crop that was a hundred times as much as had been planted!”

His disciples could not understand the meaning of this parable.  They asked him what the parable meant.   Jesus replied, “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables to teach the others so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled:

‘When they look, they won’t really see.
When they hear, they won’t understand.’”  (Luke 8:5-10)

Jesus explained the meaning of the four different cases.  The first seed is fell on a heart that is so hard that God’s Word cannot penetrate at all.  The God’s Word just sits outside of their hearts.   Then the God’s Word becomes a target for the devil, and the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts.  As a result, they may not believe and be saved.  It is a real pity that such hearts cannot even taste the God’s grace, mercy and love at all.   We need to soften our hearts before God to hear His Word.  If not, our enemy, the Satan, takes away the most precious God’s Word from such people.  

The second seed fell on the rock represents the people who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy.  Yes, God’s Word is the source of the true joy for us.  However, people cannot continue being in the joy because they have no root.  Our life is not short.   Surely, a period of testing or temptation comes.   Without a root, we easily fall away from the grace of God.  This is another pity.

The third seed falls on soil, and the seed sprouts and grows.  The joy of receiving God’s Word continues unlike the case of the seed fell on the rock without root.  However, as the faith in their hearts grow, the faith starts interfering with their lives on earth – i.e., earthly cares, riches and pleasures.   Initially, the interference might be so small that it hardly be noticed.  However, as the faith grows bigger, the conflict between the faith and the world is escalating to a level that they cannot coexist any more.  Bible tells "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24)  Then the earthly cares, riches and pleasure chock the faith.   The faith no longer grows.  The power of the world is so strong, and it grows too.   It will soon contain dominate our hearts, and even kill the tender faith.  

The last seed that fell on the good soil represents people who really hear and live out the Word.  Their hearts are good for the Word, and they lack of the earthly cares, riches and pleasures.   Their hearts are single-minded to God, and God’s Word.   In their hearts, God’s Word grows, and produces crops: a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted. 

Many of us have already heard this parable.   We all know that a good soil is the key to produce a plentiful harvest.    We also ask about how to acquire and maintain good soil in our hearts.  

This parable is written in the three books in Bible: Matthew, Mark and Luke.  The book of Luke uniquely provides an answer about how to possess and maintain the good soil:  “hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce….” (Luke 8:15)   Although we might possess good soil in our heart at one point, it might not stay forever as it is.   As we need to take care of our garden – watering, putting fertilizer, and weeding out any harmful weeds, we need to take care of our heart soil. 

Bible explains.  We need to cling to the Word, the absolute truth, which never changes and the source of the salvation of God.  Yes, clinging to the Word certainly needs our effort of holding on tight to the truth.   Then we need to be persistent and persevering in the Word.   We know the world does not let us alone.   If we do nothing, soon we will be drift away with the world.  Like fish swimming against the flow, we have swim against the world while fixing eyes on Jesus Christ on cross.  This is our perseverance in Christ, which pleases God, our Father.   Those who see our perseverance will see the glory of God, and this good deed is the crop that we produce and that God loves to harvest.  

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23a)