Behold the King

Heritage Presbyterian Church

Christ the King Sunday
November 21, 2021
Scripture readings: Daniel 7: 9-10,13-14; Revelation 1:4b-8, and John 18:33-37

It’s a wonderful thing that the United States of America doesn’t have a king.  You may not like the current president, the past president, any of the presidents for the past 25 years, or whatever.  But when the election rolls around every four years, we get the chance to change things by electing a new one.

Consider how the people of the Old Testament “acquired” a king…

Let’s consider the case of King Josiah of Judah.  Josiah was called a righteous king by the writings of the Old Testament.  He was the 16th king of Judah.  He followed a few kings who really angered God by worshiping pagan idols.  Their collective behavior, and that of their subjects, was so bad that God allowed other nations to often invade, destroy, and even carry off the people as punishment for their acts of turning against God. 

But King Josiah changed all that.  He tore down ALL pagan idols and forbid anyone in the kingdom to worship them.  He reinstituted religious laws based on the Scriptures.  When the Book of Deuteronomy, with all its laws and regulations for the people was found in the Temple, Josiah tore his clothing when he heard what they were all supposed to be doing.  He ordered the priests to get busy and get everyone back on the right track.  Josiah reigned for 31 years, so he had plenty of time to get things done – and to train up his successor.

This is one of the best reasons I’m glad we don’t have kings or queens…the successor is automatic without any input from the people…especially when things go terribly wrong!

When the Egyptian king killed Josiah in battle and wanted a leader he could trust, King Necho installed Josiah’s second son, Jehoahaz, who only reigned 3 months.  When Jehoahaz was led captive to Egypt (wonder what he did wrong?) Jehoikim was then installed as king.  

Jehoikim ruled for 11 years, and he was a godless tyrant of a king.  He ended all the good that his father, Josiah, had done.  He also played several sides against each other in various regional conflicts, even switching his alliance from the Egyptians to the Babylonians – who later swept in and destroyed his kingdom.

After Jehoikim ruled for 11 years, his younger brother, Jehoichin, was installed as king.  He was as bad as his brothers, and he only lasted 3 months before being carried off as Nebuchadnezzar’s prisoner.  Then Nebuchadnezzar set up Jehoichin’s uncle as the next king and changed his name to Zedekiah, who was the last king of Judah.

So…a good king, followed by four loser, terrible kings…

Like I said, I’m glad our leaders are not chosen like that.

So, how is our true leader chosen?  Our heavenly leader?  What sort of leader is he?  And what things will he be known for?

First of all, our heavenly leader was born to it.  In the reading from Daniel today, we are told a description of the Heavenly realm of God the Father.  In this setting, there is a contrast between the earth below – full of monsters or “lower things” – and the “upper things” of God.  There is an air of dignity of the various celestial beings that reveals power, strength, and calm.

When a new earthly king is installed, there is a sense of “newness” because of the change in rulers; however, seldom if ever does the entire kingdom change when this happens.  In the reading from Daniel, there is a significant line in which the old realm of earth is to be replaced by the heavenly, perfect realm of Jesus Christ.

It also shows what was probably the correct form of various courts of human rulers, complete with the King occupying the judgment seat, the divine court sitting around the King, and the record books brought out and opened publicly for all to see.  At least, this scene shows how human courts are SUPPOSED to appear…most of them probably didn’t.

There is also a giving of authority from the King to his Son.  In virtually all human royalty, this was not commonly done.  As I said previously, Jesus was born to this.

In the reading from Revelation, we get two important pieces of information about this Kingdom we keep hearing about today:

  1.  This kingdom is looking back at what its subjects have been doing, as well as looking forward to this final judgment.  This king is called the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end – and all time in between.  All things will be considered in this setting, not just “what have you done for me lately.”
  2.  These words and this vision come from a completely reliable source.  Often, rumors coming from a palace end up on the front page of tabloids, opening stories on the nightly news, or a special report with various sources sitting down for a revealing chat with Oprah Winfrey!

Not here…before the vision of the New Kingdom and all its implications and unusual details, we are first told the ground rules.  We can trust what we find – even as we struggle to understand parts of it.  The bottom line is “trust.”

Finally, in John, we have a conversation between a brutal, earthly ruler – Pontius Pilate – and the human version of Jesus Christ.  Pilate had lifetime training as to what life is like under a sovereign ruler.  He understood all that phrase entailed.  And yet, standing before him, was a man accused of being a king – who looked nothing like a king, nor did he act or speak like a king… even a captured one.

But there will be no desperate attempts from this captured king to hold onto power.  No changing the constitution to keep power like some of the more creative leaders in Pakistan and Venezuela and Burma do.  No stepping aside and propping up a weak relative in your place like in North Korea and Haiti and Cuba.  No familiar names to vote for just because the name reminds voters of the good old days (our state has had state treasurers like Warren G. Harding, Jesse James, and anybody named Sam Houston can win even if he isn’t on the ballot).  None of that stuff.  

No…this leader will sacrifice his own life to save us.  He even admits that if he chose, his supporters would fight to keep from letting him be handed over to be executed.  As he hung on the cross dying in agony, he forgave them…as Luke wrote, he told God to “forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”  And he reached out in love and forgiveness to the thief hanging next to him and reassured him that he “would be with me in paradise today.”  He will really and truly put us first.  And anyone who truly follows Him will do the same thing.  

We have had leaders in our country who inspire us by their words, actions, and intentions.  But all of them pale badly in comparison with our loving Christ, our chosen One, whose actions two thousand years ago still make believers bow their heads and drop to a knee in reverence; a leader who continues to make miracles happen in his name; a righteous ruler who rules with strength and love instead of with force and intimidation; a heavenly king who is the same for little children, old people, newlyweds, newcomers, long-term followers, liberals, conservatives, moderates, Republicans, Democrats, and everyone else.  

Our king….King Jesus…

behold the king who reigns in heaven and on earth…

the king who loves us…

the king who forgives us… 

the king who chooses us even if we don’t choose him!  

Behold your king!