Thursday, March 26. Matthew 26:1-5.
Today’s reading marks a sharp turn in the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus’ teaching is done. At least, his teaching in words is done. He spent his life telling people about the Kingdom of Heaven. Now, he is going to show us what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. He is going to hand himself over to the corrupt power system and let it destroy him.
In the sermon on Sunday, I made a bold claim (you can listen to it here). In Matthew 25:31 Jesus says that when the Son of Man comes and sits on his throne of glory he will judge the nations. I claimed that the throne of glory is the cross.
Not everyone would agree with this claim. Many Christians believe that Jesus went to the cross to pay for our sins, rose from the dead, and ascended, so that he can return some day to rule the world from a literal throne in the New Jerusalem (Heaven) and force all the nations to bow down to him.
I used to think that. Maybe it is correct. However, one of the reasons that I have migrated into the Lutheran tribe is because Lutherans teach something called the Theology of the Cross vs. the Theology of Glory. A theology of glory teaches that following Jesus will bring great power, health, prosperity, and ultimately glory. This theology waits for the day when Jesus reigns on earth and kicks sinner butt. A theology of the cross, however, recognizes that the glory (glory means fame) of God is the fact that the creator of the universe emptied godself to the point of execution on the cross in order to renew all things.
Here’s the deal. The only thing that will save us is when we stop trying to get the glory of the throne and “give ourselves over to be crucified.” The glory of the throne leads to pride, which leads to self-protection, which leads to war, violence, and hatred. The way of the cross leads to humility, other-oriented love, and makes it possible for there to be healing and reconciliation for all nations. It is a scary path, but it is the path to life.
So, today, Jesus begins the journey to the cross. We are invited to follow him there. It is the beginning of the end.