Will The Real Messiah Please Stand Up?
Jesus Isn’t Who We Thought He Was
“Some things change. Basically they stay the same.” — Dave Matthews
I couldn’t get this powerful lyric out of my head as I attended Palm Sunday services at our church. For anyone who doesn’t know the history of Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, I’ll give you some quick background.
After 3 years of witnessing Jesus heal the sick, raise the dead, feed the hungry and completely turn the establishment upside down with his talks, the people had finally reached the conclusion this was The Messiah they had been looking for.
As Jesus and his friends rolled into Jerusalem to experience the Passover celebration (an entirely different story altogether), the people decided to welcome Him in style.
“Hosanna, Hosanna” they cried and waved palm branches as Jesus, riding on a colt, entered Jerusalem. “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” Surely this was the man that had come to rescue the Israelites from their oppressors. Surely, He had come to overthrow the Roman government. Surely, they’d soon be free. It was truly an entrance reserved for a King.
What a Difference a Week Makes
Less than 7 days later, the same crowd who welcomed Jesus as their King were screaming “Crucify Him! Crucify Him,” electing to free the convicted criminal Barabbas instead.
It seems Jesus, despite feeding over 5,000 people with just 5 dinner rolls and 2 fish didn’t quite live up to expectations. Sure for the first time in history a man with the awful disease of leprosy was healed simply by having Jesus touch him, but that was months ago. Supposedly, Jesus had raised his friend Lazarus from the dead but who is to say he was actually dead? Did they perform an autopsy? Maybe he was simply in a coma.
The people were no longer concerned with all the previous “signs and wonders.” They wanted a king. They wanted someone to come in power, overthrow the government and make Israel free again. Jesus, who failed to even defend himself when questioned by the authorities certainly wasn’t the messiah they thought he was. Sorry Jesus. I guess we were wrong. Thanks for the bread though.
Hindsight is 20/20
It’s easy as a 21st century follower of Christ to look back in history and shake my head in bewilderment at the foolishness of the Israelites. I mean, how can you miss Jesus? I mean a dove literally landed on His head as God verbally said, “This is my son!” But even if you missed that, all of the prophesies pointed to a guy just like Jesus. From Bethlehem? Check. Family tree of David? Check. This Jesus fulfilled everything you were looking for…but yet you missed him. How does that happen?
Funny how 2000 years can teach you a lesson or two. But then again, has anything really changed? It’s not that the Israelites missed Jesus, it’s just that He wasn’t exactly what they wanted. They wanted a new king. When Jesus failed to deliver, they moved on. Sure, history has shown Jesus had bigger plans than just some earthly kingdom, but are we really that different?
Jesus For President!
In the United States, we vote for a new President every 4 years. With 24 hours news becoming commonplace, it now seems like candidates begin their campaigns just days after the previous president is elected. Day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year we hear the campaign slogans and speeches of potential candidates.
As evangelicals we strongly voice our opinion on who should be president. Certainly a liberal democrat is out. Pro-Life but big government…no thanks. We search and search for the candidate who is most like Jesus. Certainly someone who carries our same values, our same mindset, our same belief will “save” our country and return it to it’s Christian roots.
Unfortunately, in an effort to keep a “Christian” country, we’ve missed Christ. We’ve forgotten the Jesus in the Bible had every chance to overthrow a government. He could have spoken one word and returned Israel to the glory days of David. With one simple action, He could have instantly sat on the thrown of an earthly kingdom. But He had other plans. Bigger plans.
By no means am I saying the value system and morality of our President isn’t important. As always, we should pray for the hearts and minds of our leaders. But much like the Israelites, when our candidate doesn’t seem to make the changes we want, we move on. Certainly the next guy will be the “one.”
Marketing a “Messiah”
Politics isn’t the only place we look for our savior. Far from it. In fact, if our search was limited to just the political world, it probably wouldn’t be such as wild goose chase.
The fitness industry continually tells us our messiah is in a certain number on the scale, size of a dress or a great body. (Although I must admit Jesus has an impressive set of abs in most paintings). In the financial world it’s the number of zero’s in our bank account, the corner office and retirement portfolio that gains our trust. In an education setting the more letters behind our name and certificates on the wall will surely fulfill us.
Advertisers have mastered messiah marketing and we continually swallow it hook, line a sinker. Unfortunately, no matter how much we take the bait, we are still hungry for more.
More Than Enough
Getting in great shape, growing wealth and continuing our education are great plans and goals. Each of these things can lead to “success” as some would define it. But often times the worst day in a person’s life is the day they’ve reached their goal. They’ve gotten the body, made the money, gotten the office and obtained the degree. But something inside them is still lacking. Their messiah has failed. Now what?
Remember the story I mentioned earlier where Jesus fed over 5000 people? Something interesting happened that few people talk about. Sure it was pretty cool all those people got something to eat, but they didn’t just receive one fish stick and half a piece of bread. The story tells us they ate until they were “full”. On top of that the disciples then proceeded to pick up 12 baskets of leftovers. There was more than enough for everyone.
I’m sure at that point, those lucky enough to be at the first recorded all you can eat buffet realized something we’d all benefit from. The Messiah we are looking for doesn’t come in the form of a profit, a possession or a position. No, our fulfillment is a person and His name is Jesus.
2000 years ago, the people made a decision to trade Jesus for something else. In 2016, we do the same thing everyday. Somewhere along the line we began to believe this Jesus was good enough to save us from our sins and give us eternal life in heaven but yet has no power in our everyday life.
Our financial problems, our health issues, our job search, our love life are things that Jesus just can’t touch. Its these areas that are up to us to solve. After all, Jesus took care of the afterlife, we need to handle the here and now. But when we do get all these things lined up… we will be happy… finally.
But Jesus tells us something different. He didn’t just come for us to enjoy the afterlife but the present life… starting now. He came to help us find fulfillment in death AND life.
That’s the Messiah I’ve been looking for. The One who not only has the answer to my questions but IS the answer Himself. I continually look for fulfillment in money, in possessions, in purpose and career. But Jesus says “I’m the bread of life. I’m the light of the world. I’m the way.” Unlike all of the other messiahs I’ve sought and often found, Jesus has never left me lacking.
They Don’t Know What They Do
I’d like to think If I was alive in Bible times I’d have followed Jesus to the cross. I’d like to think I’d be more like John and less like Peter. But in reality, I’ve proven to myself time and again that I’d trade Jesus for the next magic pill or shiny object that promises to complete my life.
Thankfully, when it lets me down Jesus stands there with His arms open, welcoming me back and loving me all the more.
One of the final phrases Jesus spoke on the cross was asking the Heavenly Father to “forgive them because they don’t know what they are doing.” I used to think that line applied to those who traded in Jesus for their next messiah, but now I know He was speaking to me as I continually do the same thing.
Today, in my heart, I grabbed a palm branch and yelled “Hosanna! Hosanna!” Some time this week my actions will probably scream “Crucify Him! Crucify Him” But although my heart is fickle, I know Jesus stays the same, yesterday, today and forever. The real Messiah has stood up. His name is Jesus.