Today’s Scripture: Matthew 27
Today, we are reading Matthew 27, and what a densely packed chapter it is. It covers Judas hanging himself after regretting his betrayal of Jesus. It describes how soldiers mocked Jesus during his captivity. Finally, it describes Jesus’ crucifixion and death, as well as his burial. It is a chapter that brings up profound sadness in me when I read it.
Matthew 27:50 (NIV)
And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
This is the culmination of everything prophesied, and it marks the moment of mankind having gotten it so very, very wrong. They had failed to recognize the gift they had been given by God when he sent his son to walk among them on Earth.
Matthew 27:54 (NIV)
When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”
But alas, they realized their mistake too late, as we can see from the reaction of those who witnessed his death!
Reading this chapter again made me think of one of those big, old Hollywood movies that I used to watch with my mother while growing up in Germany. (Watching movies together—of course, dubbed into German—was a great bonding experience we shared.) One such movie was called Quo Vadis? from 1951, and you can easily read about it on Wikipedia or your movie database of choice. “Quo Vadis” is actually Latin and means “where are you marching?”, but it is more commonly translated as “where are you going?”. It is what Peter said when he met the risen Jesus on the road outside of Rome after fleeing the city to avoid his own potential execution. The Church of Domine Quo Vadis in modern day Rome, which has of course greatly expanded since those days, is built where this meeting between Peter and Jesus allegedly took place.
The movie centers on a fictional Roman military commander, Marcus, who gradually is converted to Christianity by his love, Lygia, in the final days of Emperor Nero’s reign. The story is therefore set in the time when early Christians were gruesomely murdered in the circus games after Nero had blamed them for the devastating fire that had destroyed large parts of Rome. In their prison cell, Marcus and Lygia encounter the Apostle Peter near the end of his life (not long before he also is crucified, but, unlike Jesus, upside down). He just had returned to Rome after a sign from the Lord. The story of the movie partially centers on the choice to profess your faith and risk being slaughtered in the games, or to deny your faith and be safe—truly not an easy choice. I am not sure how brave I would have been!
But the story also focuses on a very important question, namely what you do with your life. Both Marcus and Lygia end up escaping Nero’s wrath, but then are faced with the question of what to do next—what to do now that they were going to have a future. Jesus sacrificed his life to save us. In doing so, he gave us an incredible opportunity to do good with our lives by loving one another and serving others. So the question is, Where are you going? What path are you going to choose: are you going to waste your life “having a good time” or will you make good use of your journey?
Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time and what do you think you will be doing with your time here on Earth? Would you be honoring Jesus’ sacrifice by serving others? Are you already serving others, and if so, how could you encourage others to do the same? If you are not yet serving others, what is holding you back?
List three things you could do to contribute to your community in a selfless manner and then make plans to take these steps by the end of the summer. Journal how serving others makes you feel and what changes it produces in your life.
Dear Father, thank you for sending your Son to walk among us and for his sacrifice. Please help me see ways to honor his sacrifice by using my time here on Earth wisely and for the good of others. Please guide me on my journey and open my eyes to opportunities to serve others. Please help me find ways to leave this Earth in a better place than it was before. Amen.
This post was written by Cordula Mora. Cordula is a neuroscientist who currently works in the Provost office at Bowling Green State University. She was born and raised in Germany, then spent many years living in New Zealand before settling in the US almost 16 years ago. She was raised in a German Protestant church but feels blessed to have been spiritually awakened when she was introduced to CedarCreek Church. She thanks God every day for all the blessings in her life, including two amazing daughters. She is currently looking for someone who would like to serve the Lord with her.
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