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Jesus is King — Take Dominion in His Name!

“Which he worked in Christ, raising him from the dead and sitting him at the right hand in the heavenly places above every ruler and authority and power and dominion and every name which has been named — not only in this age but also in that which is to come.”

(Ephesians 1:20-21)

One of the beauties of Paul’s letters is not only is he a systematic thinker who lays out the depths of theology before the church of Jesus Christ, but also that he occasionally breaks out into benedictions. It is an ongoing reminder to us that while the Christian faith does have intellectual content, that content of our faith ought always draw us to bask in the awe that we have for our savior. How remarkable and amazing is our God! Truth about Him and praise for Him must never be made separate. As the Sons of Korah wrote:

“Great is Yahweh! Worthy of Praise! 

In the city of our God and on his holy mountain!”

(Psalm 48:2, verse 1 in English translations)

Yet, we must not stop here, presuming that this is merely an expression of Paul’s awe for our Savior. For indeed, in praising Christ, he lays out an important principle. The principle is that Jesus is enthroned over all creation. He is not waiting for some future reign as some Christians would suggest, but he already reigns from heaven on high. And he reigns over all things. He certainly reigns over his church, which Paul will bring out in the verses that follow, but he rules over nations and powers and authorities in heaven and earth. He has been exalted on high and before him every knee shall bow and tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. Jesus’ reign over creation is not that of a coming and future King, but it is that of a present and eternal King.

One of the sad things in the world today is that many Christians behave and act as if they are a people without a king. They are waiting as it were, but they see no royal authority in power, only chaos reigning on earth. Many behave, then, as if it did not matter how they lived and many more behave as if this world is a fearful place. My friends, that is not the attitude of the Apostle Paul. No. He sees Christ exalted on his throne and ruling over the world. Indeed, the enemy has sought to usurp power and hold territory that is not his own, but it is our role as the church to attack such ideas and to engage the enemy with the confidence that only comes from the knowledge that our King reigns over all creation — things in heaven and on earth and under the earth. We have nothing to fear in the created order — only Him who has redeemed us from death. 

Think about how radically our culture would change if the church adopted the mindset of the Apostle Paul rather than the mindset of the defeatists. At times, I have been accused of being a “triumphalist” in my theology. To that, I say, “so be it,” for indeed, if I am triumphalistic, then the Apostle Paul is even mores. Christ reigns over all creation and he has commissioned us to take dominion of all creation through the Gospel — by making disciples of all nations. Shall we take dominion over the creation in the name of our glorious King or shall we return to our petty squabbles, fighting to preserve our own little insignificant places on the rock we call earth? What will it be?

The Bruised Reed

4/25/14

“And they stripped him and laid a scarlet cloak on him. And they twisted together a crown from a thorn vine and put it on his head with a reed in his right hand, and they knelt before him and mocked him saying, ‘Hail, king of the Jews.’ And they spat on him and took the reed and beat him on the head.”

(Matthew 27:28-30)

 

“And they clothed him with a purple cloak and they put on him a crown woven from a thorn vine and they began to recognize him: ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ And they were striking him on the head with the reed and spitting on him and bowed the knee to worship him.”

(Mark 15:17-19)

 

“And the soldiers wove a crown from a thorn vine and put it on his head and clothed him with a garment of purple. And they came up to him and said, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ And they gave him blows.”

(John 19:2-3)

 

 

So we have the robe, the crown, and now we are left with the reed that was given to our Lord, Jesus. And as we look at this element of Roman mockery, there seems to be two ways in which we can approach it. One of the tools of a reed in the ancient world was to form a standard of measure. Reeds were cut to a consistent length and could then be used much like we would use a yard stick. Thus, in scripture, we find Ezekiel measuring the New Temple with a measuring reed (Ezekiel 40) while John repeats that same activity toward the closing of the Canon (Revelation 11 & 21 — note that even the word “Canon” comes from this word for “reed”). As justice was measured along the lines of standards, the reed also became a symbol of righteousness worked out. That in itself helps us to see the horrible irony of this event, for the reed (of justice) is taken from the King’s hand and used to beat him.

