Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Risen King (Luke 24:13-49)

To say that I haven't posted for some time is an understatement. And much has happened since I last posted here. Thus I commemorate and celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord with the reviving of this blog of my spiritual reflections. Here are my Easter reflections, shared at Jesus Christ Our Hope and Redeemer Church, one of the churches that I serve in.

The Risen King (Luke 24:13–49)

We celebrate Easter to commemorate the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Such commemorations bring out some questions: What did the Resurrection mean for the first disciples? What does it mean for us today?

The King walks with the disappointed

Two of the disciples were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus. We don’t know why they are travelling. Maybe they want to escape the possible persecution by the Jewish leaders. Maybe they want to go home after celebrating the Passover. Maybe, as their later words could show, they left in disappointment, after seeing seeing their hopes and dreams of a liberated Israel die with Jesus on the cross.
James Tissot, detail from "Pilgrims on the Road to Emmaus" (1884-1896), watercolor on gray wove paper, Brooklyn Museum

Then Jesus came and walked with them. As they talked, the two disciples told Jesus about the how their Master showed Himself powerful in word and deed, but was arrested by their own religious leaders and executed by the Romans. They also told Him about their disappointment, after having hoped that Jesus would be the promised one who would liberate Israel from Rome. 

After listening to the disciples' heartbreak, Jesus told them about what the Scriptures really told about the Messiah. After teaching them, He went off to continue without them. But the disciples urged Him to stay with them. Why? They were open to having their beliefs changed, after He enlightened them. If they were not, they would have let Him go off alone. But no, they wanted to learn more. And this openness was what Jesus wanted before revealing Himself. 

Jesus revealed Himself in that most intimate of ways--sharing a meal. In many cultures including Filipino culture, sharing a meal is more than just eating together; it is a sign of close relationship. 

The King who would break bread with us.

After their encounter with the risen Christ, the Emmaus disciples ran to back to Jerusalem, to where the other disciples were hiding. They found the other disciples feeling a mix of fear and excitement--they were behind locked doors out of fear of being arrested by the Jewish authorities, but excited over the news of seeing Jesus alive again. Then Jesus appeared amidst them, despite being behind locked doors. Then they were terrified, thinking they were seeing a ghost. They know how Jesus died, so this must be a ghost. And knowing bitterly how they deserted Him, they probably think this ghost is here for some payback.

But Jesus, I imagine laughingly ask why they are terrified. He then invited them to touch Him, to see His scars, and see that it really is Him. To prove this point further, He asked if they had anything to eat. He did this not only to show that He has a physical body that can eat, but also as a sign of fellowship with them. And this was a big thing for the disciples who ran from Him when He was arrested, put on trial, tortured, and killed.

After the disciples reasonably believed that it was Jesus who was before them, He talked about how Scriptures spoke of how He, as the Messiah, had to suffer, die, and rise again. He then commissioned them to be witnesses of who He is and what He has done.

The King who is gentle but firm

Jesus often represents our hopes and dreams, that we sometimes forget who He really is. If we follow faithfully in His steps, we will see those hopes and dreams get killed, crucified with Him on the cross. And then the doubts will come. We will wonder if He really is God, if He really is in control, if He really does care for us. This is normal for any follower of Christ, and a true test of faith.
The Lord Jesus, risen and glorified as He is, will meet us where we are. He will go to great lengths to listen to us, explain to us where we went wrong and will show us who He really is. He will show us that He is with us, that we can relate to Him, and then point to who He is – the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And His kingdom is unlike what we know of kingdoms and governments, because it is the King who will absolutely provide, protect, guide, affirm and give purpose. All that He wants from us is to believe in Him and love Him. And He will give us new dreams and new hopes that are in line with His heart and will. And if our former dreams were according to His will, He will resurrect it with new power.

