Friday, July 4, 2008

What! a servant Lord and a King on a donkey?

The ‘Lordship’ of Christ which Malcolm refers to needs qualification, not that Christ doesn’t deserve this elevated title but because I don’t believe he would ever have used it of himself.

Lord and King are words we’ve chosen to use largely because we cannot easily accept that God in Jesus came to us in servant form. We being so much into power and control can’t cope with this. We seem able to set aside Christ’s own repudiation of such titles and even his entry into Jerusalem on a donkey, being a powerful demonstration of his rejection of kingly symbols of power and triumph. With this prophetic and provocative gesture Jesus turns on its head the prevailing understanding of kingship. He declares it irrelevant and redundant. A radically new way of governance is being introduced.

Jesus was deeply shaped by the Jewish scriptures but notwithstanding that spoke of a whole new understanding of ‘kingship and kingdom’. He spoke many, many times about the coming of the Kingdom of God (over 100 times I believe) in parables and narratives and it was about a new definition based on the coming ‘reign of God’.
He knew all about the role ‘King’ or ‘Emperor’ in the political culture of his day along with all the power and glory that went with the roles. But all this deeply offended Jesus who strongly challenged the exclusive, oppressive and class based rules that are practiced in the earthly rule of kingly power.

Jesus turns his back on power and privilege and intentionally subverts our human constructions of God around such status. It concerns me that so many of our worship choruses carry images of Jesus as King and on a throne high and lifted up, remote from us in power and glory and at God’s right hand. We elevate Christ out of the very world in which He chooses to live. There is something very subtle in all this. Unable to live his radical gospel in the world we project him into another world remote from our human experience and couched in language and images that belong to a past world.

Christ’s understanding and demonstration of God’s coming Kingdom, that is here now - yet always coming, was based on a whole new world order, marked by right relationships of justice, peace, love and liberation. All very different from the elitism, privilege, power and control that is such a part of our systems.


  1. Even though Jesus may not have employed the title "Lord" to speak of Himself, the early church in giving the finger to the Empire and the self-appointed lordship of Caesar certainly did employ the title. Truth be told, the early church stole back the title from the household of the Empire and with it claimed that only Jesus deserved the title of "Lord" (and much more). If you get a chance, take a peak at John Dominac Crossan, God and Empire, or Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis to see how the early church countered, resisted and subverted the Empire with the title of "Jesus is Lord." There is a lot of hope in the title, and the fear I have is that we have missed what it means to commonly confess with our brothers and sisters everywhere "Jesus is our Lord." The lord we bow to today is not Caesar but that of consumerism, individualism, and tribalism.

  2. P.s. I think the early church took the power-ful title of "Lord" and showed within its common confessions and its common practices a new form of power - the power that Jesus Himself had left them.