Day 11: Jesus is the King of Kings
يسوع ملك الملوك (Arabic)
…which God will bring about in His own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords… – 1 Timothy 6:15
It is very common to speak about Jesus in the Advent season as the coming Messiah or king. Many famous hymns celebrate Him as such. But have you thought of what this actually means? What were the gospel writers communicating by portraying this baby born in a cave in Bethlehem as king?
A Universal King
Matthew stresses in the beginning of his gospel that Jesus Christ is the King of all people, not only the Jews, by recounting the coming of the magi, or the kings of the East, to worship him, to acknowledge Him as “king,” and to give Him the honour that befits Him as a king! The coming of the nations’ representatives is actually the fulfillment of prophecies. Isaiah, for example, described how the nations will walk in the light coming out of Jerusalem—that is, the light of the Messiah (Isaiah. 49:6; see also Psalm 72).
Jesus Christ is the King of the universe, the King of all peoples. This is good news for us today. It means that racism has no place in Christianity—not in Jesus’s day, not in modern day Bethlehem where I live and work, not at any time or in any place! There is no place for ethnic, sectarian, religious, or tribal racism in our Christian faith. Our diversity as Christians is part of our identity, and it is important and necessary. In addition, this is a challenge to any racist ideology and to any notions of supremacy or privilege.
A Challenge to the Empire
The gospel’s message that “Jesus is King” is a challenge to all the kings who were contemporary with Christ. Jesus challenges the logic of might and pride. He challenges the empire of His time. When Matthew writes that the Magi presented this child with royal gifts, and that Herod was troubled and even mad, there is a subtle yet profound message: because Jesus was born, this mighty and ruthless king fears for his throne.
There is a new kingdom, and born in Bethlehem is the new king. However, His kingdom is quite different from the kingdoms of the world. It is a kingdom of a different kind. The King is born in a cave, not a castle. He is born in Bethlehem, not Rome, Athens, or even Jerusalem. The heralds of the kingdom were simple shepherds. His parents from little-known Nazareth. His father a carpenter.
It is a kingdom with love and service at its core. Its King was a servant of all, who died and suffered on behalf of all.
When Matthew wrote his gospel, Christians were persecuted, weak, and small in numbers, yet he had the audacity to declare Jesus as the King of the world. He even mocked Herod as being fearful and obsessed. Herod the king was troubled, while the royal gifts went to the true king. Today, two thousand years later, Herod is just a memory, a footnote in the story of Jesus. The remains of his castle near Bethlehem bear witness to his brutality, his madness, and to the oppression and injustice of his tyranny. Meanwhile, the grotto of the nativity bears witness to the meekness of Christ, and worshipers visit it day by day. Worshipers of Jesus the King from all over give witness to His universal kingdom!
A Challenge for Us Today
Jesus Christ today is a King who challenges us all with His weakness, poverty, and meekness. Shall we accept Him as king? Do we accept His approach of sacrificial love? The challenge for us today is to choose what the Magi chose – to come before Christ and offer Him our gifts, ourselves, our hearts. The challenge also is to follow Him in His servant leadership, in His humility and meekness, and in His sacrificial love and service to all peoples.
Rev. Dr Munther Isaac is a Palestinian Christian and Langham Scholar who received support for his PhD from Langham Partnership. He is pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Christian Church in Bethlehem, and the academic dean of Bethlehem Bible College. He directs the highly acclaimed and influential Christ at the Checkpoint conferences.