*English sermon begins at 14:10
The Lives We Live
Everyone wants to live a good life. We want our lives to be peaceful and enjoyable. But the lives we want to live, and the reality we face, are often very different.
There is the life that we want to control and the forces of life that control us. The more we live, the more we see that the life that controls us is often more powerful than the life we control. If the life that controls us brings good things, then we’re thankful and have no complaints. But when the life that controls us brings uncertainty, grief, and sorrow, it makes living very difficult.
Faith begins when we recognize that our ability to control life is much smaller than life’s ability to control us. Faith accepts our need for a power greater than ours. But what kind of faith are we seeking? Are we seeking a God who makes my life better for me when I need it? Or are we seeking to know this God who works in my life?
What Did They See?
People in Jesus’ time were looking for a Saviour. Their lives were so difficult. They were powerless. They had no political power; no economic power. They knew they needed a power greater than what they had.
People were drawn to Jesus by his power. Crowds flocked to him to experience and witness healings. They saw him as someone who could make their lives better. Many people indeed were healed. But most of them went on their way after they got what they needed. Their focus was on their own lives.
But some who met Jesus began to follow him. A number of women who were healed by Jesus began to follow him. They provided resources to feed, clothe and provide for the needs of Jesus and his disciples. They spent time with Jesus, listening to his teachings and interacting with him daily. They got to know him personally.
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, people had expectations. They expected Jesus to change what they themselves couldn’t change. They expected political, economic and social change that would make their lives better. They entered Jerusalem singing “Hosanna!”
But the forces against change were powerful and motivated. These forces conspired to arrest and kill Jesus. They hung Jesus on the cross.
To the people’s surprise, Jesus did not put up a fight. He seemed weak compared to the great power of the leaders. Jesus did not or could not save himself.
The crowds who had gathered went home, beating their breasts. When they looked at Jesus on the cross, they saw a weak and powerless Jesus. They saw someone who was defeated. In the cross, they saw their own powerlessness to do anything about the forces that controlled their lives. They turned away and went home, defeated and crushed.
Jesus’ acquaintances and the women who followed him remained. They stood at a distance and watched. What did they see? With their eyes, they must have seen the same things as the crowds. There must have been sadness and disappointment. There must have been doubt and fear. There must have been confusion and bewilderment. But alongside all of that, I wonder if there was also trust and faith? I wonder if they remembered Jesus’ teachings that this is what he had to go through?
We can’t know for sure. What we know is that they stood and watched, facing the cross where Jesus hung.
What was the difference between the crowds who went home and the women who stayed and watched? The crowds had heard of Jesus and maybe even saw Jesus, but they did not know Jesus. For them, Jesus was only useful if he could do something for them. Since he died a weak death, he was of no more use to them. So they turned away and went home. Those who stayed and watched knew Jesus. They had spent time with Jesus. They remembered his teachings. Their hearts were changed. They loved Jesus.
The Cross in Faithful Eyes
When difficulties strike, when our expectations get crushed, when the weight of life’s forces overwhelm our sense of control, what do we do? Do we turn away defeated, beating our chests? Or do we stand, watch and wait in faith?
Those who expect God to simply make their life better without any desire to know God will never have real faith. When difficulties strike, they will seek the most expedient way to deal with them. When God doesn’t meet their expectations, they will turn away and seek other solutions. God will always be someone who has to prove himself.
But for those who follow Jesus, when difficulties strike, we stand and wait. We can be filled with fear. We may be confused. We may be uncertain about what comes next. We may even have doubt. But followers of Jesus do not turn away. We stand and wait. We look our difficulties in the eye. We fix our eyes on the cross.
The cross symbolized defeat and powerlessness. But for people of faith, underneath that defeat lies the mysterious power of God. A power that can only be seen with faith. That is why for us the cross is the power of God.
The women stood and watched. They were the first to discover the empty tomb. They saw the first signs of good news and reported it to the disciples.
When difficulties hit us, don’t turn away from them. Instead, stand and wait. Fix your eyes on God. If you do that in faith, through the dark situation, you will begin to see signs of hope and good news.
May the cross you bear in your life not be not a source of sadness, but power and faith for your life.