Imagine if Jesus did not go to the cross, but instead overruled the Roman Empire in Judea in the 1st Century.
His rule would last for as long as his earthly body would live, but then the world would resume its chaos just as it had before. Jesus would be replaced with a lesser king, and then a lesser king – until finally the people of God were left with filthy rulers who claimed a special connection with God.
Wait..doesn’t that sound familiar? World history is FULL of leaders of nations who claimed to follow Christ and yet were famous for their bloodshed, odd practices, and injustice.
If Jesus had followed the desires of the people of Judea in the first century, nothing about his mission then would make a difference of substance now.
So what does this Passionate Kingdom of Jesus look like?
Freedom To Serve
The ways in which Jesus lets down and exceeds expectations is dramatic. We know he wasn’t some military leader, but the “Last Supper” scene that is told each year on Maundy Thursday (The Thursday before Easter) is breathtakingly absurd.
The Gospel of Mark tells us that the Last Supper took place on the first day of the season of Passover; on the day in which a lamb was sacrificed for the meal. (Mark 14:12)
This is important because it means that Jesus and his followers, being observant Jews, were meeting together to observe the Passover meal together; a meal with many elements that represented different parts and themes of the Exodus story.
Christ began the meal with an act of service. He washed the feet of his disciples (something usually done by those in lower classes, or servants). He even washed the feet of Judas Iscariot – the one whom he knew would go off to betray him.
His disciples were taken aback by this odd act of service carried out by their leader – they even protested it! But still, Christ cleaned the feet of his disciples as a way of leading them by example to wash the feet of others – to be a servant to others.
Christ did this to show how the members of his Passionate Kingdom should act towards others in this world; to not remain still, or to just judge from afar, but to bend your knees before your fellow human being in need.
Christ was purposeful in his use of symbolism during this Passover meal with his disciples. When Christ says that the wine is his blood, the bread is his body – The symbolism was incredibly powerful.
The bread of Passover was meant to symbolize the Hebrew people’s time in slavery.
The four glasses of wine used at a Passover meal was used to symbolize God’s four expressions of deliverance in Exodus 6:6-7 – “I will bring out, I will Deliver, I will Redeem, I will Take you as my people” (Summary).
And so, here is a possible way of viewing Christ attributing the bread as his body, and the wine as his blood.
When we break the bread, we are to remember that: His crushed body frees us from the slavery and bondage of our sin, the world, and the powers of evil.
When we drink the fruit of the vine, we are to remember that: His blood that was poured out redeems us from our past and marks us as the people of God.
Christ is the continuation and fulfillment of the Exodus account.
He was telling his disciples that He came to free us in a way that Moses couldn’t. It wasn’t political freedom. It was freedom from the nastiest parts of ourselves, freedom from the most abhorrent wrongs committed by those in our world, and freedom from any true power that the powers of evil could have over us.
Instead of a Throne, A Table
When Christ conveys the rich symbolism of the bread and wine in the Last Supper, he does so as a King who is sitting at a table with those who did not meet the standards of the religious leaders of his day. He was sitting with a tax collector, some fishermen, and he even sat with someone who he knew would betray him.
At a time when the Roman Empire was expanding by force and oppression of the “different”, Christ’s Passionate Kingdom was foreshadowed as expanding through the display of love and service to the “least of these”.
Instead of a throne overlooking peasants, Christ chose a table amongst friends to communicate the kind of relationship he seeks to have with his people.
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