LET’S sing:

Speak to us Lord, we’re listening.

Let’s give the Lord a big, big hand.

Today is our last day of our study of the Book of Matthew. Could you imagine: 26 months!

And it has been such a journey through the Pandemic and today.

Just in case you won’t notice, we’re ending our 26-month long series.

How about we give a big, big hand for that season. We really studied, dove in, and wow, it has been beautiful.

And we need to move forward.

I think it’s God’s call for us to move forward today.

But you know, the more we know about God through the Gospel of Matthew, the more that I feel also anxious. Why? Because I realized, the more that I’m so far from the Lord. The more that I know more about it, the more that I feel… Hmm, there’s so much work with you Didoy, and I’m so far away from God’s heart.

But I think of the greatest distance — from here (in the mind) the message needs to travel to here (in the heart).

What am I trying to say?

The goal of this Bible study is not to know more but to love more.

So, take a pause today. You’ve been attending The Feast online, or now live? Has it brought you to love more people? Did it make you love yourself more? Not just about our religious practices but our relationships?

Today, we’re going to talk about the greatest event that happened in the history of human kind and that is the Resurrection of Jesus. And the big message today is: Your story is not over.

Before we go there, which is the second part of the Talk, try to notice that Jesus included specific people—groups of people in the movement, in this gathering, in this faith that we have. The followers of Jesus are very, very different.

The first thing we would like to reflect on is that the Kingdom of Jesus includes women. Women in the house make some noise, please.

During the time of Jesus, there were many other Rabbis (Teachers) like Him. Too many teachers actually. But there’s a big difference with Jesus. Because the other rabbis, the other teachers, had male followers.

Jesus was CO-ED. He was open to have followers who are women. Because in Asian culture, women were designated to be at home. They were supposed to be silent in affairs. They were supposed to be just taking care of the children, managing the household. It was very, very radical that Jesus brought in women to become His disciples. Jesus saw them as equals—as God bearers, God carriers. And remember, the followers of Jesus, they were  there, throughout the journey of Jesus’ ministry.

They saw Him preach. The women saw Him perform miracles.

But they also saw Jesus die. They also saw how painful it was.

To see your teacher, your rabbi crucified– and you cannot do anything about it. And who were there—after? Who were there at the tomb? Not the men— but the women. Where were the boys? While the apostles were fearful, the women were faithful. Peter wasn’t there. James and John were not there. But their mom was. Mary Magdalene was.

Women are sometimes, if not in many times, braver than men. I confess to that—yes. The Feasts all around the world are much, much better because of our servants who are women… You know, we can be preaching here but the women are preaching in the way they serve—quietly, silently but quite effectively, and faithfully. A big hand again to our female servants.

You want some proof why I think women are braver than men? Childbirth. As a doctor, I have helped women give birth – actually from my nursing career, through my med school. Childbirth– I wouldn’t wish to do it myself. Man, there was one time—the first time I saw a woman giving birth– I was just observing. And the one who was supposed to catch the baby, he was saying, “Okay, mommy, please push, please push, push, please push, push, push. And he (fainted). He was the one whom we caught, not the baby.

I want to show you a picture of my mom—Dr. Cynthia Lubaton. Seven kids. I could imagine how she carried us all to term for nine months— all normal childbirth. I’m the sixth out of the seven. And maybe during my time, she was already an expert in just, poof… But it wasn’t easy for her…

Women, mothers, I honor you. Because it’s not just carrying the baby. The harder one, nursing the baby, raising the child. And you are the one supposed to be in charge of it. You took it upon yourself to be responsible for this task. And now my mom is also still raising us seven kids.

And one by one of us get sick too. My sister, Dra. Cheryl Anne (Chichi) Lubaton-Sacro, was diagnosed with cancer recently. You know, my Mom, she was still there. She is still there– and the bravest of us all.

She has never stopped praying for us. She taught us how to pray. I will not be preaching here today, I will not be part of a faith community today were it not for my Mom who was very brave and ever faithful to serve and be in community to love the Lord with all her heart, with all her mind, with all her strength.

Mama, if you’re listening to this—I know you are—I love you and I thank you for being faithful to the Lord.

Women, thank you.

Next is a picture of my wife. Of course, I will not get this chance again, so, I’d like to honor you, Mayi. It’s so hard to be married to me. And you put up so much bravery and love to marry a doctor and a preacher, and a speaker, and so many things that I want to do in my life. And you are raising with me two wonderful kids—Haile and Hosea. And it’s not just that. You’re also working as manager in your financial company, and you are a friend to many.

