6 “As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.”
7 I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You shall break them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
“Jesus should have struck him dead for disobedience!” I read those words in a paper submitted by one of my undergraduate students some years ago. He was writing about the story in Mark 2 in which Jesus heals a leper, tells the man not to tell anyone about it, but the man goes out and tells everyone. This creates a problem for Jesus in that he can no longer go into the towns because so many people throng around him. It means that His preaching had to take place in the countryside, making Him far less accessible to the lame, blind, and invalids.
The line really jumped out at me at the time. My first reaction was to say, “No, of course not, this is Jesus we are talking about here.” But then, upon further reflection, I realized that this young man had noticed something which had eluded me in prior readings of this passage. I think we have gotten a little too familiar with Jesus sometimes. I like the old hymn, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” but I wonder if we have not internalized the message too much.
The Psalm reminds us that Jesus is God, he breaks the nations with an iron rod and dashes them to pieces like a potter’s vessel. Kings and the powerful of the earth are urged to kiss the Son, lest He be angry and we perish in the way. Our Christian faith holds this strange even terrible tension about Jesus. The Gospels tell us many stories of Jesus’ tenderness. He takes a little dead girl by the hand and calls her gently back to life. He sees the widow of Nain burying her only son and He has compassion upon her. John calls himself the disciple whom Jesus loved. Yet, we cannot forget this other truth about Him. He is the Lord of all. Almighty power is held in his perforated hands. We must count on those wounds for our salvation when we stand before Him. You read these words on Ash Wednesday. It is a time to repent before the Judge of us all. It is time to put on ashes and remember just Who is it we pray to.