I remember the first time I experienced the dark underbelly of the democratic process.
I was sitting near the back of a junior high classroom with several of my friends, and at some point my friends started flicking spitballs across the room.
The teacher put an end to it within minutes, but he had a very limited picture of what had happened. He didn’t know who exactly was responsible, he just knew the culprits were sitting in our corner of the room.
I could have told him exactly who was involved, and I could have truthfully said I wasn’t part of it.
But I didn’t, because I didn’t want to come across as a teacher’s pet or a goody two shoes.
That’s when he turned to the democratic process to establish the truth of the situation.
He told us that one person had to stay after class and pick up every piece of paper that had been thrown, and he left it up to us to decide who it would be.
I think he assumed we would assign the punishment to the most guilty party.
However, my so-called friends chose me. I had to stay after class to pick up their mess, while they walked away with impunity. I was framed.
The democratic process has definite strengths. Establishing truth is not one of them.
All three of the scriptures for these two weeks take issue with our ideas of democracy.
The psalm celebrates the coronation of a priest-king — a divinely appointed ruler enthroned in honor, upheld and protected by the right hand of God. The people would look to this chosen one, established in the line of Melchizedek, to usher in a new era of prosperity.
Likewise, the text in Revelation speaks of a coronation of sorts. An awe-inspiring king is seated on the throne, but no one is found worthy to take the scroll from his right hand. There is weeping for this fact.
But then our attention is drawn to the Lamb who was slain, the only one worthy to accept this scroll. The four living creatures and the 24 elders fall before the worthy one, each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
And they sing a new song.
For this Lamb has formed a people, ransoming saints from every tribe and language and people and nation. As in the psalm, hope hinges not on the democratic process but on the sacrificial love of the only one worthy to approach the throne.
He was not elected. He was crucified.
The disturbing truth of the matter is that bitter weeping is an appropriate response before him.
In between these bookend stories of divine majesty, in the passage from Acts Peter offers a similar picture to all those with ears to hear.
In Jesus — the Christ, the Messiah, the priest-king in the line of Melchizedek — the hope to which the Hebrew Bible pointed is fulfilled, Peter says. The picture of hope painted in Revelation is fulfilled. The Davidic line is no longer needed to sit upon the throne, because the royal line itself has been fulfilled in the life, death and resurrection of this Jesus.
Therefore, the past and the future to which we belong as the people of God hangs on the person of Jesus. He is not our democratically elected president. He is our priest and our king.
Too often we treat Jesus as if all he did was clean up the mess we made so we could walk away scot-free from the junior high classroom we inhabit together. Could it be that it’s time to grow up? What might that look like in your church? In your life?
Patrick Nafziger works alongside his wife, Christine, as co-pastor of Millersburg (Ohio) Mennonite Church. He occasionally updates his blog at mennonitemuse.wordpress.com.