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Divine King

From Series: To Know Christ

When Jesus rode into Jerusalem, He did so as a king, wholly unique in His power and majesty. Alistair Begg helps us understand how Jesus’ triumphal entry revealed the nature and meaning of His divine kingship, both then and today. Unlike earthly kings whose kingdoms have limits, there is nothing in our universe, or in our lives, over which Jesus does not have dominion.


Sermon Transcript:

John 12:12: “The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,

‘Hosanna!’
‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’
‘Blessed is the King of Israel!’

“Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written,

‘Do not be afraid, O daughter of Zion;
see, your king is coming,
seated on a donkey’s colt.’cause

“At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him.

“Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. So the Pharisees said to one another, ‘See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!’”[1]

Amen.

I think it’s in Look to the Rock, a little book on understanding the Old Testament by Alec Motyer, that he suggests that we view the Bible, if we’re trying to get a handle on it, as if it were in some ways a detective story, where you have all these various themes and plots interwoven through the unfolding story of the book, until finally, somewhere near the end, all the pieces come together. Or, he says, you may want to think of it as a book with the answers at the back; or, perhaps as a two-act play, and if you come only for the first act and leave at half-time, then you’re going to have to check about how it finished, and if you come only for the second half, then you’re going to annoy people who were there for the first half, because you’ll spend all the time saying, “Who is that character and why is he saying what he’s saying?”[2]

If we take our eyes off Jesus, we will quickly lose our way around the Bible.

I think these things are helpful. They run concurrently with what many of us learned in Sunday School—namely, that if we take our eyes off Jesus, we will quickly lose our way around the Bible. And that’s why I think it’s been very profitable for us to be considering these things this week: because constantly, our screen saver, if you like—to speak in terms of contemporary computer stuff—our screen saver has always gone back to Jesus on every occasion, which is good to do, especially when the banner under which we walk in a convention like this is, “All One in Christ Jesus.” And in the Old Testament, Jesus is predicted; in the Gospels, Jesus is revealed; in the Acts, he is preached; in the Epistles, he is explained; and in the book of Revelation, he is expected.

And what we’ve been discovering is that there are a number, if you like, of melodic lines—to mix our metaphors and similes—there are a number of melodic lines which run all the way through the Scriptures; and particularly in relationship to Jesus, these three interwoven aspects, which we may think of in those terms, or perhaps in mathematical terms, as a Venn diagram; and one circle is Jesus as prophet, one circle is Jesus as priest, one circle is Jesus as king; and where each of these circles intersect, we have the office of Christ in what Calvin referred to as the munus triplex, the threefold dimension of the ministry of Jesus. And it is not difficult to find this. It’s not something that we have to ferret around for and invent, and in fact as soon as we identify it, then we will begin to find it all over the place.

I’ve chosen to read expressly from what is often the Scripture reading from Palm Sunday—and frankly, it is often a neglected reading apart from Palm Sunday. And some of you may actually have just woken up when I started to read it and think that, “Goodness gracious, it must be Palm Sunday, and I missed it!” But no, not at all. We’re still in the fifth of March, and we’re reading from here.

Let’s bear in mind that this was an annual occurrence—at least in its most basic dimensions—that it was customary for the people of God to make their Aliyah, their ascent up to Jerusalem on this occasion for this festival, and indeed, it would be strange had Jesus, as a youngster and as a young man, not on many occasions himself have made this very journey. And, of course, we have—beginning after the longest psalm in the Bible, beginning with Psalm 120—we have a whole series of psalms which are called “Psalms of Ascent”; and some are more familiar than others, but perhaps classically, 121: “I lift my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from?”[3] And when we think in terms of pilgrims going up to Jerusalem—and they always went up to Jerusalem—then you can see why they would think in these terms: “I lift my eyes up here, and I remind myself where my help comes from.” They lift their eyes up to the temple, and they say in Psalm 127, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain that build it.”[4] They look at the surrounding topography of Jerusalem, and they say, “If the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people from this day forth, and even for evermore.”[5]

