This week, everyone has heard the news about Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF), formerly known as the youngest billionaire in the world, suddenly being exposed as the biggest fraud, dragging down over a million investors with him.

Let’s analyze this case from a spiritual perspective on this Reign of Christ Sunday because there’s a life lesson for all of us to learn. Rember no one is an island. One man’s fall is everyone’s shame. So, let’s be humble and not judgemental because we gain wisdom only in humility.

When I was young, my grandma said it was bad luck to become wealthy before 30. I didn’t understand what she meant, but now, half a century later, I have seen enough young people ruined by their windfalls of fortune—with few exceptions.

Confucious said that people become established by 30 and unwavering by 40. Maybe that’s why people say life begins at 40. A friend told me that life begins when children move out and pets die. Well, it depends on what they mean by “life begins.”

Each time one of my children move out, I felt a part of my life has left. Each of them took a piece of me with them. You have heard of the empty nest syndrome. But I understand they need to learn to fly by themselves.

However, we are not talking about when life begins but about when people become mature enough to handle prosperity, power, and prestige. As my grandma said, it is a curse, not a blessing, to wield prosperity before maturity.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned the Eight Winds of life constantly blowing at us, representing the eight stressors of life. In case you missed it, here’s the slide I have presented. There are four sour stresses and four sweet stresses.

The four sour stresses are Scorn, Slander, Setback, and Suffering. I call them “overt stresses” because you know when they hit you, and you feel the pain, but at least you can deal with them since they are overt.

The four sweet stresses are insidious. They are Praise, Prestige, Profit, and Pleasure. Everyone loves these sweet stresses, but they kill you covertly from the inside, like eating sugar and processed carbs that taste yummy but slowly ruin your internal organs. When the symptoms surface, it’s usually too late to reverse.

Sam Bankman-Fried has been knocked out by a massive sweet storm. His parents are law professors at Standford University, and he graduated from MIT. People trusted him and invested in him because of his impressive background. It was a perfect context for an ignorant young man to invite a perfect storm.

Remember Bill Clinton’s famous line, “… just because I could”? If you are unfamiliar with his case, Clinton confesses on CBS News that he cheated because “he could.” That is a profound confession because it reveals a major flaw in humans.

Given a perfect opportunity, everyone could do the unthinkable. Jesus taught us to pray, “Lead us not into temptations,” because he knows we are too ignorant when facing temptations. So, it’s better to ask to stay away from them than to resist them.

Jesus prayed on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” He says ignorance is not innocence. The crucifixion is a scene of utter injustice done by human ignorance. They did it because they could—with the power they wielded.

So, let’s use this opportunity to reflect on our tendency to commit injustice out of ignorance and how to avoid it. I am not talking about you; of course, you are not ignorant; I am talking about the one sitting next to you or your next-door neighbor! Let’s begin!

[Hi, in case we haven’t met yet, I am Sam Stone, the Lightkeeper—you are the light of the world, and I am the keeper! (No pun intended). It’s my calling to help you shine your brightest so that God is glorified in you, and you are satisfied in God.]

The Scripture lesson today is from the Gospel according to Luke 23:33-43. [Listen to the Word of the Lord!]

33 When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. [[34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”]] And they cast lots to divide his clothing. 35 And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

39 One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:33–43).

[Happy are those who delight in God’s Word. Thanks be to God!]

If you love art, especially the Renaissance masterpieces like those of Jan van Eyck, Leonardo da Vinci, and Michelangelo, you would be familiar with the painting technique called “chiaroscuro,” using the contrast of light and shadow to send a strong message with intense beauty.

The scene of Jesus’ crucifixion is like a masterpiece of contrast only God could have painted. The Son of God was sinless but crucified between two criminals. He was the king but enthroned on the cross. He was crowned but with thorns.

He was the light of the world but swallowed by darkness. It was high noon, but the sky turned dark. He was humiliated by the ignorant, but he offered forgiveness. He was in pain, but he continued to pray and preach.

What a divine visual art of contrast! It arouses intense emotions and profound thoughts. It reveals the height of God’s grace in contrast to the depth of human sin. It has inspired numerous artists ever since to produce the most beautiful paintings, music, and art.

The question is, why did Jesus have to die? The answer is revealed in Jesus’ prayer on the cross,

Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34a).

People need forgiveness from God because of their acts of ignorance. Then the next question is, why did Jesus have to suffer? The answer is someone has to pay the penalty for our sins. We can’t save ourselves because sinners and not save sinners. We need God’s grace and mercy.

