Two years ago, I found myself in Northern Virginia wrestling with thoughts about my mother. We had a falling out a few years back and we hadn’t spoken in over a year. In fact, months of intense fighting had culminated in my moving out of my parents’ home. At some point however, I knew something had to give and the time was ripe for the other shoe to finally drop. So after struggling for days with the prospect of confronting my mother, I decided to go to church.
I don’t remember how I knew but the Korean-speaking congregation at ODPC was holding special weeknight services for Passion Week. The theme for the sermon series was “The Cross”. Each night, a rotating set of pastors would discuss a different angle on the cross (i.e. “The Necessity of the Cross”, “The Power of the Cross”, “The Triumph of the Cross”, etc.) For that specific night, the sermon topic was “The Peace of the Cross”. I instantly breathed a sigh of relief because this was the message I sorely needed. Praise God!! He knew the state of my heart and would deliver me from my week of ulcer-inducing anxiety. So as Pastor Paul Kim spoke through his message, I eagerly waited for the punchline. What is the peace of the cross?! Tell me!
He waited until the very end. “The peace of the cross”, Pastor Paul finally said, “is reconciliation.”
I couldn’t run out of service fast enough because the tears were already flowing. That night, it was a miracle I made it home while driving and crying in the dark. Because at that very moment, I was humbled by how only God has the unique ability to both encourage and convict – this is how God speaks to his people.
I called my mother three days later.
This year, ODPC’s English-speaking congregation is also holding Passion Week services. We revisit the gospel of Luke and relive Jesus’s final days leading up to his death and resurrection. In celebration of this Easter season, the Threshold has asked our very own ODPC elders to share their thoughts on each night’s Scripture passage along with a reflection on “How Christ’s final day changes your every day?” These entries will be published every morning this week to prep us for evening services.
And so we invite you to worship together with us. Join us in the journey to the cross and the full revelation of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection.
He is risen!
-The Editorial Board
Whenever I come to Luke 22:47-71, my eyes are drawn to Peter who a few verses prior fearlessly declared, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and death!” (v 23). Then Luke shows us how Peter angrily cut off the right ear of a servant of the high priest, only to cower shortly thereafter in fear and deny having known Jesus three times. The rooster crows. Jesus looks at him. And he weeps. I am just like him, I’m almost trained to say through many messages on this passage, seemingly faithful one moment, then utterly faithless the next.
Today, though, I see myself in the others as well. In the treacherous and disillusioned Judas Iscariot. In the misguidedly nationalistic and violent chief priests and elders. In the contemptuous and cruel temple guards beating blindfolded Jesus. In the teachers of the law clinging to power, offering up Jesus to Pilate as a threat to Caesar. It had always felt almost too easy for me to see myself solely in Peter who conveniently turns out to be a hero in the end, a restored pillar of the early church. The truth is far more sobering, of course. All the sins of Peter’s enemies are as much mine as the sins of Peter.
Then Luke draws my eyes to Jesus again as he heals the cut-off ear of the servant of the high priest and commands, “No more of this!” And, today, I hear more than a command. I hear a promise. A promise to rid of violence, treachery, cruelty, love of power and whatever else that is sinful not only in Peter, but also in the priests, guards, elders, teachers, Romans, and, most of all, in me. And this promise gives me hope for myself as well as the world to come, the new heaven and new earth where there will be “no more death or mourning or crying or pain for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev. 21:4). Because what Jesus promises, he never fails to bring about.
-ODPC Elder Sam Kwon
As chapter 23 opens, we see Jesus being brought before Pilate by the chief priests and teachers of the law. He is falsely accused of advocating for evading taxes to Caesar and claiming to be the King of the Jews. Pilate knows who Jesus is and is uninterested in punishing Jesus, probably because he is afraid of what might happen to him. He questions Jesus but doesn’t find anything with which to charge him. After learning that Jesus is a Galilean, Pilate sends him off to Herod, hoping that he can pass off the responsibility of dealing with Jesus.
