When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”
But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
The Teacher says, My time is near; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’
Jesus is Lord. These three words are at the core of the Christian confession and hope. These three words have fueled a religion that has spanned 2000 years and will continue until the day the New Jerusalem comes down to the earth and we will direct reside in the light of God, being able to move beyond the religion we have just as we the early Jewish Christians were no longer bound to Torah now that God had drawn near in Christ and through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus is Lord. Beyond this simple phrase in the New Testament, however, lies something quite profound: a resistance to Roman power. However, it wasn’t a resistance to the rule of Roman power, as the Apostle Paul recognizes a qualified place for political government when it acts in a morally surpassing way in Romans 13. Rather, “Jesus is Lord” was a resistance to the way people understood power. Nothing about the stories of Jesus exude anything we typically associated with power, kingship, and rule from an earthly frame of reference, but yet it was His resurrection that demonstrated he was God’s Son. So, to say Jesus is Lord is not to say “Jesus is the real King and Caesar is not.” Whatever criticisms Paul would have of the Roman Caesar, “Jesus is Lord” was not the statement of an anti-imperial agenda. Rather, it was a way of redefining the nature of God’s power and rule over the world that can be seen when one knows the story of Christ. God and Jesus did not rule over the world like Caesar did. Knowing who Jesus is, we can know that God’s Lordship is not at all like human rulers.
In Jesus’ ministry, he was incredibly hesitant to associate himself with Messianic and Kingship claims. Rather, Jesus was more forthright and upfront about his ministry through other images, such as that of a physician or as a servant. Jesus saw the life He sought to bring to the world coming not like image of a mighty warrior king whose power the people and his opponents would be in awe of and surrender to. When Jesus describes the kingdom of heaven in the parables, he doesn’t describe the kingdom operating in some sort of swift, cataclysmic power that many would hope for in a Messiah, but rather he uses images that convey the slow, gradual emerge of the kingdom. He casts Himself with very different from the kings and kingdom of the world.
Imagine Jesus saying “Do this and you will live.” How do you hear this phrase? Do you hear it with a sense of demand and maybe with an implicit sense of a threat? Do you hear it like a king demanding subservience of his subjects? Or, do you hear it with a sense of concern for your well-being? Do you hear it like a physician trying to treat your problem or like a servant trying to seek out your best interest?
When I listen to Christian’s speak about their relationship to God and Jesus, I hear so much language that signals the authority of hierarchal dominance: surrender and control are two key words used repeatedly. However, can this be revealed the subtleties of our own idolatry of human power that we then project onto Jesus as Lord? Do we try to fit Jesus’s life, ministry, teachings, death, resurrection, and ascension into this frame of hierarchical authority?
What if we were to reframe to way we saw Jesus’ authority as coming from one who is an expert on God and life, like a physician who knows what is necessary to bring health to a person, and from one whose life is dedicated to serving what is in our own best interest, like a servant who sacrifices himself for others? What if we heard the Biblical words like following, obedience, submission, etc. against the backdrop of a Teacher who knows what is necessary for us to have life and to have life abundantly, which is why he associates His role as a Teacher with the coming Passover that He will use to symbolized His life-giving death?
It would free us from the fear and the perfectionism that hierarchal dominance can instill in us. It would free us to not be loaded with shame and guilt everything we failed to do as Jesus’ calls of us, but rather recognizing that it is the following and submission and obedience that we give because we have faith in Jesus that we discover the Spirit of life welling up within us like a spring of water. It would free us from condemnation and judgment of people who aren’t as obedient as we are, but rather it would help us to look on with concern for them as they continue to experience the struggle against the powers of sin and death that ravage them as they do us all. It would instill within us the spirit of a healer, a servant, a teacher that would bring many people to repentance and life.
So, let us be free from the idolatry to human power that we have become so entrenched to and see the life of Jesus redefining what God’s power and Lordship looks like to us. Jesus is Lord, and so the Lord is the Servant, the Lord is the Physician, and the Lord is the Teacher.