Jesus, priest and king

The following is my second column, published in the March 3, 2014 issue of Mennonite World Review. It’s based on Psalm 110:1-4, Acts 2:22-24, 29-32, and Revelation 5:6-13

I remember the first time I experienced the dark underbelly of democratic process.

I was sitting near the back of a Junior High classroom with several of my friends, and at some point my friends started flicking spitballs across the room.
The teacher put an end to it within minutes; but he had a very limited picture of reality. He didn’t know who exactly was responsible, he just knew they were sitting in our corner of the room.

I could have told him exactly who was involved, and I could have truthfully said I wasn’t part of it.

But I didn’t, because I didn’t want to come across as a teacher’s pet, or a goody two shoes.

That’s when he turned to the democratic process to establish the truth of the situation.

He told us that one person had to stay after class and pick up every piece of paper that had been thrown, and left it up to us to decide who it would be.

I think he assumed we would assign the punishment to the most guilty party.

However, my so-called ‘friends’ chose me. I had to stay after class to pick up their mess, while they walked away with immunity. I was framed.

The democratic process has definite strengths.

Establishing truth is not one of them.

All four of the scriptures this week take issue with our ideas of democracy.

The Psalm celebrates the coronation of a Priest-King; a divinely appointed ruler enthroned in honor, upheld and protected by the right hand of God. Established in the line of Melchizedek, the people would look to this chosen one to usher in a new era of prosperity.

Likewise, the text in Revelation speaks of a coronation of sorts. An awe-inspiring king is seated on the throne, but no one is found worthy to take the scroll from His right hand…there is weeping for this fact.

But then our attention is drawn to Lamb who was slain, the only one worthy to accept this scroll. The four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fall before the worthy one, each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

And they sing a new song, it says.

For this lamb has formed a people, ransoming saints from every tribe and language and people and nation. As in the Psalm, hope hinges, not on the democratic process but rather on the sacrificial love of the only one worthy to approach the throne.

He was not elected; he was crucified.

The disturbing truth of the matter is that bitter weeping is an appropriate response before him.

In between these bookend stories of divine majesty, in the readings from Acts, Peter offers a very similar picture to all those with ears to hear.

In Jesus, the Christ, he says, the Messiah, the Priest-King in the line of Melchizedek, the hope to which the Hebrew Bible pointed is fulfilled. The picture of hope painted in Revelation is fulfilled. The Davidic line is no longer needed to sit upon the throne, because the royal line itself has been fulfilled in the life, the death, and the resurrection of this Jesus.

Therefore the past and the future to which we belong as the people of God hangs on the person of Jesus. He is not our president. He is our Priest and our King.
Too often we treat Jesus as if all he did was clean up the mess we made so we could walk away scott-free from the junior high classroom we inhabit together.

Could it be, it’s time to grow up? What might that look like in your church? In your life?

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