Herod apparently is very happy to see Jesus, for he has heard of him for a long time. When Herod sees him, he questions Jesus for some time. But Jesus does not give him any answers. Even though Herod has the power to execute Jesus, he chooses not to do so. Instead, Herod chooses to mock him and treat him with contempt. He then sends Jesus back to Pilate, perhaps not feeling so threatened by Jesus, after all. And Pilate has to face Jesus once again.
It’s easy for me to think how bad Jesus’ accusers are and to judge them harshly for treating Jesus this way. These people were experts of the law and religious leaders at the time so they should have recognized Jesus as the Son of God that he was claiming to be. While they knew the law and the Word, they didn’t have a relationship with God. While they were in the synagogues, they did not recognize God when He came down to earth. While they say they worshiped God as their King, they were seated on their own thrones living as Kings themselves. So, instead of judging them, I become the judged because I am not so different than those accusers and even Pilate and Herod. I know that I am the one that deserves to die. However, because Jesus died for me and paid for my sins in full, I know that I can have life.
-ODPC Elder Alex Kim
There is so much irony in this passage. Jesus, God himself, actually dwells among men, genuinely living in a physical body, visible and touchable, eating, walking and talking with men. He heals people from their diseases, he touches lepers and they are made whole, he opens the eyes of the blind, and he brings back dead to life – all because of his compassion for people. Even if you did not believe that he is God, would you not wonder and welcome, or at least tolerate his work? We have family members or friends who have been sick and are ill – and have been for many years. Fighting for life with cancer, having a stroke that cripples, or suffering for years from epilepsy or another debilitating disease. We wish and pray that they would be healed. That God would do something to restore. And here is a man called Jesus who actually performs miracles right in front of people’s eyes. Even the most disinterested party – Pontius Pilate – asks for the third time to the religious people who want him crucified, “What crime has this man committed?”
Why so much hatred against a man who does miracles that we would wish for, if anyone of our friends and family members were in a need of such miraculous healing? Why such blind anger against a man who restores people and feeds thousands out of nothing and welcomes anyone to a conversation about the Kingdom? All because you feel threatened that he does not share your religious views?
If we put ourselves right in the midst of this intolerant crowd, as a part of them – and in moments of truthful inspection of our hearts, we see ourselves in this crowd – just because God is so near, when He performs miracles that we are seeking… these things alone do not “convert” us to God. God being so real in our lives and intervening so undeniably in our circumstances does not naturally turn our hearts to Himself, if our hearts are not with God. If we do not recognize our desperate nature without God, lack submission to Him as the Lord over our lives, we also crucify him to the cross.
So, in light of this passage and the reflection of events that led to Christ’s crucifixion, how does Christ’s final day change my every day? Is my heart for Him? Am I willing to submit to His good and perfect will, which is full of His love for me? No miracle, no confronting God-encounter would draw me to Him without his grace working in my heart. Recognizing this daily softens my heart daily to yearn for Him daily.
-ODPC Elder Harry Choi
Earlier in Luke, as Jesus predicts his death, He tells his followers, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.” Fourteen chapters later, Simon of Cyrene is forced to take up this heavy bloodstained beam from Jesus’ mutilated back. Here is a man, who has traveled 900 miles, a month long journey, from present day Libya, most likely a Jew who has come to observe the Passover. He was walking in from the country side, perhaps caught unaware by the maddening crowd, the wailing women, and the angry curses directed at some man. Caught up in the throng of bodies, he may be craning his head trying to see what the commotion is. Suddenly, he is torn from the masses, forcibly dragged into the middle by the rough-hewn Roman soldiers. Fear, shock, and a tragic sense of injustice most likely flood his mind. “Why me? Please not me. I don’t want to be here. I was just walking into the city minding my own business!” Unable to resist, the Scripture says “the soldiers seized him and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.”
