How do we grasp the idea that Jesus Christ is our king? After all, the closest thing we have to a king in the United States is LeBron James. We threw a lot of perfectly good tea into the Boston harbor, because we didn’t particularly like the idea of having a king.
Just as well, really. Perhaps you remember how, when we began this particular liturgical year AD 2014, we discussed the three wise men looking for “the king of the Jews.”
Way back before the prophet anointed Saul or David as king, the holy people of Israel served God alone as their king. Hopefully you remember how we discussed this: The prophet Samuel warned the people, Don’t make me anoint a human king. Our king is God, the only true king.
King George III of England, on the other hand, had a lot of pretenses of majestic rule—and not a lot of the genuine article. He had jewels, and powdered wigs, and embroidered footstools, and sterling-silver tea settings, and crystal goblets for his claret. But he did not have penetrating insight, or thoroughgoing reasonableness of judgment, or expansiveness of imagination, or precision of speech, or love for the poor and vulnerable. So no one can blame us Americans for wasting so much of his tea.
The King of the ancient Israelites, however—the king of Abraham, Joseph, and Moses, of Gideon, Deborah, and Ruth—their king had none of the trappings, and all of the real goods of kingliness. He was utterly invisible to the human eye, so there was never any question of diadems or gilded robes. But His absolute wisdom, His all-encompassing government, his universal compassion—all this demanded unqualified obedience, unquestioning loyalty, and unlimited devotion.
The invisible King of ancient Israel, ironically enough, can and does pass every test of suitability as a monarch that we independent-minded Americans could ever throw at Him. Because, really, it’s not that we Americans despise kings, per se. We despise kings who are not truly kingly. We despise kings who fail to be noble. The invisible King of the ancient Israelites not only is truly noble and kingly, He defines what these words mean.
But we would have the devil of a time obeying this King, and serving Him, and paying Him homage as we should, if He had not done one particularly remarkable thing. The Old Testament shows us how bad the ancient Israelites actually were at submitting themselves to an invisible king. Over and over again, they proclaimed their allegiance. And over and over again, they failed to render it. We would do no better than they did, if we had to reach out into the absolute darkness to find our king.
So the truly wise, truly just, truly open-hearted King—the One Who really does see all, know all, love all, embrace all—He united Himself with our human stock. He became a human king, a visible king—who still had none of the trappings, none of the empty pretenses and affectations—still had no chariot or ivory scepter or chauffeur or personal jet. To the contrary, He had sandals like everyone else; He walked from place to place like everyone else did; He worked with His hands and even knelt down and washed His friends’ stinky feet after a journey.
The invisible King became the visible man who had no visible affectations of royalty, but who did have all the invisible truth of it. The eternal invisible King became the visible human King, Who is the real King and the genuine definition of ‘king,’ namely: