Whose Kingdom, Which Lord? Jesus & Nationalism, part 4 (When 2 Empire's Collide)

This is part four of a five part series on Jesus and Nationalism.  It reads as one fluid written sermon so you may want to read the rest of the series.  I have never spoken this sermon but figured I would use the blog to get the text out there…

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Now lets turn back to Luke chapter 2 for a moment.  We started with a question about if Caesar Augustus is important to the story that Luke is trying to tell us about Jesus’ birth.  What do we know based on verse 1 of this chapter?  We know that the great Emperor has decreed that the whole world must be counted.  This was an effort to make sure that the taxes could be taken with greater accuracy.  For those in Judea, like the parents of Jesus, this was simply a reminder of the poverty and suffering of their people because of the Roman Empire.

And think about Caesar Augustus again.  Remember the announcement about his birthday that we read earlier that dated to 9 BC?  Lets look at it one last time and see if anything starts to come together for us about the first birthday of Jesus.

All the cities unanimously adopt the birthday of the divine Caesar as the new beginning of the year…the birthday of the god [Augustus] has been for the whole world the beginning of good news (euangelion) concerning him [therefore let a new era begin from his birth].

The birth of Augustus is considered to be a new era.  His birth is one that changed the course of human history.  He is born as a human, but is simultaneously a god on earth.  His life is the beginning of “good news.”  Lets keep reading.

…Who being sent to us and our descendants as Savior, has put an end to war and has set all things in order; and [whereas,] having become [god] manifest (phaneis), Caesar has fulfilled all the hopes of earlier times…

So, lets get this straight.  Augustus is the long awaited “Savior” who has brought peace to the world by putting “an end to war.”  So, if we put this all together we find that Augustus who claimed to be the “son of god” (as we discussed earlier) is the “savior” who brings “good news” of peace.  Where have I heard that before?

Jump to verse 10 of Luke 2:

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord…  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace…”  Luke 2.10-11, 13-14 (NRSV)

Everything that Augustus claimed of himself is turned upside down by a baby who is born in the midst of the Roman imperial machine!  Jesus is the Savior, not Caesar!  Jesus is the good news, not Caesar!  Jesus is the source of true peace; not through the threat of violence imposed by the sword, but through the humility of a baby who would humbly walk the road to the cross!  Jesus is the world’s true king and Caesar is a parody!  As the Apostle Paul makes clear in his letter to the Philippians:

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same attitude of mind Christ Jesus had:

6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

8 And being found in appearance as a human being, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!

9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,

10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  Philippians 2.5-11

The humble baby who chose to die on the Roman cross has been enthroned as the world’s true Lord!  Caesar wanted to be the lord and master of the whole earth, but couldn’t come close to Christ.  In a sense, when Paul says “Jesus Christ is Lord…” it is as though he were saying in the same breath “…and that means Caesar isn’t!”  Jesus is king, and notice what this passage reveals to us about nations of the world.  People from every kingdom of this world will confess Jesus’ lordship, not simply the nation that I happen to hold in high regard.  That means that Americans, Iraqis, Afghanis, Native Americans, Asians, Capitalists, Socialists, Communists and every other “i-s-t” or “i-s-m” will be represented before the throne of Jesus.  All that will matter on that day is if we lived as “God’s image bearers” and gave him back his due: our lives for his Kingdom.

WHAT DOES THIS SAY ABOUT THE CURRENT NATIONALISTIC TENDENCY AMONGST EVANGELICALS AND OTHER CHRISTIANS?  IF OTHER NATIONS WILL BE REPRESENTED AT THRONE OF JESUS, WHAT ABOUT WHEN AMERICAN CHRISTIANS KILL OTHER CHRISTIANS WHO HAPPEN TO FIGHT FOR THE OPPOSING MILITARY?  OTHER THOUGHTS OR SCENARIOS?

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  • http://criticalbelief.com/ Marc

    All that will matter on that day is obedience to the will of the Father (Mt 7:21). The exits are marked “Repentance & Mercy” or “Game Over”. I have no doubt there will be queues at each…

  • Amy Stone

    Granting your assumptions, the question is then: What does God require?
    Jesus tells us that love of God and of each other (primarily other disciples) is the definition of the Law. Love is antithetical to violence. Therefore, obedience to God’s Law requires and is evidenced by the rejection of violence in all its forms.

  • Amy Stone

    What I think you are suggesting is that the first Christians were traitors to Rome, based on their own testimony to the life of Jesus. I do not disagree. This is how I see it too, and how several of Rome’s emperors saw it too, hence the persecution of Christians.

    How do we then read Paul’s instructions in Romans 13?

    Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. 2Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgement.

  • ray sanchez

    I would hope i’m not wrong in saying, that our country is fighting for the very thing we pray for. Our religous freedom. The freedom that we have to pray, worship, love, and share our god. It seems now that our country is turning its back on Isreal, and its people. Everywhere i go i see people saying “stop funding their
    war”! Not aknowledging that god himself said that isreal, and the people in it belong to him. and he will protect them. So if the question is are somethings worth fighting for none of us can really say. but gods plan will come to pass, all thing he does, he does for good. the love of god is olny sure and true. not all people who call themselves christains are. We need to know and protect ourselves from the powers of darkness.

  • Pingback: Whose Kingdom, Which Lord? Jesus & Nationalism, part 5 (Concluding Exhortations… Native Americans as Victims of Nationalism) « groans from within


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