We in Montana know something about being occupied by a foreign government. We are a conservative Republican state with a Democrat governor. Oh sure he pretends he’s from Montana and has our best interest at heart. But confiscatory taxes keep rising, and freedoms keep shrinking. The reality is that he is stuck between following orders from Rome, um, I mean Washington, and trying to still maintain favor with the people. It seems that there are daily reminders as life continues to grow worse and worse, that we are not truly free. Large bureaucracies thousands of miles away tell us what we can do with our land, our children and even our churches. We have seen deliverers before. There was Reagan only a few decades ago, who rescued us from Jimmy Herod Carter. But soon the tyranny returned under another name. If only someone would come and rescue us. And so was the situation at the time Jesus walked this earth. The Herods, ruled like the Clintons and the list of mysterious dead enemies was about the same length. Unlike the Obama’s, Herod would never tell your kids what to eat, or which doctor you could see. In the recent election many people put their hope in Republican, politicians. Oh, “Steve Daines, random business man, with no personality, tepid faith and an unremarkable record, is the Messiah!” I think I heard them chant.
Added to this the Jewish people, were only a people because they were united by a promise. A promise of a Messiah, who would rescue them from bondage. Who would come and destroy the unfaithful, those outside the family of God. Their Ronald Reagan was Judas Maccabees (Ironic that another Judas would be forever remembered as the betrayer.). He had thrown off the Selucid rulers, and won the right to freely practice temple worship, for the nation of Israel. It is for this temple rededication, that the eight candles of Hanukkah burn (Again, ironic that Jesus destroyed that temple when he returned again in 70A.D.). Judas had done his great work only about 200 years prior. Which is similar to how we remember the exploits of George Washington. Well unless we went to Government school, in which case we remember some Indian tribe that the Indians, I mean, native people don’t even remember, when they–native.
Then John the Baptist bursts on the scene. Followed shortly by Jesus. He seemed to fit all the qualifications for the Messiah, and then some. I was struck by the phrase in Mark 7:37 ”He has done all things well; he even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”. . .”let’s bag him.” This is the guy let’s make him king. John 6:14,15 “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world!” Let’s send this guy to Washington he will fix everything. ”This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.” As Barack the Obama might say. Politics these days have extended a little beyond everyday needs, as some insane politicians promise to stop global warming and bring back extinct species from the dead. Yet Jesus had something better in mind. He was going to not only conquer Herod and the Roman Empire, he was here to conquer death. Man’s final enemy. ”O death, where is your sting?” And no this is not accomplished by sequestering CO2 emissions or colonizing Mars, it’s done by dying.
Repeatedly Jesus told people, whom he had healed, not to tell anyone, because the mob was waiting at almost any time to seize him and make him king. This was the political reality. In reading through Mark you can’t help but notice the repeated statement. They weren’t allowed to tell the story, because they didn’t know the whole story. They just knew about magnanimous healings, or provided food. And that part of the story they misunderstood, they only saw the perfect earthly, political savior. But the story continued, this Messiah, went to Jerusalem, like a conquering king. The people cheered, this was their savior. And then he was killed. What a downer. Everyone fled, even his disciples. What the heck is going on? This can’t be right, and we get to follow Peter as he misunderstands it too. What a contrast, after just proclaiming Jesus as the Christ, he proves he doesn’t know what the Christ was to be. Jesus rebukes him “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the plan of God, but on the plan of men.(Mark 8:33)” This guy was the savior of the world. ”Truly this man was the Son of God.” It took a Gentile soldier to say it. He died all right, but then he rose from the dead. He appeared to hundreds of people, it was beyond a doubt. The story was now complete, and so Mark tells it. He dramatically ends his gospel of the lion, no longer with, “don’t tell anyone” but with “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.”
You have to make sure you tell the whole story. Jesus tells people to consider the cost, before you decide to follow him. You don’t just latch on to the healing or the free food, it’s not about receiving. It’s about giving, giving your entire life. He who would gain his life must lose it. Do you want to enter the Kingdom and take your place beside your King? Then you must live selflessly. And so the early Church did just that. They cared for one another, and the poor, and the widows, and the sick. And they conquered Rome. Then they conquered the world. Yet somehow we forget all this and put our faith in politicians. We like having important things happen miles away, then we don’t have any responsibility, yet we can still complain all the time. ”It’s not my fault, I voted for the other guy.” But it is our fault, especially the Church. We are the light of the world. We should know how this works.
We haven’t been living selflessly. We climb over each other like rats trying to get as much as we can. Then when one of the rats gets to the top we send him to Washington as if that is going to fix anything. We throw away children when it is convenient. We feed our pleasures, sexual, culinary, monetary, influential, and then wonder why God does not bless our nation. We are worse off than the people who didn’t know better. II Peter 2:21. We must fall on our faces and repent, and go a different way, the way of self sacrifice. Leaders are not the ones who scramble to the top by riding the wave of State surplus, and mediocre tech money to notoriety. Leaders are the ones who would rather do something else but are called upon to do their duty, to serve. The ideal king in Scripture is the one who sacrifices for his people. He is not a dictator. He is Jesus.