Sermon in a nutshell: Matthew 27:62-65
This is the fourth Sunday of Lent. We have reflected on the Way of the Cross that leads home. So far, we have identified three ways that the Cross suggests abundant life for us: (1) Self- identify as a child of God and accepting a clear calling from God; (2) Sacrificial love to save others; (3) Encountering the living God.
As we learned from the Bible passage for last Sunday, we are not keepers of the dead body of Jesus Christ. So, we do not guard the tomb of Jesus, either. When we encounter the living Spirit of the living God, we can leave the tomb and live in the world doing the works of the living God!
Today’s Bible passage tells us that the Pharisees and the chief priests still kept their eyes on the tomb. They placed guards to watch the tomb. They sealed the tomb. They did not know that they could not confine God’s power and love to the tomb! God is working beyond our imagination and beyond our abilities. Let us not confine God’s power to the place that we designate. God can use any place and any people that God wants to use. God will surprise us all the time when we stick to our old traditions alone! The way of the Cross demands us to be creative and free from the limits that we put upon ourselves. It requires faith, which is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1).
When God delivered the Israelites from Egypt, they did not celebrate their freedom. Instead, they grumbled and complained about the wilderness experiences. They said that they did not have enough meat and water. They were always threatened by enemies. However, God provided them with water and food called manna, and protected them from the attacks. Still they did not appreciate God’s grace and complained constantly. Finally, God decided to send venomous snakes among the people and they were bitten. In their distress they cried out to God. Then, God gave a strange command to Moses. God said to Moses to make a bronze snake and put it on a pole! Anyone who looked at the bronze snake would be healed! (Numbers 21) Can you believe that?
The Bible says that those who believed and looked at the bronze snake were actually healed! However, those who did not believe God’s words and did not pay attention to the bronze snake died there. The book of Numbers is divided into two parts: the grumbling parts and the journey to the Promised Land. Guess where the dividing line is! Yes, you are right. Chapter 21! After all the murmuring people died, only the cured ones continued their journey. They would arrive at the Mountain of God and get ready to go into the Promised Land where milk and honey flow!
Here is our choice: Do we want to look at the stone that blocks the tomb or do we want to look at the bronze snake with faith and hope? The Way of the Cross nudges us to look beyond the impossible reality with faith in God’s power and love. God does not want us to merely survive. God wants us to have abundant life! The abundant life is there beyond the tomb.
Let me give you an example. There is a Korean woman who has worked in Botswana, Africa for 14 years. Her name is Haeyoung Kim. When she was born, her drunken father threw her and her spine was injured. She grew up to be a short woman. Her father committed suicide and her mother was brought into a mental hospital. Haeyoung Kim became the head of a household of four children at the age of 14. She could have given up her life and put herself in a tomb but she had faith in life beyond a tomb. She went to a job training center and learned how to weave and make clothes. She was good and she won the gold medal at the international weaving contest for physically challenged people (1885)!
When she was 26 years old, she went to Botswana, Africa, on a short term mission trip. She taught women how to weave and make clothes. She saw so many poor women and children. She met those who were poorer than she was. Then she remembered the sermon, “Go, not to the place that you want to go but to the place where people need you!” So, she decided to stay to help them. She stayed for 14 years. She founded a school and served as a teacher and as a superintendent for 10 years. The school grew and helped the local people. She could have made her gold medal and stable job into a tomb but she moved beyond the tomb living her life as a disciple of Jesus.
Then she was invited by Nyack University to study as a social worker. She finished her BA there and studied at Columbia University where she received her Master’s degree in international social services. She is now working for many poor countries and serving people all over the world. She did not complain but moved forward with faith in God’s plan for her life. The Way of the Cross guides us to go beyond the current reality of our lives. It shows us the world of possibilities. Would you come and embrace the Way of the Cross as your own life?
What makes you despair in your life? What is the tomb that you are looking at in your life?
What helps you to overcome your despairs and move on? Where do you find faith in the living God who loves you and guides you step by step?