Eugene Cho

What would we do if we only had one week to live? Jesus borrowed a donkey, washed dirty feet, and got crucified.

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Imagine if you had only one week to live, or one month, or one year. Seriously, take a few minutes to imagine the emotional roller coaster.

Imagine if you knew that you were going to only live until you were 33 years old and that your death would come in the most horrific manner imaginable.

As some may know, “Palm Sunday” marks the beginning of Passion Week – the final week of Jesus’ life on earth. As we engage in Passion Week, it’s important to take some time to reflect on the life of Jesus and in particularly, his final week. Some may make the mistake of thinking or assuming that since Jesus was fully God, he didn’t experience human anguish. But Jesus wasn’t just fully God, he chose to be fully human. He was God who assumed humanity. He took upon himself flesh and bone. And in and through this…Jesus understood the fullness of our human condition. Jesus understood hunger, thirst, temptations, anguish, the pain of human betrayal, sadness.  During the final week of Jesus’ life, we see a glimpse of his humanity as he anguished in prayer at Gethsemane.

Before we try to jump to the celebration of His resurrection, we need to take the time to walk with Christ during the last week of his life.

So as I reflect upon the final week of Jesus’ life, it’s only natural for me to ponder what I would do if I knew I only had one week to live.

Don’t we all have what we call a “bucket list?” 

…Stuff that we want to do before experience our physical death?

I do. I have both a mental list and a list of some stuff I’ve started compiling in my notebook. Here’s at least 5 things I’d like to do if I have a week (or month) to live:

Family.

I want to enjoy some quality time with my wife, children, and parents.

I know. I know. It’s a given. And some may assume a very obligatory answer. But…a great meal with my family would be high on my priority.

Preach one final time at Quest.

I planted  Quest Church in 2001 and still have the privilege of being the senior pastor here. If I had one week to live…I’d love to give one more sermon and while I currently preach a good solid hour on any given Sunday, I’d preach for a really really really long time and won’t care if I get any dirty looks from parents. It’s gonna be long. Real long. And then a long communion.

And everyone’s gonna like it.

Fly to my dream destinations.

I’d love to travel to a few places I’ve always wanted to go but have yet to: New Zealand, Australia, Italy, Peru, Morocco, etc.

Okay…there’s just too many places and such limited time.  I’m not sure how I’d be able to go to all of these places so let’s just say anywhere warm, with a beach, and with snorkeling, or para sailing, or sailing, or marlin fishing, or hang gliding, or…

Catch couple futbol games in Europe. Yes. Please. Arsenal vs. Manchester. Real Madrid vs. Barcelona.

Eat really good food

…so I’ll want to go to Olive Garden. Okay. I’m just kidding.

I’d love to fly to Japan and eat at a sushi restaurant called Sukiyabashi Jiro where it is owned and run by Japanese chef, Jiro Ono – considered by many to be the greatest sushi chef in the world. Supposedly, you have to make reservations up to a year in advance and pay up front $368 for a fixed menu of 20 pieces of sushi. Some may have seen a documentary entitled Jiro Dreams of Sushi precisely about this master chef.

Yes, I want to eat here if I had only one week to live. $368 for sushi? I. don’t. care.

I want to drive a fast car.

I’m not a really big car buff. Okay, every now and then, I’ll look at car magazines but I don’t know much about engines, v-12 liters, 26 inch rims, and 500 horses and whatever.

But, let me be honest: If I had one week to live…I’m gonna do it. I already told my wife.

I’m gonna splurge and rent a Ferrari or a Lamborghini or a Bugatti. A red one. Or a black one. Or both. And I’m gonna drive it all around for hours and hours. And then drive some more. All around. Like I don’t really care. And I’m gonna go a little faster than the speed limit. This Ferrari car, LaFerrari,  that goes 0-62 mph in less than 3 seconds and 0-186 mph in 15 seconds sounds good. The 1000 horsepower sounds adequate.

How about Jesus on his final week on earth?

And this is what amazes and compels me.

Yes, he’s Jesus but he also assumed full humanity. But precisely because he’s Jesus, we neglect to speak much of his courage, passion, and radical obedience to the Father.

