Above his head they placed the written charge against him: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS.
Matthew 27: 37
High on my list of things for which I am thankful is the Bible and in particular the incredible people who recorded for us their experiences, their insights, their understandings and their passions about our Creator God. Each story is different just as each individual was different, but they all point us to the wondrous truth that is God.
Matthew was keen to have us see Jesus as the powerful leader of the Church: God’s people active, caring and loving as they too told the story of God in their lives. Like Luke, Matthew begins his account with the birth of Jesus. Matthew’s famous nativity focus was on the visitation of the Wisemen. They sought information from Herod, the ruler of Palestine at the time. Herod was terrified that a new king would supplant him, so he ordered one of the most gruesome of murders, the killing of all the young boys in the area. We know that Jesus escaped, but Matthew opened up for us a decades long conflict that would see Jesus pitted against those in authority all of his life. On his death, the charge assigned was ‘being a King’. In the end Herod did find his quarry. It was a different Herod that ordered Jesus’ death and he put the blame on the Jewish leaders, but both were representative of the authority figures of all societies: government and spiritual. Of course not all people in authority are evil or opposed to God’s love, but Matthew never lets us forget that Jesus opposed all the injustice he saw in his society and continues, through us, to oppose injustice in our own.
One aspect of this story that has always bugged me was how the simple Roman soldiers knew to put up a sign referring to Jesus as King of Jews. They likely had very little to do with the Jewish community, but rumour and gossip probably led them to see Jesus as a suspicious character. Calling him the King of the Jews was a slur. In the larger picture of Christianity one thing to focus on is how other people see us and perceive what we stand for as it can have dramatic consequences. For people who speak of love we must make sure the nature of our words and actions represent to those around us the highest ideals of God’s love for creation.
Prayer: We who worship Jesus as King know that not everyone sees Him that way. God help us to be the kind of people who live out our beliefs so that we might be the light that leads others to a way of justice and peace. While our passage today ended with death please give us the courage to continue beyond it to a place of hope: for resurrection and new life.
Action: Look for God in the policies and practises of government and church. If you don’t see any evidence of God then challenge those authorities in ways available to you.