I don’t always pay attention to how long I preach, but sometimes I take note. When I finished Sunday’s message, the clock at the back said 11:45 a.m. I didn’t note my beginning time, so the length could be due to something else (late beginning of service, longer than usual Greeting, long Lord’s Supper, etc.). Anyway, I generally try not to preach too long.
Which is why I didn’t end up talking about this. However, if there were such thing as a “Director’s cut” or a “deleted scenes” feature for my messages, I would have given you this illustration.
You’ll recall that Sunday I talked about Jesus’ “triumphal” entry into Jerusalem, and how it actually wasn’t all that triumphal. Rather than enter Jerusalem on a war steed with a legion of angels following close behind, he enters Jerusalem on a donkey. Matthew says it’s to fulfill the scripture in Zech. 9:9 that describes Israel’s king coming to her “gentle and riding on a donkey.”
Jesus could have chosen the way of force. He could have compelled Jerusalem, Rome, and “all the kingdoms of the earth” to bow before him. Perhaps this would have been a quicker solution. Satan tempts him with this option at the onset of his ministry. Instead Jesus chooses the way of humility and service. He wins people over, not through compulsion, but by serving them (healing them, washing their feet, feeding them) and then inviting them to follow him. This is a more difficult way to win people over, but it is more reflective of the character of God.
Had I the time, I would have directed your attention to the story of Darth Vader. (If you’re not a Star Wars geek like me, just indulge me for a second.) For many of us who grew up in the 70’s and 80’s, the Star Wars movies were a borderline obsession. So when the last installment of the original trilogy, Return of the Jedi, was released in 1983, a nearly 20 year wait ensued for Episodes I-III.
Since we knew how the story ended, what could possibly manage to keep us interested for all of those years? One of those things was the story of Vader. How was this monster created? How did one of the great archetypal villains of cinema come to be? How was he transformed from a cute (if also a little annoying) kid in Episode I, to the sociopathic, mass-murdering, half-robot of Episode IV?
Turns out it’s the same thing that Satan used to tempt Jesus. Anakin is drawn to the dark side of the force because he wants to save the people he loves, first his mother, then his wife Padme and their unborn child. He has a dream that tells him Padme will die in childbirth. (He assumes that means the child will die, too.) So when Anakin’s tempter arrives in the form of Chancellor Palpatine, he succumbs. Palpatine tells him that there have been other Dark Lord’s who were able defy death. The promise of being able to save his wife and child is enough to draw Anakin over.
As Episode III draws to a close, it’s clear that Anakin believes that the end justifies the means. Of course, the darkness is too great, and Anakin is not powerful enough to save his wife or himself from the evil that consumes him.
All of Jesus’ acts, including his not-so-triumphal entry, show that he chose the riskier, more difficult path. Rather than make a deal with the devil, he sought to conquer the world through love and service. Obviously, it’s taking a longer time, but the outcome is so much better.
At this point I could go on about how this might influence our behavior—the way we treat our friends and neighbors or how we address our spouses, children and parents. But my time is up. The “blog clock” is way past 11:45. What do you think? What does it look like to change the world through love and service rather than force?