Monday, 10 April 2017

Threat Level High!

It is always a great thrill to visit one of the great cities of the world and to immerse yourself in its life even for a short time.  Sadly the shadow of terrorism has fallen over many.  Paris, London, Moscow and now Stockholm have all suffered and the ‘threat level’, the possibility of further terrorist action remains high.  The police and other security agencies are preparing for the worst. 

It may seem a big leap of imagination to make a connection between these modern cities and the ancient city of Jerusalem in the first century.  But there was one particular time of the year when the Roman invaders prepared for the worst.  This was in the season of Passover when the people of Israel celebrated their liberation from slavery in Egypt under their great leader Moses. By some estimates the population of Jerusalem quadrupled as Jews from all over the Ancient Near East gathered in their holy city for this special season.  It was a time when resentment against the Romans was at its highest and nationalistic feelings ran high.  

Add to this the appearance of a preacher from Nazareth who some people were claiming was the Messiah, the promised King of Israel, who would lead his people from oppression and establish them as the supreme power in the world.   His entry into the city was greeted by cheering and the waving of palm branches.  For the Romans the ‘threat level’ went up a notch or two. 

But then a strange thing happened.  This preacher made no denunciations against the Romans.  If there was any finger-pointing on that day or on following days it was towards his own people.  He wept over Jerusalem and called it ‘the city that killed the prophets’.  He entered the Temple, the nerve centre of Jewish spirituality, and called it ‘a den of robbers’.  He delivered teaching whose emphasis was the judgement that was soon to fall on Israel for her unfaithfulness and the need for repentance.   The message was clear.  Israel’s need was not political but spiritual.  Kick the Romans out of Israel and the nation still had a problem.  She had grown distant from God and needed to return. 

Five days after Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem he died on a cross.  The expectations of his people that he would be their political liberator had not been met.  But Jesus’ followers came to understand that this death made it possible for a deeper liberation to take place.   Jesus himself had said that he would give his life as ‘a ransom for many’.   He would pay the price for the world’s sin and make forgiveness and renewal possible for the whole of humankind.    It is this spiritual revolution, happening in the hearts of men and women, that will lower the ‘threat level’ in our world and bring in the Kingdom of Jesus where compassion, justice and peace rule over all.