When I asked Mandy what she wanted me to write about, she was very precise and specific by replying: “…death/resurrection of Jesus….thoughts from the Gospels and their depictions…nothing really specific, just leaving that up to you.” Well, these thoughts are definitely the later.
This year, as we are approaching the Easter season, I have been gripped by a stark reality; more than I ever have before. The reality that Easter is more than a celebration of what Jesus has done, but that it is about an entirely supernatural God- breathed reality that has become available for us to step into while stepping out of our own- His kingdom for ours. I’ve also been gripped by the reality that even though His Kingdom is accessible for us today, we ( yes, the corporate ‘we’ of faith) tend to chose to settle for the celebration of events instead of an abandoned ‘diving in’ to the wonders of Christ’s Kingdom.
This tension isn’t unique to us today, but has been the tension ever since Jesus walked among us. It’s in John’s Gospel that we see a vulnerable window into this tension. From the very onset of his Gospel, John frames his purpose for writing with the words:
“…The Life-Light was the real thing: Every person entering Life He brings into Light. He was in the world, the world was there through Him, and yet the world didn’t even notice. He came to his own people, but they didn’t want him. But whoever did want him, who believed he was who he claimed and would do what he said, He made to be their true selves, their child-of-God selves.” ~ John 1:9-12
It was in the final days before Jesus sacrificed Himself on the Cross that this tension came to a climax. On the day that we today celebrate as ‘Palm Sunday’, hoards of people were falling over each other trying to even get a glimpse of Jesus. They had become His biggest fans! Over the previous months they had heard stories of Jesus offering forgiveness to those that society rejected , physical healing to others who had been crippled and infirmed for most of their lives, and most recently gave new life to a dead man who had already been decaying!
This tangible experience and witness to the reality of Christ’s Kingdom should have been enough to win everyone over. The actual result however, was quite opposite. Jesus’ very own disciple became disillusioned, the knowledgable and committed religious crowd became so exasperated that they made a pact to have Jesus killed at any cost, and the majority of all those who had once trampled each other to even get near Jesus were no where to be seen.
Why? Because of what His kingdom asked of them. It wasn’t a lack of desire for what Jesus’ Kingdom offered- everyone wanted what Jesus promised. The tension and rejection was because of what it meant to receive and follow. For Judas, a trusted disciple of Jesus, the command to give everything away threatened Judas’ desire for wealth [ for the corporate ‘we’ of faith that hits close to home]. For the committed religious they were convinced that their true enemy was society, and that the best solution was political influence and lobbying [yikes! a lot closer to home]. For the remainder of those that day, they wanted to experience all of who Jesus was but didn’t want to surrender their life to do so [yup, that covers the rest of the ‘we’]
- John 4:9-26
- John 5: 1-14
- John 11:11-43
- John 12:4-6
In short, the Kingdom of God is accessible to us today…right now! I don’t think the tension today is a lack of desire to experience and live it. I believe the tension is what it asks of us. There are many of Jesus’ words that are quoted at length for their value and impact, but I think the words Jesus spoke in John 12 are some of the most relevant and God- ordained for us today:
“Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.
“If any of you wants to serve me, then follow me. Then you’ll be where I am, ready to serve at a moment’s notice. The Father will honour and reward anyone who serves me.” ~John 12: 24-26
If we are willing to be vulnerable, we would agree that we love to celebrate and experience Christ’s Kingdom, but we chaffe under the words of burying our plans for His, investing all of what we have and who we are in ministry to others, and putting aside our personal purpose for the life of a dedicated servant of Christ. We have certainly made the effort to create a compromise where celebration and affirmation of Christ is enough, but in doing so we find ourselves still longing and hungering for what we desire most- a walking, living, breathing existence of experiencing the wonder and reality of Christ’s Kingdom in His presence.
If I were Rick Mercer, at this moment I would probably walk through an urban corridor while ranting something like…
I’m tired of Christian’s relying more on a political party than Jesus. I’m tired of the Christian church aligning with values of fear, exclusion, and wealth rather than mercy, forgiveness, and sacrifice. I’m tired of people marketing church and ‘launching churches’ like a ‘Good life ‘ membership or like introducing the newest flavour of Doritos….
I won’t do that. Instead, as my mouth is dry from the thirst of longing for the taste of abundant life, and as my stomach rumbles and aches in hunger for the fullness of Christ’s presence in my life, I want to do more than celebrate, but receive and follow. In vulnerability I need to be honest and ask myself : “ If I’m not following God then who am I following? Am I building my kingdom or Christ’s? Am I investing all of me for all of Christ?”
As one of the ‘we’ of faith, will you ask yourself the same?
Christ offers us a new reality. It’s one where we obediently commit to serving and loving others, be willing to sacrifice our comfort to be a light in dark places at all times, and to absolutely trust the power and sovereignty of Christ and His will at all times. When we do so, we move from being a crowd of fans to a community of Faithful. Those “… made to be their true selves, their child-of-God selves.”
Jonathan has ministered as a pastor, Counsellor, chaplain, and missions advocate for the past 25 years. He loves laughing with his family, playing his guitar, and rugby on the pitch. Jonathan is currently pastor of The Pier Church, Police Chaplain, SE Asia director of BIC Canada Global, and author of ‘ When God Is Silent’.