Many people will not worship in a church during Holy Week because someone in the church, without thinking, offered them an easy answer in the face of evil. “God does not make mistakes,” they said. “God is in control. God knows what God is doing,” they said. “God is the ruler of the universe,” they said.
The reason I believe people are tempted to give up on faith in God is because they are unaware that God does not reign from some heavenly throne in some blissful castle, but from an old rugged cross, on a hill outside of Jerusalem, between sinners like you and me. I believe people become despairing and cynical about God, because they fail to understand that our God does not rule like the rulers of this world.
The rulers of this world rule with violence and coercion and force. Earthly rulers rule with an iron fist: militarily and legislatively and with executive orders. The kings of the world rule with raw power: controlling, dominating, taking, and imposing.
But Christ is a King who rules through suffering, self-giving, self-expending, sacrificial love. Christ the King rules, not from a distance at the capital city, not from the halls of power and prestige, but from ordinary places like Bethlehem and Nazareth, and Van Buren and Fort Smith.
Christ the King doesn’t rule with an iron fist. This King rules with outstretched arms.
Christ the King doesn’t cause human suffering from a far, but is right here beside us sharing in our suffering.
God’s power is not a power that takes. It is a power that gives.
God’s power is not a power that rules. It is a power that serves.
God’s power is not a power that imposes. It is a power that loves.
God’s power is not a power that dominates. It is a power that dies.
This, says the late theologian Arthur McGill, is the reason that it is “no accident that Jesus undertakes his mission to the poor and to the weak and not to the strong, to the dying and not to those full of life. For with these vessels of need God most decisively vindicates his peculiar kind of power, [a] power of service whereby the poor are fed, the sinful are forgiven, the weak are strengthened, and the dying are made alive.”
God did not cause the tumor. The day the doctor said the word “cancer” was a day of anguish for God as it was for us.
God did not create the layoff.
The day you were told that your job was ending, God stayed up with you and worried with you all night long.
And God did not take your loved one. When they died, something inside of God died too.
What we all need to learn are very different definitions of “king,” “rule,” “reign” and “power”—very different because they define the ways of the only true and living God rather than defining our false gods and their ways.
So when life gets us down, we need to remember the great truth of Holy Week—Christ is the King. And this King is reigning, suffering, sacrificing and giving all that God has to give from the cross.
God does not make mistakes. God knows what God is doing. God is in control. But God’s throne is not made of silver and gold. God’s throne is made of wood and nails. God wears not a crown of jewels but a crown of thorns.