“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24 NIV)
I love presidential election years. I really do. I’m well aware that even at this early date, most of the country is showing signs of deep election and debate fatigue. But I have to admit, for all of the debates, polls, articles etc., I enjoy it.
It’s not that I’m a political junkie by any means. I like to be informed about what happens in our country and I find it important to look at the trends we see in people’s thoughts so we can best address their lives with the reality of the Gospel. But you have to admit, the entire process says a lot about who we are.
Apparently we are angry. I’ve not quite determined what we are angry about, but we are. And it appears that we are going to vote for the people who are as angry as we are, about the same things and is going to fix whatever it is we are angry about.
Angry about illegal immigration? We have a candidate for that. Angry about immigration reform? We have someone just as angry. Angry at terrorists? Everyone wants to show they are angrier than any other candidate. Angry about job loss? The 1% having more that anyone else? Angry at poverty? Climate issues?
Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you who to vote for, or who I’m voting for, for that matter. Mostly because I can’t for the life of me conceive of a reason why you would care who I vote for, or how that would influence you at all. But I am curious as to why everyone’s so angry.
I don’t think all of the candidates are that angry. Some are, to be sure. Others, I get the sense they are angry because it has touched a nerve with the people and they want to ride that wave. Others have been working hard to let you know you are angry about something, something which you may not have been all that upset about when you got up this morning.
And so they express anger. Anger and vitriol against the other party. Anger at one another. Anger at current or previous administrations. Angry at the rich angry, at the poor, the illegal, the terrorists. And all of them seem to infer if we would simply elect them they will unleash their anger and destroy whatever it is that angers them, or us, or whomever.
I find that at odds with what we in the Christian faith experienced yesterday and will continue to experience and celebrate the rest of this week. Jesus has come into Jerusalem. HIs triumphant entry. Let’s think about that for a moment. Why is it His triumphant entry? because everyone has finally recognized Him? Because Jesus is getting His fair share? After three years of itinerant impoverished ministry it’s about time people praise Him? No. Because Jesus has come to overthrow the powers that be, including the Romans? No, although that’s what everyone expects.
No, this is the Triumphant Entry because Jesus has come to die on the cross. It’s finally here. Foretold for millennia, it comes to this. Jesus, the Son of God, he who is fully human and fully divine will be beaten, whipped, hung on a cross, stabbed and once he is dead, unceremoniously dumped into a grave borrowed from someone else.
It doesn’t look like a triumph in our world. Our world says triumph is about winning. Getting more delegates. Beating down the other person. It’s about being angry and getting your way.
The cross reminds us that God has a different definition of what triumph is. Triumph is not about displaced anger, but unconditional, unmerited love. Triumph is not about getting ones’ way at any cost, but about obedience to God. Triumph is not about getting more, it’s about how much of ourselves we can give away. Triumph is sacrificial.
What the world saw as a waste, unfulfilled promise, became the greatest moment of triumph ever. On the cross, every sin we have ever committed was set upon Jesus shoulders. We have been forgiven because of His willingness to pay the price for us. In HIs death the price was paid, iN his wounds we find the healing of our own scars. Let us not forget the greatest triumph of all, on Easter morning where the power of sin and death were broken by the resurrection of Jesus.
I hope you do vote this year. That’s important. Just don’t lose sight of Jesus’ call to find triumph in His kingdom by taking up our cross and being willing to follow Him.
Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><