The Yiddish word “chutzpah” when used to describe someone is usually not a compliment. Chutzpah is over-the-line audacity, thinking way too much of your- self and letting others know about it. Though the original Yiddish term chutzpah had strong negative connotations, sometimes it can be used positively for some- one who is exceptionally bold, but remaining just within the lines of propriety.
Jesus showed what looked like chutzpah in the Passover meal we know as The Last Supper. Those of us who have grown up in church might easily miss this because what Jesus said is so familiar to us as they are uttered during every Communion: “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” But for the disciples of Jesus gathered with Him for a final meal, the words were brand new. The Passover meal, was filled with traditional actions and meanings. It was a time to remember how God had saved His people from slavery in Egypt. Yet, while serving as host for this meal, Jesus inserted Himself in a most daring and unprecedented way.
To understand how the disciples felt, imagine yourself in church one day for Communion. Your pastor stands up, breaks the bread, and says “This bread is really all about me today. In the future, when you celebrate Communion, remember me most of all.” That would be utter egotism, right? Blasphemy, really. It would be chutzpah of the worst kind.
There’s only one possible justification for such language. By radically redefining the meaning of the bread, and then the cup, Jesus was creating a new way to signify God’s new act of salvation. God was about to do something even more astounding than the exodus from Egypt. Through the broken body of Jesus, given for His dinner companions, God was saving all of humanity from slavery to sin and death. This wondrous act of salvation would be remembered every time followers of Jesus share together in the bread, broken and given for them.
So, yes, what Jesus said was amazingly bold. It was chutzpah of the very best kind. What Jesus communicated was anything but arrogant. He was offering Himself for us, His life for our lives. Jesus’s chutzpah was borne, not out of an overblown sense of self, but rather out of utter humility and sacrificial servant- hood as He would soon fully assume the role of the Suffering Servant of God, the One whose suffering and death bring life and freedom for humanity. That is surely something worth remembering . . . often. In the season of Lent, we pre- pare for a deeper, truer experience of the saving work of God through Christ. May you take time to remember the wonder of Christ’s body, given for you.
Thank You, Jesus, for giving Your body for me. May your gracious sacrifice stretch my soul with joyful, awe-filled gratitude.
51As the time approached for Him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. (Luke 9:51, NIV)
As I read Luke 9:51, a phrase stood out and grabbed my attention, “He set his face to go to Jerusalem.” Though the phrase “to be taken up” is a curious way to refer to what would happen in the last days of Jesus’s life on earth.
“He set his face to go to Jerusalem” in the Greek original represents a Hebrew id- iom that literally meant “to position one’s face in a certain way.” That saying had both a literal directional sense and a sense of purpose or resolve. Genesis 31:21 says that Jacob “set his face toward the hill country of Gilead” (NRSV). Gilead was not only his direction, but he was going there with intentionally and purpose.
In Luke 9:51, we learn that Jesus was heading to Jerusalem. He had been work- ing in Galilee, but now the time had come for Him to minister in Jerusalem. As in Jacob ‘s case, Jesus was not merely heading in the direction of Jerusalem. He was going there very intentionally in order to preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God in that Jewish cultural and religious center. Jesus knew that in Jerusalem He “must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life” (Luke 9:22). His prophetic vision was matched by a deep sense of purpose. He knew that what would happen to Him in Jerusalem was an essential part of His messianic work. So, as we read in The Message version of Luke 9:51, Jesus “gathered up His courage and steeled Himself for the journey to Jerusalem.”
The question I want to ask is this: Have you set your face? Do you have a strong sense of direction, not so much for your travel as for your life? Is your life guided by a deep, abiding purpose that motivates you and sustains you?
A sense of calling or purpose is critical to resilience in both Christian formation leadership. Yet it’s not just any purpose that matters. That purpose must be aligned with the purposes of God. This is true for all Christians. To be a Christian is to have as our life purpose the mission of Jesus Christ and to engage in it.
As we “set our face” in the direction of Christ’s mission, our particular paths will be distinctive. Some of us, like me, for example, will exercise our purpose as pas- tors and parents. Others will live with purpose as inventors, painters, technol- ogy specialists, managers, entrepreneurs, teachers, carpenters, grandparents, Sunday school teachers, and the list goes on. No matter what we do each day, no matter our particular callings, we are all called to the mission of Jesus Christ. May God give us the grace to “set our face” in this direction.
