Saturday, 22 March 2014

Lent day 16 - when Jesus becomes king

The Lent readings from YouVersion seem to delight in looking at parallel passages, gradually extending the ideas. Repetition can be a good thing if it enhances understanding.

The passage Matthew 24:15-35 is covers material we've seen in Mark about the desolation in the temple, the cursing of the fig tree and so on. Verses 29-31 at first glance seem unavoidably end times in nature, the sort of thing to send the mind racing about when Jesus returns, who the elect are and so on. But a more careful reading brings things back to Earth by taking them to heaven. What do I mean?

The phrase " they will see ‘the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven’ with power and great glory" references Daniel 7. There, the Son of Man (which is a Messianic title) comes on the clouds of heaven to God, and not to Earth. In God's presence, the Son of Man is "given dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed."

So, when Matthew says that his angels would gather the elect, perhaps we are meant to understand angelos (angel) not as spiritual messengers, but human ones, bearing the gospel. Whatever else is meant by the word elect, they are the ones who messengers share the gospel with and accept it.

The other implication is that in Jesus' ascension, he is made king, ruler over the world. Given he is the crucified king (think the sign above his head on the cross), that kingdom is not one of domination (dominion does not necessarily imply that), or of coercion, but one of sacrifice and of service. Jesus is the one who served before being served - and this shapes the character of what service of Jesus looks like: it is not coerced but freely given (once enabled - a large topic for another time), one that is sacrificial service for others. Again as a good friend says, we are to 'love and serve'.

If we think Jesus rules now, then we are to live like that, serving as the king served. This doesn't look like a church militant or church triumphant, but a church serving. How would that affect our posturing and finger pointing, our political lobbying, our protesting, our activism. I can think of some ways it might look like and some ways it should not. Can you?

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