Tag Archives: passover

Palm Sunday, Partisan Politics & the Power of the Cross

palm_sunday-jesus_enters_jerusalem_sicily_12thcWe remember it in the church as Palm Sunday. This is the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. It’s the day when Jesus of Nazareth pre-planned a comical, yet prophetic event, in order to fulfill Zechariah’s prophecy of the coming Messiah (Zech 9:9).

Jesus literally acts it out.

It’s no coincidence. At the same time Pilate is parading in on the west side of the Temple to oversee Passover, ready to put a stop to any chaos that might ensue, Jesus decides to ride into Jerusalem on a donkey. He’s not on a war horse wielding a sword, he’s on a donkey. And he’s not packing.

Think about that.

Not quite the entrance folks were expecting from their Messiah.

Nevertheless, the crowds give him a royal welcome. They shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

And all of this to the waving of palm branches, symbolic of Messianic deliverance to the Jews, clearly harkening back to the time the Maccabees threw off Greek rule in Judea. Everyone understands this scene.

This is it. It’s Jesus’ time to prove himself as the long-awaited Messiah, the son of God. Will he go to the Antonio Fortress, where the largest garrison of soldiers are housed in Jerusalem, where Rome kept an eye on things? No doubt, the crowd could quickly turn into a mob and rush the place.

But he doesn’t take a right for the fortress, instead he goes left through the eastern gate, and into the Temple. He goes in, looks around, and according to Mark’s gospel, he leaves and returns the next day for some prophetic theater in the spirit of Jeremiah. We all know what happens next.

He wasn’t “cleansing” the Temple. He was shutting it down.

By the end of the week, Jesus had pretty much peeved everyone off. And early Friday morning Jesus is standing before Pilate saying:

“My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.” John 18:36 NLT

He said his kingdom is not of this world. Wait… what?

What does Jesus mean that his kingdom is not of this world?

Let’s be clear about this.

Jesus doesn’t mean his kingdom isn’t for this world, or that it isn’t to be manifested in this world. He isn’t saying that his kingdom is far away in another dimension where we all walk on clouds with our loved ones singing Amazing Grace for eternity. That sort of kingdom isn’t a threat to Pilate or the Sanhedrin. But too often that’s how we’ve imagined it.

An immaterial, escapist “heavenly kingdom” doesn’t reflect anything Jesus has been living and preaching for three years. No, the kingdom of God is real. You can see it if you’re born from above. You can touch it. It’s definitely subversive.

But it’s nothing like the kingdoms of the world.

“The crucial distinction between the two kingdoms is how they provide antithetical answers to the questions of what power one should trust to change ourselves and others: Do you trust “power over” or “power under”? Do you trust the power of the sword, the power of external force, or do you trust the influential but noncoercive power of Calvary-like love?”
Greg Boyd, The Myth of a Christian Nation (pg.33)

This is the kingdom we’re being invited into: A kingdom that looks like sacrificial, Calvary-like love. It looks like Jesus riding on a donkey. It looks like him hanging on a cross for the sins of the world.

Make no mistake about it. If we’re being faithful to the King and his kingdom, our obedience will inevitably lead to a collision with the kingdoms of the world, those systems which Satan controls (Matt 4:8-9). We need to hear this now more than ever as disciples living within an American empire.

Are we willing to suffer with Jesus and follow him to Golgotha?

As we think back on the discouraged disciples in those final hours, and learn from their despair in the garden with a steadfast Jesus, may we be reminded that this is not the time to fall asleep from the weariness of our trials and tribulations, from our striving to do what is right.

It’s also not the time to be overcome with sorrow because Christendom is crumbling and we feel clueless as to how we live in a world hostile to our message. We shall learn to do what most Christians have done before us.

We mustn’t give into the temptation that Jesus rejected in the wilderness with the evil one–the temptation to trust in the power of the sword and law to fight back. As Paul said, our weapons are not like those of the world (2 Cor 10:4)

So we must be careful that just because we’re not one of “those evangelicals” on one side of the American political aisle, who are certainly an embarrassment, sometimes a mockery, to the name Christ, that this means we are somehow more qualified to use government for Kingdom purposes, or that we’ve actually found the third way of Jesus. Far from it.

Leaving one party and political philosophy for another doesn’t mean we now know how Jesus would vote, even if he would vote.

As an Anabaptist, I’m often asked that: “Do you think Jesus would vote?”

Well, let me say this: If he would, I don’t think he’d tell anyone about it. As petty as it may be for the Lord of the Cosmos, I’d say maybe he would cast his ballot, but then he’d move on about the Father’s business, knowing that participation in the political process is sort of like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. It may allow some folks to make it more swiftly to the lifeboats who don’t want to drown, but the ship is going down.

I don’t say that as a cynic-saint, but instead as a disciple who hears the Lord saying: “My Kingdom is not of this world, if it were, I’d be doing worldly kingdom kind of stuff. Sure, I’ll talk with Pilate. I’ll even call Herod a sly fox. But I’m not doing the power-over, tit-for tat thing. No, I’ll expose the evil and injustice of the system by my good works, but I won’t play Caesar’s game. All those who know me will follow me.”

It’s more apparent to me now than any other time in my own life. It’s time that the church adopt a healthy suspicion of all kingdoms of the world, all parties, and all candidates. If you feel convicted to participate, OK. But don’t be fooled into believing, into trusting, that there is anything uniquely Christian about it. Don’t get your life from that.

Don’t put your hope and trust in any earthly, political savior or slogan.

If you’re a follower of Jesus, you belong to another. Your citizenship—your allegiance—is to a heavenly King and his kingdom (Phil 3:20). Don’t confuse your calling as a kingdom ambassador by mixing the language and concerns of Jesus with partisan politics. Our Lord doesn’t approve.

It’s time to trust in the power of the cross, to pledge our allegiance to the One riding into town on a donkey, the suffering Messiah—vindicated in resurrection because of his faithfulness. It’s time to believe that his Kingdom advances when we stop trying to bring it through worldly kingdom means, and instead see the church as his agents of new creation.

We can do this with a holy confidence that God will renew all things in this way, as slow and foolish as it may seem, because we’re not left alone in that wilderness with the evil one. As it was with Jesus in the desert, and in the Garden of Gethsemane, we have the Spirit to lead us and God’s angels to protect us. We have a Lord who says, “Never will I leave you, nor will I forsake you. I will be with you to the very end of the age.”

As we continue adjusting ourselves to a post-Christendom culture, I want to say to us that now is not the time to be overcome by fear, reaching for control in an angry panic. No, this is the time that we learn what it means to be a faithful presence, to patiently make disciples like Jesus, and wait on the Holy Spirit to move among us. This is the way of the cross.

In the days ahead, I pray we return to, or simply be reminded of, the basic beliefs and practices of our faith, and what it means to be faithful aliens and exiles in a foreign land. Let us live in active obedience to Christ, and not in fearful reaction to the mess around us.

May we stand and pledge our allegiance to our commander and chief–the crucified and risen Christ who rides into his house on a donkey. With him we shall overcome, crushing the head of the serpent with feet fit with readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.

Finally, when your allegiance is tested in the months leading up to the election, as it likely already has been, I want to encourage us to remain faithful to what we have professed in the ordinance of baptism and what we remember every time we share in holy communion: It’s in dying that we live.

Lord, help us say it with our lips and with our lives:

Jesus Christ is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

Come, Lord Jesus. Come.

D.D. Flowers, 2016.


Organic Church Life: The Lord’s Supper

If you haven’t been following the Organic Church Life series, I recommend you start at The Beginning.

I was prompted to write on the Lord’s Supper because of the Easter season, and because of the great need there is for others to have a window into the Lord’s meal experienced in simple community.

The following post is a “play-by-play” account of our fellowship sharing the Lord’s meal together. I pray you are encouraged.

The Gathering 4/8/09

Tonight we met at the Price’s house to share the Lord’s meal together for the first time. We started off talking in the living room and then made our way into the kitchen after everyone had arrived.

