Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Midweek Grace - Psalm 2

He didn’t look much like a king. He never seemed to carry himself as royalty did. I never saw him command any troops or servants for that matter. In fact he actually seemed to take joy in serving others. He most definitely did not engage in some of the questionable behaviors that other rulers did like cavorting with mistresses. Truth be told it appeared that the most sinful women in town felt comfortable in his presence as if they knew they were completely safe. He also didn’t keep the company of a king. Instead of surrounding himself with the rich and powerful he chose to hang around and befriend peasants like Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. His closest followers weren’t drawn from the religious elite, but from working class folks.

That’s not to say he wasn’t powerful. He did things that no emperor, governor or king ever did. Not even the Pharisees demonstrated the power of the peasant-prophet from Nazareth. There was the time when blind (well he’s not blind anymore) Bartimeus heard him along the road and cried out with all his might to be healed and he was! I’ve heard of people with leprosy cleansed at his touch and of course everybody knows about his close friend Lazarus.

Then there was the teaching. It is said that he held the close attention of multiple thousands for hours simply teaching the way and word of God. His teaching wasn’t like the other religious leaders who are always quoting rabbi this and rabbi that to prove their point. He began his teaching by saying things like ‘truly, truly, I say to you’. It’s as if he was speaking on his own authority that could not be questioned! No doubt the subject of much of his teaching was the kingdom of God, which makes some of his actions so puzzling. I mean he could have easily raised an army of thousands, overran the Roman garrison at Jerusalem and had himself installed as king.
Here was a man who taught on his own authority, stood up to and confounded the Pharisees, healed at will, and demonstrated genuine compassion for people just like us. Yet, when the crowds tried to force him to grab for the throne he refused. For some reason this would be king just didn’t want political power. Doesn’t he know that our main problems are here and now? Isn’t he aware of the humiliation we endure because of the Romans? Does he not see that we’re dealing with real issues in the real world? Yeah the meek might inherit the earth in some pie in the sky future, but I for one am sick of being poor, sick of being oppressed and sick of being ruled by ruthless idiots like Pilate.

But then there was a day like I’ve never seen in Jerusalem. We were hanging in the temple when in the distance we heard the deafening sound of a huge crowd singing and shouting. As we ran out to see what was happening the scene before us was nothing less then breathtaking. It appears like hundreds if not thousands of people were walking while spreading cloaks and palm branches and shouting ‘Hosanna’ at the top of their lungs. I’ve experienced some wonderful things in my life. I recall the look in my wife’s eyes when we were first married and the joy I felt in my heart at the birth of our first child. But I’d never seen or felt anything like this. This… this was from God. Our women had the look of hope on their faces and even our little children were filled with praise. And our men… our men finally walked with their heads held high not fearing the religious elite or the Romans. In the middle of the scene there he was, the man who would be king. But unlike other times when he walked right among the crowds (remember I said he didn’t act like regular kings) he actually rode on a donkey! This was too strange. Here he was, the peasant-prophet of Galilee riding from the Mount of Olives straight into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey with people singing and shouting before and behind him saying ’Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest! It was if he set out to intentionally fulfill the prophecy written in Zechariah. (see Zech. 9:9) We could almost taste the kingdom being restored to Judah.

None of this was lost on our religious leaders. They heard and saw what was happening and immediately confronted him for misleading our precious children. ‘Do you hear what they’re saying’ they demanded of him! He most certainly did and still most certainly accepted their worship! I thought surely he is the Son of David, the king of Israel. But then the week went on and our would be king lost. It seems he got into the religious leaders faces and corrupt business one too many times. One of his closest followers betrayed him and after a corrupt trial in a kangaroo court he was beaten, led up to Golgotha and crucified. The faces of our women that were filled with hope were now covered in grief, our children whose mouths shouted praises were strangely silent and our men who just last week walked with dignity once more bowed our heads in anger frustration and bitterness. Once more we all felt the brunt of Roman brutality as one of our own felt the sting of their barbarity.

I was thinking of these things when sitting in synagogue one day waiting for worship to start. Yes, I too heard the rumors about him ‘rising from the dead‘ but the only thing rising up around here are Roman taxes I mused. The service began and proceeded to the sacred reading and that’s when it happened. The attendant gave the scroll to the reader who began with the psalms. When he arrived at the portion that read,
"As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill." I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, "You are my Son; today I have begotten you. (see psalm 2:6-7)

something happened to me. It was if all the things I’d seen and heard about him suddenly fell into place. He is the king spoken of in the psalms, the one the leaders conspired to kill. He is the king who Zechariah spoke about. The reading came to an end with the passage that declares
‘Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.’ (see Psalm 2:12)

There was no time to explain. I told my wife and children (yes all six of them) to get up. We were leaving. Yes, I was causing a small disturbance but that didn’t matter. I took hold of their hands and began to walk ( I was later told that I broke out into a run) to the area where his followers gathered daily for teaching, prayer and fellowship. I saw one of his closest disciples, ran up and falling on my knees with tears streaming from my face looked into his eyes not knowing how to articulate the truth that burned in my soul. The man looked at me with a mixture of joy and compassion and then taking me by the hand bid me to stand up and said ‘rise friend, we bow before no one save God’s last prophet, our great high priest and the eternal King. . . Jesus the Christ.

To Him Who Loves Us…
Pastor Lance

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