I’m a few days late. It’s advent season, the season where we await the coming of our King. In other words, it’s Christmas season, that most wonderful time of year, Amen! As such, I am going to break from looking at the seven signs in John. We only have one left, but I will wait until after this advent season to look at that 7th sign, the raising of Jesus’s friend Lazarus.
Because, yes, it is advent season. Advent is really the four weeks leading up to Christmas. It’s the time of year when we give glory to the newborn King. We will be looking at again the Gospel story of Immanuel. Specifically, we will be looking at what we mean when we call Jesus “King”.
The theme of Jesus Christ as King is the predominant theme of all of our favorite Christmas carols. “Joy to the world, the Lord has come, let earth receive her king.” “Hark, the herald angels sing, glory to the newborn King!” Go and listen to these songs, “Silent Night“, “First Noel“, “Oh come, all ye faithful“, “Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem“, “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear“, etc…you will find they all have verses about this baby who was born to be king.
But what do we mean when we sing about Jesus being King in our Christmas carols? Is this just a sentimental thing? Do we mean he’s a spiritual king, King over our spiritual lives? Do we mean that He’s a King in heaven? On earth we have our presidents, prime ministers, not so many kings anymore, but in heaven Jesus is the King and rules over the angels and spiritual beings?
Do we mean that Jesus is the King of our private spiritual lives? That, he’s the king in my heart. He’s in my heart, and in my heart he’s king, is this what we mean? Because, after all, isn’t Jesus just the king of those who receive him as their personal Lord and savior? He is King, but only of those who receive Him as personal Lord and savior. Is that what we mean?
Actually, the answer is no. Not if we are going to believe biblically. It if we are actually going to confess the faith once delivered to the saints. Not if we are going to be informed by Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, and Paul. If we are going to be informed by the apostles, this is not what we mean when we call Jesus “king”. When we call Jesus king we don’t mean “he’s a spiritual king.” “He’s a king in heaven.” “He’s a king over my private personal, spiritual life, in my heart.”
Get this. To think of Jesus as a private, personal, optional, spiritual king is to unknowing (we don’t mean to do this) collude with the principalities and powers to keep the world the way it’s always been. What happens with this kind of thinking is that Jesus can, in fact, change individual lives. Jesus can save us from personal sin. But when we keep Jesus personal and private and spiritual and in my heart, that I optionally receive, that Jesus can save us from personal sin but has little or no bearing on systemic sin, which in fact is the far greater source of suffering in the world.
It has not always been this way. This is a problem that has not always been with us. When the apostles first called Jesus king, they meant it (this may shock you) in the most literal and political way you can imagine. They were not being poetic. They were not being sentimental. They were not spiritualizing things. They were not using a metaphor. They meant KING in the most literal and political way you can imagine. They meant there is a new emperor and he’s over the whole world, and his name is Jesus. That’s exactly what they meant.
Why did most of the first apostles end up as martyrs at the hand of the Roman state? Because they preached the gospel of King Jesus, the gospel that Jesus IS Lord, and they meant it. We do NOT mean this today, but that’s what the apostles meant, that’s what the Bible meant, and that’s why they were such a threat to the empire that they had to follow Jesus and be killed.
There is a movement afoot today, trying to return us to the faith once delivered by the apostles. Let’s see if I can help with that during this advent season, and yes, bring glory to this newborn king.