[This is an article I wrote for our local newspaper here, which was published this week.]
In a time of great political turmoil, when there are huge divides in the political fabric of our society, is it a provocation to say that Jesus died as a political criminal? That it was because of the fearfulness of the political “Tru-s” of his day that he died? That his death on the cross was due to the political claims that he made for himself? And that his resurrection from the dead was proof that those claims were legitimate?
On Palm Sunday, falling this year on April 9th, Christians remember Jesus riding on a donkey into the city of Jerusalem – then, as now, a treacherous political hotbed. As Jesus rode along, the crowds proclaimed him to be the king who comes in the name of the Lord. The Jewish political elite were horrified at such a claim – they knew if the Romans caught wind of it, it could be the ruin of them all. Jesus, however, encouraged the crowd, and did not try to stop them.
When Jesus was arrested and tried, it was for political crimes against the Roman state. They said he had claimed to be the King of the Jews, and that was an extremely dangerous thing in those days. There were many Jewish rebels around, and it was worried that Jesus might be the match that set everything aflame.
Certainly Jesus’ claims made it clear that he had political ambitions. He said a whole new kingdom had come; he argued that the empire’s rule over peoples’ lives was not absolute; he claimed an allegiance over the people which the state could not allow to go unchallenged. In short, when Christians say that “Jesus is Lord,” they are defying the political system of the day – both then and now.
Easter Sunday is that day when Christians remember and celebrate Jesus being raised from the dead. For God to bring him to life was a vindication of everything he said and taught about himself. To be sure, the kingdom of God is actually not political in a worldly sense. While it is as real as real can be, it is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
But the presence of God’s kingdom does mean that Christians do not owe their first allegiance to the “Tru-s” of the world. They have come to believe and follow the one who said that he was “the Truth.” Because Jesus is truly Lord, we know he is able to forgive us, bless us with new life, and allow us to walk with peace and joy even in a time of injustice, violence, and incivility.
The divine power that brought him back from the dead is now available to change people from the inside out – this is truly good news for people like me who desperately needed that second chance. So we say to all who will listen, that if you declare that “Jesus is Lord,” and believe that God has raised him from the dead, then you will be saved. This is our Easter faith.