Lord, help me to “set my face” in the direction of Your mission. May my life be guided by Your priorities, Your vision, Your truth, Your love.
Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” (Psalm 90:1-2)
Recently, we have heard and read many reports about the spiritual condition of our beloved adopted country, America. A serious concern was raised about the disintegration and decadence of America’s morality. A clarion call was given to God’s people to stand up and speak up in the hope that the tide can be turned, and the national spiritual suicide can be averted.
People who immigrated to America have the desire to enjoy its free- dom and receive the benefits that America can give. Oftentimes, we as Chinese Americans separate ourselves from the society thinking that as long as we keep our own house in order, we will not be affected by the moral bankruptcy of the nation. We are greatly mistaken!
America’s moral bankruptcy has become our national shame. In the eyes of the world we are a disgrace. We provoked anger and bitterness from the Muslim nations because of the grinding down of morality and culture such as our loss of modesty and self-restraint that are prevalently depicted through the media, movies and popularized lifestyles.
Just imagine where we have headed to: unrestricted abortion, legal- ized drugs and prostitution, same sex marriage, public funded profane art, child pornography, vulgarity and vice, racism, sexism, homosexuality, etc. To add insult to injury, prayers in the public school systems are prohibited, pa- rental authority is undermined, Christian values are anathema to many, free- dom of religious worship is curtailed, and belief in the God of the Bible is rejected.
“America is great because America is good, and if America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.” Alexis de Tocqueville reported to his French countrymen after visiting America’s churches, where he heard pulpits ringing with God’s truth and righteousness. America is good because she is built on the foundation of God’s words. America is good because many em- braced Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. We must always remember that “Blessed is the Nation whose God is the Lord.” (Ps. 33:12)
Let us once again focus our prayers on the welfare and spiritual con- ditions of our land; let us cry out to the Lord, repent of our sins, and call America back to God. We must return to the power of the Gospel; the power that can save America from its downfall.
37The next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met Him. 38A man in the crowd called out, “Teacher, I beg You to look at my son, for he is my only child. 39A spirit seizes him and he suddenly screams; it throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It scarcely ever leaves him and is destroying him. 40 I begged your disciples to drive it out, but they could not.” 41“You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you and put up with you? Bring your son here.”
(Luke 9:37-41, NIV)
And Then, Back To Reality
Have you ever had the experience of getting away from normal life, enjoying a rejuvenating time of rest, reflection, and recreation, only to have your restoration crushed by the reality of ordinary life? I’ll bet you have. I know I have..
I think of a time when my family was spending a few days of vacation before heading to a retreat where I was serving as the speaker. In the middle of vacation, I received a telephone call that required me to leave my family on vacation and return home to Los Angeles to attend to a crisis. One moment I was relaxing on my vacation. The next moment I was dragged back into the painful reality of my workplace. Sound familiar?
The “back to reality” would have been familiar to Jesus. Last week, we observed the wonder of the transfiguration, when Jesus heard a voice from heaven declared Him to be “my Son, my Chosen” (v. 35). It was such an uplifting and affirming experience. I believe that Jesus was both moved and encouraged.
Then, on the very next day, Jesus was thrust back into reality. A crowd gathered around Him, and a man shouted out to Jesus, explaining that his child was tormented by a demon and that Jesus’s disciples were not able to cast it out of the boy. You may recall that, earlier in Luke, Jesus had given his disciples “power and authority over all demons” (Luke 9:1). They should have been able to expel the demon that harassed the man’s son, but for some reason were not able to.
Jesus responded with “You unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I stay with you and put up with you?” (v. 41). This remark seems directed above all at His disciples. It was a messianic way of saying what aggravated parents some-times say to their unruly children, “How long am I going to have to put up with you?” Perhaps Jesus was thinking something like, “I gave you the authority to cast out demons. You could have handled this. Why didn’t you?” He was clearly frustrated. His frustration made more acute because of what He had just experienced on the mountaintop. He went from divine glory to the reality of demonic bond-age and human unfaithfulness.
Perhaps not to the level of Jesus’ experience, but we do know what it’s like to go from mountaintops to valleys, from joys to sorrows. It is so good to know that Je-sus understands, that He has been through things like this, and that He is with us in all times and all experiences! If you’re dealing with the tough reality of life, whether in your work or in your relationships, in your neighborhood or in the wider world, remember, Jesus understands. Jesus is with you!
Lord, through the ups and downs of life, help me to turn to You,
to know that You are with me, and that You understand.