Sunday, March 29, 2015

Jesus' Most Political Day

Last week marked the beginning of the official 2016 presidential campaign season as Senator Ted Cruz announced his candidacy for POTUS. But Cruz didn't merely announce his run for the highest office in the land; he did so at Liberty University. Conventional wisdom suggests it would have been more prudent for Senator Cruz to have picked some place a bit more neutral, a bit more middle-of-the-road conservative. Sure, there's a primary to be won and a base to be energized, but even religious commentators are questioning the senator's decision, arguing that the religious right wing of the GOP has all but been dismantled.

While I understand the desire to unhitch Jesus from right-leaning (or even left-leaning) political causes, I believe we do ourselves a great disservice when we imagine a politically neutral King of Kings.

Today is Palm Sunday. It's the day when we celebrate Jesus' arrival in Jerusalem for the Passover celebration, the week that led to His crucifixion and resurrection. On this day nearly 2,000 years ago, men, women, and children tossed palm branches in Jesus' path and shouted "Hosanna!" which means "Salvation!" or "Liberty!" Jesus, for His part, rode atop a donkey's colt. He did this in fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9, which says:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Jesus' entry into Jerusalem on the foal of a donkey was a declaration that He was the king Israel had been waiting for. And while Jesus reigns in the hearts of all who trust in Him for their salvation, it is impossible to deny the political statement Jesus made that first Palm Sunday. The very next verse of Zechariah tells us what kind of king Jesus would be:

[H]e shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.

Palm Sunday leaves us with a choice: Will we submit to Jesus' rule or will we continue to rebel against His authority? And that's where it gets political. Since Jesus has claimed dominion over everyone and everything, we are not free to push Him out of our political decisions. Here in America, we enjoy the right of a type of limited self-government. Since we get to vote, we get a voice in who our leaders will be and in what direction we'd like our nation to head. And Jesus gets to tell us who to vote for. After all, He is King over everything—including our political choices.

Ted Cruz announced His candidacy for president at Liberty University. I'm sure, to some extent, this was a calculated move to try and reconstitute the coalition of conservatives who swept Ronald Reagan, and later George W. Bush, into power. But I believe it may also be something more than that.

Liberty, whether or not you agree entirely with its theological and political convictions (I certainly have a few reservations), has built into its mission the goal of "develop[ing] Christ-centered men and women with the values, knowledge, and skills essential for impacting tomorrow's world." In other words, Liberty wants to fill the world with leaders who will yield their authority and influence to Christ. It's a way of living out Christ's reign across the world, but especially across our nation.

Such a goal sounds radical, but maybe that's only because we've grown accustomed to faith that never leaves the pews, to convictions that stay firmly embedded in our hearts and nowhere else, and to a never-ending political debate in which a Jesus of our own making is used to champion our causes. Maybe it's time to simply yield to our King. Otherwise, we're in danger of becoming the "Hosanna!"-shouting crowds—those people who were eager to crown Jesus king if it meant that He would fulfill their dreams but who turned on Him just five days later when it seemed Jesus would not be the enemy of Caesar they had hoped for.

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