Whenever God gives us a message, we should guard against those who would distract us from delivering it. We should be aware of attempts to dilute issues that are controversial. We must stay focused upon making our point. Today, politicians, like Sen. Barack Obama, pastors like the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright, teachers and others in the public eye should adhere to the message that God would have us deliver.
Years ago, in this week, Jesus came into Jerusalem (Luke 19: 28) to fulfill His God-given destiny. The crowds thought Christ arrived to be crowned their liberating King. The community’s leaders all had reason to rid themselves of Jesus. First, they wanted to rid themselves of Jesus because He preached against social and economic injustice. Jesus’ passion, as he drove the money-changers from the temple, was evident; it disturbed those in power.
In removing the money-changers, Christ destroyed the “Booths of Annas,” businesses largely owned by the high priest’s family. Profits made during Passover at these booths exceeded the lifetime earnings of the poor. We feel the unfairness of obscene profiteering when we consider the earnings of today’s CEOs. We can imagine the anger Christ felt in turning out those who defiled the church. Christ’s growing popularity also attracted attention, perhaps like Sen. Obama today. Drawing Rome’s attention was dangerous. The religious leaders of the day wanted to continue their exploitation of the Jews in the name of God.
When Christ spoke, He took His life into His own hands. His messages risked all, and disturbed the comfort of many. A price was placed upon Jesus’ head (John 11:57). And, as we know, on that Thursday night long ago, Judas collected his bounty. Aware of his peril, most would have hidden themselves in the city’s back streets, but not Jesus. He rode into Jerusalem like a conquering King, in broad daylight, as one who had won the battle. He rode a white colt (symbolic of peace), instead of riding a white horse (symbolic of conquest).
What is the message Christ brings?
Luke tells us (4:18-19) that Christ said, “I was anointed to preach good news to the poor, set free those held captive, give sight to the blind, and to release the oppressed.”
In saying this, Jesus quotes Isaiah (61:1-2) who foretold Israel’s deliverance from exile in Babylon during their 50th year in captivity, The Year of Jubilee, when all debts were paid, slaves freed, and property returned.
Preaching comfort to the comfortable and damnation to the comfortless is not staying on message! How does one stay on message? By accepting God’s offer of salvation given to us in Jesus Christ. We stay on message when we preach as Christ did. Christ’s preaching, like that of Pastor Wright, makes the comfortable uncomfortable and the comfortless comfortable. We must preach the Gospel to those in the midst of poverty and social injustice. We must uplift and inspire.
When Jesus entered the city, He wept (Luke 19:41). The Jewish leaders had rejected their king, and were plotting to kill Jesus (Luke 19:47). Did Christ foresee danger, as Obama seems to see now?
Christ understood the consequences of political maneuvering and of Rome’s power. And, it came to pass in A.D. 66 that Israel decided to revolt against Roman control. In A.D. 70, Titus, son of Vespasian, marched into Jerusalem, killed some 600,000 Jews, and devastated the city and the temple.
Christ tried to warn them, as He tries to warn us now. He foresaw the needless pain and suffering we incur when we rebel against God’s will. What had angered Christ was the use of the House of God as a center of political and economic exploitation, instead of for prayer. In this political season, we are called upon to ensure we are ‘Staying on message.’ Let us resolve to stick to the purpose for which God has anointed us. Let us preach the good news to the poor, set free the captives, restore sight to the blind, and release the oppressed.
We mustn’t fear preaching the gospel anywhere, not in the streets, or the boardrooms, or the temples, and certainly, not in the church!
The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door at 6001 NW 8th Ave., Miami. To reach the church, call 305-759-0373 or email the pastor at firstname.lastname@example.org.