“Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” So ends the song “Won’t Get Fooled Again” written by Pete Townshend for the Who. The song takes a rather dim and cynical view of revolutions, that despite all the changes that are made, things remain much the same:
There’s nothing in the streetLooks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye . . .
I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again
We don’t need to look far in our world today to see the vindication of this song’s cynicism, Murabak is out, Morsi is in, yet Egyptians are still gathering in the street to protest. There’s nothing in the street looks any different to them but protest they will for there is a great yearning for something different, for a revolution that is truly revolutionary, for changes all around that are worth the effort.
This yearning for a revolution that will stick is universal. Apart from warm fuzzy moments such as we get from the occasional song like Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World,” there is a tendency for people to wish either that the world could be better, or that they might escape it. This yearning for the better is something we find in the pages of the Bible too as Israel, in the days of a pregnant virgin named Mary, is longing for the coming Messiah, the one promised to make things better. According to Old Testament promises this will be a leader like no other:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6, 7 NIV)
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace; Say hello to the new boss, nothing like the old boss (Caesar in Jesus’ day), or any other boss you will ever know.
And this child born to Mary would go on to bring a revolution that is like no other. While the song “Won’t Get Fooled Again” laments, and rightfully so, the lack of any real change with many a revolution, Jesus has kicked off a revolution that changes everything. Relationships are changed; in the days of Jesus we see this most clearly with husbands and wives as shown in Ephesians: husband love your wife and be ready to give up your life for her! Not the kind of teaching you expect in a very patriarchal society. We also see it in the relationship between slaves and masters as evidenced by the tiny but powerful book of Philemon where Philemon is encouraged by the apostle Paul to take back his wayward slave, not as a slave but as a dear brother! Critics lament that Jesus did not overturn the institution of slavery but they miss the point that with Jesus people are changed first, the institutions will fall into place later. Ethics are changed too as we follow Jesus in the way of the cross rather than Caesar in the way of the sword. Religion is changed whereas religion was, and often is, about trying to reach out to God, in Jesus God reached out to us. And people are changed. Before Jesus Israel was looking for a Messiah who would liberate the nation from Rome. Jesus did something much deeper and at the cross we realize that Rome is not really the problem, nor Caesar himself. The problem is that Rome, Caesar, and Israel herself not to mention you and I, are separated from God. At the cross our relationship with God is changed, we are changed, and our future is changed when we turn to Jesus in faith.
With Christmas approaching we turn our focus from the cross to the manger. This infant child would bring the greatest revolution that humanity would ever see, one that sticks, one that brings real and lasting change, one that continues on into our day and will continue on. Have you joined this revolution or has your capacity for faith been replaced by cynicism, your trust in revolutionaries been shaken by broken promises? If so I get down on my knees and pray, you won’t be fooled again.