As a nation we’ve had our fair share of powerful, dominant and excessive Kings imposing their power and will over us, but their excesses have for the most part been curtailed and controlled through law since the signing of the Magna Carta by King John in 1215.
In these modern times we have for the most part lost our understanding of what it means to be a subject of the crown; to be ruled, controlled, even owned by someone else. The Kings word was law and what he said, was what was done. You were ruled by his system, ruled by his justice, ruled by his opinion. His law was life and death; so: if you wanted to live and survive in their kingdom, you needed to know the law.
We see the reality of that situation today with the plight of Laura Plummer, languishing in a small Egyptian prison cell with 25 others because she didn’t realise the pain killers she was carrying were a banned drug in that country. The authority’s response has been short and to the point. Not knowing the law is not an excuse for breaking it.
Our readings today support an essential Scriptural truth: that Jesus Christ is King.
Scripture is loaded with declarations to that effect. God’s authority is complete and absolute.
The psalmist writes that God has established His rule of justice and righteousness, it cannot be changed, His throne and right to rule was established long ago and will last for all eternity. That’s a long time. God’s law is not a law of restriction but of freedom. It’s a rule of blessing, justice, grace, mercy, power and authority and Jesus is the King. Perhaps we should all ensure that we know just what it is and what it isn’t as there are some very strange ideas about the nature of God in our modern world. We have a responsibility to ourselves and to others that we should.
As we approach Advent and the Christmas celebrations that follow we will be reminded once again of how the Jews were waiting for a King to establish peace and justice.
The Magi travelled a great distance to find the King. As Jesus began his ministry he said the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. Our Gospel reading reminds us that Jesus will stand in judgement over the nations and all people as King. Jesus said to Pilate that ‘you’re right to call me King’ and Pilate wrote that Jesus was ‘King of the Jews’.
Having a King is to accept that we’re not King and that we don’t do life on our terms anymore. This requires trust and has caused problems in the past and so kingdoms of the world have gone out of fashion because so many of them have violated people’s freedom in establishing their own power and authority. But the kingship of Jesus is unlike any other.
He was born in a manger not a palace. He wore a crown of thorns not of gold. He renounced wealth and earthly status but was lifted high … on a cross. As a King He has a kingdom, but this kingdom has no boundaries. As a King He does not force his rule over our lives and minds and will, but invites us to accept it.
This acceptance has implications upon the way we live our lives that must go way beyond what we might or might not do with our Sunday mornings once a week. In our gospel Jesus reminds us that this is a lifestyle that we are called into; a lifestyle that affects everything we do, think and say.
Celebrities are often awarded the keys of the freedom of a town or a city as a sign of respect to them, but Jesus gives us keys of a whole kingdom. Keys of freedom from sin, self-centred-ness, guilt, shame and death itself. Paul reminds us that they are keys of power, wisdom, revelation, authority and hope. All this is ours because it is His. With a decision made to follow Jesus, we are more than subjects of a King. We are heirs of that kingdom but heirs who are called to serve because Jesus first served us.
Jesus is King. The essential question is: how much does He rule in our lives?
Rev Dave Clark
Vicar of the Benefice of Upper Wensleydale