Glencairn Methodist Church
The build up to Easter - 2011
A Humpty-Dumpty World
For some reason I have always pictured Humpty-Dumpty as an egg-like person who fell off his wall and landed upside down, cracking open his head in the process. When I was a child, Easter eggs came from hens and were hard boiled. The shells would have been coloured or decorated with beautiful patterns and on Easter Day we would roll these down a slope - to help remember the rolling away of the stone at the entrance to Jesus' tomb. Like Humpty-Dumpty, the egg shells would have cracked, allowing us access to the lovely, nutritious food inside. A Humpty-Dumpty world was an upside down world.
As the time approached for Jesus to go up to Jerusalem for the last time, he knew that his disciples needed to learn much more about him and about the Kingdom that he came to establish. He had been going around, teaching about the Kingdom of God, healing people from all manner of illnesses and performing what St John calls "miraculous signs". And the population were indeed wondering who exactly he was. And so, one day, he asked his disciples about this. They reported that some said that he was John the Baptist; others said Elijah or another one of the great prophets of Israel. Then Jesus asked the all important question, "Who do you say that I am?" And Simon Peter hit the nail on the head when he replied, "You are the Messiah", the long awaited leader who would restore Israel's fortunes as a great nation and lead them to freedom from foreign domination. Jesus confirmed that indeed he was the Messiah, the Christ, the anointed one of God, come to save his people.
But then he turned the conventional image of the Messiah on its head! He went on to say that the reason he was going up to Jerusalem was to suffer and die at the hands of the leaders of Judaism and Rome. Peter could not get his head around this and he rebuked Jesus, saying, this cannot happen to you! What Jesus was doing was bringing together in himself two images from the Old Testament - the conventional image of the Messiah as a saviour and the image of the Suffering Servant given in Isaiah 53 - a saviour who would save his people through suffering and death.
But the disciples also had to have their conventional image of a kingdom turned upside down. The kingdoms of this world are ruled by men of power, and the disciples, understandably, wanted to know where they stood in the power hierarchy. James and John (and their mother) were particularly pushy, asking for seats at the right hand and left hand of Jesus' throne. How did Jesus respond? He brought a young child into their midst and said, "Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." So the humility of a child is required just to get in. As for leadership, he said, "Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave. Just as the Son of Man came, not to be served, but to serve." He also said, "and to give his life as a ransom for many." Jesus was turning the perceptions of the disciples upside down. We also need to look at our own situation. Do we wish to be great? Are we pleased to serve? Are we willing to accept suffering?
There is discussion in political circles and in the media about a "happiness index". How can we measure how happy a person is? The teaching of Jesus suggests that happiness is to be found in following him, actually forgetting about ourselves for a change and doing something nice and good for our neighbours. Would this upside-down, Humpty-Dumpty world be too much for us to accept?
14 April 2011
NOTE - Previous "Monthly Messages" are archived at http://glencairn.connor.anglican.org/previousmessages.htm