Friday, 22 March 2013

Christ the King!


Christ the King, possibly one of the most important titles we have for Jesus – King Jesus.  And it is an accurate one.  We find out about Jesus as King from all sorts of places in the Bible – Isaiah, Daniel, the Gospels, Revelation, the Epistles, the Psalms.  And it is important that we do so.  All of Scripture reveals to us who Jesus is, what kind of person He is, and what He does.  It is not just the Gospels which show us who Jesus is.  In fact if we only used the Gospels to learn about Jesus we would end up with a very unbiblical Jesus.  For the Gospels show us of Jesus in humility, having humbled Himself and emptied Himself of all but love and come down to live among us, come down to die and save.  It shows us the Jesus who cast aside his crown of gold to take up a crown of thorns.  It shows us Jesus stepping down off the White Throne of Heaven and stepping onto the Cross.

  But Jesus doesn’t remain on earth after His death and glorious resurrection – He returns to heaven to sit at the Father’s right hand, to be enthroned again next to the Ancient of Days.  He once again takes up His crown of gold, sits upon the White Throne of Heaven, and will do so till He judges the living and the dead at the end of time.  As we say in the Creed – He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father, He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and His Kingdom shall have no end.  Jesus is the King and one aspect of His Kingship is that He is judge – it is Jesus and only Jesus who accepts people into heaven and Jesus and only Jesus who sends people to Hell.  Indeed Jesus says this of Himself in the Gospels whilst He was on the earth – in fact Jesus speaks of Hell and the coming judgement more than any other person in all of Scripture.

There is something of an epidemic in the church today which turns Jesus into a poster boy for hair-products, or someone who is up in heaven stroking lambs and kissing doves.  This leads people to treat Jesus as simply their best friend, their buddy, their, as people say nowadays ‘BFF’.  Now this is not in itself wrong.  Jesus is our friend, our best friend, He is always there to listen, He holds us when we shake, He calms us when we fear, He encourages us when we stumble.  But He is also God.  Whenever people meet God in the Bible and realise it is Him they fall to their knees in terror.  When the demons see Jesus they are petrified and awed by Him – ironically during His earthly life it was the demons who recognised Jesus for the fullness of who He really was whilst the disciples were at best rather clueless.

Just listen to what happened when Isaiah met Jesus, a man who had been a prophet of the Lord for many, many, years:

 “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, and His robe filled the temple. 2 Seraphim were standing above Him; each one had six wings:with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another:
Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of Hosts;
His glory fills the whole earth.4 The foundations of the doorways shook at the sound of their voices, and the temple was filled with smoke.
5 Then I said:
Woe is me for I am ruined
because I am a man of unclean lips
and live among a people of unclean lips,
and because my eyes have seen the King,
the LORD of Hosts.
6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, and in his hand was a glowing coal that he had taken from the altar with tongs. 7 He touched my mouth with it and said:
Now that this has touched your lips,
your wickedness is removed
and your sin is atoned for.

WOW – Isaiah had been a holy prophet for years and a ‘righteous man’ yet when he came face to face with Jesus he was terrified by how Holy Jesus was, how before Him there could be no sin – but in His mercy Jesus has an angel cleanse Isaiah from the altar of heaven, a prefiguration of the Cross, and by grace and grace alone is Isaiah’s sin atoned for

Or take what we heard of Jesus in Revelation – the White Rider leading the armies of Heaven – we first meet Jesus in this role in the book of Joshua outside Jericho where Jesus reveals Himself to Joshua as the Commander of the Eternal armies.   In Revelation we see Jesus  as the one called Faithful and True – indeed He is – who judges and makes war in righteousness.  He has eyes of fire and many many crowns, a robe stained in blood – both signifying his own blood spilt on Calvary and the blood spilt as He tramples The Winepress of the fierce anger of God Almighty.  And His name written on His robe and seemingly tattooed on His thigh is KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. That is Jesus – KING OF KING AND LORD OF LORDS. A far cry from the rather feminine blonde hippie we see in popular pictures and which so easily creep into our perception of Him.  


