Clash of Kingdoms

Like me, the crowds on the first Palm Sunday wanted Christ customized or Christ civilized, but like me, they needed Christ crucified.

They wanted a customized Christ. The word “customize” first started being used in the 1930s in America (surprise!). To customize means “to make something to a customer’s specifications.” They wanted a Christ and a King who would serve their consumer wants and wishes. Me too.

They wanted a civilized Christ. The word “civilize” means to ‘citify’ someone, to bring them out of a barbaric, backwoods state and to refine, educate, and enlighten them, to “suburbanize” them. They wanted a Christ and a King who fit their norms and wouldn’t cramp their style.  Jesus was too wild and they wanted Him tamed.  Me too.

This was a classic case of a clash of kingdoms.

“The king has come for his kingdom and has issued a clear and direct challenge to the reigning structures of political, economic, and religious power.  The drama can only end in one of two ways.  Either Jesus will topple the reigning powers and establish his messianic kingdom — or he will be killed.” (Justin Taylor and Andreas Kostenberger, page 44).

In his convicting book A Quest for More, Paul Tripp describes the clash of kingdoms this way . . .

We are all kingdom builders. The issue is whose kingdom are we building?

Let me take you back to the garden one more time. In that devious conversation with Eve, the Serpent was selling her a “better” kingdom. In this kingdom she would be the one on the throne. This kingdom would be about her will and her way. What Satan said he was offering Eve was something bigger and better, but what he really offered her was much less and infinitely smaller. Ever since that fateful day, human life and history has been shaped by kingdoms in conflict.

The little kingdom wars with the big kingdom, the kingdom of this world wars with the kingdom of heaven, and the kingdom of man wars with the kingdom of God. This war goes on behind every human intention, decision, thought, word, desire, and deed. Everything everyone ever does is done in pursuit of the success of one of these kingdoms. This war is unceasing and inescapable because it is fought on the turf of each of our hearts.”

It’s the same ol’ clash of kingdoms we saw in the throne room of Heaven when “that ancient serpent, the devil” led a coup against Almighty God and got himself kicked out of God’s presence.

It’s the same clash of kingdoms we saw in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve decided that living as God’s Kingdom of Priests wasn’t good enough, so they rebelled “Um, listen God, thanks for all this cool stuff you’ve given me, but why can’t I have THAT one!”

It’s the same clash of kingdoms we saw in the wilderness after God saved His people out of slavery. While Moses was on the mountain receiving instructions from God, the people were at the foot of the mountain, frustrated that he was taking so long, so they worshipped a golden calf they had just made with their own hands, saying, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” “Hurry up, God, or we’ll take our business elsewhere!”

It’s the same clash of kingdoms we saw in the Promised Land when Israel rejected God as their King and demanded He give them a human king, a handsome warrior-king like the other nations had. “Why won’t you let US have a king, God?  Everyone else has one!”

And here we are again, the King has finally come, the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, but they’re NOT the kind of King and Kingdom the people were expecting.

“The multitude waved palm-branches in token of rejoicing and of triumph. Now at last victory (prosperity, “salvation,” conceived along earthly lines) seemed assured, for if this Jesus was able to raise from the dead a man who had been in the tomb four days, where were the limits to his power? Under such a leader one could even shake off the yoke of the Romans! . . . at that time palm-branches were considered to be an emblem not only of rejoicing but also of victory and prosperity . . . Or, we might say, combining the two concepts, “The waving of the palm-branch was the manifestation of the joy of victory, of the feeling: everything is going to be better from now on.”  (William Hendriksen, Baker NT Commentary: John)

And I’m afraid that is exactly what I believed for many years after I became a disciple of Jesus.  I had “accepted Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior” but apparently I believed that meant He would be my personal-IZED Lord and Savior, a customized Christ, a civilized Savior . . . a ME-ssiah who put ME first.

So, you can understand why, can’t you, when Jesus didn’t meet my expectations . . . when He doesn’t do what I want when I want it . . . when instead He gives me not what I want but what I need . . . you can see why I would start posting those nasty rants on His Facebook page, can’t you?

Tomorrow: “Not What I Want, But I What I Needed”

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