Sermon Summary from Nov 5, 2017
Mark 15:33-47 (NIV) • Pastor Tim Tseng
Death is the end of life. But we don’t usually think about death itself. We celebrate lives that was well-lived, as I did for my ministry mentor, Rev. Dr. James Chuck. Pastor Chuck was senior pastor of First Chinese Baptist Church of San Francisco’s Chinatown for forty years before serving as a Professor of Practical Theology at the American Baptist Seminary of the West, where I taught between 2000-2006. After he invited me to speak at his church’s youth camp in 1988 – which was my first ever visit to California – he took me under his wings and became a great mentor. He even brought me to visit the churches in China twelve years ago. When James died on July 20 this year, all of us who knew and loved him think about his life.
When we look at Jesus, we should also reflect on his life. That is why it was important for us to journey through the gospel of Mark this year. It’s unfortunate, but professing Christians don’t think about Jesus’ life enough.
But we don’t think about his death enough, either. We know that he died to give us salvation, but that’s usually all we know. Well, Mark and the other gospels devote a lot of words to Jesus’ suffering and death. So it makes sense to go a little deeper, don’t you think?
For humans and all living things in creation, death is the end of life. We fear it. We avoid talking or thinking about it. When I was young, many Chinese parents shielded their children from anything related to death. In fact, many Chinese people don’t like the number “4” because it sounds like death (“don’t ever get married on April 4”)!
But for Jesus, embracing and defeating death is the beginning of new life. Why?
First of all, the historical and political reasons for Jesus’ death was because he offended those in power and challenged the status quo. This was why he was so popular among the masses and the marginalized. He knew that this would lead to his execution. This Jesus is not one that comfortable American Christians understand. I believe that if Jesus visited many of our churches today, he would not be welcome.
But beyond this reason, Jesus’ death is God’s act of love to us. And there are at least three additional results – all of which should cause disciples to reflect and praise God for his act of love:
1. Forgiveness of sin (Romans 6:3-7; 10-14)
2. Demonstrates that God is with and for us (Hebrews 2:14-18)
3. Presentation of a new king and kingdom (Phil 2:14-18)
Death is tragic and horrible. I felt its horrors when I was in 7th grade and my third-grade neighbor, Yorkie, was killed before my eyes. But when viewed with the eyes of faith in Jesus Christ, death can also be the beginning of transformation and newness. Yorkie’s death transformed me and my youth group peers. From that terrible tragedy a spiritual renewal was born and at least 20 of our youth chose to enter ministry or missions. By taking on our entire humanity (including death) Jesus was able to redeem us entirely and give us a new and better way. Let us not fear death!