Jesus’ Five Milestones
There are five major milestones in Jesus’ life. Those were baptism, transfiguration, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. These are the five major events that happened in Jesus’ life. We saw the transfiguration last Sunday when we reflected that spiritual experience on the mountain top is good, but it is not enough to deal with life’s challenges. So we should ask God not only to give us a wonderful spiritual experience but also at the same time, equip us and empower us to be able to deal with the daily challenges of our lives. So that’s what we reflected on. Today, we are looking at Jesus’ baptism story, which is another milestone of Jesus’ life. And then we see a similar thing going on in this story, as a story of transfiguration. In transfiguration, the disciples saw Moses and Elijah from heaven they earth the voice. But in Jesus’ baptism they saw heaven torn apart, the spirit descended like a dove.
And then there was a voice: You are my son, the beloved. With you, I am well pleased. It’s a wonderful scene. They experienced a heavenly experience. So wonderful. But right after, the spirit who descended on Jesus for like a dove, now with violent power and force, drove Jesus out into the wilderness to be tempted. I mean, they are short passages, Mark just put these two together and he even doesn’t talk about temptation, the content of temptation. So, that’s why I like Mark, one of my favourite books, but it is short and precise, to the point, but it has a powerful message. It is the gospel that was written first, before Matthew and Mark, and then he describes a right there that when Jesus was experiencing heaven and as soon immediately Jesus was thrown into the wilderness, in the reality of temptation,
and then I realized that that’s our life. That is my life and that’s your life. When you praise, you feel like you’re in a different world. You experience the holiness and the presence of God and everything. As soon as you walk out of this sanctuary, we are faced with temptation of the world. In your everyday living, you are faced with the reality of temptation. Life is a mix of the good and bad. You cannot always expect the good. You won’t always stay on the good. You won’t always experience inspiration in your lives and many times you only experience the dark reality of temptation and challenges and difficulties and hardships, and I was thinking about what is temptation? What is the basic core meaning of temptation? Is temptation the power to make you do what you’re not supposed to do? Is that what temptation is? A power to make it do what you’re not supposed to do?
You’re on a diet and there’s a delicious pizza right in front of you, especially at 11 at night. Should I eat this, or not? Oh my goodness, right here, I can smell it. I can just take a small slice. Pizza is your temptation. You’ve decided to do exercise every morning. You’d get up, “Aw, it’s too cold! I don’t want to go out and walk or run or anything. I just want more sleep. One more hour of sleep.”. Sleep is your temptation. It is a power to make you do or you’re not supposed to. Mark does not describe the details of Jesus’ temptation, but Matthew and Luke do. Do you know the famous story of Jesus’ temptation in Matthew and Luke? Satan told Jesus to turn the bread into stone, and then he took him to the the temple and said.. “Why don’t you throw yourself off?”. Nothing worked, so he took him to the high mountain and showed him the whole, and he said I’ll give you this if you bow to me. That was the temptation that Jesus had. And then I read a few times and then I realized that you nothing to do with the power to do what you’re not supposed. Jesus fed 5,000 with only five loaves of bread and two fish. So Jesus could have easily turned the stone into bread. So it has nothing to do with the power to make you do what you’re not supposed to do. Then what is temptation? And as I read those temptations again and again, one statement, one phrase kind of jumped out at me and that was say to kept asking Jesus: if you are the son of God. That comes up every time. Satan wanted Jesus to prove himself that he was truly the son of God.
That gave me insight or a clue to understanding the reality of temptation. I’ve learned that temptation is basically questioning our basic identity. Temptation is questioning my basic identity, who I am, who we are. What was Jesus’ biggest temptation? Jesus’ greatest temptation was the cross. Cross was his last and final and the greatest temptation. When he was upon the cross, the people ridiculed him, saying: If you are truly the Messiah, why don’t you save yourself? If you’re really the son of God, why don’t you show to the whole world they you can do that? Why don’t you just come down save yourself? You save others, why not just save yourself? Show it! Prove it! About who you are! Let me read an exact quotation: He saved others. He could not save himself, let the Messiah, the king of Israel come down from the cross now so that we may see, and believe. As I read the scripture, Jesus did not do anything to prove himself. He was silent, quiet and he breathed his last breath. That’s it. Finished. Jesus did not say “Hey! I can do it!”.