And families would have prepared for this event, and boys and girls would have gone to bed all excited about what was going to happen on the next day. And it is not difficult for me, with the relatively fertile imagination that I have that often gets me in trouble, to imagine a boy ready to advance with his family the following morning, and telling his dad, when he comes into his bedroom to kiss him goodnight, he tells his dad, “I have all my branches ready. I’m all ready. I’ve got them under the bed, Dad, and as soon as you waken me up in the morning, I’m ready. We’re ready to go. We’re going to go out there, and we’re going to give it a jolly good ‘Hosanna!’” And his father said to him, “That’s exactly right.” And he said, “Dad, sing me that psalm before I go to sleep. Sing me off to sleep.” “Which one do you want?” “Well, do that one about, ‘I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Our feet are standing in your gates, O Jerusalem.”’ Let’s have that one before we go to bed. It’ll set our hearts to right for the morning. It will bless us as we sleep, and it will awaken us to a new day.”  “I rejoiced, when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’”[6] Or, in the paraphrase in Scotland, “How pleased and blessed was I to hear the people cry, ‘Come let us seek our God today. And yes, with a cheerful zeal, we’ll haste to Zion’s hill, and there our vows and homage pay.”[7]

Now, this is the context in which this scene unfolds, recorded for us here in John’s gospel. The crowds that were gathering, were gathering to celebrate God’s intervention in the past, and they were gathering in anticipation of the day when all that they had lost would be recovered, and all that they longed for would be revealed. We remember, they had a great anticipation, even through 400 years of silence in the intertestamental period, with generations coming and generations going, rising and descending—parents, grandparents, little ones, generations, house moves, holidays, everything—and constantly saying to one another, “God has promised in his Word, he will send us a prophet. He has promised in his Word, he will send us the great priest. He has promised in his Word, he will send a conquering king.”

And, in light of what had just happened in chapter 11 as it’s recorded, tensions were now running high. And John tells us that many of the people that were present, and excitedly present on this occasion, had been keyed up even more as a result of the dramatic events that had happened at the tomb of Lazarus. It’s just fantastic stuff. He had called out to Lazarus, and Lazarus had come out. And, of course, the Pharisees were absolutely perturbed about this, and prophetically and ironically, there in verse 19, they said, “This is absolutely hopeless. This is getting us nowhere at all. Look how the whole world has gone after him.”[8]

And, you know, the whole world has gone after him. The sense of God’s Spirit in the Northern Hemisphere may not be just what it has been in the past, but in the Southern Hemisphere, it is significant; and in sub-Saharan Africa, in much of the chaos and bloodshed and anarchy, the moving of God is remarkable to report; and when we take ourselves down into Indonesia and to other parts of the world, when we go down into South America, we discover that God is at work. And here we are, all these years later, and the great concern of the Pharisees remains the concern of all who are opposed to the name and the work of Jesus: “Look, this seems to be absolutely unstoppable. There’s hardly a place in the world, there’s hardly a day in the world when Jesus Christ’s name is not magnified and praised.”

It’s interesting what you find in minister’s vestries—and I’m not going to give a disclosure of where I found this, but I did find a book on Heinz beans in a minister’s vestry. I’m not telling you where it is, but it’s a vestry that’s very close to where I’m standing at the moment. And I noticed in this little book, which I couldn’t resist—for who can resist Heinz beans?—that it said that “a tin of beans is consumed every eighteen seconds in the world. Some 420 million tins of beans consumed.” It’s an interesting statistic. But, you know, there’s not a day, nor an hour in the day, nor hardly a place on the planet where the name of Jesus Christ is not exalted as prophet, priest, and king.

Now, when these people came out, they didn’t emerge from nowhere. They were not advancing a new concept that had dawned upon them, but in actual fact, if you were to scroll down, as it were—if you were to rewind the video—you would trace the genesis of all that was taking place here in this scene all the way back to Genesis.

