Isaiah 11: 1-10 Luke 2: 25-35
Christ The King
May the Lord be with you! (And also with you…)
In my beginning preparations for this message this morning, I decided to start out by looking into where it is that the word ‘king’ comes from. What I found is that unfortunately, it’s actually not all that interesting of a story really, it’s simply a word derived from old German; the concept though is much older of course. Nonetheless, we will find that we Christians have often used that noun in defining Christ, we often say that we look forward to the entering into of the Kingdom of Heaven, where of course Jesus Christ will be seated on a thrown as its official head. And who knows, the image on the cover of our bulletin this morning could possibly be the type of image in our heads that we could literally meet at such a time as when departing from this earthly life and entering the next. You’ll notice that Christ is clearly on a golden throne, he’s wearing a crown (always the sign of one ordained by God for the leadership role, the crown takes on a type of halo role). Christ’s holding a scepter in his right hand, and I know that that’s not so easy to make out in the picture, but it is just another ancient symbol of leadership, and then in his left hand he has in his palm an orb which of course represents the earth. Christ, ..king of the earth, king of the world, king of heaven, king of the universe, king of all time, king of our lives. Where does this concept come from, what does it all really mean and how does this affect us today – if we want it to?
Well, like last week in which we talked about the ancient beginnings of the concept of the priest, an essential role for humanity and its development, the concept of king is probably almost as old as that of the priest. Early civilization had figured that someone had to be the person who figured out just what it is that that all powerful force of God wanted and expected from us, that is of course why priests came about. And then what most likely came pretty soon thereafter was a thought that whereas the priest could translate for us what God or the gods wanted and expected, there then also had to be a separate individual that would be the enforcer of what the priests were advising. So for instance, say that the local priest says to the community that everyone must come together and hop up and down while thanking God, or the gods, for something he or they, have done – could be something specific or something in general. ..But in knowing people as we all know them, chances are there will be at least a few folks that are going to claim that they find that to be pretty crazy and that they’re simply not going to do it. I think we could all imagine that scenario.
Well, what then happens if people decide that they just won’t follow the instruction of the priest? Perhaps God, or the gods, will unleash a series of violent storms that will destroy so much of what has been being worked on for the community as a whole, and then that translates into everyone having to suffer because of the stubborn unbelief of a few. Peer pressure can be an amazingly powerful motivator, but still it has to be enforced by someone or some thing that is going to be able to instill fear for non-compliance. THUSLY, a leader of men must emerge. And sometimes these communities were larger and sometimes smaller, the size of the community would, especially if larger, of course add to the power that the local leader, or king, would have. If you have more people doing what you tell them, that’s power. And then add-in
that this leader or king is essentially put forth as God’s enforcer on earth, …there’s something pretty remarkable there. The power ability, the level of influence…
Now let’s tie this idea all in to the biblical story. There are several kingdoms in the Middle East, some are large and powerful and some are small and not so difficult to overcome. The largest were of course the Mesopotamians, the Assyrians, the Egyptians and the Babylonians. The Jebusites and Canaanites and the like were much smaller and weaker. The Israelites then came into that mix and they were organized in a tribal way, essentially because that’s the way it was and still is done by nomadic communities; meaning communities that move from one piece of land to another. But then the Israelites over some time became a people that did not move around so much, they dropped being nomads, and so then the tribal system became not what they wanted or needed, they wanted to be like other settled communities, they wanted a king. Samuel thinks that they’re being crazy, but God agrees to what it is that they want, and so then God directs Samuel to anoint Saul with oil, a sign of being ordained by God. ..And I’m sure that we all remember that story of Saul, but remember then too that Saul doesn’t follow through the way God wants him to and so then God has Samuel find David, son of Jesse, in Bethlehem and God has him anointed with oil by Samuel.
So, now let’s keep in mind that there is Saul anointed with oil, and then David anointed with oil as God directed his prophet to do. They were anointed, or ordained, for their positions as God’s enforcers of his laws here on earth. They would see to it that laws were upheld, they would defend the people as a whole and be their protectors, and then also their providers. If there was no food, they would see to it that food was gotten, if there was no water, they would try to figure out how to deal with that situation. The kings were essentially in charge of the day to day running of things, and the priests were in charge of the spiritual, and acted as the most important advisors to the king in most all areas you could think of. And then who was to come next in this role after David…..?
Now the obvious answer is Solomon, he was David’s son with Bathsheba, but he was not anointed at the direction of God by God’s chosen prophet, and nor was any other king that came after. David chose Solomon and had his priest anoint him, just as Solomon chose his successor and so on. In the line of the Scripture’s that we follow, the next to be ordained with oil at the essential directing of God, was Jesus Christ.
