The rulers sneered at Jesus and said, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.” Even the soldiers jeered at him. As they approached to offer him wine they called out, “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.” Above him there was an inscription that read, “This is the King of the Jews.” Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us.” The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
“(The Messiah) will raise a banner for the nations . . . . They will swoop down on Philistia’s the slopes to the west; together they’ will plunder the people to the east.” [Isaiah 11]
These words from Isaiah are a fair sample of what the people Jesus preached to expected to see in the Messiah. We have a saying, “if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck.” On the contrary, if it doesn’t do anything ducky, it’s most likely not a duck. There’s little wonder that very few people who saw and listened to Jesus thought him the Messiah they’d been awaiting.
Before we start feeling too superior to those who missed what we consider obvious, we should ask ourselves, have we actually made such a different appraisal of Jesus? We’re very comfortable accepting Jesus as our Messiah for ritual and theological purposes but how about for practical purposes? Do we consider Jesus the leader of our lives, the one who sets the tone and direction of our daily interactions?
The issue isn’t what we believe about Jesus. The crucial issue isn’t whether or not we pray to Jesus. The issue isn’t whether we read about Jesus in the Bible or hang a cross on the wall of our office. The issue is whether we feed people who are hungry as Jesus did. Do we work to see that the sick – especially the sick with little ability to care for themselves – are healed? Do we think that loving and caring about those who oppose our ideas and priorities make sense? Do we believe that the world will change for the better – that it will become a loving and just community? Do we think that such a future is worth risking everything for and encouraging those we love to risk the same? These are issues that determine whether or not we accept Jesus as our leader. They reveal much more about Jesus’ role in our lives than crosses on walls or Bibles on bed stands.