The Suffering Lion

By: Jim O'Brien 

Hi Friend,

As Christians we readily envision our savior as the suffering servant. Jesus willingly submitted to the pain. When the disciples brandished their swords ready for battle with the Roman soldiers, it was Jesus who told them to put their weapons away. He could call down twelve legions of angels (Matt. 26:53) but he chose to suffer. That was why he came into the world.

Yet there's another side to the suffering servant. In the context it's easy to overlook plain statements that his disciples were carrying swords-and that was following a Passover service. These were military weapons that weren't hidden from his sight. How could you miss a sword strapped to the outside of Peter's robe?

It would be incomplete to picture the suffering servant without also seeing the Lion of Judah. Both pictures describe Jesus the Messiah-and the disciples were more focused on the latter picture. He's the one that will return on a white horse with millions of angels to fight the war to end all wars. People will die in that battle-more than any battle in the history of warfare.

That concept came to mind as we were going through Bible Study the other evening studying Genesis. God gives the structure of life in the first few chapters of the Book of Beginnings. It is here that God states a profound law that is the cornerstone of justice. It is an absolute rule of life. He says,

"Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind" (Genesis 9:6).

It seems uncharacteristic for God, who gave a commandment against murder, to command man to take the life of another human. But the command is made to protect life. Without this penalty the law means nothing. If a man so disrespects one made in the image of God that he would murder another, God commands that the murderer must die to safeguard other humans. That makes sense.

The fly in the ointment in all this is that God requires MAN to take the life of the criminal. If it isn't clear enough on the surface, God follows up with examples.

When Saul was King of Israel God gave him a command to carry out His punishment on the Amalekites for what they had done to Israel. God commanded Saul to execute King Agag and all the people and even the cattle. It was a wicked place. The king was a brutal tyrant and the city was so corrupt there was no hope for it.

But Saul was too weak. When a man becomes king he inherits a moral obligation to defend the rights of citizens against barbaric tyrants. The king is the one man responsible to carry out the command of Genesis 9:6. When Saul failed, Samuel upbraided him. "You have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you as king over Israel!" (1 Samuel 15:26). In other words, "You aren't worthy to be king!" From that day on Saul was on borrowed time.

Then there is the example of Gideon. He was called to destroy tyrannical despots that were murdering Israelites. When Gideon finished the job he put two barbaric enemy kings on the ground and turned to his son Jether and said, '"Rise, kill them!"' But the youth would not draw his sword; for he was afraid, because he was still a youth" (Judges 8:20). Gideon knew his son would be unworthy to take the crown if he could not take justice on evil men.

Is this concept that important?

What if Hitler had been stopped before he developed a strong army? The psychopathic despot was responsible for the deaths of over 50 million people! Consider that the weakness of Neville Chamberlain, who was charged with protecting the free people of England, lacked the courage to face down a tyrant. In doing so he shared responsibility for the incredible carnage of millions of innocent people.

When a man takes the office of King, Prime Minister or President he accepts responsibility to stand down the tyrant. It's his job before the Creator of Life! It isn't for cowards or the faint of heart.

Some men are so evil that no power on earth could persuade them to respect the rights of other humans. Not a man, not a government-not even God-could convince them. If we need proof, look at Lucifer who lived at the throne of God without being persuaded.

Jesus came as the Suffering Servant. Justice requires that he return as the Conquering Lion of Judah.

Until next time,

Jim O'Brien

Pastor, Church of God Cincinnati

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