We feasted on roast, mashed potatoes, cantaloupe, and mixed veggies. Yum! We spread out at the table and the bar. We were eating and laughing with each other.

Earlier I had stopped by the grocery store to pick up some bread for the Lord’s meal. I mentioned that every time I go through the self-checkout line I have problems. Kerry couldn’t understand how anyone could have problems with it. She said, “you people” are the ones taking so long in the line.

Everyone was having a good time laughing at us. I told her if they didn’t throw up Mission Control at you on the little screen, it would help!

After everyone had finished eating and were just talking, we began to move toward the bread and wine (juice). A few of us men had already discussed the “Lord’s Supper” a day or two before. We recognized that the practice was intended to be a meal, at least part of the meal.

What should this look like? We concluded that it is a meal and that we shouldn’t lock ourselves into any certain way of practicing it. The important thing is that we do indeed share the meal together as an extension of what we are already doing as a family.

Joel grabbed another chair and we made room at the table for everyone to sit down. Grant placed the loaf of bread on the table with the juice and I reached for the cups. I began by mentioning how the Lord told his disciples that he “eagerly desired” to have this meal with them (Lk. 22:15).

Normally this upper room conversation is completely reflected on with emphasis on Judas’ betrayal and Jesus’ talk of his upcoming suffering. He did speak of these things.

However, Jesus was also joyful over his sharing of the meal with those he was closest to in this world. He longed for the intimate fellowship. And he wanted to tell them the real meaning behind the Passover meal.

Jesus did not let anything keep him from this communion with his followers. Not only would the disciples have this event etched in their memories for the rest of their days, they would continue sharing the meal “until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God” (Lk. 22:18)—until they shared it together at the marriage supper of the Lamb.

Grant spoke on the betrothal and marriage ceremony of Jews. He talked about how the cup of wine was given to the bride for her to accept the groom’s proposal.

This cup of destiny is also offered to us, the Bride of Christ.

Jesus offered this cup and still offers this cup to us who belong to him. Our acceptance of this cup is the embrace of a new covenant with God’s people.

This covenant gives us reason to celebrate our hope that we will be joined with Christ in the coming of his Kingdom.

We made mention of the meal’s first purpose and how radical it was for the Lord to reveal its fuller meaning. Can you imagine what these guys must have been thinking to hear Jesus seeming to change/add the symbolism of the Passover meal? They must have recognized that they were witnessing something of great significance, but still a little unsure of its meaning for the future.

What an intimate time of expectation that must have been!

Everyone poured their juice and began to drink as we continued speaking about the blood of Christ and the new covenant in the partaking of the wine.

The conversation naturally shifted to the bread, which the Lord said, “This is my body given for you.” Everyone pinched off a piece of bread from the round loaf in the middle of the table. We continued eating and drinking as we remembered the Lord.

Several of us spoke on how in the past the meal was no meal at all, but a solemn ceremony where believers turn inward only to think about their sin and the death of Jesus instead of moving on to the forgiveness of sin and the resurrection of Christ.

James and Joel both shared about how they once dreaded the practice of communion. It was a burdensome ceremony that left no room for life. We all agreed with one another that the meal was to be a celebratory meal in remembrance of our Lord and the foreshadowing of the Kingdom to come.

Gone are the days of taking the shot glass of grape juice and the Jesus chick-let from the cracker plate while sitting in condemnation being isolated in our pews.

We have been forgiven, the Lord is risen, and now is the time to celebrate!

I mentioned how the Gospels tell us that after the meal they sang a hymn before leaving for the garden where Jesus was arrested. Someone said, “Let’s sing a hymn then.” So we did.

We sang several with our voices only. How sweet it is to hear all the voices and to know we are one in the Spirit of Christ. What a blessing it is to share the Lord’s meal as a family of saints learning about the depths and riches of Christ in simple community.

A few departed when we got up from the table. The rest of us talked for a little while longer in the living room. What a wonderful time we had this evening!

Thank you Lord for your blood of the new covenant, your body that was broken for our sins, and your resurrection that has given us your very own LIFE!

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