And let me just illustrate it for you. For example, let’s just rewind quickly to the beginning of Luke’s gospel, and the angel comes and announces the arrival of Jesus and makes it clear that the Lord will give him the throne of his father, David. What a strange and dramatic thing to say about the birth of a child. No wonder Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart: “The Lord”—Yahweh—“will give him the throne of his father David.”[9] Only thrones are there for kings. That’s Luke chapter 1. Go through the intertestamental period to Zachariah 9, and in Zachariah 9, the prophet comes and says, “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! … See, your king comes to you … riding on a donkey … on the foal of a donkey.”[10] And the people must have read that and listened to that and said, “I wonder what that means.” And part of that was built in to what was happening to the boy when he put his branches under the bed and anticipated the coming morning, because his parents had told him, “There is a day that the prophets have said will dawn when the king will come, riding on a donkey.” Isaiah 32: “See, … a king will reign in righteousness”;[11] 2 Samuel chapter 7: God promises to David that an eternal and universal king will come from his line; and all the way back in Genesis 49, and in the blessings of Jacob, and in verse 10, we read, “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his.” And people read this, and wondered about it, and prayed concerning it, and longed for the arrival of the king.

Now, all of this, and more besides, is wrapped up in this unfolding drama as Jesus rides into Jerusalem—not on account of fatigue. Interestingly—and you must check yourselves—I’ve done my best on this, but I have found nowhere else in the entire New Testament that gives us a record of Jesus riding. There is no record of him taking a taxi, if you like, during his earthly pilgrimage. This is the only occasion when he rides. Why does he ride? He’s making a point. He’s making a significant point. He knows what he’s doing. It’s not just something arbitrary when he says to his boys, “Now, I want you to go in here, and you will find a place, and you just tell them that the Lord needs this donkey. And they’ll give it to you.”[12] These big silly disciples, you know, were going through all of this, and John is honest enough to tell us the disciples didn’t get this at all. It was only after Jesus was glorified that they began to put the pieces in the jigsaw puzzle together.

And he rides in, and eventually, confronted by the establishment—political, religious, authoritative—Pilate says to him, “Are you the King of the Jews? Are you a king then?” And Jesus said, “Yes, it is as you say.”[13] But then that didn’t make any sense! Certainly not to the Roman authorities: “What kind of king rides on a donkey? What kind of king wears a crown made of thorns? What kind of king wears a borrowed robe? What kind of king falls foul of such cruel and brutal mockery?”

You see why it’s so important to put these various melodic lines together if we’re going to sing, as it were, a chorus in understanding of the person and work of Jesus Christ? He is both Suffering Servant and Great High Priest, and the Prophet who ousts our ignorance—and the King who comes to reign.

Now, with all of that essentially by way of introduction—and I don’t want that to discourage you—let me simply make a few observations about the implications of the kingship of Jesus. Thomas Watson, in his Body of Divinity, which I already recommended to you, writes as follows—he says: “[Christ’s kingly reign is seen, in part,] in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies.”[14] So that if he comes as a prophet to oust our ignorance, if he comes as a priest to deal with our alienation, then he comes also as a king to subdue every dimension of rebellion, not least of all the rebellious nature of our own reaction to him.

The Kingship of Jesus in Relationship to Salvation

So let us think, first of all, about his kingship in terms of salvation. This can be brief, because it essentially is a recapitulation of the last couple of evenings; we covered it as best we could, and we have tried to build a picture of Jesus in relationship to this, of Christ as he deals with sin, as he deals with Satan, as he deals with death, and as he deals with our guilt. And Jesus comes, as it were, onto the battlefield in much the same way that David came out of the ranks of Israel, confronting all of the encroachments of evil that were embodied in Goliath. And you remember, there was nobody there that was ready to step forward, and eventually David steps forward. He steps forward alone, but he steps forward as a representative. He steps forward on behalf of the people. He vanquishes Goliath.[15] The victory is a victory that is shared. They share in his triumph. And now, Jesus is stepping, as it were, into the very epicenter of the battle lines. He steps in. He steps, if you like, off his donkey and into the fray. And now, out from the battle lines, comes great David’s greater son, and he comes now to resist all of the encroachments of evil, everything that is going to be thrown against him in the onslaught of Calvary. And he comes to deal with it as a king.