We take this one step further, though, when we realize that in addition to making sure that justice is done, a King is given power over men that is often symbolized by the scepter that he carried. And while reeds were known for being straight, they were not known for being the sturdiest of materials to use and could be easily broken. Hence Jesus asks if, when the people went out to see John the Baptist, what they were looking to see was a “reed shaken by the wind.” Thus, the counterfeit that the Romans were using was that of placing a scepter in Jesus’ hand that represented power to be broken.

But there is a second way that this can be perceived, this time not as much in terms of the design of Roman mockery, but in terms of God’s prophetic design. Isaiah writes about the Messiah:

“A bruised reed, he will not break;

A glowing wick, he will not quench;

In truth he will bring forth justice.”

(Isaiah 42:3)

And here we have the one who will not break the wounded and broken but will restore them, having the symbol of the bruised and broken (the reed) crushed over his own head. How often God requires of his prophets seemingly strange acts so they may become living examples of his truth, justice, and grace; here is one more.

Yet, how often we are like those Romans, seeking power in the strength of men and not in the strength of God. How often people in our churches prefer force to humility, preferring to break the bruised and crushed reeds in their midst than to preserve and heal. How often truth and justice are only sought when convenient…yet how often genuine truth and justice are costly.

King of the Jews… An Earthly or Divine King?

“Yet there is a custom with regard to you that I should release one to you during the Passover. Do you desire that I release to you the King of the Jews?”

(John 18:39)

 

There is a lot of overlap between the different Gospel accounts at this point in the trial, each Gospel writer emphasizing those aspects that the Spirit directed to be most valuable for their respective initial audiences. Though all four writes mention the title, “King of the Jews,” it seems to me that John’s use of the term is the most directed — it is set off in ways that make it more pronounced.

Clearly, Pilate does not see Jesus’ kingship as a threat to his own power or the trial would have been done with already. We have also seen already the conversation that Pilate had with Jesus about the nature of Jesus’ kingdom — that it is a heavenly kingdom, not an earthly one. So why is Pilate continuing to use this language? Clearly he is seeking to taunt the Jewish authorities. What a pathetic king, from a Roman standpoint at least, one whom a mere Roman Governor has the power of life and death over. You can almost see the Priests squirming at this statement and Pilate enjoying every minute of that confrontation. Who is manipulating whom, we might ask as the politics of the event continue to unfold.

Yet, in the midst of the politics, what an appropriate title. Jesus is the King of the Jews from old, he is the one to whom they have always and historically looked as their divine King, and he is the one that all True Israel serves even unto this day, for if we have faith in Jesus Christ, we are children of Abraham. And even today, Jesus sits enthroned on the right hand of God the Father Almighty, worthy of all praise and glory and adoration and honor. Worthy of our obedience and our love.

There will come a day when all nay-sayers will bow their knee before the Lordship of Christ — sadly, for many it will be to their utter condemnation and judgment. Amongst those are this group here who are bickering over who will execute our Lord. While each is trying to ensure that the blood of Christ is on the others hands, by the dynamics that take place, blood is on the hands of all. God’s providence is remarkable…remember what Peter said of this in his sermon at Pentecost:

“Men of Israel — Hear these words! Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was proven by God to you though might and wonders and signs which God did through him in your midst, just as you yourselves know, this one, by the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, was delivered up through the hands of lawless men to be crucified and killed.”

(Acts 2:22-23)

Do you hear what Peter is saying? Who delivered Jesus up? Lawless men did. But lawless men did it because of the definite plan or design and foreknowledge of God. God superintended all of these things from the beginning through miracle and providence to reach this end. An end that will bring salvation to all those who call on Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

In the end, we are left with one question. Which king will you serve? Will you serve a divine one that rules even today? Or will you serve an earthly king who will be here today and gone with the passing of God’s providential design. Pilate and Caesar are dead. Pilate and Caesar have bowed before the crushing foot of God’s justice and are facing judgement in the fires of hell. Jesus sits enthroned. Which king will you follow?

 

Rejoice the Lord is King!

