A couple of days ago, after a wonderful meeting with a dear friend, I got in my car to drive to my next appointment. At the stop light in front on me, sat this brain teasing image:My first response was to giggle. “Jesus Is All I Need” juxtaposed with the Audi symbol and shiny luxury car was laugh worthy, in my mind. For the record, my reaction, which was a mix of cynical humor and slight offense, had nothing to do with the car and everything to do with how placing this sign, on this car, may be interpreted. What message is this sending? What could this make people think about Jesus? The church?
Jesus, the homeless God-Man who associated with the marginalized and who came to bring good news to the poor. Jesus, who told the young rich man to sell all of his possessions and them come follow him. Jesus, who said the last will be first and the first will be last. That Jesus, I imagine is perhaps working on the assembly line at an Audi plant, making minimum wage and struggling to support his family. Seriously, I have nothing against Audis or any other car, and this post isn’t about wealth. It is about the messages we send about who Christ is. I just can’t picture Jesus riding in a luxury vehicle. Can you?
I posted this pic online, along with a #ThingsThatMakeYouGoHmmm tag, and on I went with my day. I know why it made me “go hmmm,” but some of the responses to my post suggested I may have struck a nerve with some folks who love their cars and also love Jesus. I found that interesting, and it made me think some more about who Jesus is and what Jesus may have to say (or not say) about having his name placed on a luxury car.
The German word Horsh, meaning listen, becomes Audi in Latin. With tomorrow being Palm Sunday, which marks the beginning of the holiest week in the Christian calendar, I invite you to listen to the story of a Jesus who rode in on a donkey, and not in an Audi.
The events that the church universal remember and reflect on this week, are the culminating works of Jesus’s ministry here on earth. This is the week that declares for us who Christ is, what he stands for, what he stands against, and what that means for each of us.
Holy Week is when we remember that Jesus busted onto the scene, declared that we are so broken that we cannot ever fix ourselves, and instead committed, in his faithfulness and holiness, to continue the process of reconciling ALL things to himself. Jesus ushered in the Kingdom on earth, and we are all invited to participate in that Kingdom, with all of its upside down manifestations and counter-cultural invitations. Invitations that may not appear to be Audi-style bright and shiny on the outside, but promise to make us shine from the inside-out.
As Jesus and his followers entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the crowds shouted,“Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” The crowds believed Jesus was coming to save them. Save them from what? Save them from who?
It’s interesting to me that as Christ entered town that day from the east, there was another procession entering town from the West Side. Pontius Pilate, the governor, was leading a cavalry procession from the West. All pomp and circumstance, shiny and armed, a heavy show of force and power. Note: Jesus was not on that side of town.
Pilate marched this army in to reinforce the Roman garrison near the temple for the Jewish Feast Days. Basically, it was show of force to declare that any stepping out of line and stepping over boundaries would be crushed.
How ironic then it becomes; how telling it becomes for us to realize that Jesus entered into Jerusalem from the East, with his ragamuffin looking followers, riding a donkey. Donkeys, both then and now, are animals associated with the poor and also animals associated with protecting the weak. Audi’s are not vehicles associated with the poor. Up-armored Audi’s, may have been part of the procession from the West.
I can almost see, in this very instant, as the two processions are happening, heaven and earth beginning to collide. Jesus is showing us his will and his desire in the face of what the world has to offer.
The gospel of Luke tells us that as Jesus drew close to the city and looked it over, he wept over it. He cried. Jesus said in Luke 19:42, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now, they are hidden from your eyes.”
Then, as Jesus made his way to the temple, irate at what he saw and how the religious leaders and the imperial powers were in cahoots, he says these words found Mark 11:17, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations? “But you (religious leaders) have made it a den of robbers.”
So, please forgive me for finding it a bit ironic when I see signs and symbols of wealth and power associated with Jesus in this way. I do not think there is necessarily anything wrong with wealth or with cars. I have met plenty of wealthy Christ-followers who are humble in heart and generous in spirit. Plenty of Christ-followers who are in positions of power and yet know what it means to be a lowly servant. So, please do not misinterpret me.
At the same time, we live in a world that reeks of consumerism, greed, and power. A world that puts shiny outsides on pedestals, even if the insides are rotting away. We live in a world where the average hourly rate of an automotive assembly line worker is between $10-$15. We live in a world where those making our cars and houses cannot afford their own.
In short, we live in a world where the first are first and the last are last.
This is not Jesus’ Kingdom.
So what does it say then, when we start to mix Jesus and prosperity? Even if unintentionally? How could this be interpreted and could these messages do harm? If we want nice cars and nice things, fine. But, would Jesus want his name associated with them? I’m not so sure.
Jesus rode in on a donkey, not an Audi. And all who follow Jesus are invited to figure out what that means from them.