I watched as a woman walked into a restaurant and was seated by the hostess at a corner table in the main dining area. The hostess placed the menu at a seat that faced the restaurant, which the customer initially took. But after the hostess left, the young lady moved to a position where her back was to the crowd. Why?
Maybe I misinterpreted, but it seemed like she was avoiding eye contact with anyone else in the room. Obviously there could be many reasons beyond what I could discover; but regardless of those reasons, it made me sad. I wanted to yell across the room, “Don’t shun the world just because someone hurt you!”
Jesus was quite familiar with rejection. Probably the most glaring example was the dramatic turn of events during the final week of his life. He entered the city of Jerusalem to praise and adoration, but by the end of the week, the crowds were yelling for his crucifixion. What happened?
Most likely disappointment. The people expected Jesus to be a political rival to Rome and oust them from power. When he didn’t, they became disillusioned. But Jesus didn’t come to set up a political kingdom; he came to save people from their sin by his death and resurrection.
John 18:36 (ESV)
36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”
There is an important lesson for us in both of these stories: don’t undervalue the power of the cross.
The woman at the corner table should understand – Jesus endured the cross so that she could be free from whatever shame, guilt, prejudice, or fear she might be feeling that would cause her to avoid interaction with other people. The death of Christ has a very real personal impact for every relationship for every individual.
Secondly, the message of the cross is that Jesus died to establish a spiritual kingdom to which each of us has been given the opportunity to enter. Its appearance and purpose is not like other kingdoms. Don’t be disillusioned. His kingdom is a kingdom of the heart, where freedom is established inside because we are no longer ruled by the powers of darkness.
Those in the crowd who demanded his crucifixion didn’t want a kingdom where they must relinquish control of the their deepest thoughts and intentions. But that is what Jesus requires. That is the key that allows you access into the kingdom. And for those who are willing to enter and be ruled by Christ, there is peace, comfort, and acceptance like no other power on earth can grant.
Turning your back to the crowd because you are afraid or unwilling to engage and interact is a bad thing. It may be a symptom of much deeper issues that need to be healed. But sometimes turning your back to the crowd is a good thing, especially if it means rejecting the world so that you can turn your face towards Jesus.
As we begin Holy Week, take a look inside and see if there is any part of you that has rejected the Kingdom of God. The blessings and benefits are well worth whatever may be keeping you from being fully committed.