There are many hymns that seem especially appropriate for certain people and circumstances.
There’s the dentist’s hymn – Crown Him With Many Crowns.
The obstetricians hymn – Come Labor On.
The builder’s hymn – The Church’s One Foundation
And of course the golfer’s hymn – There is a Green Hill Far Away.
Many of the hymns we sing have an emphasis on Christ the King, leading towards the climax of the Christian year.
From cradle, to cross, to coronation. From life to death to life. From heaven, to earth, to heaven – the majestic one we call Christ the King.
The subject of royalty itself is often a topic of lively debate. It was once a source of antagonism to our present Governor-General who showed that under certain circumstances even the most hardened antagonists could change their mind.
Some Australian women’s magazines warmly appreciate royalty. I’m sold sales rise when any photos of the Royal Family are on the cover.
It seems that Fergie’s idle antics are compulsory reading for many.
On the whole, the history of royalty has been a mixed blessing. History is replete with terror and bloodshed at the rise of a new king. Turkish kings or sultans for example would upon ascension to the throne immediately eliminate any potential rivals. Property was seized and lands invaded to force the kings rule upon as many as possible.
The story is told of a knight who returned to his castle at twilight in a state of total disarray. Dented armour, helmet falling off, bleeding face with the wounded knight about to fall off his crippled horse.
‘What hath befallen you Sir Knight?’ enquired the king.
‘Oh sire,’ answered the knight, ‘In your name I have been labouring in the west, robbing, plundering and pillaging your enemies.’
‘You’ve what,’ cried the king, ‘I don’t have any enemies in the west.’
‘Oh,’ responded the knight, ‘You do now sir.’
One of the extraordinary features of the New Testament is the consistent way that both Jesus’ supporters and enemies speak of Him in kingly terms. Yet on the surface He seems far from it.
Instead of soldiers he has disciples. Instead of forcing people into submission, He invites them to believe in Him. Instead of a castle, He has nowhere to lay His head. He has no muscled stallions, but in fact uses a donkey when needed. Instead of a magnificent coronation, He is enthroned upon a cross.
Instead of forcing others to lay down their lives for Him, He does so for them.
In one sense it seems absurd to use the word of king for Him. Yet time and again, in both mockery and admiration He is called king.
Nathaniel, the young Jewish ascetic in John 1 meets Jesus and changes. He turns from cynicism to faith and says to Jesus within minutes of meeting Him, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel.’
After feeding the 5000, John 6 tells us that Jesus withdrew to the hills when He perceived that the people were about to come and tae Him by force to make Him king. As though they could confer on Him by their resolve what was His by nature.
When Jesus makes that triumphal journey into Jerusalem, as that plodding donkey’s steps mimic the hammering of nails He will soon know, the people shout, ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.’
Others shout at the crucified Jesus in Matthew 15, ‘Let the Christ, the King of Israel come down from the cross that we may see and believe.’
In John 18 Pilate is pondering this man who it is said is the King of the Jews. Pilate represents all the people wondering who Jesus really is. In verse 33 he asks, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ He struggles to come to terms with the claim that this apparently powerless, weakened figure standing before him could in any sense be a king.
Many today puzzle with the question of who Jesus is. Many have high regard for Him as a historical figure but don’t know that you can have a first hand saving relationship with Him. That you can do more than believe that Jesus was a good man – you can know him personally as a good saviour. That through simple trust and prayer, Jesus can live in your heart, can free you from your past and liberate you for the future.
Many today echo Pilates question, ‘Jesus, are you all that these Christians claim you are?’ As Jesus stood before Pilate and awaited His verdict so He stands before each of us, awaiting ours also. He wants us to say with faith, ‘Yes, you are whom you claim to be, Christ the King.’
Yet he even allows us to be like Pilate and make a verdict that rejects Him. Like Pilate we may ask the question what is truth, believing that the answer lies in a philosophical conclusion rather than in the person of Jesus who embodies truth and is truth that judges all other claims to it.
We live in an age desperately needing to know this true king. The political shepherds we have trusted in have failed us, as in Ezekiel’s day. The ordinary people have been cheated, betrayed, and sold out by generations of kings.
They knew something of the disappointment many Australians feel about their political and business leaders who have presided over the financial disasters, which reach into every home and metastasize into every person’s bank account.
But more seriously than the loss of money is the loss of faith in political processes. We have been lied to, misled, evaded and deceived. Our ruling shepherds have failed us economically, morally and spiritually. We are a spiritual republic that long ago renounced links with the throne of Jesus, yet acceptance of the monarchy of King Jesus is what is most needed in our country.
The rise in crimes of every kind, the lack of honesty in public figures, the increase in suicide amongst young people, the various addictions which pummel people into dependence upon them; all in some way are manifestations of the sin and emptiness only King Jesus has power over.
At the other extreme is the person who has everything. Not only are they impossible to shop for, but also we can have all we want, even have a wonderful family, a creative, well-paying job, but do not have any real purpose for living.
We can feel empty, depressed and listless, alienated from what we know we could be. To all such, King Jesus invites us to be His subjects. That’s not to say even with faith we will not sometimes feel less than exultant, but when we know whose we are we come to know who we are.
Verse 37 says, ‘Whoever belongs to the truth listens to me.’
Let us not ask, like Pilate, the question of what is truth? And then turn away from Christianity as though the truth of living could be found elsewhere.
Let us be subjects of the king. Let His light shine in our hearts, our souls and our land. Let each of us say yes, to Jesus the King.
By George Robert Iles