Kingdom, power, and glory: these might be the most tantalizing words in the Lord’s Prayer. Who among us hasn’t dreamed of ruling the world? If I were king, if I were president… What about power—which one of us hasn’t longed for some special power, to get people to do what we want, maybe, or to feel good about ourselves? And glory—wouldn’t it be great if people would finally recognize all the hard work we do, finally acknowledge how important we are, finally say, “Thank you, you’re wonderful!” Oh, if only we could have a little more glory!
Maybe sometimes we imagine this is how God thinks. God’s just sitting up there in heaven, dreaming of the day when his authority is finally made known, when his reign has become undeniable, when even the lowliest of sinners praises God’s name. We want it too, for God; we want to be on the side of the winning God, of God the Triumphant. So we gladly join the throngs on Palm Sunday, waving our branches and shouting, “Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!” Glory, laud, and honor to the king!
But—the cross of Christ tests everything. Any thought we have of God’s power or God’s authority or God’s glory trips over the stumbling block of Jesus Christ crucified. At the cross we approach a God who is bloody, beaten, and dying. At the cross we meet God in weakness and shame. At the cross we find a God whose own prayers seem to go unanswered. What foolishness! Yet the Lord’s Prayer leads us here, leads us to the cross, leads us to the Son of God crucified. We cannot pray our way through the Lord’s Prayer, confront our need to be delivered from temptation that leads to evil, and then waltz out to “the kingdom, the power, and the glory” as if nothing really happened. That is the temptation of skipping from the palms to the resurrection, and it is a temptation we Christians need to resist at every point.
Because it turns out that the risen Jesus Christ never completely sheds the cross. His hands, his side, his feet bear the stigma of death; the cross is seared into God’s body for all eternity. The victorious Lamb of God is also and always the Lamb of God who was slain.
And it also turns out that our shouts for the kingdom, the power, and the glory quickly and all too easily descend into cries of, “Crucify, crucify him! Give us Barabbas!” Without the cross, our thirst for kingdom, power, and glory will always drive us to Barabbas, a man of violence, a man willing to do or say anything to get power, a man who won’t just sit down and take his punishment, a man willing to fight, a man angry enough to do whatever it takes.
We need the cross. Either we follow Jesus to the cross and let his cross test everything, even our ideas of kingdom, power, and glory, or, with the crowds and the rulers of this world, we rejoin the ranks of Christ’s crucifiers. We need the cross.
The cross of a kingdom whose crown is made of thorns.
The cross of a power whose strength is shown in weakness.
The cross of a glory whose radiance is muddied, sweaty, bloody, and ugly.
We need the cross because our Savior bears the wounds of the cross on his body forever, and we want to know and love this Savior and no other. We need the cross because our Savior died for us, and we do not wish to crucify him again. And we need the cross because we are to have “the same mind that was in Christ Jesus… who humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
The mind of Christ should be our mind. What we think about kingdom, power, and glory should be what Christ thought. And we know what Christ thought, for we know Christ crucified, the true Messiah, the real king.
For six weeks we have journeyed through the Lord’s Prayer, and it has brought us to the cross. But if we keep praying it even at the cross, even as Jesus breathes his last, even in the profound silence of the garden tomb, if we keep praying the Lord’s Prayer, we will meet our Lord on the other side of the cross, on the far side of the grave, at the resurrection. Resurrection, not resuscitation. Not bringing back to life the dead ideas and deadlier sins that lead us back to the cross all over again. Resurrection: new life, new creation, always in the light of the cross, always in the service of the One crucified. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory belong to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, one God, holy and blessed Trinity, now and forever. Amen.