Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Mark 15:29-34: Holy Week and Christ's Amazing Love

Mark 15:29-34 (GNT): Holy Week
Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!” In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

Mark gives us this raw image of humiliation and mockery that Jesus undergoes. In Mark's gospel, we do not get the good thief and Jesus' offer of paradise. Instead, we get, "Those crucified with him also heap insults on him." Amazingly, Jesus was dying for them.  He was reconciling the mocking crowd in the midst of their mockery.  I don't like to think about my own sins. Who does?  But this passage reminds me that no matter how hard I try to be like Jesus, there are times when I, too, mock him on the cross. Whether it is internal irritation and resentment toward someone, arguing with with my family, or sometimes being indifferent, my shortcomings amount to insults hurled at the cross. Through the love of Christ, however, we need not despair.  On Calvary, Jesus offers himself to the Father because no matter how hard we try, we cannot reconcile ourselves; the Old Covenant proves that. In the hymn "And Can it be Said That I Should Gain," Charles Wesley reminds us about the amazing love of God embodied in Christ crucified:

Died He for me, who caused His pain-
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Matthew 25:15-28: Investing in Jesus Christ

Matthew 25:15-28 (ESV): Investing in Christ
To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money.
Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’
He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! …
This past week, I attended my church’s Lenten retreat. There, a guest speaker discussed the above parable, and what he said struck a familiar chord.  What would “the master” have said if the servants’ talent investments would have bore no immediate return? The answer he gave, and the one to which I agree, was “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Yes, God appreciates when we witness and touch others’ lives for His sake, even if we are persecuted and bereft of all we give.  
The speaker, furthermore, told a story about his mother who recently passed.  He mentioned her constant love toward others and faith in Christ, even in the midst of suffering and facing her own mental and physical death (she suffered from dementia).  During her life, his mother, moreover, never saw her “return,” but everyone who approached him at her wake and funeral had a story to tell about the difference she made in their lives -- in how they became more loving people, deeper in their faith, and better witnesses to Christ.
We are called to invest our “talents” in Christ no matter the return.  We cannot be like the unfaithful servant who states, “I knew you to be a hard man... so I was afraid.” God will provide in the midst of our fears, even if we cannot see it at the time. Let us invest ourselves in the rich ministries God gives us daily as parents, spouses, teachers, and neighbors.