First I’d like to give a brief response to Margaret’s question, “Why does it matter so much to us that Jesus is God?”
I think people equate Jesus with God for at least two reasons:
(1) to exert power over others, thus taking as much power (freedom, choice) from others as they can, for whatever purpose they deem worthy; or
(2) to take power away from Jesus, thus reducing Him to God’s errand boy, and absolving themselves of responding to the reality of Jesus’ life and death and resurrection (return) in any meaningful way: “Sure Jesus gave us some good teachings and set a ‘good example’ but, in limited human form (with a few miracles thrown in to get our attention), that was all God could do through him. Nothing to see here – move along.”
Either way, true power is lost. But more on that in Week 5.
As I noted last week, Jesus broke through some of my defenses when I had blocked myself off as completely as I could from God. Years later, Jesus was able to reconcile me to God, revealing a depth of caring (from both of them) that I was unable and unwilling to receive before. Jesus and God were separate entities to me then, and they remain so now. Some days I deal with this better than others (it’s hard to ignore them both, though not impossible). So in my experience, Jesus is not God. Which leads to the question: If Jesus is not God, who is He?
When I was a kid, my idea of a kingdom involved a castle high up on a hill; lots of roaming horses, sheep and other critters; benevolent rulers; wicked forces to be vanquished; and a town full of resourceful girls and boys to help well-trained knights do the vanquishing. I couldn’t have put all those words to it back then, but my imagination could. I lived there, whenever I had the chance, and it was as real to me as the Sonoran Desert all around me. As I grew up, the setting and the adventures of the kingdom simply grew up with me.
So in my own mind and heart, I had a physical kingdom to relate to the first time I read the following words from one of Bruce’s Palm Sunday sermons:
On Palm Sunday, Jesus was through fooling around. He was not going to leave any more doubt in anybody’s mind. Some would accept and some would reject, but Jesus declared His own true identity in no uncertain terms. He came into Jerusalem in regal procession, in the prophetic manner, as the Messiah and Rightful King of Israel. What He was doing was crystal clear to everybody there, whether they loved it or hated it. He was acting like the King. He was claiming to be the King. He was telling all Jerusalem (which at Passover time was all Israel) that Messiah had arrived and it was therefore right, necessary, and essential to proceed with the coronation.
Yes, friends: Gentle Jesus, meek and mild, rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday declaring, “I am the true King, and I want the crown, NOW!” Jesus had closed down all other options. He was ready to take over the leadership of the nation. If the authorities allowed Jesus to keep His stance through Passover, it would happen. Jesus forced the issue. It is important to know that. They had to coronate Him or kill Him. There was no other choice.
Bruce Van Blair, Coronation Day
Of course, we chose to kill Him, so He was not coronated King. But the images and arguments from that sermon helped me to define who Jesus was to me. And one paragraph stood out above all the others:
For most of us, I would assume, the most fascinating dimension to Palm Sunday is wondering what would have happened if Jesus had been coronated instead of killed. What would have happened if everyone in Israel had joined the triumphal procession, crowned Jesus King, and then declared themselves ready, willing, and available to be His loyal subjects? What sort of transformation would have taken place in the affairs of the nation if Jesus had become the undisputed King? I keep hoping somebody will write an imaginative story for us. Start out with chapter nineteen, verse forty-one, and tell the story like it might have been – like it should have happened. “Ten Years After Palm Sunday – A New Nation” you could call it.
Ever since reading those words, I have wanted to write that story. Though it won’t happen in this lifetime, I have settled for trying to live it instead. At best, it’s a very rough draft. Forever, it’s a work in progress. But for me, it is still about a King, and His Kingdom not of this world. Without that, I would still be lost in the desert.