“Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to David?”
The Lord’s disciples wondered aloud if He had come to restore the kingdom of David. Jesus was dismayed and said, “Have I been with you so long and you still don’t understand?” The mother of James and John asked the Lord that her two boys might have positions of honor and authority in His new kingdom. She envisioned them sitting on either side of the Lord’s throne. Jesus retorted that she had no idea what she was asking. Pontius Pilate asked if Jesus was a king. He replied, yes, except His kingdom was not of this world. On the day of the Ascension, as Jesus was taken up to heaven, the disciples were still asking, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to David?” They just didn’t get it.
Political passions are running high these days. What else is new. The push and pull of politics is as old as dirt – and at times worth about as much. It isn’t that we can dispense with politics, with earthly governance. All forms of governance are expressions of law. Some forms are better than others, but all have their temporary place in the management of human affairs. Power is at stake, of course. And wherever power is at stake, expect it to bring out the worst in people. Politics has a way of doing that. Look again at the disciples. My suspicion is that all this high-minded talk about the kingdom of David had something to do with political payback, gaining the high ground, sticking it to the Romans. The blatant political self-interest of the mother of James and John was so embarrassingly obvious, Jesus waived it aside with a word.
The Lord had His opportunity, when he stood before the Roman governor, to lay out His politics, His platform, His agenda. The political sensibilities of a Roman politician like Pontius Pilate were tuned to a high pitch. If he had sensed the remotest threat in Jesus it would have been enough to remove Him. But after examining Jesus, a relieved Pilate said, “I find no fault (read, threat) in Him.” He seemed to grasp what the disciples could not.
Jesus did not come to establish an earthly kingdom. You’d never know it, however, when you listen to many Christian voices – on the left and right – who claim to speak for God. Your voice might be in this chorus. While we wait for the new heaven and the new earth we must still live here. But this transitory life, so full of difficulty and conflict, can cause the Christian to lose sight of the goal and we can go astray and be consumed by the passions of politics. So we need to hear again how Jesus responded to these misplaced passions among His own. For that is the caveat.
Do you, Christian, have more passion for the lords of this world than the Lord of the Church?
“May the peace of God keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
We don’t have a hard time recognizing that most first-century Jews clearly missed the Kingdom that was foretold by the prophet Daniel. They were expecting a political king that would establish a worldly kingdom rule and release them from their Roman captors.