The whole notion of kingship is an odd one for someone living in the early 21st century, at least it is for me. What does kingship even mean to me? As a Canadian, I am technically governed by a monarch, a Queen since 1953, but the monarch is almost strictly a figurehead in terms of government and law-making. Most monarchies today have little or no impact on the daily lives of their subjects. A King or a Queen is mostly a relic, a tradition that ties one to the past of a country but has little impact on the actual ruling of a people.
When we think of individuals ruling countries today, especially if it is not a hereditary monarchy, we think of tyrants or those who rule their countries with cruelty. Men such as Kim Jong Il, Saddam Hussein, Islam Karimov and Fidel Castro do not create the conditions under which others say, “now that’s how I want to live.” Countries which are particularly theocracies, such as Iran or Saudi Arabia, also do not have people jumping the queue trying to get in to live according to God’s law, not even amongst co-religionists.
So the root image of “The Solemnity of Christ the King” needs an act of imagination on my part to transform the images that regularly reside in my mind when I think of monarchy: weak, ineffectual, meaningless, rich figureheads; or cruel, unjust, petty thugs. The one has no actual power, the other only misuses power.
The reality was that even King David, the great King of Israel’s past, anointed by the people of Israel (2 Samuel 5:1-3), was a sinner. He wanted Bathsheba and filled with lust, he took Uriah’s wife and impregnated her. Then David had Uriah killed because he could not trick him into sleeping with his wife when he was on active military duty (2 Samuel 11). Woo, that’s, uh, our king?
Yet, the desire for a King, a righteous King, the one to rule perfectly, is what lies behind the Israelite desire for Kingship. It is, I would argue, what lies behind all of our desire for government. We continue to elect leaders, as we must and should, in the hopes that they will lead us to the Promised Land and then feel betrayed when either they become entangled in ethics violations, make stupid decisions, or fall short of expectations. If it is true, though, that “our hearts are restless until they rest in thee, O Lord” (Confessions, Book 1), then our yearnings here in the City of Man must have their true desire in the City of God. We need, we want God to rule us because he is the perfect King.
Already, those who follow Christ have been “delivered … from the power of darkness and transferred … to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14). More than that, his governance is at the heart of our very being, which is why we desire true and perfect rule: “He is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:15-17)
What of course is remarkable about Jesus’ eternal Kingship is the means by which he brought it to us, weak, broken, reviled by others, hanging on the cross, a countercultural image of the King if ever there was one (Luke 23:35-43). Neither humanly powerful nor a mere figurehead, he confounds human images of Kingship by bringing his power through humility. And when we look upon him we say, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:53). He is the King we want and need.
John W. Martens
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