All Roads Lead To Jesus - 2 Corinthians

2 Corinthians – King Jesus is the Triumphant Suffering King
Reading – 2 Corinthians 12:1-10, Isaiah 53

Every election cycle in America presents candidates from opposing sides that promise the same thing – salvation. The salvation they offer promises to deliver their base from various problems and issues that keep them up at night. Each candidate presents themselves as a person with power who can get things done. But there is another quality that often helps an official get elected – relatability. The candidates that are able to present themselves as both powerful and relatable usually come out on top.

Ancient Israel was a nation that had its ups and downs. The greatest point in Israel’s history was during the reign of King David. David was not only very powerful, but he was a man from the people. He was a shepherd who understood the struggle of making a living. David expanded the Kingdom through military conquest, built the city of Jerusalem up, and helped to fortify the worship of Yahweh throughout the nation.

After David died there was no other king like him. Each king had good qualities and bad qualities but ultimately fell short of the success of King David. The prophets spoke of a future king who would establish David’s throne forever. He would surpass David in every way. And so, Israel waited. They waited for the return of David’s throne. This king became known as the Messiah. The Messiah would be powerful, defeat the enemies of Israel, restore the autonomy of Israel, and fulfill the promises of God to Israel that they would be an eternal kingdom. Israel was looking for a powerful king.

But they weren’t looking close enough at what the prophets were saying. Isaiah spoke of the power of the king that was promised but he also said this king would be pierced, tortured, and ultimately die. The Messiah was going to suffer in a way that would not only relate to the people but would surpass the suffering of all people for all time. This Messiah would carry all of the sins of the world on his shoulders and would absorb all of the wrath of God.

Jesus confused everyone who waited for the Messiah. He had moments of great power and others of great weakness. He did not look like the powerful Messiah that was promised when he was born to poor people in Bethlehem, or when he had no place to sleep that he could call home, or when he called the least of society to be his followers, or when he was beaten and tortured until he died on a criminal’s cross.

But in Jesus, God brought together the powerful king that was promised and the suffering king who would die for His people. Jesus is the only king who has been able to deliver on every promise and ultimately, salvation.

This is the theme that strikes a chord for Paul throughout his second letter to the Corinthians. Since Paul’s first letter, things weren’t turning out so well for Paul. Some were questioning whether or not Paul was actually a true teacher of the Gospel and called by Christ. He had suffered for the Gospel and he had accomplished much for the Gospel. In his failures and victories, he was suffering in a way that God would not relieve. He writes, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about [this thorn in my flesh]. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

This is the crux of the second letter to the Corinthians. The power of God is made perfect in us through weakness.  This was the model of Jesus’ ministry. God’s power only came through the weakness of the Messiah. The power of the resurrection traveled first through the suffering of the Cross. This is why Paul would conclude, “When I am weak, then I am strong.”

Salvation from the promised Messiah came from strength and weakness. Jesus triumphed over our enemies because he made himself weak.  In this way, Jesus is the suffering triumphant king that was promised. When we are following in the footsteps of Christ, we will find strength in weakness.

Like Israel, we believe that we should find strength in ourselves, in heroes, in accomplishments, education, nationalism, causes, or even numbers. Paul had more than anyone else to brag about and to consider strengths and reason to lord his authority over the church. But he does not do that. He tells the church that he doesn’t need to defend himself with his accomplishments and personal strength but rather that he would be victorious through his weakness – just as Christ had done for the church.

Jesus didn’t seem like he was a successful Messiah when he hung on the Cross. Paul didn’t seem like a successful ministry when the churches he planted questioned his legitimacy as he rotted in prison. The world looks at men like these and calls them losers and failures. Perhaps, that is where you are. You see the world standards of success and you don’t measure up.

Remember that Jesus didn’t stay dead. Remember that the churches that Paul planted started a movement that still exists 2000 years later. They suffered and, in their suffering, there was a great strength. We too are called to be like Jesus in this way. Our weakness is an asset because in our weaknesses we must depend more and more on the power of Christ.

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