Saturday, 21 August 2010

Behold your king

Just over 2 1/2 years ago, I began teaching through Mark's gospel in the Kijiji slum in Nairobi. Then we moved to Eldoret, and I began again from the start of the book, preaching on Sunday mornings when it was my "turn".

We've now reached chapter 11, where Jesus at last enters Jerusalem, the end of a long road - openly showing and declaring himself (and having the people declare him) to be the promised Messiah, come now to bring salvation to God's people, riding the donkey of prophecy (Zechariah 9:9). It feels like we've been travelling with him for those years as the disciples did - watching, listening and learning. The repeated teachings about the true nature of the Messiah's kingdom and what real Christ-honouring service means - in contrast to what the natural expectation of blind, fallen man is - has made a deep impression on me and I hope on my hearers, which I pray will bear lasting fruit for us all.

Two interesting things I learnt - firstly, riding a donkey does not in itself signify poverty or self-abasement; Solomon was set on a donkey when he inherited the kingdom from his father David (1 Kings 1:33); in fact, all the king's sons did (2 Samuel 13:29). Secondly, the popular idea (I read it in John Wesley's notes) that the same crowd that shouted out "Hosanna" later shouted out "crucify him!" is nothing more than a speculation, and an unlikely one on the face of it - the gospels tell us that those who welcomed Jesus as the Messiah were those who came up to Jerusalem with him; those who shouted "crucify him!" a few days later were the allies of the rulers in Jerusalem.

Now that we've reached this great moment, it's quite thrilling. For a long time, Jesus was content - actually deliberately chose - to remain away from open controversy and centres where premature attention would be drawn to him. But now, as the true king of Israel and of the covenant, and now that the planned time had arrived to ratify that covenant with his blood, he mounted the king's donkey and deliberately presented himself to the capital of Israel, God's chosen city, as the one for whom they had been waiting. The rulers complained and then schemed when Messianic praise was given to him - but the "nobodies" who had been waiting long for this moment rejoiced and could not keep quiet with their shouts of praise as the so-long longed-for King now strolled in to - at last - inaugurate his kingdom. This is especially exciting when you preach to lots of this world's "nobodies".

That kingdom was to be brought in through a painful cross, of which Jesus in those proceeding times had spoken often, though with so little understanding even from his nearest. But understand it or not, the kingdom had arrived. That ultimately meant devastating judgment for those who did not want it - but liberty and life now to be freely given to those who were waiting. Which are you? To the unbelieving eye, a carepenter-cum-popular-preaching was riding on a young animal into the city. To the eye that God had opened, the king was about to ascend his throne. Which do you see?

No comments: