Sermon Summary from Nov. 12, 2017
Mark 16 (NIV) • Pastor Tim Tseng
Main point: When God fully encounters us in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we will resist the temptation to put the gospel on the shelf. Rather, the fear, awe, or discomfort we feel are the beginning of God’s work in us, namely, a complete transformation of our priorities, outlook, and decisions.
Review: We are at the end of the Gospel of Mark. Like the other three gospels, Mark’s story of Jesus is like the Star Wars trilogy. Rather, the Star Wars trilogy is like the life of Jesus. Mark 1-11 is like the first Stars War movie. Under the shadow of a powerful, dark and evil empire, a hero arises. Like Jesus, Luke Skywalker eventually discovers his identity and calling. Jesus confronts the empire and seems to have won as he enters Jerusalem triumphantly. Similarly, Luke destroys the Death Star. But, the Empire Strikes Back! In Mark 11-15, the Sanhedrin turns against Jesus. His disciples abandon him. And Jesus is crucified. Darkness appears to have defeated our hero. But today’s scripture (Mark 16) is like the Return of the Jedi. Jesus rises from the dead and is about to launch his new kingdom through the gospel.
Problem: When we treat the gospel too much like the Star Wars trilogy, we are tempted to put Jesus on the shelf just like we do with movie DVDs. When we treat the gospel like mere entertainment, other priorities will also become more important. One of the reason why I felt called to join Intervarsity’s Graduate and Faculty Ministries is because we need grad students and college professors who make Christ the center of their lives. Those who do not put Jesus on the shelf will be among the most influential and innovative leaders of our society. And I want to be part of this unique ministry.
Mark seems to be saying the same thing. The consensus among bible scholars is that 16:9-20 was added. Mark appears to have abruptly ended his gospel with verse 8 with the closing words “the women (who saw the empty tomb) were afraid.”
These women did not anticipate that Jesus would rise from the dead. They came with burial spices to bring closure to their experience of Jesus. They were prepared to put Jesus on the shelf.
But when they realized that Jesus had been raised, instead of rejoicing, they trembled with fear. We know they eventually told the other disciples about their encounter at the tomb, but at this very moment, they were frightened.
The lesson: And for us, this is a wonderful lesson and reminder. When we encounter the risen Lord, he disrupts our tendencies to put him on the shelf of our lives. We realize that the gospel is real and that we are called to be faithful disciples. So we need to make the resurrection real by showing others the plausibility, desirability, and tangibility of the Gospel in our lives, our families, our small groups, and our church.
The women in Mark 16 demonstrated the first work of grace – which is to teach us the fear of the Lord. Verse 2 of Amazing Grace says it well:
’twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved. How precious did that grace appear, The hour I first believed.
Sermon Summary from Nov 5, 2017
Mark 15:33-47 (NIV) • Pastor Tim Tseng
Death is the end of life. But we don’t usually think about death itself. We celebrate lives that was well-lived, as I did for my ministry mentor, Rev. Dr. James Chuck. Pastor Chuck was senior pastor of First Chinese Baptist Church of San Francisco’s Chinatown for forty years before serving as a Professor of Practical Theology at the American Baptist Seminary of the West, where I taught between 2000-2006. After he invited me to speak at his church’s youth camp in 1988 – which was my first ever visit to California – he took me under his wings and became a great mentor. He even brought me to visit the churches in China twelve years ago. When James died on July 20 this year, all of us who knew and loved him think about his life.
When we look at Jesus, we should also reflect on his life. That is why it was important for us to journey through the gospel of Mark this year. It’s unfortunate, but professing Christians don’t think about Jesus’ life enough.
But we don’t think about his death enough, either. We know that he died to give us salvation, but that’s usually all we know. Well, Mark and the other gospels devote a lot of words to Jesus’ suffering and death. So it makes sense to go a little deeper, don’t you think?
