Camera Angles on Jesus
The most unexpected political story of the past year is also the most important theological story. Many evangelicals have embraced Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. The crack-up of this block reveals how political camera angles on Jesus have distorted our faith.
We couldn’t have a better set-up for Holy Week.
Holy Week commemorates Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem, his death, and his resurrection. The mass frenzy around Jesus during that week disguised many contradictory agendas that ignored his actual mission.
Most people in Israel saw Jesus from a political angle. Crowds had long wanted to make him king as a way of kicking out the Romans. By contrast, the Jewish leaders did not want Jesus’s popularity to destabilize their position with Rome.
The leaders themselves were split, having very different reasons for opposing Jesus. One party wanted to snuff out belief in the resurrection of the dead, fearing his miracles. The other party wanted to preserve ethnic purity, fearing Jesus’s appeal to Gentiles.
Then there was Rome. The governor in Jerusalem defended the unquestioned sovereignty of Caesar.
All of these factions agreed that killing Jesus would save their agendas. Thus his crucifixion was a feat of multi-ethnic political cooperation.
When he entered Jerusalem, Jesus told the crowds that he had come to die — to be “lifted up,” as he put it. Jesus intended to give himself to death for everyone’s sins. Almost no one understood what he said at the time.
The reality is that most people choose their political angle over Jesus’s mission. His death doesn’t fit within our frame for him. Political posturing is safe for sin: the problem is always the other side. Jesus’s death is not safe for sin: I am the problem.
When evangelicals make convoluted arguments for supporting Trump, or pretend that Jesus was really a socialist because he loved the poor, they are snapping whatever photo of him will justify their agenda for power, capturing their favorite moments of Jesus on parade, but excluding the end of his road: the cross.
The most important theological story of the year is that many evangelicals refuse to see Jesus as he is. But this story could end with repentance instead of folly. This Holy Week, we could drop our cameras and witness the Jesus who died and rose again, not to save our agendas but to save us from ourselves.