What did Jesus do during his final week? Not quite a typical bucket list like ours:

  • Jesus chooses to “splurge” on a borrowed donkey (aka ass) and a colt to enter into Jerusalem. Maximum speed: 2 miles per hour. Maybe.
  • Jesus turns tables, lashes his whip, and cleanses out the Temple. Some basic spring cleaning. So much for avoiding conflict and having a restful and peaceful final week.
  • Jesus chooses to wash the feet of his own disciples. And remember that a) feet were extremely dirty, and b) foot washing was the duty of the lowliest of slaves.
  • Jesus eats a meal with his closest friends – a bunch of misfits. And…they’re still arguing and fighting for position.
  • Jesus prays in agony at the Garden of Gethsemane. He prays till he bleeds. Literally. It’s called hematohidrosis.
  • Jesus is betrayed by one of his closer friends…for 30 silver coins. And just in case you can’t connect the dots, he was eating his final meal with Judas – who He knew was going to betray him. And oh, Jesus washed his feet, too.
  • Jesus is captured, beaten, mocked, flogged, whipped, spat upon, and…
  • Jesus is crucified and murdered.

What a final week…

Jesus was human but he was also fully God and in his fully divinity, he chose to assume flesh and bone. He came and dwelt among us. He lived. He showed us the way. He loved. He healed. He taught. He forgave. He rebuked. He loved. And Jesus went to the Cross and died for the sins of the world.

Why do I love and follow Jesus?

Because Jesus was full of courage, passion, and love. 
Because a perfect  Jesus died for an utterly imperfect humanity.
Because Jesus died…and rose again.

Thanks be to God!

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15 Responses

  1. Esther Hah says:

    Thank you for sharing from such an angle, it touched my heart. 2 years ago, I was in the situation of being just before death (my oncologist surely expected it as I found out recently!) and I did not have the mental ability to think what I would like to do, I was too weak to breathe properly. But noticing the horrendous pain in my dearest husband’s heart through his eyes was the most painful thing I ever experienced. I was longing to die soon in order to spare my beloved the pain of seeing me suffer so much. God has spared my life, Hallelujah! – Ever since I am convinced that we should give greater thought to Jesus suffering in his HEART. As he noticed his loved ones suffer because of witnessing him in such agony, Jesus heart much have been haemorrhaging with pain. I believe that his heart was bleeding as much as his body… esther

  2. Sejin says:

    AH! So great to see the differences of what I would also consider my final week and Jesus’s final week. He’s so good!

  3. Thank you for sharing this reflection. When I saw your tweet’s headline, my thought was:

    ‘To continue doing what I try to do everyday; which is, to do God’s will through any big or small opportunities He grants’

    After reading your words, I was left with the thought that Jesus did precisely that. He knew through prayer, what the will of the Father was at every step.

    May this week be filled with profound reflections and deep gratitude.

  4. Bruce Strom says:

    I would also spend time with friends and it would be nice to think one wouldn’t betray me, another deny he knew me and all others run away. I like court rooms and spent a lot of time there as a trial lawyer but never in the middle of the night and never under such unbelievably unjust circumstances. If I could call down fire from heaven, I think that’s what I would do. But not our Savior. He showed us what true love is. They say the true measure of a man is seen when every thing is going wrong. What a measure. What a man. What a Savior.

    Thank you for the reminder.

  5. Janice says:

    Wow. Thank you for this modern perspective.

    What a Savior, indeed!

  6. […] Jesus chose to borrow a donkey, do some “spring cleaning”, wash dirty feet and get cruci…. We have to engage in the the uncomfortable reflections of Good Friday and culminating in the celebration of the Risen Lord. It is truly special. A worthwhile celebration! […]

  7. […] What would you do if you had one week to live?  Eugene Cho shares what he would do and then points us to Jesus who bought a donkey, turned over tabl…. […]

  8. […] What would we do if we only had one week to live? Jesus borrowed a donkey, washed dirty feet, and got crucified. […]

  9. […] Eugene Cho offers a powerful reflection of what he would do, and Jesus did with his last week. […]

  10. Dave Allim says:

    He did His Father’s will. Isn’t that what we should be doing every week? Why do emerging pastors try so hard to be ingenious, unique and profound? Is there drive for significance that huge? Take up your cross daily, Jesus says. He did for us. So we do it daily in gratitude for him. Don’t need a cool reflection to follow His command.

  11. […] Eugene Cho – What would we do if we only had one week to live? […]

  12. Chris says:

    A very enlightening post to everyone on how each one of us could spend our lives on valuable things. Many of us are burdened by not being able to buy and afford luxury products and services when in fact there are people out there who can’t even afford the basics such as food, clothing, and decent shelter.

