Kings and Heroes
There is a lot of confusion about what exactly Jesus teaches us to be. Many people on TV would suggest that Jesus came to teach us how to be happy. There is a lot of validity to that thought, but somehow it seems a little shallow.
Other people suggest Jesus came to teach us how to be rich. Like Job’s friends, they suggest that your riches (or lack thereof) are a measure of your spiritual success. Some people would frame Jesus as offering us an “out” from this life, with the promise of something much better after we die. Still others would say Jesus teaches us to suffer.
To me, all of these ring hollow, or come off a bit masochistic. I would like to suggest another way of framing what Jesus teaches.
History consists of kings and heroes. The kings amass power, conquer enemies, build kingdoms, and enslave their rivals. They usually die at the hands of their power-hungry family members, or manage to survive into old age by killing off those who are perceived as threats. Heroes, on the other hand, usually revel in life. They hold onto things lightly, and pass freely between the comforts of luxury and the open fields. They make tough decisions, they sacrifice, they suffer excruciating pain so that the life of their family, their people, or their world will be changed. Heroes change, and they change the world around them. Heroes usually die in rescuing others, or live to old age, surrounded by the people they sacrificed for.
Conventional thinking attributes the greatness of society and civilization to the acts of kings. But when we look a little deeper, almost every great change in history has come from lone figures, moving against the grain of their society, changing the world around them as they went. Kings rewrite history to take the credit, but they never originate change. Change is the poison of kings.
Solomon can teach you to be a king, but he can’t teach you to be a hero. And while the rest of the world might envy being Solomon, Jesus told his followers that someone even greater than Solomon was among them. Someone who could enact real change in the world, someone who reveled in life, who could make the difficult decisions and sacrifices necessary to reshape the world.
He was a hero, and he taught them to be heroes.