In an article in a church magazine I read the following, “More than 30 years of dictatorship by Mobutu Sese Seko, followed by seven years of civil unrest, have left Congo economically and socially bankrupt. Civil workers have been without pay for a long time; families find it difficult to feed their children. Many young people finishing university are without jobs. The country has become morally bankrupt; conflicts are common in the society in general and the church in particular.”
Reuters, the news agency, reports a similar situation in Somalia. “2 million people out of an estimated population of 9 million were already on food aid and more than 10,000 deaths from starvation were expected each month if help did not arrive.
Warlords have dominated the country since the ousting of former dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.”
The same thing is true in other countries of the world. When there is no effective government, anarchy reigns and it easily becomes an unstable and often violent situation.
Sometimes it feels like that is true in the world as a whole. The UN is not in charge, the US would like to think it is, but it isn’t. Is anyone really in charge?
On Palm Sunday, Jesus was presented as king. But what does that really mean? Is He the one who is in charge of things in the world? If He is, where do we see that reign? What are the implications of Christ as King? How does that touch me? What hopes, encouragements and comforts are mine because of it?
The theme of a king for the world is not an uncommon theme in the Bible. We have been studying Ezekiel and there is a passage in Ezekiel 37 that speaks about a coming king. It is a word of hope for the nation of Israel.
We have been studying Ezekiel since January 1 and for most of that time we have been talking about doom and destruction. Ezekiel was in exile in Babylon speaking to Jewish people who had been sent away from their home in Jerusalem. Jerusalem was still there and many of their relatives were still in that city, but the message of Ezekiel was that, because of the sin of the people, the nation was being steadily dismantled. God’s judgement was on his people because of their sin. In 33:21 we heard about the final blow: “Jerusalem has fallen!” How devastating!
However, beginning in Ezekiel 34, the tone of the book changes significantly. The message of judgement has passed and there is a new message of hope. It is a new message of what God is going to do in the future.
One of the passages in this section is Ezekiel 37:15-28 which speaks of a coming king. In this passage, Ezekiel is once again told to produce a visual aid. He is told to take two sticks. On one he is to write Judah and on the other Israel. Then he is to hold the two sticks together so they look as if they are one. The message of God for the people in 37:22 is “I will make them one nation in the land.” Ever since the days following Solomon, Israel and Judah had been divided, but here God promises that they will be united once again.
Then the promise God makes in the same verse is that “there will be one king over all of them.” Further on in 37:24, God promises, “my servant David will be king over them.”
The rest of the passage describes the conditions which will exist under this new king. The people will be cleansed from their sin because God will cleanse them. The people will truly be God’s people. Conditions will be good as one generation follows another in a place where peace is over all. God will live among them and everything will be good.
What a wonderful message of hope! Unification of God’s people, good conditions, peace, God among them and all of these promises and blessings because they will live not in a condition of anarchy under a sinful ruler, but ruled by God’s chosen king, His servant David, who will keep things in this condition.
This was a promise to people who were experiencing few of these conditions. It was a promise to people who desperately needed to hear a word of hope. But what happened to that promise?
Today is Palm Sunday. Each year on this day we remember that Jesus came into Jerusalem riding on a donkey. We celebrate this day because it is the day on which Jesus was presented as King.
One of the places in the Bible where we find this story is in Matthew 21:1-11. As Jesus and his disciples were coming near to Jerusalem, He sent two of his disciples to Bethphage to prepare a donkey and her colt. The disciples brought these animals to Jesus and he sat on them and rode into Jerusalem on them. The writer makes a connection with an Old Testament prophecy which comes from Zechariah 9:9. In this prophecy one of the lines is “see your king comes to you…” As they went into Jerusalem, the crowd put their cloaks on the ground and others cut branches and laid them on the ground and there was a procession into the city. In the procession, the people recognized what was going on. This was not the first time such a procession had taken place. In II Kings 9:13, there was another description of such a procession in which another king was presented to the people. As the procession was going forward, the people were shouting and once again significant words were spoken about what was happening. They shouted, “hosanna to the Son of David.” In this phrase we see a connection to the prophecy in Ezekiel and others like it that speak of a coming king who is from the family of David.
