Posts From September, 2020

Luke 21 Challenging the Authority of Jesus Christ

Rev. Dr. Niveen Sarras

Luke 21 Challenging the Authority of Jesus Christ

September 27, 2020


"In 1981, a Minnesota radio station reported a story about a stolen car in California. Police were staging an intense search for the vehicle and the driver, even to the point of placing announcements on local radio stations to contact the thief. On the front seat of the stolen car sat a box of crackers that, unknown to the thief, were laced with poison. The car owner had intended to use the crackers as rat bait.

Now the police and the owner of the Volkswagen Bug were more interested in apprehending the thief to save his life than to recover the car. Often when we run from God, we feel it is to escape His punishment. But what we are actually doing is eluding His rescue."[1]

The gospel story for this Sunday is about repentance, turning to God. Repentance is essential to the Christian faith that we cannot ignore. Jesus' problem with the chief priests and the Jewish leaders is their hypocrisy and lacking repentance. After Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem and cleansing the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him to question his authority. "By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?" The two questions "intended to trap Jesus into either admitting that he has no authority from God or claiming that he comes from God, which might open him to the charge of blasphemy."[2] Jesus was an intelligent person, for he recognized their bad intentions immediately. Jesus responded to them with another question: "Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?" Jesus did not shift the subject. He connected his ministry with the ministry of John the Baptist, to demonstrate his authority comes from God, as John did. By raising this question, Jesus revealed the hypocrisy of the chief priests and the elders and their need to repent.

To answer Jesus' question, the chief priests and the elders found themselves in an awkward position with three options: "They can either (a) say what they think—that John's baptism was not from God—and face the anger of the crowds that regard John as a prophet, or (b) admit that John's baptism was from heaven, in which case they would be put to shame for not believing him,"[3] or (c) to claim not to know. To avoid embarrassment, they chose option three.

Our Lord emphasizes the chief priests and the elders' rejection of John the Baptist by telling them the parable of the wicked son. The father asks his two sons to work in his vineyard. The first son refused his father's request but later changed his mind and went to work in the vineyard. The second son agreed to his father's request, but later, he disobeyed his father. Jesus correlates the first son with the tax collectors and the prostitutes who initially rebelled but later repented as they heard John the Baptist's message. Jesus identifies the chief priest and the elders with the second son. They have the law, but they disobeyed God.

Our Lord insulted the chief priests and the elders when he states that the notorious sinners like the tax collectors and the prostitutes will enter the kingdom of God before them. The chief priests and the elders assumed that they were way better than the tax collectors and the prostitutes. They never expected anyone to tell them God prefers this dishonorable group who repented over the honored group who refused to repent. Jesus intends to say to the chief priests and the elders that when God sent John the Baptist to call them to repent, they discredited him as they discredit Jesus. Now, they will find themselves watching the sinners enter God's kingdom before them, or they will be left out of the kingdom.

Repentance and returning to God is a life journey that does not end until we die. Martin Luther teaches us that "When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, 'Repent,' he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance."[4] To repent is not simply to regret but to change your direction. Through repentance, you experience the steadfast love of God and grace. Repentance is the key to heaven. We cannot go to heaven without repenting from anything that separates us from God.

We need to examine our lives daily and to realize the ways we break God's commandments. Like the police and car owner who searched for the thief to warn him from eating poison crackers, Jesus keeps on looking for us to warn us about sin and keep us from sin. The danger is when you and I keep running away from God's grace. That will only lead to our destruction. Our Lord invites us to repent for our own sake and our well-being. I encourage you to look at repentance as a way Jesus manifests his love for you. Through repentance, you experience God's mercy and forgiveness, which makes you whole again.




[2] Mitch, Curtis. Gospel of Matthew, The (Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture) (p. 274). Baker Academic. Kindle Edition.  



[3]Mitch, Curtis. Gospel of Matthew, The (Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture) (pp. 274-275). Baker Academic. Kindle Edition.


[4] Jones, Mark. Living for God: A Short Introduction to the Christian Faith. N.p.: Crossway, 2020.

Exodus 14, crossing the Red Sea

Rev. Dr. Niveen Sarras

Exodus 14, crossing the Red Sea

September 13, 2020

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of the Exodus story? What fascinated you about it? Maybe you are fascinated by the ten plagues or Passover, the splitting of the Red Sea, the pillar of the cloud, or the pillar of fire. There are so many things in the story of Exodus that are amazing. What fascinated me about this story comes from the mouth of the Egyptians, "let us flee from the Israelites, for the Lord is fighting for them against Egypt" (v. 25). The Lord is fighting for them! This statement summarizes the book of Exodus and summarizes our Christian life.


The Israelites in Egypt were powerless with no weapons to protect them. They used their hands and strength to make a living. In contrast with the Israelites, Egyptians had the power and the most advanced weapons of their time. The book of Exodus tells us that when Pharaoh chased the Israelites, "He took six hundred of the best chariots, along with all the other chariots of Egypt, with officers over all of them" (14:7). The story of Exodus describes a conflict between the oppressed and the poor group and the imperial power of Pharaoh. God chose to fight for the oppressed.


Pharaoh created chaos and disorder for God's creation by enslaving the Israelites. Yes, slavery brings disorder to God's creation because people are created according to God's image and deserve respect. By defending the oppressed Israelites, helping them to leave Egypt, and crossing the Red Sea, God put an end to the chaos, and Pharaoh and his soldiers with all his chariots were left dead and destroyed on the seashore. God trapped Pharaoh with the same weapons he relied on to fight Israel.


Pharaoh built his economy on forced labor, exploitation, and domination, but God, through Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, destroyed his power and empowered the Israelites.


The story of Exodus is not about supernatural power, but about defending the oppressed and those who are in need. The story of crossing the Red Sea teaches us that God sees and hears our groaning and struggle in every situation we encounter. Our Lord Jesus takes on his cross your groaning and suffering, and he is continually defending you. He will always meet you where you are and helps you to cross the Red Sea; to cross all your suffering and challenges, and will help you to be resilient.


Our Lord is your pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night to protect you and lead you. When you think that your challenges are bigger and stronger than you, remind yourself that Christ is stronger than your challenges. He will see you through it. Satan enjoys deceiving us by making us think that God does not care or notice our suffering, but the story of crossing the Red Sea assures us that God sees and knows what we need. God knows what you are going through, and God will always come up with good news for your difficult situation. The author of Psalm 139 says

1 You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.


As we struggle to live out our faith in a very challenging world, we have a God who knows us very well. God knows our problems and feelings. Our Lord Jesus brings you good news for whatever bad situation you encounter—"unemployment, family discord, depression and serious illness, doubt, fear, loneliness -- you name it."


The account of Exodus assures us that our hardship is not forever, and the painful experiences are meant to help you learn and grow from them. The challenges you face will come to an end. God foresaw that Pharaoh would harden his heart and not let the Israelites go free, causing them to suffer more and more, but God used their suffering for God's glory and the well-being of the Israelites. God also foresees your suffering and will put an end to it. Remember, you are not waiting alone to see God's victory over your suffering; the Lord Jesus is waiting actively with you to strengthen you to endure your challenging circumstances.

When you meet people going through a tough time, please do not tell them, "do not worry, it will come out fine in the end." Nor does it help you to say to yourself amid of your suffering and pain that you will learn good things from this experience because it might take years to discover  good outcome of your suffering. It is essential to acknowledge your feelings and your pain and to remind yourself that our Lord is on your side fighting for you. The apostle Paul teaches us that "Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Romans 5:3-5)." He also advises us to "12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer to be patient in suffering" (Romans 12:12).