 So here is one thing to take from this, in your prayer life recognise that Jesus in King.  That Jesus is the great and powerful Lord of Lords sat on a throne around which angels sing day and night “Holy Holy Holy.” How would stopping and picturing this awesome scene, the light, the sound of thunder, the smells of heaven, the power of His presence, picture yourself there, kneeling as you would as your knees went weak, and once you are there, then begin your prayers before the great God of the Universe and History.  Jesus is our friend, we can turn to Him in prayer as we could turn to a friend sat besides us, we should pray to Him all the time, talk to Him all the time, but once in a while it is helpful to pray with perspective, to stop and recognise just who exactly your friend is.

And that is of course the unbelievable thing about King Jesus, about Christ the King, for all His power, all His Glory, all His majesty and most importantly all His Holiness which means He cannot stand to be in the presence of sin, still He came to earth that He might be friends with you and me – sinners all invited to His Kingdom Banquet.  

There is a great passage in CS Lewis’ Narnia books when Lucy and Susan are asking Mr and Mrs Beaver about Aslan.  It goes like this:

Aslan a man? Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the woods and the son of the great Emperor-beyond-the Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion—the Lion, the great Lion.”
“Ooh!” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”
“That you will, dearie, and make no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver, “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”
“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about being safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

And of course just like Aslan, Jesus is the Lion of Judah, the King sent from the Father, who rules all, He is not safe, it would be foolish to appear before Him without trepidation, but He is good.  Jesus isn’t safe, but He is good.

See this is where we have to look at what kind of King is Jesus.  We know He is a righteous king, we know He is a judge, we know He is a Holy king, we know He is a king who knows all and sees all.  But as the hymn says He is the King of Mercy and of Grace.  He is the kind of King who despite having all the glory and power and majesty, would still give it all up, cast it all aside, and come to earth, who would go from being the one who keeps this universe in place every second and keeps all of us breathing, to being the one helpless baby in a manger who needs others to survive and grow.  He would go from being the only immortal one to dying on the Cross in agony.  And more than that, on that Cross He did the unimaginable, as Saint Paul says – He who knew no sin became sin.  On that Cross Jesus, the Holiest of Holies, who cannot stand to be near sin, becomes our sin.  He gives each of those who believe that He is God, that He is who He said He is, He gives to all those who acknowledge with their lips and lives that He is Lord of Lord and Kings of Kings, that He is not just a prophet or a good man or a guru or an angel but that He is God Above, to all these He gives His perfect righteousness, His perfect Holiness, His perfect record where no red ink is found.

And He Himself takes on our sin, on that Cross He becomes our sin, He becomes the adulterer, He becomes the liar, He becomes the thief, He becomes the murderer, He becomes the whatever your sin is no matter how great or how small.  And then Father turns His face away, and Jesus knows our isolation from God, and He gives us His relationship with God,  and then He takes all of that sin and shame and death and loneliness and He nails it to the cross and He dies the death we deserved to die and the weight of all that sin is rolled in front of His tomb – and three days later he dropkicks that sin away and rises from the dead as the first fruits of the resurrection, as a promise that when we die we will rise again just as He did, because He gives us His perfect record, His perfect standing with the Father, His perfect Holiness.

That is the kind of King Jesus is – one which gives up His life for His friends, one which walks the road we all walk and doesn’t expect us to do something He hasn’t Himself done and experienced.  There is no King on earth who has ever done such a thing, who has ever shown such complete love, who has ever taken His slaves and called them friends. There is no king in all of mythology, no king of any religion but Christianity, who dies in our place that we might live.  We who believe don’t have to live in fear of the Judge because He has already paid our debt, we don’t have to live in fear of hostile heaven because the moment we believed we were washed clean.  And as saint Pail says, we need not fear or feel condemnation, we don’t have to live under the weight of guilt, but the moment we come before the Cross and repent, and say sorry and turn again and commit to changing mind body and soul, that moment we are so completely forgiven it is as if the sin had never existed in the eyes of God. For we who believe in King Jesus live under freedom, live under joy, live under peace and the complete assurance of eternal life in heaven with Him.

And it is because of this that we worship Christ the King.

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