I preached this weekend on Mark 15:40-47 – Jesus’ burial. It was a fitting passage for American Independence Day weekend. You can listen, but here are my key America-related notes:
“At Cole, we study our way through books of Scripture, and so the mood this morning fits the passage we are studying – which we just heard read – it’s the burial of Jesus after His death on the cross. So, this morning won’t be a celebration of American Independence; instead, we are in the middle of celebrating our liberation from sin and death won in the greatest victory humanity has ever experienced – Jesus’ death on a cross and His resurrection from the dead. Welcome to this week’s celebration of Humanity’s Independence Weekend.”
“Mark says that Joseph was seeking after the Kingdom of God. This is our call as Christians. We are to be seekers of the Kingdom of God. Remember, Mark is describing a clash of kingdoms, where the Kingdom of God is invading and confronting the Kingdoms of the world. We are not to hold onto the Kingdoms of the world but keep our eyes open for the Kingdom of God, which is invading all the time, all around us. This is the same description used of Simeon and Anna, who praised God in the Temple when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to be dedicated. Joseph is seeking the Kingdom of God.
The other members of the Council were holding onto the Kingdoms of the world. They were holding onto their own power and cultural influence and values and ways of life. They refused to see the King of God’s Kingdom when He stared them in the face. We are seeing this among Christian leaders in our day.
I am saddened and ashamed that so many Evangelical leaders over the last couple weeks have given in to fear and want to hold onto cultural power in this election cycle. Men and women that I’ve respected are compromising with the kingdoms of the world in hopes of power and cultural influence rather than continuing to seek the Kingdom of God. Folks like James Dobson, David Jeremiah, Deborah Fikes, and Eric Metaxas [and I would add Wayne Grudem and Jim Wallis now] have done good for the Kingdom but it looks to me like right now they and others are seeking power in the kingdoms of this world instead of seeking the Kingdom of God. Instead of one of these presidential candidates, I would hope they would be endorsing and promoting the Gospel of Jesus, who died for them and rose again to be Lord over all the earth. Instead of seeking America’s greatness, I would hope that they would seek the Kingdom of God, which is upside down to the nations and kingdoms of this world. It seems to me that these leaders have compromised with a culture of fear and are hoping that they can overcome that fear with hopes for political power. As they give in to fear and seek power, these leaders are not reflecting the way of Jesus.
Instead of those leaders, I invite you to listen to a Christian leader like Russell Moore: “You and I are not on the wrong side of history. The worst thing that could happen to us has already happened to us. We were crucified [with Christ] outside of Jerusalem. But the best thing has happened to us too. That’s not a Supreme Court victory. That is walking out of a hole in the ground in Jerusalem and being seated at the right hand of God in heaven. … If we truly believe that, we can patiently bear with those who disagree with us” … “The Gospel that you preserve is not meant to end with you. It’s meant to go forward. If we recognize that and know that, we work for the common good, we work for human flourishing, and all good things. But we hold them with a certain looseness, because we know that the United States of America is temporary, but the Gospel goes on.” – That’s Russell Moore talking about how we walk in this world in a Gospel kind of way. “The worst thing that has happened to us has already happened – we were crucified with Christ outside of Jerusalem. But the best thing has happened to us, too” in Jesus’ resurrection. That is the kind of thing I think Mark is talking about when he says that Joseph was “seeking after the Kingdom of God” – Joseph is on the lookout to follow God rather than the power structures in place, because those structures are going to come to an end. Western values, American Dream, the United States of America, my business, my home, my little kingdoms – we must hold them loosely because they are temporary. The Gospel of our crucified and risen Lord who has defeated sin and death and will come again to rule over all creation is eternal! If you celebrate America’s Independence Day tomorrow, remember that America is not an eternal kingdom, it will not last forever and it will not bring life.”