for anyone trying to understand (or explain) God’s method of action in sending His Son to a rebellious people. This is a true story, told by Kenneth Bailey as part of his discussion of the (falsely) so-called Parable of the Wicked Tenants. (Why falsely, that’s another post for another time. If you can’t wait, read Bailey.)
One night in the early 1980s, [king Hussein of Jordan] was informed by his security police that a group of about seventy-five Jordanian army officers were at that very moment meeting in a nearby baracks plotting a military overthrow of the kingdom. The security officers requested permission to surround the barracks and arrest the plotters. After a somber pause the king refused and said, “Bring me a small helicopter.” A helicopter was brought. The king climbed in with the pilot and himself flew to the barracks and landed on its flat roof. The king told the pilot, “If you hear gun shots, fly away at once without me.”
Unarmed, the king then walked down two flights of stairs and suddenly appeared in the room where the plotters were meeting and quietly said to them:
“Gentlemen, it has come to my attention that you are meeting here tonight to finalize your plans to overthrow the government, take over the country and install a military dictator. If you do this, the army will break apart and the country will be plunged into civil war. Tens of thousands of innocent people will die. There is no need for this. Here I am! Kill me and proceed. That way, only one man will die.”
After a moment of stunned silence, the rebels as one, rushed forward to kiss the king’s hand and feet and pledge loyalty to him for life.
(Kenneth E. Bailey, Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes, 418)
Of course, in the case of the incarnation, the ending was different. The rebellious people did not “kiss the Son” (Ps. 2:12), but killed him.
In the case of king Hussein, his self-emptying—you could call it his magnanimity—averted the coup and the bloodshed and won back the loyalty of the rebels.
In the case of the Son of God, His self-emptying—His magnanimity—provoked no such show of faithfulness. Instead, He was crucified, died and was buried. Yet, by the power of God, His death in the hands of the rebels was not the end of the story. Rather, it was precisely by dying, rather than avoiding death in a courageous game of chicken, that the rebels were one over.
And so, even today, risen and ascended, He keeps walking into the barrack rooms of our rebellion, spreading His pierced hands and feet, and saying quietly: Ladies, gentlemen, it has come to my attention that you insist on walking into a certain and eternal death in a doomed attempt at a coup. Here I am. I have already died that death. And by my death, the kingdom is yours without any further bloodshed. Will you not take it?