Thursday, April 21, 2011

Maundy Thursday Reflection 2011

TITLE: A Half-Way Belief is Not Faith at All 
Written by: Conrade Yap
Date: 21 Apr 2011
"My spirit is broken, my days are extinguished. The grave is ready for me. Surely mockers are with me, and my eye gazes on their provocation." (Job 17:1-2)
MAIN THOUGHT: Our inability to grow strong in faith stems not from an absence of faith, but from a presence of half-belief.

For some of us, we cannot wait for Easter to come. Sunday School teachers tell kids to come in their 'Easter best.' They are told things about Easter egg hunt, Easter bunnies, and all things fun. Along with it, they say things like "He is Risen," "Jesus lives!" or "He is alive!"

All things rejoicing! All things wonderful! All things celebration!

That's just the icing on the cake. We still need the cake. The cake of pain and suffering. The cake of despair and utter loneliness. The cake of carrying the weight of the world's sins on one's shoulders. Easter is nothing without the suffering. Easter is not meaningful without Jesus' sacrifice and death at the cross. If Christ has not died, how can one then say He is risen?

Fear is a symptom of half-belief. A fear of pain. Fear of suffering. A fear that makes us want to forget, more than a desire to remember. A fear that tilts our preferences toward nice comforting thoughts, instead of reverting to nasty discomforting stuff. In ministry work, one of the toughest struggles is to deal with two ends of the emotional spectrum. Pastors have been known to conduct weddings in the morning, and to do a funeral almost immediately after.  They celebrate the birth of a child with a church member, and mourn the death of another in a hospice institution. Dealing with the stress itself is already hard. Coupled with the emotional ups and downs within such a short span of time, it can be downright depressing.

Jesus prays a lot before hist arrest. He knows what is coming. He does not need to predict. He just knows it. Unfortunately, his disciples even if they somewhat believe Jesus, they refuse to accept it. They push it aside. They try to ignore the greater possibility of Jesus' dying and prefer to cling to the lesser hope of Jesus' escaping all kinds of punishment.
  • Peter claims he will follow Christ all the way. (Luke 22:33)
  • Peter says he will never deny Christ, even if others do. (Mark 14:29)
  • The disciples slept when Jesus needs them most (Like 22:45)
  • Judas didn't believe that Jesus is the Messiah he wants, so he betrayed Him.
Look at what happened? A fear of being associated with a 'failed messiah' led Peter to deny Christ three times. A failure to sense the deep angst of Jesus makes the disciples easily sleepy. While it is easy to associate Judas' betrayal as greed, it is more a disappointment in unmet expectations. Judas, having filled with fear for having shed innocent blood, he tries to return the betrayal money. In John 12, Judas is said to have objected to the 'wasteful' use of perfume poured on Jesus.  He believes Jesus is special otherwise he will not have followed Him. Unfortunately, his faith goes only as far as half-way. He decides to back out. Judas denies Christ finally. Peter denies Christ when Jesus was arrested, pending execution. All his disciples flee at Christ's greatest need. A half-believing disciple of Christ is more likely to flee at the slightest hint of trouble.

Half-Believing Disciples

I marvel at how the disciples seem to live in a half-believing manner. If they had known, will they have prayed more? Be more prepared? Speak with Jesus more? Spend the remaining amount of time with Jesus more? Maybe, stay up with Jesus through the night?

No. I think their ease in sleeping through the night, despite Jesus asking them to stay awake is very telling. They live in a world of 'half-believing' Jesus. Jesus gives us a clue about how he perceives the disciples' level of faith:
"I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe." (John 14:29)

Jesus himself knows that the disciples have yet to fully believe. If Peter had believed, he would not have cut off the ears of the servant of the high priest who was among the party that arrested Jesus. If they have fully believed, they will not be surprised at Jesus' resurrection on the third day.

Moving From Half-Belief to Full Belief

Faith is something that needs to move forward, to grow. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. Half-belief is like the lukewarm church in Laodicea.
"I know your deeds, s that you are neither cold nor hot. t I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth." (Rev 3:25-16)

This is a frightening thought. Will something that is spitted out of the mouth be accepted again? Think about the stuff we vomit. Yucks! That is half-way faith.

In a world that wants the best of everything, we are most tempted toward a half-believing kind of faith. We take the best of all, and ignore the rest. The truth in life is this: Faith is believing all of Christ, or none at all. There is no such thing as a half-way disciple. When God calls, He calls one all the way. He accompanies one every way. He promises to be present all the time.

This Maundy Thursday, are you willing to stand up for Christ all the way? Through pain and through relief? Through ups and downs? Through humiliation enroute to future glory?

  • When we FULLY believe, we can continue to cling on to faith in God, like Job.
  • When we FULLY believe, we retain hope of future glory, and not be deterred by present difficulties;
  • When we FULLY believe, we reject the imperfect solutions the world offers, and wait for the perfection that God promises.
  • When we FULLY believe, we will have no fear that we lose our salvation, but every drop of ourselves are laced with hope and thanksgiving.

The worse offering we can ever give God is a half-way kind of faith. God wants all of us. Not just half. It is not the absence of faith that makes Jesus upset. It is the presence of a half-way belief, which is worse than no belief.


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