According to Isaiah and the passage that we’re looking at today, we hear of just who the new Savior will be, with a description of not only him, but of what will happen when his kingship becomes our reality. He will come from the ancestral line of David and the Spirit of the Lord will rest upon him. He will delight in obeying the Lord, will not judge on appearance, will bring justice to the poor, and the earth will shake at the force of his word, meaning that the world will ‘change’ because of the words that he will offer us. In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together, the calf and yearling will be safe with the lion, and the world will come to know who he is, he will be anointed by God and by people.
In the verses that come after the ones that Chuck read this morning, Isaiah goes on to state that with this kingship a reality, all of the people from distant coastlands will be united and that one people will form under his leadership in his kingdom. There will not be jealousy, and rivalry will be no more, and all of God’s people will be one
force. And then chapter twelve begins, “In that day you will sing: “I will praise you, O Lord! You were angry with me, but not any more. Now you comfort me. See, God has come to save me. I will trust in him and not be afraid. The Lord God is my strength and my song; he has given me victory.”
And so how do we know that Christ is the one who was anointed by God and by man? Well, at the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, the angels sung out praise and announced the birth to shepherds, the shepherds then proceeded up the hill to Bethlehem to be witnesses of what they knew to be the Savior’s birth, the wise men came bearing gifts, and for sure all of these witnesses together knew what was happening and then shared about that with those who would hear them. In going to the temple to be presented as was customary, as we read today in our New Testament lesson, the man Simeon was led by the Spirit to see the child and to declare his righteousness, and then right after Simeon had left, there was Anna, that account happens right after Simeon’s. Anna was a widow who stayed in the temple and recognized Jesus as Simeon had and then declared it as such to whoever would listen.
Years later then, in the temple, remember, as a young boy, he was recognized by all of the teachers at the temple. I’m sure we can all recall that story of when after the Passover celebrations in Jerusalem, Mary and Joseph, and they thought Jesus too, had left to return to Nazareth, but then suddenly they realize that Jesus isn’t with them. According to tradition Jesus was about twelve or thirteen. Mary and Joseph return to Jerusalem and go looking for Jesus, and where do they find him? He was in the temple teaching the teachers who were amazed by the words that came from him. And then at his baptism by John the Baptist in the Jordan, we hear how he was anointed with the Holy Spirit by God. The sign for that was the white dove that appeared over his head. Soon thereafter, he was recognized and tempted by the Devil in the desert, and then of course we all know about the throngs of people who came to him to touch him and be healed. And then perhaps even more important than all of those numerous examples, we hear in the Gospels of the ‘Woman With The Alabaster Jar’. A sinner, a woman who most scholars believe must have been a prostitute, but it is she that feels driven to anoint him with oil in royal fashion before he’s to be crucified, ordaining him to that place to which he knew he had to go as a sacrifice for us, she was the one that God had chosen to anoint Jesus with oil. The pieces of the puzzle actually fit together very well, even though sometimes the picture as a whole is difficult to see.
And so it’s for those reasons that we know that Jesus Christ is in the Kingdom of Heaven, as he so often spoke about, at the right hand of his father. And in that established kingdom, justice is granted to the poor, and no one is judged on appearance but rather on their faith and how they’ve shown love in their earthly life. And in that kingdom, the wolf and the lamb are lying together, the leopard is lying with the baby goat, and the calf and the yearling are safe with the lion. There is no jealousy and rivalry, and as verse ten of Isaiah puts it, “In that day, the heir to David’s throne will be a banner of salvation to all the world.”
And so now, say for instance you’re at the mall, or at a store, or walking down the street, and someone comes up to you and says, “Excuse me, but can I ask you a question?” And being polite as your mother always taught you to be, you say, “Sure, what’s the question?” And then they respond to you with their query, “I was wondering
if you could tell me what the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem means to you? Do you consider him to be your king and why?” What are you going to say? How are you going to respond? Are you going to express to your questioner that the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem means to you that at that point in time is when suddenly people of faith had power over fear? Are you going to express to your questioner that the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem means to you that at that point in time is when people of faith could know that God the Creator really does love his creation and wants it to know him? And are you going to express to your questioner that the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem means to you that at that point in time is when suddenly people of faith knew in the very core of their beings that hope had been restored? Or are you going to turn to your questioner and say something like, “I’m not really sure, I haven’t given it much thought.”
Review with me. Jesus is our prophet because he let us know the future; his and ours. He’s our priest because he teaches and interprets God’s laws to us, prays for us and has sacrificed himself to God for our sakes. And then Jesus is our king, because he protects us by letting us know that we have nothing to fear, he provides for us with his mercy and grace, and then guides our everyday with his light by way of his Holy Spirit. Prophet, priest and king.
And so now with the celebration of Christ’s birth in just a couple weeks’ time, and with all that that can mean to us if we want it to, I’d say that we should be able to answer any questions that may confront us. Whether those questions be at the mall, or at the supermarket, or on the street or within our own heads. And so may the peace that comes with this season as the shepherds in the fields knew, be with us all.
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.