It was inauguration day about 970BC. The people of God were hungry for a new king. David had been just what they needed to make Israel relevant, but everyone knew he lost strength and competency at the end of his days. How would Israel keep up their newfound might and glory? When he died, they anticipated Solomon would make them great again – and keep them that way. They needed to compete on the world scene and start winning, just like the good old days when Joshua killed every adversary in his path. So Solomon stood in front of all the people on inauguration day. “Listen,” he said. “We’re going to build a temple, a great temple.” The people applauded. “We’ll show the nations how much wealth we have.” The Israelites were eager to be wealthy with the spoils of other nations which they did not earn. “And then we’ll build an army, a great army.” Thunderous applause came from the young men who didn’t realize he was talking about them. “We’ll put Israel’s protection first. Sure, we’ll be friendly with other nations, but Israel comes first. We’ll have so much power no one will mess with us. If they do, we’ll show them God is on our side.” Solomon was crowned the king. He built that temple. It was opulent. Israel became powerful and wealthy. Israel was happy. Israel was great again. Israel didn’t realize their leader’s quest for power would be their downfall and the end of united Israel. They were too happy with their lifestyles and putting themselves first that they didn’t even seem to care when the prophets told them that the other great nations they were trying to emulate were coming to give them a taste of their own medicine. They claimed to be the people of God, nonetheless.
It was inauguration day about 800AD. Charlemagne was a historic king-crowned-emperor by Pope Leo III. In exchange for is new power, he was to become the defender of the faith in Rome from the evil Germanic Lombards. He stood in front of his throne that Christmas day with the pope and his council and gave his inauguration speech. “Listen, we’re going to have such a great military again. God will be on our side once more. God needs us to protect the right religion, and we’re going to make sure it gets protected.” Charlemagne protected Rome. He put Rome, and his own people, the Franks, first. “Building walls around us is part of our story,” he said. Charlemagne put together a great army and protected the faith from the evil pagans, even slaughtering 4,000 Saxons in the name of Jesus, a “holy war” that won the loyalties and praise of his people. He built a cathedral in Aachen, adorning it with gold and jewels to show other nations that God was on their side. He even likened himself to that other temple-builder, Solomon, and gave his architect, who would design the Palatine Chapel, the nickname Bazaleel, the great designer of Moses’ tabernacle. The people were wealthy and powerful once more, but most importantly, Charlemagne kept his promise to make Western Europe safe again. They loved Charlemagne. Charlemagne loved his power and money. Charlemagne’s quest to protect their security distracted him from the Vikings and the bitter rivalries between his own sons. His lust for power-keeping crippled the Roman Empire and left thousands dead. The people didn’t even notice what was happening at first. They were too busy enjoying wealth they didn’t earn, putting their own interests first, and keeping the “outsiders” who didn’t believe like they did outside. They claimed to be the people of God, nonetheless.
It was inauguration day in 2017. The people were hungry for a new president. The last one had been okay, but he had done too much to look out for the interests of other nations rather than putting America first, they said. So the people elected Donald Trump. He got up in front of the crowd and gave his inauguration speech. “We’re going to start winning again,” he said. The people went wild. “America is going to be safe. We’re going to put ourselves first. We’re going to be wealthy again. We’ll have comfortable jobs, and we won’t let the outsiders have any of our stuff. God will bless us, you’ll see.” The people loved Donald Trump. He made them feel safe. He told them the Bible says America will prosper if they do the right thing. He said, “We’ll get money and be happy, and certainly won’t let the refugees drain our resources. We’ll have so much power. God will protect us, even make us an example for the world.” American Christians just couldn’t learn from their own story of temple-builders and power-seekers. They were too distracted thinking about all the money they’ll be privileged with while the rest of the world starves and dies outside the wall Americans will build to protect themselves. They were too distracted by that age-old disease of seeking power, putting our own interests first, and lusting after survival in the name of God rather than trusting in the God who calls the alien amongst God’s people worthy to sit at the table. They claimed to be the people of God, nonetheless.
Maybe we’ve missed the most important one, though:
It was inauguration day in 30AD. The people were hungry for a king. They wanted to be freed. Then some imposter-peasant came along and claimed to be that king. He didn’t have a good policy, though. “Blessed are the poor,” he said. The message comforted the weak but angered the powerful. “The Kingdom of God is like a shepherd who leaves the 99 to find the one lost.” They didn’t know what to do with such inefficient techniques. “The good Samaritan helped the man in need. Oh yeah, and do you see this temple? I’m tearing it down.” But most importantly: “The slaves are free, debts are forgiven, and the year of Jubilee is fulfilled in me. And, not to mention, you should love your enemies, even serve them.” So they inaugurated him to be their “king.” They put him on a wooden crossbeam-throne and lifted him high and exalted him. They even put a crown on him and put a nice sign above his bleeding and trembling head while his mouth leaked saliva: “This is the King of the Jews.” He finally gave his inauguration speech: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” People cried out and the crowd went crazy, but most of them ran away.That Roman centurion tried to mock him like the rest, but he was just too confounded at how such a display could be any model of “kingship.” He was kind, he was gentle, he was bold and audacious; he was righteous and just, he loved his enemies, he forgave every sinner in his path. That’s no way to be an effective king. Even so… “Surely this man was the Son of God,” the centurion claimed, nonetheless.
He certainly didn’t win. He certainly did not make Jerusalem great again. And he did not consider equality with God something to hold on to, but emptied himself. He did not keep power, but gave every bit of it – every bit of it – away. He didn’t try to find salvation by protecting himself from his enemies; he died for those that tried to kill him. “And therefore,” Paul says, “he is exalted above every name,” King of the Jews, crucified on his inauguration tree, Lord of Lords seated at the right hand of the Father.