Christ is Not
Sunday, February 1, 2018
When are you happy? What makes you feel content? When do you feel life is good? I found an online article called, “The 33 things that definitely make us happy” Do you want to guess what they are? Among them were money, health, love, family, relationship, success, and so forth. But there wasn’t the word that I desperately had been looking for. Very down the list was the word, God or religion. I was discouraged to find God towards the bottom of the list but I was also relieved to find God towards the bottom of the list. I was discouraged because people today do not see the need for God or religion in their lives. But I was relieved because people are not believing in God for happiness.
Remember, God does not guarantee us happiness but joy. God does not guarantee us comfort but peace. God does not guarantee us excitement but hope. Happiness and joy can seem symmetrical. Comfort and peace can seem identical. Excitement and hope can seem interchangeable. However, there are clear distinctions. Today, we are going to look at the story of disciples in the Gospel of Mark and see how the disciples failed to follow Christ because they failed to differentiate the list. They wanted happiness, comfort, and excitement; not joy, peace, and hope. They wanted instant rewards based on external circumstances.
The Gospel of Mark portrays the disciples as failed disciples because throughout the gospel, they failed to see beyond what they see. One example is almost after every miracle Jesus performs, he tells the disciples not to tell anyone. They go from town to town to publicize Jesus’ power. Jesus did not want to reveal his messianic identity yet. Jesus was waiting for the right moment to reveal himself to others, but the disciples spoiled the most dramatic story we could ever hear.
Another example is when Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter responded, “You are the Christ the Son of the living God.” Yes, but what about the Son of Man who is destined to suffer and die? Christ, an honorable title. The Son of the living God, a powerful identity. But what about the Son of Man? What about his destiny to die the most shameful and painful death? Repeatedly, Jesus told the disciples that he must suffer and die for a ransom for many. Repeatedly, Jesus told the disciples the Kingdom of God is an upside-down kingdom where the last is made the first, the least the greatest. Repeatedly, Jesus told the disciples that he came not to be served but to serve. Peter is so startled by this that he rebukes Jesus. Peter tells Jesus that there is no way that Peter is going to let Jesus die. Jesus responds, “Get behind me Satan,” which is really intense.
Then, Jesus tried to have this conversation three times with the disciples to help them understand his true mission to be crucified, and each time they respond in fear and confusion. This is not something that they expected and therefore, something that they refused to accept. The disciples were hoping that Jesus would overthrow the Romans and rule as a king.
Do you see how the disciples projected their wish to be instantly gratified on Jesus? On the night before his arrest, one of them sold Jesus to the Romans for an instant reward. Others were debating who is a better disciple of Jesus. They were arguing and fighting against each other. This is where Peter says, “I will never betray you Jesus. Other disciples might but I won’t do such thing.” Later, we learned that Peter not only denied Christ but also cursed him and swore to heaven that he does not know Jesus.
Jesus took three disciples to pray with him and for him. Even Jesus was afraid of his imminent death that he needed his most trustworthy disciples’ prayers. But what did they do while Jesus was praying and sweating blood? They slept! The moment when Jesus needed them the most, they slept!
At the crucifixion, where were the disciples besides John? They ran away. They were afraid that they might lose their lives. They were scattered. Imagine this with me. Right before you is your teacher, your king, Jesus crucified. You are not sure if he will resurrect. Jesus who performed great things is now dead before your eyes. The soldiers mocked him and insulted him. Where was Peter who sworn to protect Jesus? What about all the other disciples? They thought following Jesus guaranteed them happiness, comfort, safety, and excitement.
Nobody saw the crucified Jesus as the Messiah or the King who was going to save the humanity. No one was brave enough to say that this is the Christ, the Son of the living God. But the Roman soldier, who sees the crucified Jesus, confesses, “Surely, this is the Son of God.” This is crazy. It’s an enemy who is the first to put all things together that the crucified Jesus is the King.
Then I ask to myself, “If I were the Roman soldier, who killed Jesus and witnessed his death, Will I be able to confess that the crucified Jesus is my King?” What about you? Will you be able to say the same while looking at the crucified Jesus? Will you be able to confess your faith when you are saddened, discomforted, and insecure? Let us not make the same mistake that the disciples made, following Jesus for instant gratification.
If you have come to church to secure your place in heaven, you are here for a wrong reason. If you have come to church, God is going to make you rich and healthy, you are here for a wrong reason. If you think God is going to make you famous and powerful, you are here for a wrong reason. Christ is not a rebel who will upend empires to make you feel powerful and proud. Christ is not a banker who will double your possession. Christ is not a politician who will make you famous. Christ is not an entertainer who will keep you excited. Christ is the crucified King who is calling us to crucify our sinful past. Christ is the lamb who was slain for the forgiveness of our sins. Christ is the servant who came not to be served but to serve. That is who Christ is. That is his messianic identity that he had been trying to teach the disciples for 3 years and perhaps us throughout our entire life. God does not promise us comfort, happy, excitement, or anything that depends on external circumstances.
In fact, do you know what God promised to us? God promised us persecution and tribulations. God promised us that we will suffer. God promised us the narrow path that we have to walk, the small gate we have to enter, and the cross we have to carry. But the Good News is that God also promised us peace, joy, and hope that are unconditional and eternal. God promised us new life in Christ and eternal life with God if we do all these things that Jesus commanded us to do.
The season of Lent begins on Wednesday, February 14. This will be the season for us to meditate on Jesus’ journey to the cross. What he had to go through; how he was misunderstood by his own disciples; how he was wrongly perceived; how he was falsely accused and sentenced to death. Synchronize yourself with Christ in the season of Lent. Usually, we decide one thing to give up to replicate Christ’s sacrifice and empathize his pain and death. Start thinking about what you want to give up. And as we are approaching close to the season, I want all of us to remember that the crucified Jesus who had been brutally beaten, mocked, and insulted is our King.