King. It’s a word with baggage. We have other words with baggage, like politician, ruler, president. All these words carry stories. Stories of human failings and fallen-ness. Stories of political ambition and corruption.
Our world has learned the hard way that the truest measure of any human ruler, is not in their oratory presence or political promises, but in the outworking of their leadership. How their ‘rule’ works out on the ground. And we have learned, the hard way, that most human regimes work for the interests of the few, often the wealthy elite.
It was no different in Jesus day.
‘King’ wasn’t just a word with baggage. It was a dangerous declaration. When the Magi came looking for Jesus, saying ‘Where is He who has been born King?’ they were unwittingly putting a price on the head of this child born king.
Herod ‘the Great’ was King of the Jews then. Not the true King of the Jews from the line of Kings, but rather the Roman-backed, Roman-citizen King of the Jews. An imposter. A Puppet. An unspoken lie. Not fully of Jewish descent and not at all of the tribe of Judah, his only claim to Jewish kingship was that he had won the power games that put him there.
Herod ‘the Great’ had used his wealth to build the most lavish temple possible. But the Spirit of God never filled it as He had the temple of Solomon. It had always echoed empty. As empty as Herod’s family’s claim to the Jewish Royal line. As empty as his understanding of God.
The Magi missed it too. At first. They first sought the true King in Jerusalem. In a palace. Because that’s the logical place for a King to be found. The worldly place. At the top of the pile. Dwelling in wealth and ease.
But they didn’t find the true King there. Instead they found the false King. The one motivated by the interests of the few, the wealthy elite. Himself.
The angel knew better than the Magi where to look. Sent by God, in the way God sends, Gabriel was sent to Nazareth and appeared to Jesus’ soon to be mother, this insignificant teenager from an unremarkable country town.
And God’s everlasting Kingdom is first revealed to a teenager from the nothing town of Nazareth.
Because this Kingdom, is different.
‘He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants for ever; his kingdom will never end.’
The true King was about to slip unseen into the arms of an inexperienced teenager under the protection of a humble carpenter. A man from the house and line of David.
Through Joseph’s family line, the true King of Heaven and earth was grafting Himself into the tribe of Judah, the house and line of David, the lineage of Kings, becoming a legal heir to the throne of Israel, which God had promised to David’s descendants…
‘when your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you.
Your house and your kingdom shall endure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever.”’
2 Samuel 7:12-16
A baby born King.
The true King.
This title breathed over him by angels before his birth, bestowed on Him by foreigners as a baby. This title which will hang above His head at His death.
King of the Jews. King.
It’s why He came.
God has never relinquished His throne as King over all the earth. He is a King who comes. As He promised He would.
“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”
‘Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and for ever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.
God coming to earth, stretching out on manger straw that first Christmas long ago, can be seen as nothing less than a retaliatory coup, a subversion of the rule of darkness, a taking back ground for light. An establishing of the one true Kingdom that ‘will never end’ and ‘will never pass away’, this everlasting Kingdom that will ‘never be destroyed’. In taking on skin and sinew and pulsing veins, in becoming an infant held by an inexperienced country teenager, God was declaring war on all the pretensions to power, all false kingdoms of the world. Just as He had promised He would long ago through the prophets.
All through His ministry Jesus was establishing this Kingdom; on the hillsides, by the lakes, in the towns and in the villages, teaching it through parables, describing it through stories. Inviting, challenging, welcoming us all to join it and to join Him in proclaiming it. This Kingdom advancing, this Kingdom that belongs to children and the child-like, to those who are born again with water and the spirit. This Kingdom that belongs to the poor and the poor in spirit, but often eludes the rich. This Kingdom that is worth exchanging everything else for. This Kingdom that looks like a party which welcomes people from every direction on the compass and corner of the globe. This Kingdom that starts as small as a tiny seed but spreads and grows with abundant life. This Kingdom that unfolds with the reign of God on earth as it is in Heaven.
This Kingdom that will outlast every empire, every religious regime, every pretension to power on earth. Herod will diminish. Rome will crumble and fall as every other human empire has before it and will after it. But this Kingdom will remain. The one true Kingdom that will never pass away, this everlasting Kingdom that will never be destroyed.
This Kingdom that is good news. Now.
But if this is true, why doesn’t the world look more like a revolution has taken place? Why doesn’t it look different? Where’s the coup? Where’s the regime change? Where’s the battleground? Where’s the flag of victory?
That’s just it.
This Kingdom is different. Unimaginably different to any other Kingdom in this world.
This Kingdom has never been bent on enforcing its rule through power games and political manoeuvrings as worldly powers operate. God is not the sort of King who rules with coercive might or force. This King, this Kingdom is far more subversive. ‘
Its warfare strategy far more subtle, but effective.
This upside down Kingdom changes everything. From the inside out. Beginning with the only way real change can ever come.
The human heart.
Human hearts are always ruled by something. Every human heart has a throne right there in the dead centre, and something always sits on that throne. It might be fear, it might be shame, it might be pride or guilt. We may be ruled by ambition, or the need for significance. There may even be a tussle between many rulers on our throne. But we are always ruled by something. The throne of the human heart never sits empty.
We may think we are in control, in charge, making our own choices. But all our choices are invaded by the past that broke our hearts. Small splintering darknesses that made wholeness unreachable. Empty.
There is only one true King over all the earth. One King who brings wholeness and completeness and everlasting hope.
We didn’t need another empire, another power, another political ideology, another Monarchy.
We needed hope.
We needed the true King of all the earth. In our hearts. Making us whole. Freeing us so we can spread His Kingdom message to others. Partnering with Him in subverting all worldly kingdoms of darkness with light. Together.
This is why He came. This is what His Kingdom looks like. This is what His rule feels like:
‘In love a throne will be established;
in faithfulness a man will sit on it –
one from the house of David –
one who in judging seeks justice
and speeds the cause of righteousness.’
Are you ready to join the coup? This Kingdom revolution?