    Jesus showed a humble example by spending His final week on Earth as an ordinary man. He still chose to serve His people. Not everyone is capable of this sacrificial act. He died even though He was capable of escaping it.

    Persons, especially those who have terminal illnesses question God as to why they have to suffer such fate. They spend their final days putting God’s authority and His plan for them under scrutiny. How about spending our final week asking forgiveness for our sins?

  13. Reblogged this on myfullemptynest and commented:
    More thoughts on Holy Week.

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One Day’s Wages

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People often ask, "How does one stand all that rain in Seattle?" Actually, it doesn't rain that much. I like the rain. Keeps everything "evergreen" and clean. Keeps our air fresh. What's challenging is the gray weather. Give me a few more sunny days. 99 more days to be specific. 
Regardless, still love this city. Checking out Canada in case I need to move up North after the presidential election. Just saying, eh.

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Actually, we want and need this truth for our souls, too. What a privilege. This isn't possible without all those who give, pray, and support the work of @onedayswages. This week, I signed and mailed grants to three partner organizations totaling over $170,000. These grants will empower people by supporting maternal health care, refugee relief efforts, access to clean water, provide education, etc.

Sometimes, the brokenness of the world feel so overwhelming but let's keep running the race with endurance. Let's keep pursuing justice, mercy, and humility. Let's be faithful and may we be spurred on to keep working for God's Kingdom...on earth as it is in heaven.

Again, thank you so much for your support for @onedayswages! My wife, Minhee, and I stand on the shoulders of praying mothers. I'd like to take a moment to honor my mother-in-law. It's hard to put words together to embody her life but she is a very special, anointed person. I'm so blessed to have her as a mother in my life.

She was a devoted wife until she lost her husband to cancer, mother to three daughters, and later became a pastor. She became a follower of Christ as an adult and as such, led her her family to Christ. In her late 50s, she obeyed God's calling to go to seminary and be a leader in the church. She graduated #1 in her class and reminded us that it's never too late to follow a new dream or calling.

As she'll soon celebrate her 80th birthday, I'm especially grateful for the ways that she poured into and prayed over Minhee and her other children.  Even though she's officially retired, I'm inspired that the concept of retirement is not in her vocabulary.  She continues to serve the local church, evangelize and bear witness to Christ, and goes to the early morning prayer meeting at 5am everyday to pray for our family, our church, and for others. 
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Someday, I hope that when my kids speak of Minhee and I...above all, they would say with integrity that their parents prayed for them and kept pointing them to Christ. On this Mother's Day, I want to take a few words to honor mother.

There’s a moment from a few years ago that will stick with me until the day I die. It’s regarding Sung Wha, my mother.

Minhee and I were at a point of transition, between working at an ethnic Korean church in the northern suburbs of Seattle called Lynnwood and launching Quest in urban Seattle. As I shared earlier, I was in desperate need of a job. I had a mortgage to pay. A pregnant wife. A kid at home. 
Then, praise God, after months without work, I finally landed a job.

My mom was in between jobs at this point in her life. She was in her late fifties, but she had such bad knees and degenerative hips that it was, and is, difficult for her to walk. My mom is like a human barometer—when a storm is coming and when it rains, her hips throb. Although my parents lived in San Francisco, she was visiting us in Seattle to encourage us in this difficult season.

As I prepared to go to work one early morning, I walked downstairs to put on my jacket and shoes, and forgot that my mother woke up early every morning to pray. In fact, she had been praying for months that I would find a job. “Eugene, where are you going?” she said when she saw me.

I hadn’t told my mother the news that I had just recently been hired for the janitorial gig at Barnes and Noble. I chose not to because I thought she and my father would be devastated. I didn’t want them to think that after laboring, sacrificing, and doing so much for us over all those years that their son had failed them.

But I couldn’t lie to her, so eventually I told my mom that I got a job and was going to work. “Great! What job? What are you doing?” “Um, I’m working at Barnes and Noble as their custodian,” I said finally.

Without asking another question, my mother got up from the dining table where she had been reading her Bible and praying. She slowly walked slowly toward me.

She approached me, then walked past me without saying a word, and I realized she was headed toward the closet. She opened the closet door, put on her jacket, turned around and said to me (in Korean), “Eugene, let’s go together. I will help you.” This is my mother.

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