The following is an excerpt from a recent Sunday school discourse on Jesus our King.
The general consensus in 1st-century Israel leaned away from Jesus being the promised King. We can hardly blame them. What kind of king is laid in an animal trough at his birth? What kind of king grows up in a place like Nazareth? What kind of king rides in the capital city on the back of a donkey? Worst of all, what kind of king allows himself to be mocked, nailed to a cross, and crucified?
The correct answer is the King of kings, just as the Old Testament prophecies said.
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:2-6)
Jesus is not King despite his humble suffering and death. He is King because of his suffering and death.
Our greatest problem is the consequence of our sin. While the people of Israel waited for the Messiah to come and conquer the Romans, they missed the fact that Jesus conquered our greatest enemy of all—death. Hebrews 2 says:
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, Jesus likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. (Hebrews 2:14, 15)
Never mind the Romans. Death is our greatest enemy, and Jesus defeated death through his death and resurrection.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:5-11)
We are in Christ. Therefore, we are united to him. Therefore, we cannot be separated from him. Christ defeated death and was raised again. Therefore, since we are in him, we will also be raised again. Our greatest enemy is destroyed. Christ the King reigns supreme over all our enemies.
As it happens, Jesus is a much greater King than most of Israel anticipated. We may relate to their desire to see someone overthrow their political captors, but Jesus did so much more than that. Even if he had saved Israel from the Romans, they would still be in bondage to an even greater enemy. If not for Christ, death holds us all in its grip, and there is nothing we can do to save ourselves. Only Christ the King, the King of kings, has the power to conquer death, which he did through his death and resurrection.
Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (Jn 11:25).
David couldn’t do that. Solomon couldn’t do that. As impressive as their resumes were, as glorious as they appeared, the greatest kings on earth cannot save us from death and hell. They cannot save us from the wrath of God.
In less than two years, we’ll elect another president here in the United States. We’ve already entered into that political season when emotions run a little higher. Listen to some people talk about it, and you may get the impression that the fate of the world hinges on the next man elected. If we don’t elect the right man, the world is doomed. But let’s not forget who’s really in charge here. In Colossians 1, Paul says:
For by Christ all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:16, 17)
In their book, Name Above All Names, Begg and Ferguson write:
As Christians we must learn to think properly, biblically. Then we may watch CNN or BBC News, or read the New York Times, or make our way through the Wall Street Journal without joining the ranks of the gloomy or singing in the choir of the fearful. To be in Christ is mind-stretching and life-transforming. It is a mind-altering experience to bow before the authority of what is said concerning the cosmic Christ, who reigns over all. It changes our perspective on everything.
Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords. This understanding should shape every aspect of our worldview. No matter who the nation elects as the next president, Christ is still the sovereign King over the entire universe. He holds the world in the palm of his hand. He holds the future in the palm of his hand. And ultimately, whatever transpires here on earth doesn’t compare with what the King of kings accomplished through his death and resurrection. If he were to let the world crumble all around us, believers would be safe in him. If he were to let our enemies take our very lives, we would still be safe in him because he defeated our worst enemy, death itself.
The only appropriate responses, then, are to submit in obedience to our King and praise his wonderful name. Let us join the crowds in shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mt 21:9).