It’s an election year here in America and this means that there are political adds, political debates, political opinions, and political everything. I’m originally from Iowa and that is where the first caucus takes place, so I would get more than enough politics in a year. I would get to spend a lot of time watching multiple people attempt to convince other people that they should be the next person to assume power in America. I bring this up because it struck me as odd when I was reading an account of Jesus where He literally does the opposite.
When the people saw the sign He had done, they said, “This really is the Prophet who was to come into the world!” Therefore, when Jesus knew that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He withdrew again to the mountain by Himself.
Isn’t that odd? Jesus comes to earth announcing the arrival of the kingdom of God and that He is the awaited Messiah who is to take over the throne of David and rule this kingdom which will know no end. Here He is about to receive all that He had coming to Him (and rightfully so I might add). They were going to make Him king. But when Jesus realizes that they were going to do this He high-stepped it out of there! Why?
Now a lot of people might say because He still had to die for our sins. He couldn’t just be made a king right then and there because He had to endure the cross. I am in total agreement that to be made king right there would go against the plan of God to have Jesus on the cross, yet I think that it goes a little deeper than that. Not only did Jesus need to die on the cross, but Jesus refused to be made king by force because that’s not how Jesus’ kingdom works.
Jesus comes to usher in the rule and reign of God. One of the ways that He accomplishes this is by embodying the kingdom of God in Himself. So look at Jesus and you will see a walking and talking picture of the kingdom in perfect clarity. Nothing Jesus does goes against the way of God, and therefore the way of His kingdom. After all, to see Jesus is to see the Father (John 14:9-11). So what does this refusal of Jesus to be made king by force tell us about God and His kingdom? That the kingdom of God does not operate by seizing power but by giving it up.
This is backwards and upside down to every other human power. From the time Cain killed Abel (Genesis 4:1-16) human nature has assumed influence by power over others. Jesus enters into human history and establishes a kingdom that works counter to this concept. He comes to establish a power that is rooted in service under. He comes to gain control by giving up power, not by grabbing for it. This is madness! 1 Corinthians 1:22-25 says that the Jews stumble over the idea of a crucified king and that the Greeks see the idea of a self-giving God as foolishness, but those who are being saved see that this act is God’s power and wisdom.
The words and actions of Jesus are saturated with this truth. Jesus says, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and their men of high positions exercise power over them. But it must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be a slave to all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45 emphasis added)
In John 18:36, Jesus says that His kingdom doesn’t work the way that this world’s kingdom does. If it did work the same way then His disciples would fight so He wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews, but “as it is, His kingdom doesn’t have its origin here.” Jesus stays faithful to the non-violent nature of the kingdom even to the point of being handed over to die an unfair death.
Colossians 2:15 says that Jesus “disarmed the rulers and authorities and disgraced them publicly; He triumphed over them through the cross.” Jesus disgraces the system which is capable of crucifying the God incarnate. Our system of power over and scapegoating has been disarmed and shown to be broken by revealing its capability of committing such a horrible act. God exposes the evil of the kingdom of this world while simultaneously ushering in a new reign of self-giving love.
This is preciseley why Jesus refuses to be made king by force the way the people wanted. Jesus refused to do anything less than full participation in the way of life prescribed by God. To assume power as the people wanted would be stepping in line with the already sin-tainted system. We needed someone willing to be obedient to the point of death (Philippians 2:8). We needed someone to save us from our sin. Not just our personal wrong doings, but from a whole corrupt human society. We needed a way out of the cycle of violence and power grabbing. We needed a new model. We needed a new way of life that is offered to us in the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth.
He is the one who invites us into participation with the kingdom of God, over which He is Lord. He came to drive out the ruler of this world (John 12:30-33) by allowing it to have it’s way with Him. If the rulers of the age understood this they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory (1 Corinthians 2:8)
Jesus becomes a new kind of king by refusing to be the king that the people wanted, instead He submits Himself to embodying the kingdom of God by dying on behalf of the ungodly. In doing so He becomes the king that we need.
So in the midst of the political struggle for power take time to reflect on the one true king. The one who came into power by giving it up. He is the way, the truth, and the life. I pray we can come to grow into the self-giving nature of the kingdom that this world is so desperate for.
Peace be with you.
Image by jason train via flickr