Monday, April 9, 2012

Long Live the King!

"He is not here.  He is risen!"

Sometimes Easter seems to me more like an Irish wake than the coronation of a King.  I like an Irish wake as much as the next man, unless the next man is the deceased who – frankly – isn’t having as much fun as the rest of us.  But Easter isn’t supposed to be a memorial but the recognition of the unending reign of an undying King.

Scot McKnight, in his book, The King Jesus Gospel, writes, “He raised Jesus back to life to end the dominion of death, to prove that the usurpers would not have the last word, and to show that the descendants could have a whole new (creation) lineage.  To make this altogether clear, Jesus appeared to hosts of the descendants and then he was taken up into the presence of God.”[1]

McKnight argues in his book that we’ve missed the plot.  That we’ve turned the good news about a King who reigns forever into a soteriological gospel where salvation is the “be all end all” of the good news.  The book started from a simple question, “Did Jesus preach the gospel?”  The answer came back many times, “No, until Jesus died there was no gospel.”  McKnight counters that Jesus is the gospel or more specifically, Jesus is the fulfilment of the story of Israel and the Kingdom of God established on earth.  The Resurrection rather than the Crucifixion is the denouement.  The original good news, McKnight says, is the King Jesus gospel.

The amazing part of the story is that Jesus did all of this – disarming, overcoming, establishing and being crowned King eternal, through non-violence.  He didn’t become King by beating them or by joining them.  Miroslav Volf writes, “His kingship does not rest on “fighting” and therefore does not issue in “handing over” people to other powers. The violence of eliminating other contenders for power or holding them in check by treating them as things is not a part of his rule. In a profound sense the kind of rule Jesus advocates cannot be fought for and taken hold of by violence. It is a rule that must be given, conferred…and that will continue as long as one does not try to seize it.”[2]  To win hearts in the Kingdom of God, one must not seize by force but create through self giving love.

There’s a story here that needs repeating.  Whenever we read about the gospel being preached the resurrection is a part of the story.  I agree with McKnight and with Volf, our communities of faith need us to tell a more robust gospel and create a gospel culture that lives with the implications of the resurrection in our now, not just on our Easters.  We need to emphasize that love really is stronger than death, that our citizenship doesn’t belong to any nation now but it belongs to our King, that we are continuing the story of Israel and we can get to the God’s ending because we know where it started, how it came to us and where it’s supposed to go.  The responsibility that falls on us is to tell the story of the Kingdom, the restoration of all things, the recovery of the Imago Dei that is revealed by our lives living out the story of the resurrected Jesus (not the resurrection of Jesus) every moment of our days.  Can we keep choosing love over hate, weakness over strength, the margins over the mainstream, rejection over acceptance, disenfranchisement over political clout, serving over being served, our rights over our opportunities?  The mystery of the Resurrected life is only discovered, like Jesus, in our willingness to lay down our own.

The King was dead.  Long live the King!

[1] Scot McKnight, The King Jesus Gospel, Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 2011, p.151-152.
[2] Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation, Page 267

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