What is a king?

St Ambrose 24 Nov 2019


What is a King? It’s not part of our normal day-to-day experience to see a king ruling over us. If we lived in the UK we might see members of the Royal Family from time to time going about their duties, and some of you may have seen Prince Charles in Friday as he and the Duchess visited Christchurch.

But the idea of a King doesn’t have a lot of influence on our daily lives. Let’s turn back the clock to the early days, to the days when Jeremiah was writing – about 2 and a half thousand years ago. Israel had had judges ruling over them, and they wanted a king like the surrounding nations. They got used to kings, with Saul, then David, and so on down the line. the role of the king was to look after the people, to keep them safe and provided for. This is why Jeremiah speaks of shepherds – “ I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the Lord.’

This picture of a shepherd describes a king, righteous governance. People over many generations have longed for kings like this, compassionate and caring, who will look after us. It somehow seems a sort of protection against life to have a society organised this way.

But whenever a person has power, that power can go to their head. The Old Testament kings seemed to alternate between godly and unrighteous, generation by generation. By the time Jeremiah was writing, the people would have had much experience of both sorts of kingship.

He tells us that the new king will be righteous, wise, just. The land will be safe. Doesn’t

this sound great? Wouldn’t you like to live in a world like that? Imagine if every country was governed with justice and righteousness, so all could live in safety? We come closer to it in NZ than in some places, but there is still a long way to go. There is still a great deal that could be improved on, especially for the poor.

The church year comes to a full cycle this week. This is the end, the culmination of the pattern, and next week, when Advent begins, it starts all over again. We will again follow the coming of Jesus, his birth, work, passion, death, resurrection, and what it means for the future. This pattern helps us through our lives too. There are seasons in every life of birth and death,of resurrection and safety. When we think about Christ as our King, we see a picture of perfect Kingship, with justice, righteousness and safety as its cornerstones.

This picture gave the Israelites hope, looking forward to the Messiah, born of the line of Jesse. But when we look at our Gospel reading, it describes someone who was indeed acknowledged as King of the Jews, but in a sarcastic, not a triumphant way. There was no royal procession, no bowing down in homage, just Roman soldiers, invaders from another country, under a different king, pretending to honour him. Was this the end of the story for Israel? Was this broken and dying man, nailed to a cross, the culmination of all the hopes of the Israelites?

As in so much of Jesus’ life and teaching, the picture is upside down. Unlike Prince Charles, who had a cavalcade of police cars escorting him, and helicopters in the air when he came to town, this king was treated shamefully, and crucified. We who have been following the cycle of the church seasons however know that this isn’t the end of the story. Jesus rose from the dead, Christ, the anointed one, King over all, King over death and life itself, over so much more than just the country he happened to be born in, or the time he was living in. Christ was and is King over all the earth, over all the

people, those living when he walked the earth, those before him, those after him, and that means us.

What does it mean if Christ is your King? It means that you give homage to the Lord of righteousness, of peace, of safety. By following Jesus we are worshipping him, continuing his work in the world. By living according to his standards of righteousness and justice, in the small things and the big ones, we are holding him up as our king. In this way many will see Jesus, if we show him to the world.

Let’s go back to Jeremiah, when he said he would raise up shepherds over the people. Are we those shepherds? There is one king over all, Jesus Christ. But there are many who help a king, who spread the work and the love throughout the community.

As we prepare for Advent and Christmas, let’s consider what the point of it all is. The point is in today’s celebration, of Christ as the King. In the words of St Paul’s letter to the Colossians: Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in Him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers – all things have been created through him and for him…. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and though him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

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