Often when reading the Bible it becomes easy, almost second nature, to place ourselves in the narrative story. And for many of us we do this because we have been taught to. Who hasn’t heard a sermon that told us that we, like David, can slay our giants. Or who among us will choose to use our strength like Sampson. We can have faith, just like Abraham, and be blessed. I could go on, but you get the idea.
Somehow we have taken the Bible and made it a story about the good guys vs the bad guys. And somehow we always imagine that, had we been there, we would have been with the good guys. But for me, I usually fall somewhere else.
In John 19 we find the account of Jesus trial and murder. While reading this account I came across something that somehow I had missed before. Missed or never really cared enough to truly consider. When the crowds are calling for the death of Jesus, they agree with the claim of the chief priests that the only king they had was Caesar. They claimed a king they never truly desired and called out to kill the one that didn’t act like they wanted. Jesus had not been what they wanted Him to be, He didn’t act the way that they wanted Him to act, and He did not talk the way they thought He should talk.
Often we can trace the line between Palm Sunday and Good Friday and wonder how a crowd could have changed in just a week. It was five days between the crowds honoring Christ as the promised Messiah and turning to a mob that cried out for the murder of an innocent man.
But if I am honest, I can see myself in that crowd far too often. For in the beginning Christ made man, He made us in His image and I try to return the favor. I want Christ be to the King that I want. Just like the crowds, I can so often cry out ‘Hosanna’ and turn around in just a matter of days and desire Caesar. I want Jesus to be what I want, do what I want, and say what I want to hear. And when He doesn’t I can try and seek a king who fits the profile.
I would never admit it. I’m not sure any of us would want to. But if we are truly honest, each turn to sin is a declaration that we have no king but Caesar. We want a king that we can trust, or at least one that we can trust what he’ll do. We want a king that will be what we want, even if that’s not what we need. We may not use the name Caesar. It may be money, security, honor, acceptance, escape from loneliness. But no matter the name, it’s the same cry.
We come to Jesus with the expectations of the 'good life' soon to follow. And how many pastors and churches echo that same cry and desire. How many of us have heard those compelling testimonies of how life was bad, then Jesus came, and everything is good now. We seldom here the more honest testimonies of how Jesus came and life was and is still hard. The stories that He who promised to wipe away every tear still hasn't gotten around to doing it yet. The times that, even though Jesus promised to satisfy us, we still hear other things call us by name and feel the want to chase them.
As I was reading the words of the high priest, a man who had waited his whole life for the messiah, bellowing out that he wants no king but Caesar. Something that would have been in direct opposition to all that he had claimed to believe and preached for others to trust. I read his words, and I heard my voice. I heard my voice, echoed through every sin I had committed. I heard my voice through every choice I had made to seek my comfort and joy outside of true King. It was someone else’s words, and it was my voice.
So like everyone else, I so see myself in the biblical narrative. And sometimes I do see myself as David. But I thin I'm more like him when he spoke to Bathsheba, not when he shot at Goliath. I read of Sampson and see myself, not in his strength, but in a shared weakness. I am like Abraham, trying to solve the promises that God gave instead of trusting Him to see them through.
But the story did not stop with the cries for death. Christ heard their cries, my cries, and willingly went to the cross. he could have stopped it, He could have called down an army of angels to avenge His wrongful conviction. But He didn't. Because He's not the King we expected. He didn't do what His followers wanted Him to do, he didn't say what His followers wanted Him to say. He did more. Because He was more. Because He is more.
He came and on the cross he stole our shame, only to give is back an identity as His beloved. He welcomed pain so that He could walk through it with us. He didn't become the King we wanted, because he had come to be a better King.
So this Holy Week, maybe we can be honest about our cries. And in them we can look to Christ. A King that reacts to hate with love, a King who takes shame and gives acceptance. A King that did not call for others to be made low so that He would be greater, but became low so that He could make us great in Him. Through the darkness for our desire for another king, let us look to the King who was more than we deserved. The King that was more than we expected. The true King. The One that willing walked through death so that those who He brought near could share in the life that only He knew of.