Faithlife Corporation

What King do you see?

Notes & Transcripts

 Daniel 7:9-14, Revelation 1:4-8 & John 18:33-37

Today is the feast day of Christ the King.  I wonder what kind of picture comes into our heads when we hear the word, “King”.  I wonder how we react to the idea of someone being King over us?   What does it mean to have a King?   These questions are difficult enough when we’re thinking about a King here on earth, but I think that sometimes they seem even more difficult to answer when we are talking about Jesus as King.   But that is what I’d like to do this morning.   We’re going to have a look at the three readings, at the things that they show us about Jesus as King, and think about what that means for our lives now.

The first reading we heard is part of the book of Daniel.   You probably know him best from the story of Daniel and the Lion’s Den.    Daniel was an Israelite, probably from one of the ruling families in Jerusalem, who had been carried off into exile in Babylon when Jerusalem had been defeated about 600 years before Jesus was born.   He was a faithful worshipper of God, who, throughout his exile proved the practical wisdom of following God faithfully. 

A few years before the incident with the lions, Daniel had a series of dreams or visions, in which he was shown things that were to come about in the future.   The descriptions of the things that he was shown sound foreign and strange, even when they’ve been translated into English.  What is it with all these beasts and horns, and wheels on a throne?

It sounds strange because it is written in a certain style that we’re not very familiar with now.  It is written in the Apocalyptic style.   This style is very image heavy, with lots of symbolism, and objects or creatures standing for something.   A daft modern example would be the bulldog that is used sometimes to represent the British spirit.

What does the word apocalypse mean now?  

It originally meant revelation – being shown something.  Something about God, something that was hidden, something about what would happen in the future.   But it is fundamentally about being shown something.  Very often in the Bible, the things that are being shown are to do with what will happen when Jesus returns and brings evil to a final end, and so it has become associated with battles and war.  But that is not all that it is about.  The most important thing is that we are shown something.

In this passage, today, the important question for us, is: What does this passage show us about God, about Jesus, and in particular about Jesus as King?  

The first character to appear is the “Ancient of Days”, God, seated in heaven.  This character is being worshipped by millions of people.  God is seen getting ready to judge in the heavenly court room.  The sentence is passed on the beasts and the horns, and they are defeated and stripped of their power.

And then, one like a son of man appears.  Who is this?   Remember this was dreamt and written six hundred years before Jesus was on earth.   Who did Daniel think it was?  Who did the people who first read this think that the One like a Son of Man was?  Who is this person who was given all this authority, all this glory, all this power? All these things that rightfully belonged to God?

As you might imagine, there are a few theories about this, but the short answer is that we don’t really know what Daniel understood about this, and interestingly, when the vision is explained to Daniel by an Angel, that part of the vision isn’t explained.  It’s almost as if Daniel was shown something, but not what it meant.

Looking back, I think that it is reasonable to see Jesus there, and to understand something about Jesus’ kingship from this vision of Daniel.   I think this is reasonable because the other elements of the vision were explained.   Those beasts and horns stood for earthly kingdoms that would rise and fall.   Not only that, but those kingdoms did rise and fall. The rest of the vision was explained and did come true in history.   So, I think that it is reasonable to look back and see Jesus coming to earth, dying, rising and ascending to heaven in the clouds as an explanation of this other part of the vision, which then shows us something reliable about what Jesus is like as King.

So, Daniel’s vision shows us that Jesus’ Kingship is absolute rule.   It is about power, and authority, and glory.  It is also about forever.   It will not pass away.

Let us just pause a moment and see Christ as our King in this way.

Now, let’s see another way that we are shown Christ as King.   Let’s go to our gospel reading, taken from John’s telling of the Good News of Jesus’ life on earth.

Jesus talked lots and lots about the Kingdom of God, or the Kingdom of Heaven, but he didn’t talk very much about himself as King.   In fact, it is only this interview with Pilate that Jesus allows that he is, in some way, King.

