Though Christmas is a time when we focus on Jesus meek and mild, a baby lying in a manger, we can overlook that language of royalty that is associated with his life from the very beginning. We see the kingliness of Christ woven throughout the New Testament from before Jesus was even born.
- The angel told Mary: "[Jesus] will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David… his kingdom will never end" ( Luke 1:32-33 ).
- Gold, frankincense and myrrh were standard gifts: gold as a precious metal, frankincense as perfume, and myrrh as anointing oil. There was a spiritual meaning that came to be associated with them as well: gold as a symbol of kingship on earth, frankincense for deity, and myrrh (an embalming oil) as a symbol of death. The popular Christmas carol "We Three Kings" includes this interpretation as part of its lyrics: "Glorious now behold Him arise/King and God and sacrifice."
- When Jesus entered Jerusalem, John records that it was the fulfillment of a prophecy: "Fear not, daughter of Zion. Behold, your King is coming” (John 12:14).
- When Pilate asks him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus basically says, “Yes” (Luke 23:3). Then that phrase is used as a mocking sign on top of Jesus’ cross.
- John writes in Revelation that when Jesus returns in the fullness of his power and glory he will have King of Kings printed on his robe and tattooed on his thigh (Revelation 19:16). That’s symbolic imagery, but there’s something going on there.
- Paul describes the coming arrival of Jesus as the arrival of the King of the World, or the King of Kings (1 Timothy 6:15).
- crowns and purple robes
- crowns and a red capey thing with fur (apparently a nod to King John in Disney’s Robin Hood)
- Queen Elizabeth – stiff, stuffy, pretentious, controlling
- relaxing – they always sit in a throne room
We generally think of royalty with a mixture of fascination and judgment– fascination because how cool would it be to be a king or queen, and judgment because of the class arrogance that we assume comes with this. Lorde sang that we’ll never be royals – we will never be spoiled, out of touch with tigers on a leash, wearing diamond watches and drinking Gray Goose. And why would we want to be that pretentious?
Then there are king in the Middle East who rule with violence and anger, and the Burger King and King Juilian from the Madagascar movies. It’s not really a great time to build an image of a king that is compelling. They are elitist, violent, or silly.
I suppose we could appeal to King Arthur, Aragorn, King Leonidas and Ned Stark – but those are whitewashed charicatures of real people or just flat-out fictional characters. They might show us what a good king could be or do (at least in some ways), while in the real world we can’t seem to find a king that is that good, kind, or noble, or has great one-liners and chiseled abs like Leonidas. For every Ned Stark there’s a bunch of Lanisters lurking in the wings.
Generally, I don’t trust kings. Everywhere I look around me, kings fail. Royalty is corrupt. And I don’t mean to point fingers – if I were a king, I’d be part of the problem too. (It probably doesn't help that I've grown up in a system of government that is theoretically based on the will of the people, not a monarch).
C.S. Lewis said he realized something was wrong with the universe only because he had a concept of what right looked like. I wonder if kings disappoint me because I expect more of them. After all, I actually know what a truly good king should look like – and I see this by looking at the King of Kings. In the life of Jesus we see the character and nature of a true King of Kings on display for the world to see.
- A good king is bold and truthful. A good king won’t passive/aggressively manipulate or deceive you. A good King will tell you what’s up, and will be right. Jesus said, “I am the truth.” Those who love Jesus love a truthful king.
- A good king is kind. A good king is not in love with power, but uses His power for sake of His kingdom and His people. Jesus came to serve, to save, to deliver His people.
- A good king is strong. A good king may be gentle, but don’t confuse that with weak. With Jesus, even the wind and the waves obeyed him, as did demons, principalities, and powers. In the end, Death itself gave way to the King. In one case, absolute power did not corrupt absolutely. It was exercised righteously.
- A good king is humble and accessible. A good King will not shut himself up in an ivory castle while the rabble wander around helpless and alone. A good king will mingle, will come down to the people instead of making them work their way to Him. A good king and will listen, see and understand.
- A good king is a righteous and merciful judge – there will be justice, but it will be uncorrupted, and the King himself will embody grace and mercy even to the point of paying a subject’s penalty when the subject can’t possible escape judgment on their own. Justice will not be compromised because God is just, but mercy will be lavished on His people even at the expense of a crucifixion, because God is merciful.
- A good king loves sacrificially – Jesus asks his people to give their lives for him, but he will give his life for his people as well. That started when Jesus veiled his deity and became one of us, continued when he died for us to save us from the eternal consequence of sin, and culminated in his resurrection that proved his power and confirmed the hope of we have for life everlasting in His perfect Kindom.
Perhaps I am so disillusioned by all these other kings because they are pretenders to the throne. It is only in Jesus that I see the standard: a King of Kings – a king of glory, light and life – who alone can offer a kingdom where love, joy, peace and hope truly take their place.