taking the words of Jesus seriously

I sometimes think that many Evangelical Christians tend toward becoming modern counterparts of the ancient Gnostics. While the theologically liberal doubt the deity of Jesus, we have a tendency to diminish His humanity.

We find it disconcerting and uncomfortable to view Jesus as fully human. We want to perpetuate the belief the He was different from the rest of us, that He had powers and knowledge that were super-human. We conveniently forget that He learned the Scriptures, grew into spiritual maturity and performed no might works in His own power (see Luke 2:52).

But God entered human history by giving up power in order to bring men and women into His kingdom through His love. He chose to redeem humanity and transform society through sacrificial self-giving, rather than through dominant demonstrations of power.

Jesus really did abandon power when He lived among us. He wasn’t simply holding back and pretending to possess our physical limitations–He truly was one of us. Sometimes we react negatively to that fact and try to suppress it. We want to think of Jesus as a God who disguised Himself as an ordinary man but, at will, could step into a phone booth, rip off His robes and show us who He really was: a first-century Superman.

Judas refused to accept a limited Messiah. On Palm Sunday, power was within his Master’s grasp. It was the logical time for a political takeover, so far as Judas was concerned. It was the opportunity to rally the masses to the cause; it was an hour when Jesus should claim power, and Jesus let it all slip away. Some think that Judas betrayed Jesus in order to force Him to play the power game when the Roman soldiers came to arrest Him–to force Him to establish His rule. This theory suggests that Judas felt that if Jesus were left with no alternative, He would overcome His reluctance to use power and seize the throne of Israel.

If that was Judas’s plan, it backfired. Perhaps Judas hung himself when he realized that his attempt to manipulate Jesus ended in the death of the only One who had ever loved him unconditionally.

Jesus was not into power; there were no magic tricks up His sleeves. When mighty works were done through Him, he humbly admitted that He was not the one who deserved the credit. The glory belonged to the Father. In His miracles, we see God’s love at work in the world–touching those who were open to Him, never forcing or coercing.

On Palm Sunday we remember Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, humbling himself by riding into Jerusalem on a donkey not to overtake the city but that through Him the city, and the world, might be saved.

About The Author


Tony Campolo is Professor of Sociology at Eastern University, and was formerly on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania. For 40 years, he founded and led the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education, an organization that created and supported programs serving needy communities in the Third World as well as in “at risk” neighborhoods across North America. More recently, Dr. Campolo has provided leadership for the Red Letter Christians movement. He blogs regularly at his own website. Tony and his wife Peggy live near Philadelphia, and have two children and four grandchildren.

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