Hi everyone. Rob here.
This year at church we have been preaching through Mark’s gospel. It has been fascinating to do this at the same time as the American presidential election race has been running. It has revealed Jesus to be a genius of the highest order! The election has been filled with accusation and name-calling, misogyny, racism, political machinations, lies, deceit, self-protection, self-promotion (and business promotion!) mixed in with the occasional debate about policy which was also filled with ignorance (on one side especially) and willful neglect of climate change, extreme poverty and, at times, Americas own constitution. Jesus also lived in a time of self-serving and self-promoting political sycophants and many wanted him to play the power games of Jerusalem as well. He would have none of it. Here’s what I said on Sunday.
In Jesus’ day going high meant going after status. Being seen to be important was the goal. It validated you as a man. This was a male-only endeavour. Woman were to stay in the background and avoid shaming the men. But Jesus was a different kind of man. As they went up the ladder to the highest rung Jesus went low, renouncing status and reputation. They held no meaning for him. They were obstacles to doing God’s will. If he was to go higher up the ladder how could he reach those on the bottom rung? How could he reach the leper, the prostitute, the Samaritan, the demon-possessed, the sick and the lame? Actually he didn’t just descend to the lowest rung – he undermined the foundations of the ladder. He stepped onto the bottom rung with such force that the whole ladder shook and those on the top felt it the most. Jesus wanted people off the ladder. It went nowhere. God wasn’t waiting for anyone at the top. He wanted to meet them as they stepped off into level ground where leaders and lepers could look each other in the eye and see each other as made in the image of God.
Jesus didn’t embrace the Pharisees or the Priests. He embraced the little children.
Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly, I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it (Mark 10:15).
After seeing a rich young member of the elite struggle to deal with Jesus’ invitation to renounce his wealth and status for the sake of the kingdom, Jesus tells us that “many who are first will be last, and the last first (Mark 10:31).” When James and John asked to have pre-eminent status in Jesus’ reign, thus provoking storms of jealousy among the other disciples who hoped for the same thing, Jesus said this:
…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:43-45).
Kingdom reality tells us that it is those who are willing to renounce ego and status that find their true home and vocation in Christ. It is the mustard seeds and yeast of this world who will have the final say and it is the meek who will inherit the earth. It is those who love their enemy, their neighbour and their God wholeheartedly who will rule in the kingdom come.
Don’t let the election get you down! Vote as responsibly as you can, but know that the best thing you can do for this world and your country is to give yourself over to Christ, dying and rising with him and letting his love overflow to your neighbour, no matter their race, creed or political persuasion. It is Christ who is king. It is his kingdom that will last forever and it is his people who will reign in his name, for his glory, for ever.
Grace and peace.