What was obviously happening here, something the people in the procession perceived and which the writers of the gospels proclaim is that the promised king was being presented to the people. He was coming into His city to take His place as king over all.
And yet there is something puzzling about this presentation of Jesus as king. People had been presented as king before this and whenever they were, they began to rule as soon as they were presented. When Israel asked for its first king, Saul was presented as king and after being presented, he began to rule. David was presented as king and immediately began to rule over Judah. When David was near the end of his life, Adonijah tried to present himself as king, but he was not supposed to be king so David declared Solomon king and immediately Solomon began to rule.
These are normal scenarios. In these cases, the king was presented as king and then began to reign. In the triumphal entry, the king, Jesus, was presented as king, but where was his reign? Instead of beginning to reign following upon this presentation, we see rejection and very soon the death of the one presented as king.
However, if we think that Jesus was presented as king, but never began to reign we have not understood the whole situation. Even though Jesus did not reign at that point, the presentation of Jesus as king was, accurate. A short time later, he did begin to reign.
The situation which became reality after Jesus’ death and resurrection and is still the way things are today is spoken of in Ephesians 1:18-23. Paul writes about his prayer for the people of Ephesus. I love this prayer. He prays that “the eyes of your heart will be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” This prayer is loaded with hope and included in that hope is the recognition of the power of Jesus who is king. Although the word king is never used in this passage, the idea of the rule of Christ as king permeates the passage. It speaks of the power which Jesus received at the resurrection and ascension. It speaks of the power of Christ which is his now as he reigns as king with God the Father. It describes that he is the king who is over all “authority, rule, power and dominion and every title that can be given.” It encourages us that right now Jesus has all authority and all things are under his feet and that his power and authority is for the church, his body. His reign is described as pertaining to the present age and the one to come.
As we read this passage, we see that the reality of Jesus being presented as king became true at his resurrection and ascension and is true now. This is not a mystery or a wish, it is truth. Jesus is indeed king over all things. As one writer says, “the present course of history and the ultimate destiny of the universe are in his hands.”
Even though the present reality is one of Christ’s reign in power, we do not yet see His reign active everywhere. Sometimes this discourages us because we do not perceive what really exists. That is the reason for Paul’s prayer. Part of the problem is not that it is not reality, but that we do not see the reign of Christ and so Paul prays that our eyes will be open so that we will see it.
But there is more. In the Bible, there is also a pledge regarding future conditions. Christ as supreme ruler is presented once more in the Bible as a pledge of what is yet to come.
In Revelation 19:11-18 we have another presentation of a king. This is similar to the triumphal entry in which the king, Jesus, is once again presented. This time, however his presentation speaks much more about the final triumph. Jesus is presented not as a humble ruler who will gain victory through his own sacrifice and death, but as the ruler who has gained the victory and has every right to sit enthroned forever and ever. He is now mounted not on a donkey, but on a white horse. The trappings of power are upon him – a robe dipped in blood, a sharp sword coming out of his mouth, which means that the victory will not be by military power, but by the word of God. At that time, “he will rule with a rod of iron.” The identity of this powerful ruler is “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”
This picture speaks of what is coming, of the final fulfillment of the promise made so long ago in the days of Ezekiel and in other places in the Bible. God has promised a king. Jesus was presented as King. Today, although He is not recognized by most, He rules as king over all and one day He will be presented as the supreme and only ruler of all the universe.
The truth we understand from these four pictures in Scripture is that Jesus is the king. He is the sovereign over all. He is the one who now has all power and authority and the one who will rule over all.
But what does that mean to us? What are the implications of Jesus’ kingship for us? Perhaps the answer to that question can be found in reflecting on what kings do. There are three things that kings do – protect, provide and make things right. Jesus does all of these things for us.
A couple of weeks ago Stephen Harper met with George Bush and Vicente Fox in Mexico. Harper had certain items of agenda he wanted to talk about with George Bush and one of them was the identity cards that will be required for people to enter into the United States. The concern is that they could create a problem for travel between our two countries and so Harper raised the issue. Bush responded that he would not change this requirement. When he did that, it was understandable what he was trying to do. As the ruler of his country, he is responsible to protect the citizens of his country. He was being faithful to his mandate to protect his nation. That is what rulers, what kings do. They are the ones held responsible to protect their citizens.
