Wednesday, March 31, 2010

King of Kings

"He shall stand firm and shepherd his flock...
he shall be peace." Micah 5:3a,4a

We live in a polarized society today. From the recent debates on health care and immigration to the religious and political ugliness over the past decade, we live in an unbalanced age.

It is this context in which I return to reflect on the 1961 biblical classic, King of Kings. What makes this "Jesus movie" unique is that it spends more time on non-Jesus activities than other films on the life of Christ. King of Kings extensively follows the political scene in Pontius Pilate's court, King Herod's palace, and in the underground politics of the zealot movement. And in the midst of all the politics is Jesus of Nazareth (portrayed here by the late Jeffery Hunter).

King of Kings gives us a mirror for our polarized world. Originally produced within the turmoil and international politics of the early 1960s, this film can have a similar affect for audiences today.

In this film, Jesus stands as the bridge between the government and the revolutionaries - admired by both and hated by both. This is a perfect place for Jesus to be, then and now.

When people get too caught up in their politics, they lose a sense of compassion and love for one another. They demonize the other side and adopt an aura of righteousness. This is not the way of Jesus. In King of Kings, Jesus emphasizes time and again, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." (Mt. 5:44). It's this compassion and outreach to both sides that brings Jesus to the cross.

In the midst of all this in-fighting in the United States - where disagreements have turned bloody - we need this Jesus. As we approach Good Friday in this year of polarization and hatred, we need this Jesus. Perhaps within our society now, this Jesus might not even recognize the venom of the very people who claim him (and vice versa).

This image of Christ is the one foretold by the prophets Isaiah and Micah when they declared, "For a child is born to us, a son given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him wonder counselor, God hero, father forever, prince of peace..." (Is. 9:5) and " He shall stand firm and shepherd his flock... he shall be peace." (Micah 5:3a,4a)

Let us follow the lead of these prophets, put down our swords and turn them into plowshares, and follow the lead of the shepherd, king, and hero who speaks peace, not division; who brings people together instead of tearing them apart.

And on this Good Friday, let us vow that this image of Christ will not be crucified on the cross of polarization yet again.

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