For humans and all living things in creation, death is the end of life. We fear it. We avoid talking or thinking about it. When I was young, many Chinese parents shielded their children from anything related to death. In fact, many Chinese people don’t like the number “4” because it sounds like death (“don’t ever get married on April 4”)!
But for Jesus, embracing and defeating death is the beginning of new life. Why?
First of all, the historical and political reasons for Jesus’ death was because he offended those in power and challenged the status quo. This was why he was so popular among the masses and the marginalized. He knew that this would lead to his execution. This Jesus is not one that comfortable American Christians understand. I believe that if Jesus visited many of our churches today, he would not be welcome.
But beyond this reason, Jesus’ death is God’s act of love to us. And there are at least three additional results – all of which should cause disciples to reflect and praise God for his act of love:
1. Forgiveness of sin (Romans 6:3-7; 10-14)
2. Demonstrates that God is with and for us (Hebrews 2:14-18)
3. Presentation of a new king and kingdom (Phil 2:14-18)
Death is tragic and horrible. I felt its horrors when I was in 7th grade and my third-grade neighbor, Yorkie, was killed before my eyes. But when viewed with the eyes of faith in Jesus Christ, death can also be the beginning of transformation and newness. Yorkie’s death transformed me and my youth group peers. From that terrible tragedy a spiritual renewal was born and at least 20 of our youth chose to enter ministry or missions. By taking on our entire humanity (including death) Jesus was able to redeem us entirely and give us a new and better way. Let us not fear death!
Sermon Summary (Oct 22, 2017)
Mark 15:1-15 (NIV) • Pastor Tim Tseng
Pilate and the crowd that supported the crucifixion of Jesus were “fair-weathered” people. They are like church-goers who participate only when the church community benefits them. Pilate teaches us that we need to examine our hearts regularly and repent of being fair-weathered church-goers. We need to lean on Jesus’ commitment to his mission to rescue us from this condition.
Mark 15:1-15 reveals an indifferent Roman military leader who wants to satisfy the crowd regardless of whether his decision is just or not. Though it is obvious to him that the high priests are driven by envy (15:10) and that Jesus has done no evil (15:14), Pilate is indifferent to his responsibility to carry out justice. Pilate also represents a state concerned only with preserving order, regardless of the injustice suffered by others.
We are told that the crowd was easily swayed by the religious leaders, so they chose Barabbas, an insurrectionist guilty of murder, to go free over Jesus, who had no interest in causing sedition or social upheaval. Jesus thus takes his place on the cross.
Like us, it was easier for the crowd and for Pilate to sacrifice principle, fairness, and justice for self-interest. Jesus’ silence reveals the dark heart humans. By refusing to defend himself, Jesus exposes the sin in people’s hearts.
What about us? Do we easily sacrifice Jesus when he becomes inconvenient? Do we stop obeying and following him when he opposes our self-interests? If we treat church the way a consumer treats a product, rather than as a member of Christ’s body accountable to our Lord, then, “yes,” we have become like Pilate. We will participate in this particular church or take Jesus seriously so long as the church provides the services that we want – and provides it the way we want it. Too many churches have caved in to the wants and anxieties of its consumer-minded people that they have lost Jesus – rather, gave him up to “satisfy the crowd.”
Disciples of Jesus need to discern when we are succumbing to Pilate and the crowd’s sin and repent. We need to ask Jesus to save us from a consumer religion.
For the sake of Canaan’s future, discipleship must matter more than catering to consumers. Otherwise, we will lose the birthright to be part of God’s family. I know it’s hard call people to discipleship, but hard times will always reveal true disciples of Jesus.
Sermon Summary • Oct 15, 2017
Mark 14:53–72 (NIV) • Pastor Tim Tseng
Peter’s denial of Jesus reflects our struggle with the sin of rejecting “damaged goods.” Thank God that Jesus became “damaged goods” to heal and save us from this type of Pharisaism!