In a similar way, Jesus, as king, protects His people. In the passages we looked at earlier which promise and present Jesus as King, we read in Ephesians 1:22, “God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church.” The power of Jesus is for the church and therefore for His people. Jesus is the protector of His people.
We know that Satan is a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. He tries many tricks to destroy us. He uses intimidation, temptation, discouragement and deception. Sometimes we feel that we are completely vulnerable to his attacks, but that is not true because Jesus our King is protecting us from those attacks. Whenever we feel fearful or discouraged or tempted, we need to remember that we are being protected from the full effect of those attacks. Like Elisha’s servant who realized that God’s protection was all around him, we need to realize that Jesus is our protector and never sleeps and is always at work as the king who protects.
Let us be encouraged that Jesus, our king, is also our protector. He protects us from the evil one and also from evil in this life.
When politicians are campaigning for office, we are used to hearing all the promises they make that they will provide for the people under their rule. When Herbert Hoover was campaigning to be president in 1928, his slogan was, “A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.” Even the farmers who gathered on parliament hill this week had an expectation that those in power would provide for their needs.
In the passages that speak of God’s king we have similar concepts. In Ezekiel 37:26, the promise is that “I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers…”
The provisions which I have received from Jesus my king are numerous. I think of material things provided, rest provided when I needed it, ideas provided when I had to write a message, encouragement provided. The other day I was feeling a little overwhelmed with all I had to do. In my morning devotions, I was reading Psalm 47 and the words of praise to God provided a great encouragement for me.
Jesus is the king who supplies what we need. What a blessing and hope to know that we now have a king who does these things for us and also the hope of greater blessings and provisions yet to come.
The other thing that kings do is to make things right. One of the stories that comes to my mind is the famous story of the two women who came to Solomon. They both claimed that a baby was their baby and it was up to Solomon to make things right and we are amazed at the wisdom he used to do this. Just rule is the responsibility of those in authority and when they do that it makes for good living conditions in a country.
The passages we have looked at also mention that the coming king will make things right. Ezekiel speaks to people who are suffering under the punishment of God because of their sin. The promise is that conditions under the new king who is coming will be that they will be a holy nations and will be saved from their backsliding ways.
Next week we will celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus. As we do, we will celebrate the greatest act of making things right. Jesus’ death on the cross has made us right with God and also made us acceptable to God.
Although much injustice still exists in the world and even in our relationships, our hope is that because Jesus is the king who makes things right, we can rest in the fact that all will be right in the end. This perspective allows us to live in freedom from the need to retaliate and it allows us to rest whenever we see injustices in the world. Even though we ought to enact justice in our own lives and work for justice in the world, we can, nevertheless, rest in the hope that God knows and will do right.
Today we have focussed on the fact that Jesus was presented as king. In Matthew 21 we have read about this presentation, but, we do not see the work of Jesus as king in this passage. There is no mention of protection, provision and making things right because they did not happen on that day. Jesus was presented as king, but did not actually reign at that time. That does not take away from the fact that He is king and through His death and resurrection He has become king. The promises made in Ezekiel and other Old Testament passages and the presentation of Jesus as King in Matthew became a reality after his death, resurrection and ascension and today Jesus sits as king over all. Nevertheless, we also wait for the day when he will be presented as the eternal king to all the universe.
What does such a knowledge of Christ mean to us? The promises of his protection, provision and justice are not only theological truths that remain in our heads. They are truths that are very personal and relevant to our lives. Jesus is the one who protects us from evil and from the evil one. Jesus is the one who provides for our spiritual, emotional and physical needs. Jesus is the one who makes things right. We can rejoice and rest in these wonderful promises. The reality of Jesus as King is a blessing not to be feared or ignored but to be lived under from day to day.
May the truth of Jesus our king cause us to rejoice each day. May we accept and live under His reign by accepting His protection, provision and justice.