Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Second Chance

He sat them down and began to lecture them about the necessity of the suffering of the Son of Man of Daniel. That the Son of Man would be declared guilty by the judges and bishops and the seminary professors and he would be sentenced to death, killed, and after a three day appeal would be resurrected. He spoke to them without metaphor, but straightforwardly. After he was done, Peter gently took him aside and told him that such things could not happen to him, the Messiah. Jesus turned toward all his disciples and raised his voice for all to hear, “Get away from me! You are not Peter, but Satan! Stop tempting me to take the easy route! You are speaking of God’s plan, but of human achievement!”

Then Jesus called the crowd to gather around him, beside his disciples, then he addressed them all: “Do you think that I have the way to life, the way to enter into God’s kingdom? Then listen here: If you want to be a part of my school, you must give up on all the things that make up your life, accept that you will be killed as a revolutionary and go where I go. Since I am going to die, you must accept that for yourself as well. If you want to preserve your life, then you will lose it. If you lose your life for Me and my school, then you will retain your life. If you surrender your life, you will obtain resurrection. Sure, you could gain everything in the world you want—happiness, security, wealth, fame—but what good is any of that if you lose your life in the long run? Suppose someone had a gun to your head and wanted all you had for your life? Isn’t it better to give all of that up, so you could live and obtain your stuff and happiness another day? If anyone is fearful of speaking about Me before this sinning and faithless people, then the Messiah will dare not speak his name on the final day when he comes to rule the Father’s kingdom with all of God’s power behind him. Mark 8:31-38

Eternal Life
Jesus’ goal was not to die, although it may seem like it in the above passages. Rather, Jesus’ goal was what is called “eternal life”. This eternal life is not life in heaven, as spirits floating around singing. It is a second chance on life.

In our current life, we are compromised from doing all we could for God. We live in a corrupted world which strives to encourage us to do evil, to disobey God. We have corrupted bodies which have corrupted desires and illnesses and weaknesses that the body encourages us to sidestep by doing more evil. We live in a context of temptation and injustice and weakness.

God is offering resurrection. This means that we will come back after death into bodies that are uncorrupted and incorruptible. We will be living in a context without injustice, and temptation is kept to a minimum. We will be given an opportunity to live for God without weakness, in full strength and spiritual authority.

And some will be chosen to rule over this utopia. The Messiah will be chosen among people to rule over God’s kingdom and He will chose many to rule with Him. The ones whom He will chose will create justice for all, provide the context of life for everyone. This is the dream of the New Testament. It is the goal of Jesus.

God’s Justice
But God doesn’t give this kind of resurrection, this opportunity to everyone. Not everyone deserves to rule, not everyone can handle the power that will be given to people to rule. Not everyone is prepared to deal with people as they are. God is careful to choose the people who will create His utopia, and these will be given a second chance on life.

Who are these people that God chooses? God’s selection process begins first of all with those who didn’t really have a life to begin with. This doesn’t mean that they didn’t have a chance of a good life. Perhaps they surrendered the chance of a good life. But God is looking for those who suffered injustice in their lives. They did good for themselves, for their neighbors, for God’s kingdom, but they received shame and punishment for the good they did. God will not look for the rich and powerful, the famous and lauded. They have already had their life. God will be looking for those who gave up their life and give them another chance.

Jesus’ Example
Jesus is the one who surrendered his chance at life for others. He could have lived a quiet, but happy existence as a carpenter in Nazareth. But he chose to give up on the good life so that a better life could be granted to everyone. Jesus gave up on life, on happiness, on a good retirement, on hope of a peaceful death. Jesus surrendered all the great possibilities to live in shalom. He did this, not because he couldn’t have lived in peace, but because he saw so many who didn’t have the chance. So he gave up on life to give others a chance.

And this is exactly what Jesus is calling us to. If we want to have a better life, we have to give up on the one the world offers us. Yes, for some of us, perhaps we could have a solid job, a quiet existence, a good family, the American dream. But for many, this life is out of reach. Jesus is asking us to give up the good life, so we could give an opportunity for a better life for others.

• Just like Jesus, we are called to give up the pursuit of the “good life”, the American Dream.

• Just like Jesus, we are called to live in rebellion against the world political system which denies peace and justice for so many.

• Just like Jesus, we are to allow ourselves to be persecuted, to be punished for doing good.

• Just like Jesus, we are called to even die in our innocence, to die because of our life in God’s compassion.

These who give up their shots at the good life to live and die for others, they will be given the second chance.  They will be God’s rulers in the coming revolution.

As It Was Prophecied
This is also nothing new. There are only a few places in the Old Testament that talks about the resurrection of God’s people, and every passage speaks of God giving a second chance to those who didn’t have a life to begin with:

o Psalm 22—The author of this Psalm is surrounded by enemies and killed, but he relies on God for deliverance. God then gives him a second chance at life, which is happy and good.

o Psalm 37—The people of God suffer under oppression because the wealthy wicked are causing them to live in poverty. The point of the psalm is that God will give the poor who wait for God a second chance at life without such oppression.

o Daniel 12—The people of God are under a terrible trial and oppression. They are surrounded and destroyed and killed by their enemies. God destroys their enemies and resurrects the killed, giving them a second chance to live under God’s rule.

Jesus sees the fulfillment of these prophecies, but he adds one more factor. There are some who will choose to suffer, who will chose to die for the sake of God’s kingdom and righteousness. These will also gain resurrection with those who had no choice to suffer. And some of them will rule in God’s kingdom.

Who get resurrected? The rejected by the world.

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