Mission in the Midst of Madness (Part 2)

Mission in the Midst of Madness (Part 2)

In my last post I pointed out that violence should not surprise us, as it does not surprise God who is familiar with it from the beginning. Today, I would like to share that Christian missions, too, was born in dreadful violence and calls us to diligently engage in God’s mission.

In the last days of his earthly ministry, Jesus was pursued by men who wanted to see him dead. At Passover, in his last journey to the Temple in Jerusalem, Jesus was so enraged by what he saw there that he got violent as he cleansed the temple. The spiritual and physical degradation of the people of God was at display in all its brazenness in the temple—“a house of prayer for all the nations”—turned into “a den of robbers” (Mark 11: 17). While Jesus’ startling behavior infuriated the religious leaders of the day, the common people responded by flocking to him. In Jesus, they saw a prophet who would restore the temple as “a house of prayer for all the nations” (Mark 11: 17-18). Jesus’ aggressive actions, however, also forced the Jewish leaders to act on their violent intentions against him that finally led to his execution at Calvary.

Jesus Christ suffered one of the most gruesome last hours on his journey to the cross at Calvary. Mel Gibson’s famous Hollywood film, The Passion of the Christ (2004), helps us understand some of that torture inflicted on Jesus and yet we will never fully fathom what a vicious death Jesus died for us.

It is in this violence, suffering, and his death on the cross, that Christian mission was born. Without the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we do not have any good news to share and no reason to call humanity to be restored and reconciled to God and to fellow human beings. Without the death of Jesus on the cross, there is no hope for the chaotic world. And this, I submit, is the greatest paradox of Christian mission: that God, in his sovereignty, would let Calvary become the fountain of our salvation, restoration, reconciliation, and eternal peace! Yes, I know, it is incomprehensible. Nevertheless, it is the Lord’s doing and it’s marvelous in our eyes.

Therefore, in the context of violence today, the followers of Jesus Christ who are also called to be witnesses of his death and resurrection, must take courage and strength from this paradox. We, who are his witnesses, should not be surprised by the violence and also should not shy away from sharing the good news. Let the violence around us not deter or overwhelm us from sharing and persuading people into restoration, salvation, and reconciliation. Let us persistently look unto God, the author and finisher of our salvation, and trust him to turn the violence and suffering into something beautiful for his Kingdom, because only God alone can do it. So, while it is easy to sing “I’ll cling to the old rugged cross” sitting in our comfortable pews of cathedrals, but very difficult to take the message of the cross to a violent and hurting world outside. However, the Great Commission of the One who died on the cross is not to sit and sing alone but to “go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation” (Mark 16: 15).

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Lenten Reflections 2012: Retreating into the wilderness with Jesus, Day 39

Day 39, Friday, April 6, 2012

 

 Finally the day and hour has arrived for the Son of Man to be lifted up on high, to be handed over to the Jews, and to be crucified on the cross. The Gospel of John writes about this horrifying crucifixion in just two sobering sentences, as he struggled to find words to describe what he had witnessed at the site of crucifixion: “Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle” (John 19: 17-18). Jesus Christ knew about this hour and He was well prepared, although for a moment, He struggled over this, as He agonized in Gethsemane. Jesus, the Son of God, was fully human and had all the pains and emotions that you and I go through in everyday life. He agonized just like any one of us would do if we knew what kind of death we’ll die tomorrow. But He agonized mainly because of the heavy burden of sins that was laid on Him who knew no sin. That’s why when He could not bear it anymore and when He had already prayed for the Jews for rejecting Him, for accusing Him of blasphemy, when He had forgiven the Roman soldiers for torturing Him, when He had taken care of His mother’s welfare, when He had promised His presence to the repentant thief hanging next to Him, Jesus finally “cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me”(Matthew 27:46)?

My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?

My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 It was not a cry of dereliction, but a cry of one who knows His intimate relationship to the Father and yet He could not bear it even for a second that God would turn His face away because of the sins laid upon His Son— Jesus Christ. It was also a cry of victory fully knowing that He had accomplished the task of carrying all our sins to the cross and nullifying their power over us. It was a cry of triumph over Satan and all his powers that were rallied against Jesus since he was born as a baby in a manger. Jesus fully knew that He had overcome Satan and defeated his plans by hanging on the cross. Therefore, after a few moments, when He had assessed all His accomplishments since His birth and until now, Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30) before giving up His Spirit. Thank God that the cry of being forsaken earlier was not the last word from the cross! For if it was the last one then we would have no hope. He would have been forsaken by God as he hanged between heaven and earth. But no! God knew it was according to His perfect plan, so He gave Jesus the strength to suffer yet for a few more moments before He could gain His composure and say, “It is finished!” The work of salvation for the humanity is done and finished forever on the cross. Do you know that you don’t have to do anything but repent and believe in this work that Jesus has finished for you? Just accept it and live in the victory that Jesus has won for us. Amen.

VJ