Believe in Him

The Lord Jesus calls us to follow Him. And following Him means walking the way of the cross. We will have to die to our loves, hopes and dreams before Jesus can truly be King over our lives. And as He rose from the dead, we, too, will rise to new life. And this is not just the life that we can expect after we die physically, but our new life can begin today, now, as our old selves die and we grow conforming to the image of Jesus. And it all starts when we commit our lives to Jesus our King, when we confess that we have sinned against Him, and trust Him to save us from our sin and bring us into His kingdom, both here on earth and in the age to come. The path is difficult and painful, but life is difficult and painful as is. He will be with us if we follow Him, and He will give us all we need and desire in due time, when He knows we are ready to handle it.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A bloodstained Christmas: reflections on the Sandy Hook massacre

AP Photo/Newtown Bee, Shannon Hick

Christmas is often characterized as a time of great cheer. It is a long-awaited happy season when we look forward to good times with family and friends, to gifts, to good food. And it’s all fitting, because we should be celebrating in a way that is worthy of the King of Kings. But this year, our Christmas preparation is stained with the blood of twenty children and seven adults when a twenty-year-old man walked into an elementary school and fired guns at them. Where is God in all of this? Why did God allow this to happen?

All this has happened before

1611 painting by Guido Reni (1572-1642)
 Sometime after the birth of Christ, King Herod the Great was visited by magi from the east. Herod saw himself as the only king of Judea, and will kill anyone, including members of his own family, if he sees him or her as a threat to his throne. So when he was told by the magi and his own scribes that the long-awaited Messiah, the prophesied King of the Jews, was born, he lied to the magi to have them help him find the child and then move to kill him. But the magi were warned by an angel to not return to Herod, and so went home by a different road. When Herod heard this, he was furious and ordered the killing of every male child in the Bethlehem area – two years old and below, to coincide with what the magi told him. And so it was done. (Matthew 2:1-18)          
          But the question remained: Why did God allow this to happen? Those murdered children had nothing to do with the boy Jesus, except that they were roughly the same age. They were no threat to Herod. They were innocents.

Where was God?

The most oft-asked question in the face of tragedy is “Where was God?” The answer, at least in this case, is in one of the names given to the promised Messiah – Immanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:23) Where was God when the boys of Bethlehem were being murdered? He was among them who were marked for death. He was being pursued by a malevolent king who would see no one as king except himself. God, in Jesus, suffered with those who were killed, though He escaped death because His time has not yet come. But His time did come, and He went to the cross willingly so that He might bring the Kingdom where innocents no longer had to die.
Where was God in the Connecticut Massacre? He was among those who died, taking upon Himself the evil that this world would throw upon innocents. He was among the surviving children, suffering the trauma of seeing beloved friends and teachers killed. He was among the parents of the dead children, mourning and grieving the death of those closest to their hearts. He was among the parents of the surviving children, cherishing them all the more and offering up thanksgiving for sparing their children. He was among all the people who sympathized with those who lost loved ones, extending love and comfort when they needed it most. Above it all, He is on His throne, holding on to His promise of returning to fully establish His kingdom where no more innocents will suffer or die. And He longs to return, even as His heart breaks for every tragedy that happens.


We celebrate Christmas because we celebrate the coming of our Lord. Do we then, stop celebrating Christmas because of this tragedy? Not at all. In fact, we should all the more celebrate Christmas even as we remember this and other tragedies like deaths in the families of those around us, and the devastating typhoon "Pablo" (international name "Bopha") who hit Southern Philippines, killing many and destroying lives and properties. For it is because of these tragedies that we long for God to come and intervene. And God intervened on that blessed night in Bethlehem. We celebrate the hope that Christmas brings, that one day, no more children will die at the hands of evil people. And until then, we who believe in Him, who have that hope in us, should extend His love and comfort to those who grieve, pointing to Him who is the Comforter.

Monday, October 3, 2011

What Storms Bring Out (Matthew 8:18–27)

Last Tuesday, Typhoon Pedring hit our country, bringing death and destruction in its wake. And the question comes up the most is, "why does a loving God allow such storms to come upon people?" Do storms have some sort of redeeming value?

