Last week I watched the story of Private Desmond Doss, a soldier in the second world war whose story is told in the movie Hacksaw Ridge.
Doss grew up as a Christian and a devout pacificist – he was a conscientious objector to war. But he chose to sign up and do his bit as a medic. He wanted to serve his country, do his part and help the cause.
He just didn’t want to kill anyone in the process.
He confused his fellow soldiers because he didn’t play by the rules. He refused to pick up a weapon or to get involved in anything that would hurt another person.
Doss was taunted and abused by his fellow soldiers who considered him a coward. They saw someone who lacked courage and who just didn’t get it. So they beat him up and tried to get rid of him.
They tried to make army life so unbearable that he would quit and go home.
The truth was, he didn’t lack courage at all – he was more than prepared to put his body on the line – in fact he had the courage of 10 men. He roamed the battle field without a gun of any kind, running out to attend to those who had been hurt and to pick up injured soldiers and literally carry them on his back to safety where they could be cared for.
Often those injured soldiers were the same ones who had abused him and accused him of weakness. His presence to save them – at risk of his own life – must have been confusing to say the least.
Doss was a man of great courage and conviction and he was the first conscientious objector to be awarded the congressional medal of honour for bravery.
He saw the world different to those around him and he was misunderstood and abused because of it.
He was a soldier – but a different kind of soldier.
That was the battle of Okinawa in 1945.
Today we remember the battle of Golgotha in C 33 AD where two other kingdoms collided. And we see another man who saw the world differently and who suffered for it.
He was a king – but a different kind of king. He was misunderstood, abused and maligned for his un-kingly ways. And yet that was the very point.
He came as a different kind of king to establish a different kind of kingdom – to lead people into a new way of living – but in doing so he confused his followers who were counting on him to win a military victory and establish a kingdom of power and might.
The only way people could see victory was by force and might, but Jesus wasn’t going to win anything by that means.
If you live by the sword you die by the sword.
But if you die by the cross then you can call people to live by the cross. You can call people to a way of life that is not about being the boss, but rather is about being a servant.
In Mark 10 Jesus was speaking with his disciples about this new kingdom he was going to establish and an argument broke out about who was going to be 2IC – who’s going to get the prestige jobs in the new administration!
And Jesus just says ‘ no you guys don’t get it do you?’
42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
He came to serve – and to give his life. In fact when Peter objected to having his feet washed by Jesus replied, ‘If i don’t wash your feet then you have nothing to do with me’
He was a different kind of king
Instead of smashing his way to the top Jesus came and served and people didn’t get it. We still don’t. On this planet the man with the biggest guns still rules and gets his way
They misunderstood him at one level and understood him perfectly on another – which is why he was executed. Instead of playing the game, working the system and colluding with those in power he critiqued them. He saw thru their self centredness and ego and he saw the mess that that approach had made of God’s creation.
So they plotted to get rid of him
In fact they feared him. His ways and ideas and his life was at odds with theirs and eventually it came to a head.
Someone had to win. Someone always has to win.
So what does a ‘win’ look like when you don’t want to play the game like those who are abusing you?
What does it mean to stay true?
For Jesus it meant death. It meant allowing himself to be killed by those who didn’t get him and who felt threatened by him. He gave his life literally.
For him it meant not fighting back. Not playing the same game, but drawing a line in the sand and saying ‘from now on new rules apply’.
Jesus willing ness to die set the tone for the kingdom he came to establish so today we reflect on a different kind of king and the darkest day in history when we rejected his rule and killed him.
We come to Easter Friday now with the knowledge of imminent resurrection, but that first Easter there was no recognition of that possibility – just despair and utter grief that it had all come to nothing. The plan had failed and Jesus was another disappointment.
I guess it all depends on how you see the world…