Jesus the King

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.

Advertisement

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

Follow me on Twitter @johnwmartens

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Michelle Russell
7 years 10 months ago
John,
I suppose in my simplistic idealism of what king should be, I had never even considered the other options for what a king is, some of which you metioned, be they figureheads or tyrants.  Which is why I enjoy this blog:  it gives me other thinking-options.  For me, the "king" of whom we speak when we speak of Jesus or God, is "a righteous King, the one to rule perfectly".  Benevolent, loving, fair, understanding, firm, compassionate, are some of the qualities which come to mind.  But just like the image of God as Father, if we have had a bad experience with the reality of that image in our own lives, then this mental and spiritual task of thinking of God as king (or father) could certainly prove most difficult and perhaps confusing in some ways.  Just as perhaps Jesus and his confounding of the "human images of Kingship by bringing his power through humility" caused his contemporaries to become confused when he spoke of the kingdom.  It was and is challenging, if not impossible, to  perceive God through anything other than our human experiences...which perhaps is why Jesus said "whoever does not accept the kingdom of God as a child, will not enter into it."  Children have that remarkable ability to see with clarity what we adults, schooled in rational thought, just cannot seem to fully grasp: a kingdom with a king who is beyond our imaginings, and whom we cannot even think to live without.

Advertisement

The latest from america

When “American Vandal” debuted on Netflix last year, it seemed to be positioning itself as the raucous send-up of the true crime genre. In Season Two, there is a much sharper edge to this new premise.
Jim McDermottSeptember 17, 2018
Knowing that the future of the church will largely be in the hands of Latinos, it is paramount that Catholic schools help form them in the faith and help them become our future leaders.
The EditorsSeptember 17, 2018
Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, president of the Center for Child Protection at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, speaks at a news conference officially launching the center in February 2015. Also pictured is Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, head of the Pontifical Commission for Child Protection. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Hans Zollner, S.J., a member on the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, shares his hopes for the church as a crisis that never ceases to shock and sorrow continues.
Jim McDermottSeptember 17, 2018
The film tells the story of Louie Zamperini, who spent 47 days at sea before being rescued, imprisoned and tortured by the Japanese.
John AndersonSeptember 14, 2018