Reflecting upon the life of Jesus, truly one may find an extraordinary or even beyond outstanding kind of life a human being may live. Before Jesus Christ, no one would consider dying on a cross as an act of obedience to God, or an act of honor, or an act of love. Jesus gave us more than just an example of holy life. Many religious leaders today honor Jesus, but they don’t honor him enough. They merely think that Jesus is no God, he is a mere man, and a mere model for good and honorable living. Jesus is God. Before him, no one would touch the cross and consider bearing it as the purpose of his/her life. But Jesus gave many people a model that life on earth is not measured by whether our body is comfortable or in pain. Before Jesus, people would pursue wealth and health as the summum bonum. Wealth and health were considered the sign from heaven that God is in favor with humans. When God is not in favor with someone, people before Jesus always thought that God would smite that person and make his/her body destroyed. No wonder the Jews thought that Jesus was cursed on the cross because he sinned against God. God proved them wrong. Jesus’ resurrection surprised the Jews. No sinful person may be resurrected honorably and gloriously like what Jesus experienced. Jesus’ resurrection was the proof that Jesus was innocent.
Modeling a life like Jesus requires a great faith. Jesus is God, and he is also a man. Walking on the path of the cross is not easy. Jesus had a great faith that his Father, after abandoning him on the cross, would glorify him. Now, if you were bearing that cross, and God abandoned you, would you still have faith in God? Would you then believe every single word written in the Bible while you were in your deepest agony, you body was broken, every person insulted you, and the God you worshipped abandoned you right when you needed his help the most? After all the miracles, after all the service, after all the sermons, after all the good works that Jesus did, on the cross no mercy was given him. Jesus took all with faith. His faith to his father never faded. His last word on the cross was his total surrender to his father: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (John 23:46). Such great model broke through every human wisdom. This kind of life had never been modeled before. Jesus’ act provided a light to all people after him to follow. His disciples dared to live a life no person at their time wanted.
But the model is passed on from generation after generation since Jesus Christ. Only a select few would take up Jesus’ model. Others would not take it because the life Jesus modeled is too difficult for them. For those who dare to walk on Jesus’ path, they can only bear it by the grace of God. Only by being born again by the Holy Spirit one can live such life. Jesus’ model of life is not for everybody. Many people would consider Jesus’ way to be stupid. Others consider Jesus’ way to be misguided. Still others consider Jesus’ way to be dangerous. Jesus’ model of life is in many ways undesirable, especially for our generation today. With the world offering pleasure, easy life, enjoyment of living, material wealth, convenience, the way of life that Jesus offers compete with what the world offers. But little know that what the world offers leads to death while what Jesus offers leads to God. Even among those who profess to be the followers of Jesus still try to marry the way of life offered by the world and Jesus. I do not propose that Jesus’ followers must be nailed to the cross, or must lead a miserable life, but what I mean is the mindset. When we say we follow Jesus, are we really ready to live a difficult life? Perhaps our battle is when we hold on to the right principles, justice, love, righteousness, holiness, truth, mercy, honor, goodness, rather than physical. When such battle arrives, are we clinging to comfort, pleasure, material wealth, power instead?
Jesus did not cling to any of the convenience the world offers. He rejected the offer from the prince of the world. He did not want any of what the world offers. He walked on the path that his father prescribed for him, even though the prescribed life was full of pain. Many of us today want to be acknowledged by God but yet do not wish to let go the contract of the world. Don’t we know that signing a contract with the prince of the world means death? Even though the pleasure the world offers is hard to beat. God did not offer such pleasure, but he offers peace—shalom. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives” (John 14:27). God provided the model in Jesus Christ. Even though Jesus’ life was full of pain by the world standard, he did not allow himself to be judged by the world. Jesus shows to the entire world that the life on earth is not judged by how much money you have, by how much power you posses, by how honored you are by the people, by how healthy you are, by how successful you work is, but by how you obey God. Jesus also shows that the life after this earthly life is more important, contrary to the world which proposes ultimate enjoyment and pleasure of earthly life at the expense of the heavenly.
Of course, the kind of life that Jesus modeled is not on high demand. His kind of life is undesirable. Even among Christians, not many would take up his model. Some pastors would teach their congregations to embrace wealth for Jesus became poor so we may become rich. Many people, even those considered to be Christian leaders, don’t quite get what God meant when Jesus became poor so we may become rich. Don’t we know that it is not about material gain? Don’t we know that it is about being rich in the sight of God? But yet, truly, some pastors claim that Jesus became poor (without money) so we may become rich (wealthy). There is nothing wrong with being wealthy. But when our eyes are fixed on it, then there is something wrong with our core being. To be rich financially, a lot of sacrifices are needed. People don’t just get rich like money comes down from heaven. To run your business and get the best profit you can get, you will probably have to sacrifice your time with your family, with your God, or probably you will sacrifice your own health, or other people’s health, or other people’s family time. When you sacrifice your time with your family, for example, perhaps what you do is neglecting your wife/husband and children. One may pamper his/her spouse with so many expensive gifts. One may hire the best nanny to care for his/her children. However, don’t we know that even infinite expensive gifts can’t replace a single drop of love? Don’t we also know that even the super best nanny in the world is not the children’s parents whose love no one can replace, not even grandparents?
You see, our limitation forces us to prioritize. The question is what is our priority? Where do we set our heart upon? Jesus said where your treasure is there your heart will be also. What do we treasure? Do you treasure the worldly treasure? Then there your heart is. Jesus treasured his heavenly treasure, which is his father in heaven and so he obeyed his father, even though it was an extremely difficult life. Many people become Christians for all the wrong reasons. One agrees to be baptized so he/she can go to heaven instead of hell. So he/she becomes Christians because of the fear of hell, not because wanting to be with God. Another wants to be a Christian because the pastor says that Christians will be blessed with the worldly riches. Still another embraces Christianity so he/she will be healed from his/her illness. Where your treasure is there your heart will be also. Where is your heart?
Jesus opened a new way of living that was unimaginable for people. He did not just talk about it, but he walked his talk. He proved with his own life that the life he conducted was not futile. He proved with his own life by putting his life in the highest risk possible and showed to the world that his life is granted the highest meaning by the owner of life himself, God. Since then, people no longer live in the dark. We have seen the light. And the light was kindled on the cross. Before Jesus, the cross was the symbol of darkness, of death, but after Jesus, the cross becomes the symbol of salvation, of life. Before Jesus, poverty was the symbol of God’s curse, but after Jesus, poverty because of not wanting to accept the offer of the world means richness in the sight of God. Jesus gave birth to a new lifestyle. The life of holiness, of truth, of love. Many people desire it but got distracted with pleasure, money, and power. Many people wrote books about how to get rich, how to be powerful, how to be successful, and so on. Whose model of life are you going to take up? Jesus? Or those people who promise you pleasure, money, or power?
* The Business of Christian Education XXI