This gospel wants to entice us to faith, above all else. But no one canaccept this gracious Christ unless he believes that he is a man and adopts the opinion of him that the evangelist gives. He is presented as sheer grace, humility, and goodness…Look at him! He rides no stallion, which is a war animal, and he comes not with fearful pomp and power, but sits on a donkey, which is no war animal but which is ready for burdens of work that will help human beings. Thereby he shows that he does not come to terrify people, to drive or oppress them, but to help them, to carry their burdens and take them on himself.
It’s easy to be religious. All we have to do is count ourselves as better than others and we have it made! Well, we also have to try harder, do things better, smile a little bigger, and see how our neighbors are actually terrible people. That actually sounds pretty exhausting.
You know what’s difficult?
To hear that I am flawed and evil. That I have a heart that can conceive of vile adultery and the cruelest of hatred. It’s difficult to hear that I am remarkably judgmental of other people, but that’s the honest truth.
Tim Keller would say that the good news of the Bible is that we are more sinful, wicked, flawed, and broken than we could ever imagine. At the same time we are more loved, accepted, and desired after than we could ever hope for. I think Keller’s right. The story of Jesus is so counter to our own initial beliefs.
The story of Jesus shows us who God is. As he said in John, if you’ve seen Jesus, then you’ve seen the Father. In fact, the writer to the Hebrews would say that Jesus is the exact same as God (which is contrary to the beliefs of Mormon, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Muslims, to name a few)— same essence while also being distinct within the Trinity.
The story of Jesus shows us how he came to bear our burdens and came to remove the pettiness of our hearts and restore life. As Paul wrote to the Romans, we are dead in our sins, and only through the work of the Holy Spirit can we be brought into life.
Jesus does not come to conquer, but he comes to remove the yoke of suffering and religion in order to replace it with something far lighter. His yoke is light and his promise to us his life. Won’t you hear him today?
(for another side to the argument, see my post It’s A Religion, Not Just A Relationship)