And again, I honor you because you are ever-faithful to the Lord. Please be faithful to the Lord than be faithful to me. I want you to love the Lord. I love you because you love the Lord more than me—and that’s a safe place to be. Sometimes, I’m not always right. Mayi, I love you. I know you’re also listening online. I love you. Thank you.

To the dear women in the house and those watching online, on March 8, it’s International Women’s Day. Congratulations! I greet you in advance. Happy International Women’s Day. You are recognized. You are part of the Kingdom. You are an essential part. And we wouldn’t have this without you. I take so much time here because we don’t have a lot of time that we recognize the women of the house serving the Lord.

And Bro Bo, you mentioned last week—and you did not ask my permission—that you told the Feasters that I am your doctor. But I want to tell to everybody, yes, I’m the doctor. I was the one who visited Bro. Bo and his family in their house. And it’s so hard to see our leader in distress.

I gave the prescriptions. I gave the medications. But I have to honor here Sis. Marowe (right, with Bro. Bo). She, COVID-positive herself, was the one who took care of the household. She was the one who updated me every single hour to make sure that nobody in her household goes in further distress. And what do you know, we’re still here. And we get to still have Bro. Bo and his family.

Thank you, Sis. Marowe, for your faithfulness to Jesus. And thank you for your faithfulness in supporting Bro. Bo. That’s why we still have him.

Remember, there was a time in the Bible that Jesus told these disciples that it’s more difficult for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God than for a camel to enter into the eye of a needle?

Well, well, well, he, Joseph of Arimathea, is an example of the camel. Because Matthew says Joseph “was a follower of Jesus”. (v.57)

During that ancient period, history tells us that 90% of the population were poor. And there was a very thin margin between the poor and the middle class– they were the tax collectors, some were merchants, craftsmen. And fewer still in the top 1% of that society—they enjoyed the abundant political, religious power.

Joseph of Arimathea was one of those 1%. And if you owned—what it says here, a new tomb out of rock — that was, man, real property. You must really be wealthy to have that property.

Also, you have to look into the context as it was written in the Gospel. The Gospel of Luke says Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin. And that is the group of people who made the decision to condemn Jesus—that was the Council. And Joseph was part of it. But it was written also in the Gospel that he didn’t agree with the Council.

Remember how Jesus called the rich young man and told him: “…go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor….?” (Matthew 19:21 NLT)

But if Joseph sold everything, he wouldn’t have that tomb.

What we are trying to say here?

What is God calling you to do? In what season? Or in what situation are you in?

Flourish where you are planted. Grow your faith where you are.

And just a little more note. Giving to Jesus this precious, expensive tomb was a dangerous decision for Joseph. Not only was it one giant gift to Jesus and His disciples. It also meant not being one with his Council members in their decision of condemning Jesus.

You know what that means? Joseph of Arimathea was willing enough to surrender his political situation, his political power, his influence. Because Jesus was more important than his wealth. Jesus was more important than his political structure.

And, I think, what is the importance, what is the point of our discipleship? Why are we doing this? It’s because we make Jesus our wealth. And as we close this, I hope we seek first the Kingdom of God and everything else shall follow unto us. Make Jesus your wealth.

It is not the wealth that is the goal but it is that rich life, that abundant life with Jesus that we are after. Your life is not over.

God is not over with us yet. If you’re a woman. If you’re a rich man. Or whatever season you are in, your story is not over.

Can you put your hand on your chest? Just pause for a minute and have a reflection. Are you a woman? God calls you to be a part of the Kingdom. Or are you a rich man, or trying to become one? God calls you to be part of the Kingdom.

And whatever situation and season we are in, we declare, “Jesus, You are our wealth!” You are our everything and we will follow You till the end of our days– and more, as we go to Heaven, sometime in the future.

We love You, Lord. Thank You, Jesus.

The Greatest Miracle in the World

Everybody, say it again:

Every morning, as my exercise, I walk around my village.

I love it because I’m surrounded by nature. As I walk, I see gorgeous flowers, lovely trees, malnourished dogs with rabies, poop of the dogs…

And there was a time when there was this beautiful tree that’s really special. Don’t ask me what kind of tree. I think the scientific name is lakipuno parangtao-titis. Because it has two branches like raised arms that were worshipping God.

But one fateful day, while walking, as I turned around the corner, I blurted out, “Oh my ghaaad….” The tree was gone!