1 Our efforts to choose the highest rated school districts for our children reflects our society’s obsession with getting the best for ourselves. The shadow side of this drive for the best quality is the rejection of or refusal to see those who are damaged by our society. Thus, we seek to move into areas that do not have people on the lower economic scale – usually places where Blacks and Latinos live. We do this because we think it will help our kids achieve success. But we wind up reinforcing the idea that we should avoid the damaged such as unwed moms and high school drop outs. We teach our kids that that damaged people are not our responsibility, that we should not care for them.
2 Jesus was “damaged goods.” Peter knew Jesus was innocent. But because he had been arrested and convicted (albeit falsely), Peter wanted to avoid being identified as a disciple. The appearance of being a criminal, i.e, “damaged goods” was all it took for Peter to deny his Lord.
3 Peter’s Pharisaism was deeply rooted so that even after the resurrection and the Great Commission, he had a hard time fearing “damaged goods.” In Galatians 2:8-21, Peter’s flaws were on full display. Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, was sharing a meal with Gentile believers. Peter joined them. But later, when Jewish Christians came, Peter separated himself from the Gentile Christians because he feared the negative criticism. Paul soundly condemned Peter for this hypocrisy. This shows us how difficult it is for us, by our own efforts, to change our Pharisaic tendency to deny “damaged goods.”
4 As we return to Mark 14, we hear the rooster crow. And Peter then realizes that Jesus had predicted correctly that he would deny his Lord. Peter then realized that it was himself, not Jesus, who was truly “damaged goods.” He wept and, I believe, he repented.
5 But that is the good news. The recognition that we are the “damaged goods” in God’s eyes is the first step to conversion and transformation. It leads to repentance, God’s forgiveness, and a desire to change. And it is at this point that God’s salvation can be fully realized in us. It is at this point that we can become good soil for fruitfulness. Let us remember that:
22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. — Romans 3:22-24 (NIV)
Sermon Summary • Oct 8, 2017
Mark 14:22–52 (NIV) • Pastor Tim Tseng
The moment has arrived. The last supper is done. Jesus leads his disciples into the Garden of Gethsemane and is about to be betrayed, arrested, and executed. How would we have responded? Perhaps with disappointment? Perhaps with dread?
Let’s look at everyone who was there and consider whether we might respond in the same way.
1. The Sanhedrin (the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders). They actually weren’t there, but they were so angered by Jesus that they sent a crowd of henchmen and thugs to arrest (kidnap would be a better word) Jesus. Why were they upset? Wasn’t it because Jesus had confronted them for their religious hypocrisy, abuse of power, and support of oppressive social systems? In contrast, Jesus taught about God’s desire to heal, forgive, restore, and include all who are humiliated, excluded, marginalized, and all sinners. Jesus claimed to be the Messiah who could forgive sin.
When we are challenged in this manner. Instead of listening and learning, instead of a respectful conversation, we may want to use our power to control, clamp down, and end the challenge. And that is what the religious authorities, the Sanhedrin did.
2. Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss. Perhaps he truly loved Jesus, but was willing to throw Jesus under the bus when Jesus did not fulfill his expectations. Do we respond like Judas whenever we act like we love and worship on Sundays Jesus yet turn our back to him the rest of the week?
3. The disciples were confused. They thought Jesus would lead a rebellion. But when Jesus renounced violence, they all fled.
4. The inner circle (Peter, James, and John) fell asleep. Even though they had the closest relationship with Jesus, they could not stay awake. This often happens when we are too comfortable with church. We fall asleep at the most important moments and do not hear the most important messages.
5. Jesus, had real honest engagement with his emotions (which stirs the heart). This led to his honest prayer of desire to not “drink the cup.” Yet, in the end, his heart submitted to God’s will. Jesus was willing to give up his life and embrace the suffering of the world, in order to save the world.
How we should respond: Are we willing to be with Jesus? Then pay attention to human suffering and watch what God is doing. Don’t fall asleep. Be #woke! All Jesus wants is for us to be willing to share in his cup of suffering, for the sake of the world.
Sermon Summary from October 1, 2017
Mark 14:12–31 (ESV) • Pastor Chris Liu
Passover is an important holiday that the Jews celebrate which reminds them of God delivering the Israelites out of Egypt during Moses’ day. In Mark 14:12-31, Jesus and His disciples were about to celebrate passover. During this meal, Jesus told His disciples that one of the twelve was going to betray Him. After the meal, Jesus would tell them that they were going to scatter and run away after
He dies. Peter vehemently denies that He would run away, but Jesus told Peter that he would betray Him three times before the night ends. Jesus’ disciples and especially Peter faced a reality that they didn’t expect.
In the same way, we have these expectations about how we live our Christian lives. We expect to be faithful followers of Christ. To spend time with God daily. To memorize Scripture. To witness to others and bring them to Christ. To live a pure life (in thought and action). To have the right attitude in all circumstances. But the reality is that we rarely meet those expectations. We are faced with the reality that we are all sinners. We are imperfect people. We can’t live up to the standards God has for us and the expectations we put on ourselves as followers of Christ.
The Good News is that God knows that which is why He sent His Son Jesus Christ to die for us. Jesus came to earth to save us from our sins. He was the perfect sacrifice that we couldn’t make or be. That is why the Lord’s Supper is such an important part of our worship to God. In Mark 14:12-31, during the passover meal, Jesus foreshadows to His disciples what is going to happen. His body would be broken. His blood would be spilled. He would die for all people.
Each time we come to the Lord’s Table and partake in communion, we are reminded of Jesus’ sacrifice that was made for us. We are also reminded that Jesus wants us to participate in His death and resurrection. We are to die to ourselves and to this world and live a new life in Him. We are also reminded of this covenant that is made between God and us. He will forgive us of our sins and we are to live faithful lives to Him.
The cool thing is that God knows we are imperfect sinful people and yet He still chooses to use us and wants us to be a part of what He is doing in the world around us. The disciples did run away after Jesus died. Peter did deny Jesus three times that fateful night. But after Jesus’ resurrection, God continue to use Jesus’ disciples and especially Peter to change the world. In the same way, I believe that God wants to use us to change the world that we live in today.
Sermon Summary from September 10, 2017
Mark 12:38–44 (NIV) • Pastor Tim Tseng
Jesus’ observations about the poor widow who gave her last two copper coins to the temple is both a commendation of her sacrifice and a lamentation about a religious system that impoverished widows (i.e., “devoured” widows’ homes). Jesus’ disciples should therefore be known for their sacrifice and efforts to correct systems of social and spiritual impoverishment.
1. Widows in the bible.
— In the bible times, widows had a more difficult and dangerous life than widows today. Most ancient societies didn’t provide safety nets for widows and their children. The Gentile widow of Zarephath that Elijah ministered during a great drought was willing to share her last meal with Elijah, but resigned herself and her son to death (I Kings 17:12). Like the widow in Mark, she gave all she had.
— But God had a different idea about how the people of Israel were to treat widows (and orphans, foreigners, and the most vulnerable). God especially cared for widows and commanded his people to provide economic and legal protection. At Sinai, Israel was commanded not to “take advantage (afflict) any widow or orphan” (Exod 22:22). Legislation in defense of widows and orphans was expanded and intensified in Deut. 10:18 where God describes himself as one who “defends [executes justice] for the fatherless and the widow” Therefore, human judges must deal justly with the marginalized (cf. Deut 24:17, 19).
— Part of this justice meant that widows and orphans were to partake of the tithes (Deut 14:29; 26:12–13), which was to be shared along with the Levites. Widows were to enjoy special gleaning privileges (Deut 24:19–21) – see Ruth 2.