What Jesus does to crowds (Matthew 8:18–22)
Here, Jesus sees the crowds following Him. Instead of staying with them and ministering to them, Jesus "gave orders to go over to the other side." Now, this "other side" is "the country of the Gadarenes" (8:28) which is part of the Decapolis — Gentile country. This may have unnerved some of those following Him. But because of His growing popularity, many still followed. A scribe even came up and said that he will follow Jesus wherever He goes. But Jesus challenged him in his statement, saying that He does not have a permanent place to stay in, a place to call home. Presumably, the scribe was discouraged, for we no longer hear about him. Another asked for permission to first bury his father before following Him. Jesus saw the weakness of the man's commitment, for family ties still hold him. The man's request to "bury my father" is a euphemism for waiting until the father is dead before following Jesus. So Jesus challenged him in this, calling him to follow Him and leave such matters to others.
    Why does Jesus do this? Does He not appreciate the fact that many follow Him? Of course. What Jesus wants is for all people to follow Him. But Jesus is not interested in half-baked commitment. Much as He wanted all to follow Him, He is not one to hide the cost of such discipleship. Jesus goes to places where we might not even dare go to. Jesus would forego comforts and security to fulfill what He set out to do. Would the crowds still follow Him? Would we?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Holding on to the Birthright (Genesis 25:29–34; Hebrews 12:7, 16–17)

There was once a boy  named Paolo. Paolo’s parents worked hard to give their children decent lives and education. The father always told his children that their education is the only thing they could leave them, for they owned no property or business. Soon, Paolo had a girlfriend. And because he wanted to prove that he was a real man to his friends, Paolo slept with her. The girlfriend got pregnant. Because he didn’t want to shame his father further, he married his girlfriend to give their child a proper family. But to support his new family, Paolo had to stop schooling to look for a job. Because of his pride and his desire to fit in, he lost the only inheritance his parents could leave to him.
            How many of us are like Paolo? How many of us give up what is good because of the pressures of this life? The pressure to belong? The pressure to conform? The pressure to provide? The pressure to please others? The pressure to survive?

Esau despised his birthright (Genesis 25:29–34)
Esau was the firstborn of the twin sons of Isaac. As such, he was sole heir of everything his father owned. Moreover, he was second-in-command to Isaac over the whole estate. On top of all that, he is to be heir to the covenant promises that God made to Abraham passed down to Isaac, despite the fact that Abraham had seven other children (Genesis 25:1–2, 5–6).

Monday, September 12, 2011

Shamcey Supsup's Miss Universe Answer

News floated on the Net about the unfolding events at the 2011 Miss Universe Pageant. Miss Philippines Shamcey Supsup's answer to a question made me proud to be a Filipino Christian.

During the question-and-answer portion, judge Vivica A. Fox asked Supsup, "Would you change your religious beliefs to marry the person you love? Why or why not?"

Supsup answered: "If I would have to change my religious beliefs, I would not marry the person that I love. Because the first person that I love is God, who created me. I have my faith and my principles, and this is what makes me who I am. If the person loves me, he'll love my God too."

May many more Christians have such conviction in this postmodern world.

Photo and quote from


Monday, June 27, 2011

When God Wants to Drill a Man

I first heard this poem from a radio message by Ravi Zacharias titled "Is There Not a Cost?" I was so encouraged and scared at the same time that I searched for it in the web. I repost it here for I know it will help a lot of suffering Christians undergoing various trials.

When God Wants to Drill a Man

When God wants to drill a man,

And thrill a man,
And skill a man
When God wants to mold a man
To play the noblest part;

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

On Eagles’ Wings (Isaiah 40)

A few years ago, a good friend of mine shared one of her favorite verses to me when I texted her about my troubles: Isaiah 40:31. I was encouraged by that. Now, in the midst of my current personal problems, I revisited that verse and went backwards seeking how is it that those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.

A prophecy of comfort
Isaiah 40 is a message of God for His people who are exiled into Babylon. It speaks of the forgiveness of God (v.2), and the coming of God Himself for which repentance is needed (vv. 3-5), as fulfilled with the coming of Christ as heralded by John the Baptist. It is meant to comfort them in their troubles. But how is the message comforting?