When those who pride themselves as the premier religion on earth feel threatened by Jesus, they mock him as a prophet. The prophet, in Old Testament times, is the voice of God on earth and so is the highest authority in Israel. He removes kings and installs new ones (remember Samuel and Elisha?). Thus, amongst the Jews, a people called to be prophets of God on earth, Jesus is mocked as a prophet; ridiculed by a people who’ve abandoned their prophetic mandate for political and economic gain.
When those who pride themselves as the zenith of power on earth feel threatened by the same Jesus, they mock him as a king. Who didn’t fear Rome? Its influence runs insidiously through our laws, politics and even our names. How great then, its majesty must have been when Caesars walked the earth, crushing all insolent insurrection underfoot? Indeed the world has known no empire greater than Rome. Yet, this carpenter stands before Rome’s representative, answering his questions with eloquent silence. How dare he! Despite his wife’s warning, the governor from an empire boasting of the justice and order it has brought by its might, condemns an innocent man to death for fear of a riot by mere vassals.
What would this “King” do? Will he grasp the crown and shun the cross? Alas he suffers the cruel torture and his heart is broken, not by the cross, but the silence of the Father. Perfidious Jews and Unjust Gentiles have only marred his body but not his heart. Only the feeling of the Father’s absence rips Jesus’ heart. It is here and only here that we see the true picture of sin’s last stop: death. Death by crucifixion and tortuous pain? No, death by absence of God: separation from the Source of life. Thus, in order to convince His creation to turn from sin, only the Creator can come and die to show sin’s end in its true light: death not from vengeance but as consequence.
Christ’s death (the cross is merely a stage) is a demonstration of sin’s ultimate destination, Satan’s naked nature (evil) and Christ’s naked nature (pure love and goodness). However, in and of itself, the cross cannot save us sinners. That is to say, a demonstration of Sin’s destructive evilness and Christ’s self sacrificing love isn’t enough to give me assurance of salvation because even with the knowledge of all that, I’m still sinning. At this point, this knowledge is useful only to a sinless being, one whose flesh doesn’t scream for forbidden fruit.
Enter Sunday morning! The same power, or authority, that split the cold curtains of death and called forth the Son to the Father’s embrace is available to everyone of us today! Not tomorrow, but today! Here is where far too often, the church fails. We’ve taken the power of the Resurrection and tied it to the future and demanded that sinners achieve the impossible: strive for perfection in their own power. We’ve shown everyone the heights that Jesus can take us to but put a glass pane between us and those heights. This is sacrilegious!
The last words of Jesus recorded by Matthew ooze with reassurance. Jesus has all the authority (or power) in heaven and on earth but, strangely, sends a ragtag bunch of imperfect people through the earth. The church is to spread the kingdom throughout the earth in Jesus’ physical absence because it is the very process that purifies the members and prepares them to live in it (remember Matthew 24 &25). That is to say, the only way to experience the resurrection power in your life today, is to accept and share it. This authority is not for the church to boss everyone around but to use to serve each other as exemplified by Christ washing his disciple’s feet. I dare say that the church has lost its power in too many places because it has stopped serving.
On their way to fulfilling Abraham’s God-given mission (to be God’s vehicle for blessing the world – Genesis 12:3; 18:18; 22:18; 28:14), the Israelites passed through the waters of the Red Sea and heard the voice of God. Jesus passed through water of the Jordan and heard the voice of God. Baptism signifies joining the mission of Christ on earth. Thus, in his last words, Jesus appoints the church as a power point for the world to access blessing as promised to Abraham. Wherever man lives under the oppression of sin, the church is tasked to reach out and give to all, the power to live with authority!