enten Midweek Devotion, April 1, 2020, Matthew 27: 32-56
PRAYER: O Everlasting God, let this mind be in us which was in Christ Jesus; that as he from his loftiness stooped to death on the cross, so we in our lowliness may humble ourselves, believing, obeying, living and dying to the glory of the Father; for the same Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen
When Pilate wrote out that inscription which was attached to the cross, he assumed it was nothing more than an identification of the man’s crime, and the reason why he should be crucified. It was that, but little could he know how accurately he was summarizing the life of Jesus. For Jesus was and is a king in the true sense of the word.
To understand its meaning, we need to think for a moment on why it is that peoples, tribes, nations ask for and need a king. When Israel who had been led by God, out of Egypt and was formed into a people, directly responsible to God, asked for a king, it was in part simply because that’s what every other nation did. But what did having a king mean? It meant that they had someone who represented the entire nation. Someone to whom they would pay a portion of their harvests, their sons and daughters to serve him and thus serve the nation. They paid to the king so that he could lead them, fight their battles, settle their disputes, bring prosperity to the nation. The glory given to the king in some way rained upon them all.
We know only too well the history of kings, queens, presidents and leaders. It is an awesome responsibility which few handled well, and even the most noble had their faults. The most fundamental fault being when they forgot that they were representatives not just of the people, but of God. They were to govern as God would govern. It is nearly impossible for one human to not let that power go to their heads to serve themselves. So a common trait among kings, is a fierce jealousy of their position, overly sensitive to even the slightest hint of a threat.
So as Matthew tells the story of Jesus, Herod is king, when he is born. But Herod is extremely troubled, when magi from the East come asking where to find a new-born king of Israel, for they had seen his star arise. The entire capital is disturbed and innocent children are slaughtered because of a king’s narcisstic jealousy.
But terms like kings and kingdoms, are ways the people understand reign and governance, so Jesus’ teaching is frequently making comparisons. “The kingdom of heaven is like…” “So it will be in the kingdom.” Not surprisingly his followers thought of it in terms of the immediate situation, so that the mother of two disciples asks for positions of power “when he comes into his kingdom.” It could not be helped both Jesus’ friends and enemies thought in the same way. A clash was inevitable, a deciding battle had to be fought.
As the inscription is placed on the cross of this man, and as he does nothing to prove to his accusers anything different than that he was an imposter, it would seem that they have won, he has been proven false. But then the sky turns dark, the earth quakes, and strange events like the curtain in their most holy place is ripped, the dead come to life, and those crucifying him to be more than a king. Is there more to this story, than the sad all- too-familiar story of earthly kings? Is this one the true king? We will continue this story.