We recently were talking with our kids about the story Jesus told as he was nearing Jerusalem before his death. In Luke’s gospel it says that his disciples and the crowds that followed him “supposed that the kingdom of GOD was going to appear immediately”. There was an excitement in the air. The movement was gaining momentum. It was the pinnacle moment when all their dreams seemed like they were coming to fruition. They were about to see the fulfillment of prophecy when Israel would be restored and liberated from the Roman Empire – and Jesus was their man for the job.
It’s in this atmosphere that Jesus pauses before his “triumphal entry” into the city and tells a story of a man in search of a kingdom. He begins by saying:
“…A certain nobleman went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself, and then return. And he called ten of his servants, and gave them ten minas [one hundred days wages], and said to them, ‘Do business with this until I come back. But his citizens hated him, and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.” (Luke 19:12-14)
Jesus goes on to describe the scene when the new king returns and calls his servants into account. Two servants are rewarded for their varying degrees of faithfulness and one servant is demoted for not investing the king’s provisions, which essentially called into question the leader’s character and ability to function as king. The rest of the ten servants are declared enemies and put to death for treason.
If I was Jesus I would have given a much more exciting speech. And I’m not sure anyone had ears to hear what he was saying as they stood with hearts brimming with holy revolution. They probably scratched their heads and asked each other ‘what is he talking about’? The idealism was flowing like strong wine. But Jesus was not drunk on power.
As Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt amidst the excitement of his followers, he had indeed come to unleash GOD’s kingdom but it was an upside-down kingdom where the greatest leaders are as children and those who clamor for power and first rights to resources are sent to the back of the line. The greatest irony is that Jesus didn’t come to overthrow Rome but to disarm the empire that is rooted in our human hearts.
When Jesus allowed himself to be crucified by his enemies – by the religious leaders of his day, by Roman authorities, and all those who were under their influence- he was declaring a new kingdom and a new kingship – one that is only enacted by GOD himself through the laying down of His incarnated life. Jesus’ crucifixion was the ultimate statement to his followers: “my kingdom is not made by men and it must come another way”. In the aftermath the disciples hearts were shattered -the movement was over and their Messiah had been murdered- but as the LORD alone is able, He was preparing for a greater liberation and a restoration that would not just revive Israel but the entire created order. Jesus was not just the ‘King of the Jews’ but he is ‘King of kings’ – the supreme ruling authority who will one day bring about the ‘restoration of all things’.
What kind of citizens of this coming kingdom will we be? In the end will we have said with our lives “we do not want this man to reign over us”? Or will we begin now to be about our king’s business of love and restoration?
(Good Friday reflection from 24-7 Prayer)
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