Inappropriate Zeal

Posts in the Sermon Prep: Seize Him series

  1. Seize Him and Make Him King
  2. Inappropriate Zeal
  3. Seize Him, And Make Him King

I don’t think I’m going to even get past this fist verse for Sunday. The phrase “seize him and make him king” just keeps tripping me up. I’m sorting through what motivated the crowds, what they’re intent was, in part to get at Melody’s question about where they went. It’s hard to sustain a mob whose expectations aren’t being met.

wonder bread

Matthew Henry makes the comment that the motivating passion, the zeal, isn’t in itself bad, it’s just wildly misdirected. These people are experiencing a problem, one with political dimensions, and they see Jesus as a potential rallying point to solve the problem. Nothing inherently wrong with that, except for their misunderstanding of Jesus’ power and purpose.

Three observations:

  1. They’re still wide-eyed from the free meal. A little wonder, a little bread, and the thought that this guy might have a way out of the endless cycle of sowing, tilling, reaping, and baking. That’d be enough to whip up a mob anytime, anywhere. Imagine if Obama kicked off his stump speeches by filling up every gas tank in the parking lot from a miraculous never-ending fuel truck. It wouldn’t be too long before a mob formed up to seize him and make him king. This crowd is acting out of passion and appetite, with a healthy dose of wonder.
  2. The perspective of the crowd is limited to immediate, political solutions. They’re oppressed by the Romans. They’re oppressed by their own priesthood. They’re oppressed by their own leaders, who have colluded with the occupiers to preserve their own power. The thing I find interesting is that the political solution they seek would be a good thing! An independent Israel, one with a restored priesthood, economic viability, and person freedom , this seems like a goal that would fit with Christ’s stated values. So Jesus passes up this good thing because it’s not the most important thing, right now, for him. The people mobbing to seize him can only see the immediate, political reality, and so they diminish the totality of what their messiah has come to do.
  3. They misunderstand the Kingdom of God. Any kingdom with Christ at the head (or at least with Christ as the mascot) is the Kingdom of God, right? Apparently not. Christ resists being seized and placed at the head of some kingdoms, no matter how much we may think he belongs there.

An interesting side note, for all you Left Behind fans out there; the mob of Israelites seem to be suffering from bad end-times theology. Both in their formal rabbinical teaching, and in the populist imagination of the time, there was a highly articulated and detailed picture of what the messiah would look like. This was their end-times prophecy, their expectation of exactly what would occur before the re-establishment of David’s eternal throne. As a result, every time they saw something that looked close, they rose up and declared that person Messiah. The masses, in their ignorance and zeal, did a great deal of violence to the population of Israel in the name of their own end-times prophetic understanding.

I find some disturbing parallels between how 1st Century Jews read Daniel’s revelation, and other prophetic works, and how some in the Evangelical church read John’s Revelation. That kind of step-by-step, precise narrative interpretation seems inappropriate to the text, and can lead to actions that are contrary to the purposes of God.

But, for those who like that kind of thing, here’s a handy timeline you can print out and post on your fridge.

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4 thoughts on “Inappropriate Zeal

  1. Melody

    I hope all went well this morning. Can you post the text of your sermon?
    Since I was praying, I’d like to feel I was there.

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