Mixing Jesus, Palms, and Politics

It’s Holy Week, the final week of Lent. The last 5 Sundays, we’ve taught our students about different places in life that a faith in Jesus takes us–places that are messy, unfamiliar, and scary. But we’ve also talked about how faith in Jesus means that He provides for us when we’re exhausted, intercedes in those scary places to restore peace in our lives, and provides redemption where it’s so desperately needed.

When I studied for my Palm Sunday lesson, I became really intrigued by the crowds. The crowds were really excited about Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, but why?  As I read Matthew, I realized that the crowd probably didn’t really know who Jesus was. But because a few amped the crowd up, the entire crowd joined in and laid down their coats and palm branches.

It’s kind of like March Madness–I could care less about basketball. But because everyone else is excited, I’m rubbing my winning bracket in everyone’s faces. I’m just counting down the days until baseball.

But those same crowds who were so for Jesus became so against him just a few days later. And why? Again, I think it was because a few energetically swayed the crowd.

It’s more than that, though–the Jewish believed that the savior of the world was to become a King and save the world through politics. The Messiah would end hatred, oppression, suffering, disease, and bring world peace. All the Jews would be gathered back in Israel, and all of humanity would be united as one with universal knowledge of God.

But Jesus wasn’t playing by those rules–he never became King, but told people it was their responsibility to bring the Kingdom of God. He didn’t bring world peace but told people to become the peacemakers. He didn’t bring universal knowledge of God, but brought the Holy Spirit so that they could have a more personal connection with God.

And because he didn’t fit the Jewish concept of Messiah, He was rejected. The Jews wanted to put the Messiah in a pretty political box, and Jesus wouldn’t fit.

Here’s the troubling part–Christians still do this today.

With many of our hot-button issues, including but not limited to Ferguson and Indiana’s “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” we put Jesus into a political box. We say that if Jesus was here today, he would say (fill in the blank). Both sides of the arguments use Scripture and rationalize how Jesus would defend their arguments. They simplify the issue into a definitive political stance from God. And I think that many tend to influence a crowd into believing the same–rallying against one another with God on their side.

And just like the Jews were split, causing to branch into what we call Christianity, we’re doing the same today.

I think that more than anything, the thing Jesus would take a stance on is using God’s name to oppress one another. Jesus had many words to say to the Pharisees for using God’s name to oppress the poor and brokenhearted.  Jesus lived in the trenches with people, helping them grasp a better understanding of God, rather than rallying against them or using God as a weapon. And as he died on the cross, he cried out to God, “Forgive them, because they don’t know what they’re doing…”

Now, I don’t think protesting or standing up against something is wrong. But I do think that saying, “If Jesus was here, he’d be a Republican/Democrat/LGBTQ Activist/Ferguson Rioter/Pro-Life/Anti-Guns/____” is a bold claim. Especially when there is so much going on in the world–where would Jesus actually be? And, does that mean that Jesus doesn’t care about the people who aren’t where he is?

I think it sets us up for disappointment later, when we realize that maybe Jesus doesn’t fit in that box like we hope. Jesus came to save the world in a way that was different than what generations and generations of Jews thought. What a dissapointment…so why do we assume that we have it right?

So I ask that we invite Jesus into these conversations not to defend our side of the argument, but to help us interact with one another in a way that reflects Him.

Because when I finally meet God, I know that he’s going to say to me, “Silly girl, you were so gung-ho about ____, but you were so wrong. But because you saught me above even that, you are so forgiven.”

The Jews killed Jesus because he didn’t fit into a political mold. Let’s not make the same mistake.

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