But, it’s not a King as Pilate expects it.  There is no glory or power or worship to be seen here.   As Jesus himself points out, there are no soldiers or security forces to guard this King.   There is no evidence that this is a King.  There is no forever here, instead, there is a cross waiting that will bring this King’s so-called rule to an end.

So, we see that there is no visible evidence that he is a King, and we know that the capital charge against him, the thing that gives the legal excuse for killing him, is setting himself up as King in defiance of Caesar. With all this, why does he say something so stupid?  Why doesn’t he just shut up?  Why does he, for the first time in his ministry, say that he is King?   Not a great time to pick to launch this new theme to his teaching.  Why does he do it?

I think that there are two reasons. 

The first is that it is true.   Jesus was sent to bear witness to the truth, however uncomfortable or inconvenient or dangerous.   Even though Pilate doesn’t even recognise that there can be a true truth, it is what Jesus stands for.   He is a faithful witness.  He is trustworthy.  His words are not empty, they are full.

The second is that Jesus had to die.   His bearing witness to the truth included not just words but actions as well.  Those actions included the truth that the relationship between God and people was broken.  The truth that people were and are in slavery to darkness, trapped in webs of self-reliance and defiance of God’s rightful rule in their lives.  The truth that people have been separated from the source of life, and unless they are given a way to reconnect will die forever.   Jesus came to be that way.

In this scene in Pilate’s palace we are shown a very different kind of King.  A King who seems to have no power, no kingdom, and no authority.  Despite this, he does what he knows has to be done.

Let us just pause a moment and see Christ as our King in this way.

On this festival of Christ the King we have been shown two images of our King.  The image of the faraway King seated on the throne, ruling and worthy of worship.   The image of the nearby King, standing on earth, submitting and dying.   But there is only one King, Jesus.  So, how can we bring all these things that we are being shown about Jesus together?   How can we make sense of how they fit together?

I think that we are helped in this by our second reading.  This came from the book of Revelation.  That’s the book that is all about being shown things.   It shares with Daniel the dream language, the imagery, it’s like Jazz, or rock and roll, or music hall, you recognise the kind of music that’s being played.  Well, this is apocalypse style.   And this time, there is no doubt, it’s Jesus.

It is the same writer, John, as wrote our gospel reading but it’s later in his life.  Like Daniel, he is an old man now, and he has a series of dreams and visions about what is to come.  

What are we shown about Jesus?  He is raised to life from death.  He has been faithful to witnessing to God on earth, and he is now ruler over all authorities on earth. 

And then, as John reflects on who Jesus is, as he realises what he is being shown, John is lost in praise and worship of this Jesus.

He loves us, and has freed us.  He’s made us to be kings and priests for ever.  Praise him

He comes on the clouds, and there will be judgement, and sorrow for sins.  Amen.

This King, who dies for his people, can be seen in John’s dream.  He is praised for being the one who is the firstborn from the dead, which means that there will be more born from the dead.  He is praised for being the one whose blood set his people free from their sin.  

It is in this praise that we see the connections between Jesus’ glorious Kingship and his servant Kingship.  It is because he is the rightful King of every thing and every person that his servanthood is so fantastic, and his sacrifice to death so powerful.  It is because he is the King that he has the right to judge.  It is because he is the servant King that he created a way for every person who chooses to travel on it to be part of his Kingship forever.

Let us just pause a moment and see Christ as our King in this way.

When we see our King in this way, and we live in this Kingdom, what does that tell us about how we need to live here?

Last week Marg talked about our Worship, Witness, and Works.   It seems to me that when we reflect on Christ being our King, these might provide a useful way of thinking about how living in this Kingdom affects our lives.   How do we worship our King?  How do we witness to our King?  How do we work for our King?

We are now coming into Advent, the time of when we prepare to remember our King coming to earth for the first time, and to look forward to the time when he will return.   It is a time which gives us lots of opportunities to talk to others about Jesus and his importance in our lives.  There will be opportunities to invite people along to Christmas events, to bring them along with us.  There will be opportunities to welcome people. This Advent and Christmas what are our worship, witness and works going to show our friends, family and neighbours about Christ the King?

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