24 April 2014 by Jason Law CM –
Last weekend, 18th– 20th April 2014, Metro Tabernacle held a musical drama entitled ‘The Choice’ to commemorate Easter. It was a profound and effervescent play about the choices we make in lives, especially as pertaining to the message of the cross, filled with dances, songs, drama, and emotion, alongside impressive stage devices like props and sets.
The essence of the story itself was quite simple; it told straightforwardly of a Roman army officer, Marcus’, love for Hannah, a young Jewish girl during the time of Jesus. This meant that they came from very different backgrounds, and there were barriers to their love for each other. Hannah’s came from the heritage of her people, while Marcus’ came from his position in the Roman Empire.
Despite this, they remained steadfast to each other, and Hannah shared stories about Christ to Marcus. Later, he was promoted to be a centurion in Jerusalem and left Hannah to take up his post in the city. They were to be reconnected to each other two years later, in the midst of an event of great magnitude, and Marcus will ultimately make a fateful choice.
The play encompassed many of the episodes in Jesus’ ministry on Earth, such as the Sermon on the Mount, and paid particular focus on the events of the Holy Week, such as the triumphal entry on Palm Sunday, Jesus’ cleansing of the temple, Jesus’ teaching about rendering to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and about the Greatest Commandment, the chief priests’ envy of Jesus, and the Passion of Christ.
Marcus and Hannah were often at the center of these events, and at focal points, were directly involved in them. Jesus healed Hannah’s father of an illness because of Marcus’ faith (adapting the passage in Matthew 8:5-13), and as centurion, he was directly involved in the events of the crucifixion.
The whole crux of the musical drama was about choices. Marcus makes not one, but four choices throughout the drama; one was unfortunate but the other three were good ones:
1. Despite his position as an officer (later, Centurion) who could have his pick of women, Marcus choose to love Hannah, a poor Jewish girl, and mostly stayed faithful to that love.
2. Despite not knowing much about Jesus who came from a foreign background to his, he chooses to search for and place his complete faith in Christ, so that Hannah’s father could be healed.
3. When he was promoted to a centurion in Jerusalem, he makes the unfortunate choice of picking position and power over his love for Hannah.
4. After the Resurrection, Marcus was presented with the choice of either being a refugee for his 'failure of duty' at securing Jesus’ body, or using the Jewish population as a scapegoat. He finally makes the crucial choice of leaving behind his position and possessions in Jerusalem to be a follower of Christ.
Numerous of the other characters made choices as well. When Hannah’s parents tried to persuade her to marry a Jewish man or merchant from their own background, she chose to remain faithful to Marcus, not because of his power, but because of his character. Caiaphas who should have been the moral leader of the Jews chose to set in motion events that led to Jesus’ crucifixion, even seeking out his enemy, Pilate, in the process. Pilate chose to bow to politics despite knowing he was condemning an innocent man. Judas chose to sell his Master for 30 silver coins. Many of the people chose to free Barabbas, a violent insurrectionary, instead of Jesus.
Pr Ong Sek Leang, the senior pastor of Metro Tabernacle, shared that life is a sum of the decisions we make. For the Christian, there is a daily choice we make whether to focus on Christ or to turn away from Him. Jesus Himself showed us the type of choices He wants us to make, and He did not just spout out platitudes, but gave us an example during His time on Earth. He did not force us to accept Him; there is a reason why God gave us free wills. The choices we make help us to grow, train us up in responsibility, and give us an opportunity to respond out of genuine love instead of a mechanical process. Because of His love for us, He gave us free will and chose the difficult road. Pr Ong shared that Metro Tabernacle chose not to show the cross in their drama because it would disturb us all if we could see the cross as it really was. God loves us enough to give us a choice.
As I reflect on the drama and Pr Ong’s message about life and the choices we make, certain thoughts came to my mind. Unlike many of the earthly prophets, Jesus wasn’t concerned with fame or power. As Hannah said, Jesus was different from all of them in a radical way. He did not talk about earthly kingdoms and power, but of a Spiritual Kingdom. Position did not attract Him, but instead divine values like love, charity, and grace. The lives of people and their eternal destiny mattered to Him much, much more than anything else.
The same calling went for His disciples as well. Jesus did not promise that riches will fall from the Heavens once you become a Christian. He made numerous tough calls to Christians about forsaking material goods (Luke 14:33), turning the other cheek (Matthew 5:39: Luke 22:49-51), and while He did not make the call for martyrdom, He made one about being faithful to God even until death (Matthew 16:25). In fact, earlier, He had make it very clear that many of His followers will be hated for His sake (Matthew 10:22).
11 out of 13 (including Matthias: Acts 1:21-26) of Jesus’ disciples died as martyrs, faithful to the end. The disciples had fled during the crucifixion, but something they witnessed on Easter and the next 40 days had changed them profoundly. Even today, in many parts of the world, Christians are persecuted, simply for their faith, but many remain faithful. When a Christian shares the Good News and spread their influence, it is out of love, the highest calling for a Christian (Matthew 22:36-40) and not to set up a worldly empire. Why are so many Christians willing to make such choices?
Grace is free, but it did not come cheap, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a challenging book about the cost of discipleship. The kind of lives we live depends a whole lot on the choices we make towards Christ and God. As a song in ‘The Choice’ states; we choose Christ not because of miracles but because of love, not for Bethlehem but for Calvary, and not for a day but for all eternity.
References for pictures