Jesus is now leading him. The sudden weight of the cross beam, digging into his shoulder, the blood of Jesus now sliding down his cheek and staining Simon’s hands. You can imagine, Simon can now clearly see the naked, torn and battered body of our Lord, stumbling upon the uneven path that leads outside the city. He can now see why he was conscripted into carrying this heavy piece of wood because a man so severely beaten, clearly could not. Will it later occur to Simon that in Genesis, Isaac carried the wood on his back in preparation for an impending sacrifice and just like Isaac, it would not be he who would die but another? As they draw closer to Golgotha, it is possible that the cries of the women following him will reach a feverish pitch. Slowly, Jesus will turn back, His face swollen, covered in blood and spit, disfigured and gruesome, and He will open his lips and speak to them. Even in the midst of his pain, weighed down by that immeasurable burden and anxiety that He will soon be separated from the Father, Jesus will preach his last message. It will be a warning of the coming tribulation and judgment that will come to Jerusalem.
I wonder what Simon did once he reached the foot of Golgotha. I wonder if he will linger long enough to see the sky darken or hear Jesus pray for His accusers. Or did he march off to wherever he was staying, angry and appalled by the violent interruption of his life? I wonder if seeing firsthand, a man brought to the physical and mental limits of suffering who could still somehow find the margins to minister and even usher a sinner into heaven, will change Simon’s life forever. Christian scholars would think so. How could an encounter with our suffering Savior not change us? Sometimes, we see in the act of carrying the cross, a gilded and pure image. There is no blood, no spit, no dirt, and no pain. The cross was a means of torture and punishment and in today’s terms it would be akin to Jesus telling us to take up the electric chair. As much as I would like to create a pious image of myself, sitting in a heavenly beam of light and denying my life, in reality, taking up the cross is a hard, sometimes scary and painful thing to do. It is an invitation to die. So, why or how would someone choose to do this? I think we can only do this when we come face to face with our suffering Lord. To look into Jesus’ face and see his bloodstained brow, we see the extent of such unimaginable love, and we can’t help but be changed. The Holy Spirit speaks into our hearts that He is worth it and nothing is more precious, nothing is more valuable that losing our lives so we can find it in Christ. We are not forced to carry the cross like Simon was, we must instead choose, every day, whether we will take it up or not.
-ODPC Elder Jim Lee
In Luke 23:32-43, Jesus is crucified with two criminals. The crowd sneers at Him, ridicules Him, and mocks Him. But out of love for the people, Jesus chooses to stay on the cross to die. And while on the cross, Jesus even lifts up a prayer to the Father to “forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (v34) Because of His insatiable love for His creation, Jesus “humbled himself by becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:8). And because of His sacrifice, our debt of sin has been paid and now we have new life in Jesus. What is man that You are so mindful of them? Jesus lived and died to show us that He LOVES us! What an incredible love! Incomprehensible grace! Thank you Jesus for staying on the cross and dying for my sins. Jesus, would you please help me to remember this love and live for you daily?
We also see that all but one criminal failed to recognize Jesus as who he is and says “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (v42). Somehow, the criminal believed that Jesus would be going to His Kingdom. Although the Scripture does not say if he knew Jesus or of His teachings before this encounter, perhaps the sign (“This is the king of the Jews”) that was meant to mock Jesus was a source of truth that enabled one of the criminals to put his faith in Jesus and say remember me. The criminal, in his last desperate moments of his life, recognized what little truth he was able to observe, then put his trust in Jesus and asked Jesus to remember him. Again, in His compassion, Jesus recognizes the criminal’s repentant heart (v40) and his faith, and promises to take him to paradise. I am reminded that daily, even in the midst of crisis, I need to remember the Truth, believe in the Truth and ask Jesus to remember me. Jesus, help me to learn to daily pause my life, lay down selfish desires and controls, and seek the Truth from the Bible and converse with you, my Lord and Savior.
-ODPC Elder Ed Yu
“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!”
Our Lord is indeed risen! It might still be spring break for some of us but it’s been an intense Passion Week at the Threshold as we reflect on the events leading up to Jesus’ death and resurrection. Because of Jesus, we too have become like the living among the dead and praise God for the glory and triumph of the cross!
Thank you for joining us for Passion Week and a special thanks to our ODPC elders for sharing their devotionals.
Happy Easter from the Threshold!
Open Door Presbyterian Church held Passion Week evening services on April 10th – 14th, 2017.