Friday, May 6, 2011

Why Jesus wept the second time

In the short-term Sunday school class our church held for Lent, I learned that those palm branches on Palm Sunday were actually a symbol of political freedom/rebellion, and that whole Hosanna thing was a cry to be saved by a king from political affliction.

No wonder Jesus cried.  He was there to save them from something much bigger than subservience to Rome, but that's not what they wanted.  And sometimes it seems like that's not what the church in the U.S. wants, either.

Jesus came to forgive us our debts, but nowadays we often seem more interested in asking Jesus to save us from debt.  We want Him to make us healthy and wealthy.  We want Him to grant us good fortune in business and better church attendance numbers.  We want Him to keep pain and conflict away from us and our children.  We want Him to make us comfortable. He wants to make us holy.  Rather incompatible desires.

Sometimes I wonder if we still think we're living in the Old Covenant, the one where obedience = physical blessing.  We think that prosperity and comfort is a sign that we are doing the right thing.  It's not.  By that standard, Jesus definitely didn't seem to be doing the right thing.  It's a good thing he brought a new covenant.  The Old Covenant didn't work out too well for God's people in terms of overall comfort, either.  Thank the Lord we live under the New Covenant.  I could never keep the law well enough to earn blessing under the Old Covenant, but it has been made available to me eternally through the gracious and terrible sacrifice of Christ who calls us to be like Him.

Personal comfort is not what He came to save us for.  It's not what He's called us to.  If people who call themselves "Christians" but pursue lives of ease and comfort and seem just as interested in worldly success as the world, how are they followers of Christ?  When the church lets the world define success for us, we fail.  God wants to give His children things that are much more than the American dream.  Why are we so eager to settle for less?

Laura Story has a new song called "Blessings."  She asks some good questions in it; it deserves an attentive listen.  (If you know anything about her life, you will find that she is testifying from personal experience.)  "You love us way to much to give us lesser things," she says.  The easy way of comfort is not the way we are called toward.  We are called to something greater.

The biblical Jesus never promised us comfort.  In fact, He called us to take up our crosses and follow Him. (He went on to unfair torture and death [and resurrection]).  He called us to love and to give and to serve and to sacrifice.  He called us to a life of persecution and disfavor.  He called us to be crazy as far as the world is concerned.  He did not call us to be happy.  He did not call us to charmed lives where nothing ever goes wrong.  This is not how He shows His favor under the New Covenant.  Prosperity is not how people can tell to whom we belong.

If you're getting too comfortable, maybe it's time to rethink, reread, and do some serious praying.  Which is what I'm doing right now.  Care to join me?

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