We are so far removed in this country from having a king that it’s really not even on our radar. We do see what all-powerful rulers in nations are able to do—we usually call them “despots” or “dictators” and do not look favorably on them—and some of that may actually be because of the somewhat forgotten history (at least in our emotions about it) of our national founding in rebelling not just against King George III, but against the idea of a king in general.
But in a world where that was all they knew, the Israelites in the Old Testament clamored for a king. They were a new nation, and they wanted to be ranked with the other nations around them, all of whom had kings. God didn’t want it that way, but relented, and by the fourth king the nation had split in two, and then were conquered. Since all that they knew of a governmental system was having a king, they desired to get back their own sovereignty and have their own king, and by the time Jesus entered the world they no longer wanted to be ruled by the Roman king—Emperor Ceasar Augustus and the more local king—the tetrarch Herod.
So when they longed for the “King of the Jews”, they desired the same kind of king everyone else had—and that, as it turned out, was not the kind of king that Jesus was. Herod thought so, which is why Herod sought to have him killed as soon as Herod heard “the king of the Jews” had been born.
Jesus indeed is the king of kings, the name above all names, the name at which all will bow—but not because of destructive force and military power. It is because of the creative power of love.
Jesus told Pilate, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” But, as Jesus made plain in the Sermon on the Mount, we LIVE OUT his kingdom here, as Jesus our king demonstrates and instructs—and we live it out with love as the ultimate power.
“Love came down at Christmas” in Jesus, whose kingdom is not from this world, but seeks to transform the way we live in this world. It’s not about the demonstrative power of force, but the subversive power of love.
GOSPEL Matthew 2:1-3,16
1 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’ 3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him . . .
16 When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men.
GOSPEL Luke 2:1-5
1 In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All went to their own towns to be registered. 4 Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.
GOSPEL John 18:33-37; 19:14-16a
33 Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ 34 Jesus answered, ‘Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?’ 35 Pilate replied, ‘I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?’ 36 Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.’ 37 Pilate asked him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’
14 Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, ‘Here is your King!’ 15 They cried out, ‘Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!’ Pilate asked them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but the emperor.’ 16 Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.
NEW TESTAMENT Revelation 1:4-8
4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia:
Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
7 Look! He is coming with the clouds;
every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him;
and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail.
So it is to be. Amen.
8 ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega’, says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.
NEW TESTAMENT Philippians 2:5-11
5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
6 who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
7 but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
8 he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
9 Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.