By Bishop Matthew Hassan KUKAH
THE life of Jesus is the highest manifestation of irony, the sharp contrast, and the full expression of the fact that; God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts (Is. 55:8). Once Jesus entered the world, everything changed, all in total fulfillment of divine prophecy. His entry split history into two. Today, the world records everything either before or after Christ. He is the marker of History.
One of those ironies in the life of Jesus is highlighted today in our first reading from the prophet Zachariah who says: Your king shall come to you, a just Saviour. He will banish the chariots of war from Ephraim to Jerusalem. He will restore peace to the nations and his dominion shall be from sea to sea. Wow! How could a king establish a kingdom covering the whole world without accounts of his war of conquest? There is no mention of the size of his army, the stockpile of weapons amassed.
The world has no record of anyone who has built an empire without an army and superior weapons and intelligence. Empires are built by mobilising a superior military force using superior weapons and mobilising your people with a superior message. The conqueror often builds his empire with the loot and blood of the conquered. The conquered live in penury, servitude or slavery. This is what the world has known over time as power and domination.
Do you recall how, for the fifty years of the cold war, America and the Soviet Union struggled for domination of the world, built arsenals of nuclear weapons with trillions of dollars? They merely boasted of how many times over they could kill the other! And then, in 1989, it all came crumbling down without any of the leaders of the two superpowers firing a single shot! Bill Clinton who oversaw this development had even dodged the draft! Jesus announces that his kingdom will not be of the world, meaning, it would require something extra to recognise the kingdom (Jn. 18:36). Even Boko Haram has been waging its war with the belief that if it wins, we will all, even with Muslims either embrace their form of Islam or die.
If you live in Nigeria, you can understand the frustrations of people with failed promises made by their rulers. Those of us who were already born during independence were regaled with stories of how great will become paradise on earth after we drive out the British. Independence came, we had barely finished waving the flags when the military came, drove the civilians and promised us another paradise. Rather, they took us through a civil war, organised many coups, murdered one another in the struggle to govern us. Then they left and the politicians took over again. Then as now, every group comes with promises, carrying their messiahs on chariots of falsehood, making promises and serving us the same broth of lies and fraud. We always believe them and their promises because they tell us they will do better than those that have gone before them. We vote, they get to power and then the cure is worse than the disease. This is why the weapons of the kingship of Christ should be our model today.
Prophet Zechariah, along with others like Haggai and Malachi are called the prophets of restoration. After the Babylonian exile, Israel returned to see that the prophesies made while they were in exile were still unfulfilled. The building of the temple in Jerusalem will be only a metaphor for the hope of the restoration of Israel. But there is an irony here. If the people of Israel have waited for thousands of years for a Saviour, surely, his arrival must be the stuff of spectacle, myth, drama, awe, with all the paraphernalia of power. Do you remember how the much-awaited Buhari Presidency was celebrated? Recall those young men who rode to their death in excitement or those who trekked hundreds of kilometers to mark the event?
Has any of you ever seen the preparations that go with the travel of a Nigerian President? If you live in Abuja, you will see the Police and Security men line up as early as 8am from the Villa to the Presidential Wing of the Airport. Although the President does not need a boarding pass, all of this is a show of his power. When he arrives the Presidential wing, only one of the six aircrafts will be ready to take him. In the one or two hours to the takeoff or landing of a Presidential plane, no other aircraft, even an air ambulance is allowed to share the air space with a President. This is part of the mystique of power. You may recall that during the campaigns, General Buhari said he would sell the Presidential aircrafts so he could travel with the rest of us. Perhaps he really wanted to, but those who manage power believe otherwise. The trappings of power must have a shock and awe mystique. So, you can understand what the people of Israel expected and how Jesus disappointed them.
Now, let us return to Zechariah who talks of this king; whose dominion will be from sea to sea and from the river to the end of the earth. My God! Recall that all-powerful men and women are expected to walk with a swagger and a retinue of supporters as a manifestation of their power. Prophet Zechariah now embarrasses us all by telling us that despite all this power, the King that is being awaited will not even a decorated horse or a camel. He will be on a donkey, a borrowed one at that! This is how God meets history. You can understand why the Jews were scandalised by the notion of the kingship of Jesus. It is one reason why Judas revolted. Jesus fell below the radar of human expectations of men of power. A frustrated Peter had asked in shock; We have left everything and followed you, what will be our reward?(Mt. 19:27).