FOUR WAYS WE CAN'T HANDCUFF JESUS FOR LONG
Handcuff Jesus? You may think that’s a preposterous idea. Why would anyone want to handcuff Jesus? And if they did succeed at that, what would it accomplish? After all, he has strength greater than any super hero. Can a human being really subdue the Lord of the universe with anything as simple as handcuffs?
Before you answer, remember it has been tried before. Jon Weece, a preacher friend from Kentucky, got me thinking about this when he tweeted the following:
And still today some try to bind the hands of Jesus. Those who seized Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane had no idea who they were arresting. But too many times today it’s his followers who limit the work of Jesus with the handcuffs they use on him.
He allowed the soldiers to take him, because this was all a part of God’s plan. But he arose from the grave to show that nothing can bind him. The irony is that he had the power to stop all of this, yet restrained himself to show us the power of redemption and resurrection in our lives.
That’s still true today. The handcuffs we place on Jesus will not stop him from doing his work in our world. I see this true in at least four ways.
1. His Power Exceeds Our Control
Affluent and experienced and educated as we are, we believe we can get and do just about whatever we want. And when someone or something gets in our way, too often we just plow through or over the problem (or the person!).
But we don’t live long till we realize our control is pretty limited. (I was in nine auto accidents in one year, and I wasn’t the driver in any of ‘em!) Jesus is the only one truly in control, in concert with his Father and the ongoing presence of the Holy Spirit.
We handcuff Jesus when we fail to yield to that power. We decide our path and then ask him to bless it, or make our mistakes and beg him to forgive them, or disobey his will and expect him to prosper us anyway.
His power exceeds our control, and we do well to yield to him instead of trying to make him fit our own limited view of the future.
2. His Peace Condemns Our Violence
Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” We say, “Get revenge when someone hurts you.” Jesus washed the disciples’ feet. We step on the toes of those who get in our way. Jesus served and suffered. We swagger and sway.
And some—again, some who call Jesus Lord—resort to physical violence. Maybe you’ve heard a Christian celebrate the bombing of an abortion clinic or the vandalizing of a mosque or a fistfight with someone of another race.
Such attitudes and actions handcuff Jesus by misrepresenting him to a watching world. But some have chosen a better way. I think of my friend Ajai Lall who peacefully proclaims Jesus although surrounded by persecution. Even at gunpoint he preaches Jesus without ever lashing out at those with their fingers on the trigger. And today he leads a mission that has reached hundreds of thousands of new Christians. His ministry shows that we need not resort to the handcuffs of violence in order to do the work of Jesus.
3. His Mission Supersedes our Agendas
It is so convenient to convince ourselves that what we want is what Jesus wants, that our opinion is truth, that our way is best. It is so easy to mask our pride with holy talk, to protect our own ego by quoting Scripture, to accuse and belittle leaders who didn’t consult us before announcing their game plan. Perhaps without realizing what’s happening, we become devoted to a shadow mission that threatens to hide the central mission of Jesus. We seek our preferences instead of what Jesus came to seek: the lost.
But when we take our eyes off ourselves and look at fields ripe for harvest (John 4:35), we realize that our own agendas must give way to God’s, and we put away the handcuffs.
4. His Resurrection Dismantles Our Personal Kingdoms
Game of Thrones is more than the title of a cable TV phenomenon. It’s also our pursuit whenever we try to put ourselves on top. And all of us do this. We spend money to buy status. We seek experiences that are more exciting than what others have enjoyed. We find ways to make ourselves seem more prominent or successful or important than those around us. We persuade ourselves that we’re king of something, even if it’s actually something pretty small.
This is a game most devastating when it’s played by Christian leaders. When they decide without consulting, when they work without accountability, when they fail to remember and compensate for their weaknesses of temperament or talent, they’re building a kingdom that will not stand.
Only the one who conquered the grave can claim to be king of our lives or our church or our world. Only the one who prevailed after execution and death shows that it’s useless to try to handcuff him.
That’s a fact we all do well to remember.