Grace is free but not cheap, especially when we realize the depth of human sins revealed in front of the cross: injustice, arrogance, and mockery—all stem from ignorance. Our acts of ignorance have consequences. The only way out is redemption, but with the high price of the blood of Christ. Isaiah wrote:

But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed
… yet he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.
” (Is 53:5, 12b).

Now the third question is can we eliminate our ignorance? Yes and no, but we will explore this question in three parts based on the dialogue between the two criminals next to Jesus. According to this dialog, we see three conditions that allow us to rise above our ignorance.

1. Avoid Entitlement

One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” (Luke 23:39).

That is a common attitude among non-believers. They often say if there’s a God, he should eliminate their suffering. For them, God is like a genie, “Your wish is my command!” The entitlement mindset comes out of arrogance and ignorance. It keeps us blind from seeing God’s grace.

The soldiers mocked Jesus because they could, the priests requested the crucifixion of Jesus because they could, and Pontius Pilate sentenced Jesus because he could. They all abused their power for injustice.

However, this criminal has only one power left—his mouth. Yet, he still used it to throw insults at Jesus. We can look at it from his shoes. Maybe his derision comes out of pain. I have discovered that people use arrogance to hide their pain and low self-esteem.

Jesus was his last hope for salvation. The problem is, even at this last moment, he could not relinquish his pride and repent. What good does it do to deride the Messiah and demand him to save him?

We are sinners entitled to nothing. The only option is to repent.

2. Confront Injustice

But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?”  (Luke 23:40).

The contrast between these two criminals is part of this stunning scene. This man has the right attitude. He is a criminal, but at least he fears God. You wonder why he was able to discern Jesus while everyone was ignorant. King Solomon says,

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
(Proverbs 9:10).

Here is the answer to how to rise above our ignorance. It begins with the fear of the Lord. The word “fear” in Hebrew doesn’t mean the way we mean. It means more like “reverence.” You can translate: “The reverence of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”

The second part of the verse says, “and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” Wisdom and insights are the opposite of ignorance. So to overcome ignorant: first, revere the Lord; second, obtain knowledge of the Lord. How? Study the Bible.

Your wisdom allows you to see the ignorance and injustice in the world. It gives you the courage to confront it. Even though we are not perfect, we must speak up for the innocents. He said,

And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.”  (Luke 23:41).

Notice that he defended Jesus with a tone of convincing the other criminal. Sometimes, we try to speak up against injustice by demonizing those people. That’s what the communist do. They fought for justice by slaughtering the perpetrators. In that case, they replace others’ injustice with their own injustice.

Speak up against injustice with a tone to convince not to condemn. That will raise your wisdom.

3. Request Mercy

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42).

Despite all the noises of ignorance—mockery, insults, and ridicules, this man sees what others don’t see. Why? The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Wisdom leads to speaking up against injustice and realizing we need help.

His request was extremely humble. Maybe he realized he did not deserve salvation. He had just a glimpse of hope. All he wanted was for Jesus to remember him. Maybe he heard Jesus’ prayer, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” He heard the voice of grace and mercy. To his surprise, Jesus replied,

He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43).

Today, he will be in Paradise—immediately, not until the end of the world. The reign of God is from eternity past to eternity future, so it includes now. The kingdom of God transcends time and space. Eternity is both now and then. Jesus said today, not because the criminal was dying that day, but because salvation is today for all of us.

Jesus said, “you will be with me.” This answer whether we can rise above ignorance. I said yes or no. No, because we are not created to be wise apart from our Creator. Yes, because we can be with Jesus, our wisdom. Paul says,

“He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” (1 Co 1:30).

When Jesus is with us, we have wisdom with us. Without him, we are like sheep without a shepherd. He is our shepherd and our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. Paul also said,

In Jesus are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Col 2:3).

We are not meant to travel alone and will never find wisdom without him. To be with him is Paradise. Sometimes, we are drawn to the word Paradise and forget “you are with me.” Paradise is living in the reign of Christ.

We are with him in Paradise the moment we repent and ask for mercy. Jesus might have used the term “Paradise” instead of “Kingdom” because of their present condition in pain. Paradise is a place of freedom without pain and suffering. “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Paradise is like King David’s Psalm 23:

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.

He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil; for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.
(Psalm 23).

Paradise on earth begins with acknowledging the Lord is my Shepherd and receiving the reign of Christ. We will no longer be like ignorant sheep without a shepherd. Let us all follow the Shepherd of wisdom.

That’s it for today. I hope you find this message illuminating as much as I enjoy receiving it from the Head Office. Until we meet again, keep your light shining brighter and broader, and harvest the fruit of profound freedom and happiness.


Bye now!

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