In its place was a stump.

A short dead ugly stump.

Someone cut down my tree!

Okay, it wasn’t exactly my tree. It was everybody’s tree. But I saw it every day. And I loved looking at it.

Do you know how I felt? Like my pet died.

I asked, “Who killed my pet?”

Do you know what made it worse? I saw that stump every day.

Because it was always in my walking route. Each morning,

I saw that grotesque figure again and again—that dead ugly stump.

It was a constant reminder that once upon a time, there was this healthy tree that waved its arms to praise God—and in a blink of an eye, it was gone.

Three months later, a strange thing happened.

While walking, I turned around the corner, and I saw again the dead ugly stump. But this time, something caught my eye. On its left side, I saw something. I saw a tiny green shoot breaking out of its hard bark.

Was this for real? That meant only one thing. The tree was alive.

Months later, I saw that green shoot became a small branch, and that small branch became a big branch.

Six years later—today– the tree is even bigger before it was chopped down.

This story reminds me of our reading today:

Tombs Are Not Nice

Just to give you a feel of what they saw, let me show pictures of what tombs looked like during the time of Jesus.

This is the tomb that King Herod built for his family:

Here’s another tomb—the tomb of the High Priest Anas:

Tombs are not nice.

You know what a tomb is?

It’s a dead ugly stump.

So,   imagine   yourself  in  the sandals of Mary Magdalene and the other Mary that Sunday morn. Imagine what they were feeling—the pain, the sorrow,  the confusion.

For the past three years, these women traveled with Jesus, listened to Jesus, ate with Jesus, laughed with Jesus.

And together, they began to dream of a different world where the poor are loved, the hungry are fed, the sick are healed, the sinners are forgiven. In this new Kingdom, you did not have to worry because God takes care of the birds of the air and the lilies of the field.

But then Jesus died.

Why didn’t God take care of His Son?

Friend, isn’t the tomb a snapshot of our dark world?

Look what’s happening in Europe today. The bloodiest battles—World War I and II— were fought in the 20th century. But just when we thought the world already said, “Never again!”– here is war again, rearing up its ugly head.

And we don’t have to look far for darkness.

Look at our country. Why is there still so much corruption? Injustice? Poverty? While thieves in suits steal the money of the people, according to the most recent statistics, 4.2 million Filipinos still go hungry.

Today, we see the world blanketed by the blackest night. But in the middle of this darkness, the Gospel proclaims…

This is the audacious claim of Christianity: That a certain guy walked out of a tomb. Someone came back from the dead. Jesus is alive!

How did He greet them? The original word used by Matthew is the most casual form in Greek.

So, Jesus must have simply said, “Hiiiiiii!” Can you imagine their terror and joy?

The World Isn’t What You Think It Is

Here’s the message of the Resurrection: What if the world isn’t what you think it is? What If the world is what Jesus says it to be?

It may appear that evil is winning today, but the Risen Jesus says that evil is a defeated foe.

Injustice seems to be ruling today, but the Risen Jesus says that behind the scenes, justice is flowing like a river.

In small pockets and hidden places, kindness is conquering the world.

And the Kingdom of God will cover the face of the Earth.

You’re Not Who You Think You Are

Dear friend, maybe you walked into today’s Feast feeling discouraged because you feel that nothing has changed in your life.

You’ve attended for many years, but your life is still the same.

You pray a lot, but you’ve had so much failure in your life.

You’re committing the same sins over and over again.

And you’re tempted to think, “This is who I am.”

I repeat: The world isn’t what you think it is, but what Jesus says it is. And you are not who you think you are, but who He calls you to be.

Your Story Is Not Over

God is declaring to you today: Your story is not over.

That even though it’s very dark in your life right now, shafts of light are piercing through—in your relationships, in your home, in your job.

Your crisis is not a period, it’s a comma.

Your trial is not the end, it’s the beginning.

God is not finished with you yet.

The Branch Is Here

Let me end by reading how the Prophet Isaiah pointed to Jesus.

He said, “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

Friend, do you sometimes feel that there’s a dead ugly stump in your life? As we enter into Worship, present that dead ugly stump to God. Present that issue, behavior, or relationship, that doesn’t seem to change.

Open up your life to the greatest power of the universe—the power that raised Jesus from the dead.

Here’s why:

The Branch is in your life.

His name is Jesus.

Jesus is the Branch that will bear fruit in your life.

Your story is not over.


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