Continuing my advent look at what we mean when we call Jesus king, because we sing all of our Christmas Carols about this newborn king. The newborn whom we would ultimately call King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. But, the question is, what do we mean when we call Jesus king?
Beginning with 2 readings of scripture today.
The book of Daniel is the great apocalyptic book of the Old Testament. By apocalyptic we mean “revealing of the end.” It’s a showing forth of where this thing is headed. And, of course, the great apocalyptic book of the New Testament is the book of Revelation. Interestingly, the book of Revelation borrows heavily from the book of Daniel. The book of Revelation depends on a lot imagery and symbol that has already been given and established centuries earlier in the book of Daniel.
One of the things that is very interesting about how Daniel and Revelation fit together is that in Daniel you find an apocalyptic hero at the End of Days that sets all things right. He’s, mysteriously, simply identified as the “Son of Man”. That’s all we’re told, we’re not given a name, we don’t get much detail, but the idea is this Son of Man will come and be the hero and set things right. The book of Revelation, though, makes it very clear who this apocalyptic hero is. Of great significance is this – Jesus referred to himself repeatedly as the Son of Man, not just meaning a
Now, to understand the hero of Daniel and the hero of Revelation, we must understand the anti-hero, or if you will, the antichrist, the villain. In Daniel, the anti-hero is Alexander the Great and the Greek Empire, that’s what we’re told. In Revelation, the anti-hero (or antichrist if you will) is Caesar and the Roman Empire.
Now, to the point of understanding what we mean when we call Jesus king, it really helps to understand what the world means when it calls its conquerors king. Because they are very different. When we as Christians call Jesus king, and the world calls it’s conquerors king, we’re both using the same word, king, but we have a very different understanding of what we mean by king.
The greatest of all the worlds archetypal conquerors was the great goat from Daniel, Alexander the Great. Mentored by Aristotle, he was know to have great wisdom. He was born in 356 B.C., in what would become Pella, Greece, but at the time was Macedonia, in northern Greece. He died in the year 332 in Babylon at the young age of 32. His father, Phillip, was the king, or warlord, of the tribes of Macedonia. His mother, Olympias, was a worshipper of the god Dionysus, and was known for her ecstatic dancing and trances as she worshipped. Interestingly, Olympias claimed that her son Alexander was fathered not by Phillip, but by the Greek god Zeus. Little Alexander was told over and over that he not a mere mortal, but the son of a god.
Alexander was trained in warfare by his father Phillip, king of the Macedonians. But for his education in all things Greek – poetry, philosophy, science, the whole spectrum of Greek learning, his teacher was Aristotle. He had as good an education as you can get. Alexander was the student of Aristotle, Aristotle was the student of Plato, Plato the student of Socrates. The Jews have Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, then Joseph who reigns over Egypt. The Greeks have Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and the great emperor Alexander. It’s all very interesting.
When Alexander was 20 years old, his father Phillip was assassinated. Suddenly at age 20, he becomes king. At 21, he begins a campaign of conquest that changes the world over the course of 11 years. He went on a non-stop campaign of conquest and without any exaggeration he changed the world permanently. We are influenced today by Alexander the Great. What he did was bring Greek culture, language, religion, understanding, philosophy to the world. He went from city to city, conquering, then establishing the cities for Greece by importing teachers, philosophers, priests, and building temples. It was the program we know as the Hellenization, or turning to Greek culture and religion that influenced the whole world.
It is quite remarkable that in 11 years he built the first global empire. His project in Hellenization is the first experiment in globalization. It happened so quickly, the prophet Daniel describes it like this –
His greatest military triumph was when he defeated King Darius and the mighty Persian army. They had been the dominant super power for centuries. Alexander’s army was outnumbered 3 to 1, but with his great military cunning he was able to destroy the armies of the Persian empire, which is also given to us prophetically in the book of Daniel, in chapters 8 and other places. Then he marched on Tyre, and laid siege at what we call Lebanon today. At the fall of Tyre, 7000 were killed, 30,000 were enslaved, then to make his point, Alexander took 2000 men and crucified them. He was sending a message. Notice that Alexander the Great uses crucifixion to establish his empire.
After that he marched south, came to the city of a Gaza, Gaza resisted, so Alexander put to death
He also had this issue with constantly trying to outdo his father (sound familiar?). He seems to have felt inferior to his father, who was king of the Macedonians, so he was always looking for affirmation. ‘
When he began to require that he be treated as a god among men, some of his officers, who had been his friends growing up, began to hesitate. They knew Alexander and weren’t keen on recognizing him as a god. Alexander responded with torture and sometimes execution. At one banquet Alexander had been drinking quite a bit, and was going on about how great he was, and how much greater he was than his father. His childhood friend, Cleitus (who had at least once saved his life), responded by telling him
After this Alexander decided he would just prove his divinity by continuous conquest. He led his army ever eastward, even over the Hindu-Kush mountains, over some very high mountain passes. He made it down into India, where his army, now reduced to a third of its original size because of attrition by death, said
Alexander the Great’s legacy is clear. He remains to this day the greatest warrior-conqueror in history. If your idea of glory is a great warrior king, then you start with Alexander the Great. Everybody else is just fighting for second. Julius Caesar, Augustus Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, Robert E. Lee, and George Patton all deeply admired Alexander. They called him their hero, and sought to emulate him.
But Christians confess a different king. In fact, Christians
We will begin with this vision in the next message…