In December 2014, President Obama began the process of normalizing relations with Cuba. The two governments now have embassies in each other’s countries. Prior to the president’s arrival on Sunday, the hotel company Starwood announced that it will be making a “multimillion-dollar investment” in Cuban hotels. Cruise lines are preparing to include the island nation in their Caribbean itineraries.
However, the Cuban government has not budged on human rights.
Dozens of members of “Ladies in White,” a group that campaigns for the release of political prisoners, were arrested hours before Mr. Obama touched down in Havana. According to Columbia University professor Christopher Sabatini, over 1,400 dissidents and human rights activists were detained just in the last month. Clearly, the Castro regime wants the economic benefits of improved relations with the U.S., but it does not want to cede power and control to obtain these benefits.
Those who are familiar with Holy Week should not be surprised.
We could call today “Temple Tuesday,” since Jesus spent this day of Holy Week teaching in the temple precincts. Here he was confronted repeatedly by religious leaders. They challenged his authority to teach the people (Matthew 21:23–27), tried to trick him with the question of paying taxes to Caesar (Matthew 23:15–22), and lambasted him with convoluted and divisive theological questions (vs. 23–40). He answered them so successfully that “no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions” (v. 46).
Why were the religious authorities so opposed to Jesus?
Their motives were exposed when large crowds began following Jesus after he raised Lazarus from the dead. The Sanhedrin, their ruling council, met to decide how to respond. Here was the crux of their issue: “If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation” (John 11:48). In other words, Jesus’ popularity could threaten the Romans, who would respond by replacing Israel’s religious authorities.
So a group of men responsible for leading God’s people rejected God’s Son for the sake of their personal power. Is their story unique? Or are we not each tempted to serve God for our sake, to seek his blessing but not his glory?
Here’s the good news: God redeems even our power-hungry sins for his Kingdom purposes.
Consider Cuba as an example. I have been to the country eight times. Each time, I am impressed anew with the spiritual awakening happening there. More than a million Cubans have come to Christ in the last ten years. Despite the opposition of the authorities, the church is thriving.
When we submit to the power of Jesus and seek his glory above our own, we can say with the prophet: “The LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation” (Isaiah 12:2). Who is your strength and your song today?
Note: I want to invite you to join me for the annual Easter Eve service at Dallas Baptist University. We will gather this Saturday evening at 6 PM. To learn more, please go here.