Our Christmas celebrations often focus upon the drama of the Christmas story. We listen in carefully as we imagine Joseph and Mary and their pursuit of a suitable place for delivery. We are awestruck by their fears and faith. We marvel at the shepherds, minding their own business in a nameless field, whom the Lord reveals a plan far greater than tending sheep. Our curiosity stirs as we inquire about the wise men and their placement in the chronological events of our Lord’s birth. And we equally imagine what it was like to witness our Lord’s birth in a lowly manger. Yet, if we are not careful, we’ll become absorbed in the drama and miss a crucial aspect of the story’s main character.
Wrapped in swaddling garments lies Christ, the conquering king, born to set his people free. With the dawn of the New Year upon us, and the unfortunate reality that our resolutions require discipline and often give evidence to our own superficialities, let us take a fresh look once more at the King who will rule and reign forevermore.
Matthew records the revealing inquiry from the wise men in Matthew 2. After Jesus was born, in the days of King Herod, wise men appeared, asking, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” Even more, these seekers stated their desire to “worship” this king (Matthew 2:2).
Writing much later, John the Apostle writes to churches experiencing a variety of crises (Revelation 2-3). Prior to John’s specific instruction, the aged Apostle assures these believers with a message of hope and surety. John declares:
Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.
Dutch Reformed theologian Herman Bavinck (1854-1921) suggested Jesus’ kingship is two-fold. Christ’s kingship is one of power and of grace. The former, his kingly power, provides the basis for the latter, his grace. We must ask, then, how is Jesus’ kingship one of power? Certainly, there are numerous answers here, but we can settle our attention on his glorious resurrection. Let’s recall that Jesus’ astonishing statement, “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18) was made after his resurrection. To be sure, as the eternal Lord, Jesus’ power is eternal, for Paul acknowledges all things were created through him and for him. Furthermore, so that we won’t wrongly interpret the extent of Jesus’ creative power, Paul adds, things “in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities” (Colossians 1:16). Our Lord is a king in his divine nature as well as his human nature; human eyes did not witness Jesus’ creative power, but human eyes did witness Jesus’ resurrection power.
The next time someone describes Jesus in ways making him appear weak and needy, remember that person hasn’t reckoned with the all-conquering Jesus who looked death in the face, defeated it, and who rules and reigns forevermore in that same resurrection power. Or as John puts it above, Jesus is the “ruler of the kings on earth.” The Apostle Paul’s longing “to know Christ and the power of his resurrection” (Philippians 3:10) should compel us to seek the same.
If we are honest, however, we will admit that power makes us nervous. We see how power is corrupted in geo-political news stories, on social media posts or on the front pages of our hometown newspapers.
We can name names of people who have used their positions of power to harm and dehumanize others. Human history gives a telling testimony of man’s desire to rule with ruthless selfishness. Jesus’s kingship is not one of belittling others for his own benefit nor is his rule and reign a wallowing in authority to disguise his own self-pity or narcissism. King Jesus is a good and righteous king.
As Bavinck notes, we can find great comfort when considering how Jesus’ kingship of power serves as the basis for his kingship of grace. How does Jesus rule as a king of grace? When Paul speaks of Jesus being the head of the church (Colossians 1:18), he speaks to Jesus’ rule and reign in the hearts and lives of his people. As Christians gather in local churches, we receive the immense blessings Christ bestows upon his people through the regular preaching of the Word, the right administration of the sacraments and the fellowship of his people (through prayer and congregational connectedness). Our conquering King rules a kingdom not of this world, yet it has broken out in this world, and we who are his people receive from our King all we need to live faithfully under his powerful and gracious rule.
The eternal king who descended is the same one who ascended far above the heavens, is seated at God’s right hand and rules and reigns in power and grace. In his life and ministry, the King served us in word and deed. In his death and resurrection, the King conquered death, sin and Satan. In his ascension, the living King sits at God’s right hand empowering his church and ruling human history until the time when the he returns.
For this, we rejoice in our King and humbly follow his lead. May we reflect upon our humble allegiance and joyful proclamation that we are people of the King.
Blessings in Christ,
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