He didn’t do that. He just quietly died. Strangely after he died, a centurion, seeing all that he said, he said: he was truly the son of God. A centurion. Jesus’ identity was identified by a centurion. Jesus did not do anything to improve himself.
Jesus’ identity was not what he claimed or what he achieved. Jesus’ identity was declared by God and the centurion recognized Jesus’ identity. That makes me think. What is my identity? Is my identity what I claim or what I achieve? If my identity is what I claim or what I achieve, l would be living a very tiring life. I’ll be always tired, always having to prove myself to other people. “Hey guys, see, this is who I am.”. If I cannot do it, I may even force it. I’m may even disguise myself and deceive others. Whatever it is, I want people to see me THIS way. In life, sometimes our identities are attacked. Who we are is attacked. We experience a situation where we feel like we are nobody, worthless, ugly, and undesirable. These days, I don’t even want to look at my mirror. “Gosh, when did you get so old?”. I don’t want even want to have a picture taken.I think “What happened to your hair?”. And I say to myself, I got to take care of my hair, before I stand up in front of people and talk. We are scared of feeling like that. So we tried to prove ourselves in whatever we do. You want to define who we are. We are smart, funny, powerful, we have attractive, religious, we’re special!
Wow. That’s tiring. Especially if you’re not smart, and you are pretending to be smart. That will get really tiring. Soon our harsh reality hits us, and makes us feel that we cannot hold on to what we like to define ourselves with any longer, and we feel uncomfortable with the feeling that we are losing the grip on our lives. My friends, when you’re in the moment of trial and temptation, if you can recognize that all the identities that you like to paint yourself with are false identities. If you can recognize that it in the hour of temptation and trial, then you will come out of temptation stronger, bigger, greater. But if you don’t recognize that even in your temptation and trial, it will come out smaller and more miserable. At the baptism, God declared that Jesus was the son of God. That was God’s declaration. It was not something Jesus achieved or Jesus had to prove. The identity of Jesus was the gift of God, Hallelujah. Your identity is God’s gift. You are a child of God. You are sons and daughters of God. That’s a gift That’s what God gave you. That’s not something that you achieved.
God’s Gift of Identity
When we go through difficult times, sometimes we wonder about who we are. We have doubts about who we are and what we can do. We lose sometimes confidence about ourselves, but let us not forget, that you are the beloved sons and daughters of God, and that doesn’t change. That doesn’t change. This is what Isaiah says: But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. Who’s are you? You are God’s. Our identities are not what our circumstances gave to us. Your achievements did not give you your identity. You identity is basically God’s gift for you. Our identities are not what we made up arbitrarily, but it’s God’s gift, and that never changes, so we need to continuously and constantly go back to that basic identity and starting from there, all other small identities just come and go. The most important identity that you need to hold on to is that you are God’s precious child. It was a busy day yesterday. After early morning prayer at 6:30, we had a session meeting at 8:00, and 9:30 we had BOM, and at 12:00 there was a wedding.After the wedding, everybody left. I was all alone in this church, in my office, and all of a sudden, this question came to me: Can you do it? Can you do what you want to do? Or is it unrealistic fantasy or dream. I lost all confidence. I even lost the taste for ministry for the moment. Do it over, and over, but no change. And then I went back to that basic identity. I am God’s precious child and God has called me and God called me to persevere, to continue. When I went back to the basic identity again, I could have confidence and then I finished the sermon yesterday. And I finished the sermon five minutes before the reception.
When you face challenges of your life, when your identities, crushed, demolished, whatever that may be, as a musician or as a professional, whatever it is, when that is crushed, there is a stronger identity underneath: that you are a precious child of God. Go back to that and you can build yourself back again.