Day 2 - Monday

As we approach the final days of Jesus life we need to pause and go back to the first day of Jesus’ life on earth. Shepherds are gathered around their sheep when the angel hosts show up and announce something very important.

I always thought that the angel’s sang their announcement--something akin to the Halleluiah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah. But a closer examination of the ancient text in Luke chapter 2 brings us to another conclusion. The terminology in the text would suggest that the angels show up in military form. A “host” of angels is a military host. They are there, hovering above the earth, in military formation to announce something very important.
What did they announce? What did this celestial military regiment declare? “Peace on earth, good will to all men.” This is the war cry of heaven. The armies of heaven came to announce the waging of peace on earth. Jesus’ birth was the first move in this strategic heavenly battle. 
A quick glance at Jesus’ life shows us that there was resistance to this plan.

Rome was not about peace. They wanted to keep the peace, but when peace comes from a threat of violence, it’s no peace at all. Israel claimed a desire of peace. But they were looking for a Messiah to obtain peace like the Caesars achieved it. Peace, in their mind, could only come at the end of a victorious sword. Then comes Jesus, saying things like, “When somebody hits you in the face, turn the other cheek,” and, “Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you.”
The way of peace that Jesus laid out was what he referred to as the “narrow way.” Not judging, making things right with those we are in conflict with, forgiving those who have wronged us (even if they don’t seek forgiveness), these were all things that Jesus, and John the Baptist before Him, taught as the way to Israel’s success. The way of peace. If you know the ancient story, you know that the Jesus way was universally rejected by His contemporaries.
And now we see Jesus, sitting on the Mount of Olives, looking across the Kidron Valley at the city that He loved. Jerusalem. As it gleamed before Him He broke down and wept. Through brokenness and tears he utters this prophetic statement, ““If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” Luke 19:42-44

By rejecting the Jesus way, Israel was going to suffer the fate that every other empire bent on violence and retribution suffers. They would reap what they sowed. Rome would march in and throw every stone down and light Jerusalem on fire. Blood would run down the temple steps like a river, and this drove Jesus to tears.
As we contemplate the cross this Passion Week, we would be remiss if we didn’t first contemplate the unrealized dream Jesus had for Israel, for Jerusalem, and for the world. He showed them, and us, the way of peace. His life was about reconciling relationships, including marginalized people, settling differences and waging peace. He did this each time He provided a healing touch, told an inclusive story, or sat at the table to share a meal with someone who had been kicked to the curb. Jesus was all about waging peace.

On Monday of Passion Week, let’s take a moment to sit on the donkey with Jesus and look at our world, at our city, at our church and into our lives. It’s appropriate for us to share personal and corporate lament over the violence that is still ravaging our world and our lives. Monday is a hard day, but Sunday is coming.

By Mark Witas

Listen to a reflection on this topic from the One project gathering in Seattle, 2016

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