— In sum, the temple establishment was supposed to have provided social protection and economic assistance to widows (Exod 22:22, 24; Deut 10:18; 14:29; 24:17, 19–21; 26:12–13; 27:19)
2. Widows were exploited by the teachers of the law during Jesus’ days.
— When Jesus described the impoverished widow, he is not only commending her sacrifice, but also showing why the leaders of Israel, including the teachers of the law, had to repent. They walked around in flowing robes, wanted to be greeted with respect in the marketplace, sought the most important seats in the synagogues, jostled for places of honor at banquets, and made lengthy prayers. These teachers of the law may have known, in theory, that they were to love God and love the neighbor, but they were more interested in loving themselves first. They were hypocrites because they could not apply into their lives what they knew that Scripture taught.
— And as a result, under their leadership, the temple had become an institution of oppression of widows and other marginalized people. As Jesus said, these teachers of the law “devoured the houses of widows.” Hypocrisy and vanity were one thing, but the ruin and impoverishment of the most vulnerable in ancient society was quite another. They created and perpetuated a system that impoverished widows and others. Isn’t that why Jesus so harshly concluded that “These men will be punished most severely”?
— Jesus was not saying anything new. By referring to the exploitative treatment of widows, he was echoing what the OT prophets said many, many years before (e.g., Isa 1:23; 10:2; Ezek 22:7; Job 22:9; 24:3; Jer 7:6-7). Jesus is also a prophet and he most certainly wanted the leaders of Israel to return to God.
— We don’t know what happened to the poor widow. Did she get support from the Temple? Did she die? Jesus did not offer a conclusion. But the Elijah story does and it reiterated God’s desire for widows and orphans:
[the widow] did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah (1 Kings 17:15-16).
3. Application of this scripture.
— First, it is clear that Jesus wanted Israel to obey God’s law about how to treat widows. He cares about how society treats its most vulnerable. So Christians today should advance and support social policy that protects our most vulnerable.
— Despite the fact that the temple system was rigged against this poor widow, she still gave out of obligation to the Law and out of her poverty. She trusted that God would take care of her and gave all she had. While we ought to commend her, here is an opportunity to examine ourselves. Not so much about how much we sacrifice, but whether we are perpetuating a system that causes people to be physically AND spiritually impoverished.
— The teachers of the law were be punished more harshly because of their hypocrisy and exploitation. They knew what the bible taught, but acted in the opposite manner. We also should examine ourselves.
— One of the reasons why I entered ministry is because, as a teenager, I saw people who were hungry for God come to my church. But our church leaders didn’t provide spiritual food. Parents who don’t set an example of faith and did not feed their kids the truth of the gospel. They only wanted the church to teach their kids how to be moral. My fellow teens and I only want to play, socialize, and talk about everyday stuff. We ignored real deep questions about God and our calling, leaving it up to our Chinese speaking pastors (who we didn’t really understand). In sum, I went into ministry because I wanted to stop perpetuating systems of spiritual impoverishment. I wanted to help change that system. I wanted the spiritually hungry to have good answers to their struggles about the faith.
— So let us repent of our perpetuation of a system of material and spiritual impoverishment. Let us do all we can to lift up those who are hungry for God!
Sermon Summary • September 3, 2017
Mark 12:18–37 (18-34) (NIV) • Pastor Tim Tseng
Loving the neighbor as well as loving God is the anchor to Jesus’ message. As Christians learn to fully embrace the implications of this message, it changes everything.
1. Why loving God alone will distort our relationship with God.
The people of Israel failed to become a “light to the Gentiles” and a “blessing” to the world because they focused on loving God alone. And this distorted their relationship with God and perverted their purpose. Instead of reflecting God’s image and purpose to the world, they made God reflect their image and purpose. God became Israel’s property. God was thus made to hate who the Israel hated and love who Israel loved. As a result, Israel because an ethnic nationalist enclave committed to excluding Gentiles and purifying its own people.
