The Messiah and ‘The System’

Welcome to Holy Week.

This week Jesus will move from a man with a message to the Messiah for us all. There have been glimpses in Jesus’ life of who he is. This week will fulfill the mission and place him as our hope.

As we talked about yesterday at First Methodist Houston, Jesus lived in a culture caught between systems on the verge on devouring one another. Among other truths:

  • a Roman Empire occupied Jerusalem and Judea.
  • a priestly class in Jerusalem was corrupt.
  • the average Hebrew family sent 70-80 percent of their earnings to taxes.
  • Jewish Zealots plotted rebellion.
  • Jewish law insisted Hebrews and non-Hebrews have little to do with one another.

Into this mix stepped Jesus, who crossed every boundary and interacted with everyone. His message was one of seeing beyond the system someone represented to the person God created and was calling her or him to be.

Take Zaccaeus – tax collector, Roman sympathizer, ethically questionable – Luke 19
The woman caught in adultery – poor, dirty, victimized, whore – John 7
Roman Centurion – oppressor, militant, part of the machine – Matthew 8

If you do nothing else today, spend a moment praying around that aspect of Jesus.

Jerusalem and the surrounding cities were ready to explode, and to echo Jim Fleming and not to diminish Jesus in any way, when Jesus says ‘the day will come when the stones will not stand upon each other’ (Luke 21:6) referring to the massive stones forming the foundation of the Temple it is not hard to see the writing on the wall. Jerusalem was primed to blow.

Then Jesus enters with a sharp message which cuts in the completely opposite direction.

The greatest of you must be the least of these – Matthew 23:11
If you have two coats, give one away – Luke 3:11
Blessed are the merciful – Matthew 5:7

See the difference? To a world racing towards a cliff and in danger of throwing itself off, Jesus offered a different way and as the events of this week play out it was a way those in power rejected.

As you and I move through this week maybe spend a moment thinking of the systems we use to label people.

MAGA, conservative, America first.
New Green Deal, female, activist.
Millennial, entitled, anti-institution.

The same temptation to see the system and not the person exists in our day, and Jesus likes it no better today than he did in his own. Holy Week is a time to pause and realize if we have dehumanized the other – stop. The words Jesus uses are those of the servant, and they are words that will come from his lips this week as they did every other.

We are called to speak the same.

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