“God has gone up with a shout of jubilation; Yahweh with the voice of a shofar.”

(Psalm 47:6 {verse 5 in English Translations})

 

God has indeed ascended to his throne for he is the true King over Israel and Ruler over all creation. And, just as we find such language here we should not be surprised when we see similar language in the New Testament that speaks of Christ’s exaltation and his enthronement at the right hand of God the Father almighty (see Ephesians 1:20; Hebrews 1:3; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; 1 Peter 3:22). He indeed has “gone up.” The term itself that is employed by the psalmist, hDlDo (alah) reflects the context of worship. With humans it reflects the idea of going up to Jerusalem or to the high places to make a sacrifice — for God it means to his holy Temple and to his throne in Heaven. It is language that must be accompanied by jubilation — and that is exactly what takes place. Not only are there shout of jubilant worship, but there is also the playing of the shofar — the trumpet made from a ram’s horn — which again implies a context of worship in the temple of God.

The verses that follow will be verses of praise and adoration that flow naturally from the lips of the psalmist. Sadly, I wonder how naturally they fall from our own lips. I wonder how naturally they flow out of our own lives. May our words and actions be consistent with this psalm. May our heart rejoice in the knowledge that God is our king and that he will rule our lives (whether we like it or not!). And may we rejoice in the rule of our king, ordering our days through good times and through trials to his glory and praise (it is not about us anyway!).

Rejoice, the Lord is King! Your Lord and King adore;

Mortals give thanks and sing, and triumph evermore;

Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;

Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

-Charles Wesley

The Olive Tree (Judges 9:8)

“The trees surely went to anoint a king over them.  And they said to the olive tree, “You must surely reign over us!” 

(Judges 9:8)

 

As we see what is going on in the land of Israel at this time, and as we reflect back at the history of Israel as it moves out of the book of Judges and into the books of Samuel and Kings, we get a taste for the heart of the people.  They want an earthly king over them.  Why is this?  Certainly, they had a king in God.  He sent his prophets and judges to lead his people when necessary and he provided Levites to provide for the people’s religious needs.  Why would they want a king?

As we spoke earlier, though, the Israelites had not driven the Canaanites from the land and the Israelites had adopted much of the Canaanite culture into their own.  They looked at the other nations and said to themselves, we must have a king so that we can be known in the land.  They were not interested in God’s protection and leadership; they were interested in their own honor and greatness.  Thus we see the people longing to make Gideon their king and when he refused, they made Abimelech their king against his wishes (as he had said that no son of his should be king).  So here we see the eagerness of the trees, who need no king, but want one to satisfy their own ego.  And they begin by going to the olive tree.

It is absolutely appropriate that they look to the olive tree first.  The Olive tree is a symbol of Israel in both the Old and the New Testaments (Jeremiah 11:16, Romans 11:17) and also is used in Messianic imagery as well (Zechariah 4:11-14).  Of course, olives were a staple fruit throughout the history of Israel.  Not only were they used as food but they provided oil for cooking and for lamps. 

The trees have gone to the rightful leader first, God’s anointed tree, if you will.  In the context of this story, they went to Gideon, the judge first.  The problem that came out of this is that in their zeal to have a king, when he refused, they did not stop there.  They were determined to make their own king rather than waiting for God to raise someone up to fulfill their needs.

How often do we do we behave this way in our own lives.  We look at the world around us and get jealous of the things that they have and we perceive ourselves as lacking because we do not have them.  We know from scripture and experience that God blesses us when it is appropriate and in his time, but we aren’t always satisfied with that.  We want God to act on our own timetable and according to our own parameters.  And when God says “no” to us, we go about trying to make things happen for ourselves.

What trouble we usually make for ourselves when we do this.  Indeed, that is where this parable is going, and of course, that is where the history of the people of Israel takes them.  Friends, as we reflect on this parable, let us reflect also on our own lives and learn from the mistakes of those who have failed before us.  Let us learn to wait as the psalmist calls us to do, when he says:

“My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.” (Psalm 130:6)

Let us learn now to wait upon the Lord and not rush headlong into trouble and sin.