When Jesus is my King

As the Easter season progresses and we approach Ascension Day, I’m reminded that Jesus is not only my Savior but also my King, “governing [me] by His Word and Spirit,” to quote Lord’s Day 12 of the Heidelberg Catechism. In a lot of ways, thinking about Jesus as my Savior makes me look back at the past – back on His death and resurrection, back on His invitation to experience forgiveness and new life. But thinking about Jesus as my King brings my focus to the present and has me Crown graphic found with Googleasking whether I’m submitting to His reign today.

Sometimes I think it’s easier to call Jesus my Savior than to call Him my King.

When I say Jesus is King, I’m simultaneously saying that I am not sovereign. If He’s leading in front, then I must be the follower. But how often don’t I pretend or try to be in charge, the one in front? How often don’t I prefer to call the shots?

If I were brutally honest in my prayers, they’d go something like this: “King Jesus, You call me to be a peacemaker and to love my enemies, but I’d rather lash out or at least nurse a grudge against that person who hurt me.” Or: “King Jesus, You call me to work with integrity, but this shortcut is easier and will save me time and money.” Or: “King Jesus, You call me to help and identify with the poor, but I’d really rather pursue prosperity and affluence.” Or: “King Jesus, You call me to reach out to others, to introduce them to You, but I don’t want to look like a backwards religious freak.”

See what I mean? Saying Jesus is my Savior is one thing, but saying He is my King is something more. Calling Him my King means I submit to Him (not the other way around). Instead of me hoping Jesus will bless what I want to do or have already chosen, I’m more interested in obeying His will as revealed through the Bible. Every “But, Jesus…” I come up with reveals I’m actually trying to usurp His throne.

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit of King Jesus works in the church and in my life. He helps me discover, as Aaron Baart pointed out this past Sunday at Trinity CRC, that maturity according to the Bible is not about becoming more independent as one might assume, but actually means becoming more dependent on God and the faith community. The Spirit helps me see what I often think of as forward progress as actually backward regression in Jesus’ Kingdom. He helps me recognize that what our individualistic and consumeristic culture calls good is actually harmful to my soul and relationships. He helps me align my priorities with what God desires so that the things that bring God joy will bring me joy and the things that break God’s heart will also break mine.

Calling Jesus my King can be hard. But He is the King with nail-scarred hands who saves me by His love. He wants what’s best for me today and for eternity. I’ll end up in far better places than if I were to insist on my own path if I but trust Him enough to let Him be in charge and lead the way.

A different sort of king

Palm Sunday cross graphic found via Google

Probably to the surprise of some, Jesus does not arrive in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday riding on a stallion with guns blazing as people might have expected a king to do. Rather, as the church remembers this weekend, he enters on a colt. And his eyes are filled with tears, knowing the trial and death that awaits him. Jesus is a different sort of king than the people are expecting.

Jesus had sent his disciples ahead to fetch the colt and bring it to him. If anyone asked what they were doing with the animal, he instructed them to say the Lord needed it and would return it shortly. In those days kings would not have asked to borrow an animal; a powerful ruler would simply have taken it and added it to his stable. But Jesus is a different sort of king.

As Jesus rides the donkey into Jerusalem, a crowd gathers – ordinary citizens with their children waving palm branches and shouting “Hosanna!” It’s a word that means “Save us!” The crowds probably mean to say “Save us from the Romans occupying our land!” Jesus, however, has his eyes on a bigger enemy than Rome: He is entering Jerusalem to battle sin and death itself. Jesus is indeed a different sort of king.

Looking at the pieces of this story, I can’t help but wonder about the owner of the colt. Did they have any idea who the animal’s rider would be when they loaned it to the disciples?

It reminds me of a 19th century Sunday school teacher in Boston named Kimball who introduced a shoe clerk named Dwight L. Moody to Jesus Christ. Dwight L. Moody became a famous evangelist who influenced someone named Frederick B. Meyer to preach on college campuses. Meyer led someone named J. Wilbur Chapman to the Lord. Chapman, while working with the YMCA, arranged for Billy Sunday to come to Charlotte, North Carolina to attend revival meetings. This led to community leaders in Charlotte scheduling a second revival with someone named Mordecai Hamm. Under Hamm’s preaching, a young man named William gave his heart to Jesus Christ. You knew this man as Billy Graham, who preached to more people than anyone in history. I am certain that that 19th century Sunday School teacher in Boston had no idea what would happen from leading a shoe clerk to Christ.

It’s amazing what can happen when you and I welcome the Lord to work through our lives. I might think I’m just letting someone borrow a colt or that you’re just having a nice conversation with a shoe clerk. But don’t underestimate Jesus’ ability to take little things in life and use them for great purposes. He is ruler over all, yet he knows, loves, and guides you and me individually. What’s more, he had you and me in mind that day as he entered Jerusalem to conquer sin and death. Do you know any other rulers who relate to you like that?

As I said, Jesus is a different sort of king. He’s one worth worshiping this Palm Sunday.

I shared these thoughts in this week’s Rock Valley Bee.

The Infant King

I don’t think I’ve ever associated Psalm 2 with Christmas before. It’s the one where God, enthroned in heaven, scoffs at sinful humanity’s futile attempts to dethrone Him.

This time of year we celebrate the arrival of King Jesus, a King greater than the Herod of His day or any other power or authority back then or since. Countless monarchs and empires have come and gone; things I have enthroned in my heart instead of Jesus have crumbled (or will crumble) into the dust. However, as God’s Son, one with Father, Jesus’ Kingship is secure. He is the ultimate fulfillment of the promise God makes in Psalm 2 to install His King on earth.

King graphic found at rescuehousechurch.org

A poem I read this week in a book of Advent meditations reminds me of all this. Attributed to Daithi Mac Iomaire, it’s simply titled “The Infant King.” It leads me to worship the newborn King – the true King of kings and Lord of lords – this Christmas season.

And in the corridors of power
and in the palaces of hate,
the despot and his lords conspire
this holy threat to liquidate;
yet all the kings that e’re there were
and all the princes of this earth
with all their wealth beyond compare
could not eclipse this infant’s birth.
A million monarchs since have reigned,
but vanquished now their empires vain;
two thousand years, and still we bring
our tributes to the Infant King.

A different kind of King

At Christmas,
Jesus comes not with great honor,
but in deep humility.

He comes not arriving in a luxurious palace,
but in a manger for cattle.

He comes not to wear a crown of gold,
but one of thorns.

He comes not to be loved,
but to love;
not to be served,
but to serve;
not to grasp and grab,
but to give.

He comes not to be dragged down by sin,
but to be exalted to the highest place,
not to receive honor from one country,
but to hear all creation confess Him as Lord.

He comes not rich in money and wealth,
but rich in grace;
not to spread fear,
but to impart joy and hope;
not to bring war,
but to bring peace.

He rules not from a throne made by mere mortals;
He reigns at His Father’s right hand for now and eternity.

Image of cradle and crown of thorns found via Google

The true King of kings is coming for me and for you.
Do you see Him?
Do you know Him?