Where would you look for a powerful king? In a castle? On a boat? On a throne, dressed in dreadful splendor and wearing a crown of mighty splendor? Where would you look for your king? Would it be in a place of crying? Would you find him on a hill of pain and suffering; on a tree of agony and death? Where would you look for and find your king?
I have to admit that I was surprised when I realized where the Gospel was going to take us this week. Good Friday seems like it was so long ago and yet here is it in all of its brutal reality. The people who wanted him dead stand there now and observe the pain and suffering that has been inflicted. They acknowledge, however tacitly, that he is the king or more likely that he pretended to be the king and they challenge him to be great and terrible one last time. “He has saved others. Let him now save himself” some of the onlookers scoffed! Most of the crowd watched in silence as they stood by and did nothing. They leave that awful place beating their breasts and wonder, “Oh God, what have we done?” everyone including his own followers believe that this is the end of it all. All the hopes and dreams of the future are nailed to that terrifying tree with its victim. We haven’t fully realized yet that god in his Christ is on a mission and that this mission cannot be deterred, diverted or stopped by us. We can ridicule it. We can refuse to participate in it. But we cannot and will not stop the mission of God in Christ.
And as we stand there on that ugly little hill outside the city looking up we only begin to realize that our secret is out: that we aren’t the people that God wanted and created us to be. That we have become in a real sense the very opposite of what we were intended to be. In this king and in this little realm this is how God is going to draw us in and bring us back to him and to ourselves. Our hope does not live within ourselves except that it comes from acknowledging the mercy that only the king can provide. From his mercy he gives us grace and in that grace we find the peace he provides. And in know the king’s peace we find that hope and that life which is so freely offered. Those who live in denial, find it easier to stand there and mock the savagery we have inflicted while we fail to recognize the brutality we have become.
So as we stand there in the lowly, blood stained realm of our king… which will you choose? Will you go with him or will you stay behind with the mob? Your king makes this demand of you in this moment, “Are you coming or are you staying? It’s up to you. This is not a democracy. I am your king. Do you love me or do you reject me. Are you coming or not?” there will always be moments to be powerful – at least by human standards – and there will be moments to be impressive or to look intelligent. These are all fleeting, mere shadows of things.
I welcome you to the throne. This is our king. Are you coming or are you going? You decide.