Today, any attempt to focus on loving God without a equal focus on loving the neighbor will result in a Pharisaic religion. Think about some of the super-spiritual people who insist that all Christians must have spiritual gifts (e.g., speaking tongues, seeing visions, etc) in order to saved. Think about the fundamentalists who condemn Christians who don’t accept their literalist approach to Scripture. They all claim to love God, but are unable to love the neighbor (and even fellow Christians) unless certain conditions are met first. The Pharisees of Jesus’ time and the Judaizers that Paul confronted forgot God’s mission to the world.
2. Why embracing the Jesus Creed changes everything.
Jesus coupled loving God with loving the neighbor to show his fellow Jews that they had to repent and return to their original purpose, namely join the Kingdom of God movement. Bible scholar Scot McKnight calls this the “Jesus Creed,” which was an effort reform Judaism and to extend God’s love to the whole world. And since then, the love of neighbor has been cited by Paul and James as the fulfillment of the Law of Moses (Rom. 13:10; 15:1-2; Gal. 5:14; James 2:8).
What this means for us today is scary and ought to drive us to dependency upon Jesus’ work on the cross and the Holy Spirit. For no one is able to love others on their own strength. When new people enter our lives, we will be challenged to change. It’s actually easier to reach out to those in need (such as the tragedy in Texas) than to truly embrace people outside our inner circle. Our church culture, our faith community, our families all naturally create bubbles to protect against what we don’t want to change.
New people – our neighbors – force us to see where we’ve distorted the gospel instead of being faithful to Jesus’ mission. Let us repent of our stubbornness and allow ourselves to sent by God into mission to the world outside our bubble!
Sept. 7, 2017
Thanks Arthur for recording and posting the messages! Thanks to others for transcribing and translating the message!
One additional note. In his retirement, Ken has embarked on a ministry of cultural engagement through his popular Asian American Podcast. I encourage you to have a listen!
Sermon Summary • August 20
Mark 12:1–12 (17) (NIV) • Pastor Tim Tseng
Jesus was rejected because he was a Prophet King. As disciples, we should expect to face rejection, too. Especially when we try to follow him faithfully. But there is hope because
The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone. (Psalm 119:22)
1 Why couldn’t Jesus and the Jewish authorities get along?
Mark tells us in verse 12 that “the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the parable against them.” What was going on?
Well, when Jesus entered Jerusalem in Mark 11, he didn’t curry favor with the Jewish authorities. In previous chapters, Jesus already had an uneasy relationship with them. He criticized the Pharisees for their legalism and desires to exclude all who are not deemed “pure” enough. Now, as he enters Jerusalem, he attacks the abuses in the Temple system.
With the parable of the terrible vineyard tenants (Mark 12:1-9), Jesus challenges the Sanhedrin’s legitimacy, knowing full-well that they were about to reject him despite his popularity among ordinary people.
2 Jesus was a prophet; he wanted the Jewish leaders to be faithful to God
If you recall in Mark 11:15-17, as Jesus cleansed the temple, he quoted from Isaiah 56:7, “for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations,” and Jeremiah 7:11, but “you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’ Jesus is telling the people of Israel, especially its leaders, that he is a King who is also a prophet like John the Baptist. What are prophets?
Did you know that 17 of the 39 Old Testament books were written by prophets (and this doesn’t include Moses, Nathan, Elijah, Elisha, and other prophets). John the Baptist was considered a prophet.
Prophets wanted the people of Israel to turn away from idolatry and Israel’s leaders to obey God’s word. They were very concerned about right and wrong.. They believe that Israel had be holy, both individually AND socially. They wanted Israel to be a light to the Gentiles – a nation that would invite the world into God’s plan for salvation and redemption. But Israel failed. And God kept raising up prophets to remind them of their purpose and to teach them to be faithful.
3 If Jesus is a prophet king and savior, then what?
Just look around at all the injustice and idolatry! We are called to be prophets, too. By our love, by our passion for justice and mercy, we need to take a stand against the forces of darkness and oppression. Rejection will likely happen, but God promises to transform rejection into the cornerstone of God’s redemption!