The cross is the epicenter of Christ’s reign.

And we ought to be very clear that the cross is the epicenter of Christ’s reign—the cross is the epicenter of Christ’s reign. It is there that he declares, “It is finished.”[16] It is there that he triumphs over all these things that are ranged against him and against those for whom he dies. And that is why it is so important for us to turn not only to Jesus, but to turn routinely to the cross of Jesus; and it is a reminder to all of us who preach to make sure that we are cross-oriented and cross-centered in our preaching. As surely as we may divert from the record of the triumphal entry apart from a Sunday or two a year, it is possible for congregations to go through fifty Sundays without ever hearing their minister or their pastor or their vicar bringing them to the very centrality of the cross of Christ and all that it embodies, both for the unbeliever as well as for the Christian. And we need to think in those terms when we think about his kingship. And that’s why in the Resurrection you have, really, the Father’s “amen” in relationship to what Jesus has done. His kingly reign is central to the work of redemption.

The Kingship of Jesus in Relationship to the Cosmos

Secondly, an observation regarding the kingship of Christ in relationship to the cosmos—to the cosmos. That might seem a little farfetched; you don’t learn this at university in secular history, but these are the facts: it is impossible to understand world history without an understanding of biblical history, because the pivotal event of all of human history is in the cross of Christ. And that is why all of our views of history, all of our views of the world, have to be formed by and framed by the biblical record; and when we unfold the story of Jesus and come to the matter of his kingship, we have to recognize that this has a bearing on the entire cosmos. So that, for example, in Romans chapter 8, Paul talks about “the whole creation groaning in travail and waiting for the redemption of the sons of God.”[17] As all of the world, at the moment, rumbles and bumbles on about the events of “green” things and everything else, and I saw on The Telegraph today that some character here is going to restrict the number of air miles that each of us is able to fly so as to deal with our carbon footprint—what a joke! Al Gore flies around on a Gulfstream, a G5—costs $45 million; and he’s got a cosmic footprint the size of a giant, and he wants me to turn my air conditioner off. Have him come to my house; I’ll talk to him face-to-face.

What does the kingship of Christ have to say about these things? Well, first of all, it says the earth is not, in its present form, going to remain as-is, because the King is going to transform it. So our concern for it as Christians is a legitimate concern, just as our concern for animals is a legitimate concern. That’s why we don’t like it when people take nice Beagle dogs and make them smoke cigarettes: because God gave us nice dogs to enjoy, and not to have them smoke cigarettes. I can support that as a Christian, and as a friend of Beagles, and Labradors and others besides. But I’m trying to point out to you that the kingly reign of Jesus impacts all of these discussions, but changes the view that we have of them and saves us from becoming completely consumed by things as if this was all there is. Because it isn’t all there is! We are waiting for a day when there is a new heaven and a new earth in which dwelleth righteousness.[18]

That doesn’t mean that I don’t care about all of the beauty that I saw in—where is the place?—Branscombe and Honiton and all the places I adventured around this afternoon by myself, on the narrowest roads I’ve been in for a very long time; but I looked over that and I said, “God, you are so magnificent in putting such a fantastic place together. Why couldn’t I live in a place like this, Lord? Look how fantastic this is!” And then I reminded myself, “Well, one day I’ll get to live in heaven. There will be a new earth, and I’m going to live on a new earth, and if he can make this coastline as nice as this in this fallen world, then goodness gracious, it’s going to be fantastic when we get together in that context!”

So, don’t misunderstand me when I say what I’m saying. But interestingly, in America they’re now advancing Earth Day—Earth Day. Pretty soon you won’t be able to do anything or say anything about Easter Day, but you can do just whatever you please concerning Earth Day. And it is routine on the weather forecast for the person’s face to open up with the line, “Well, good evening, and let’s see what Mother Nature has for us this evening.” That is a routine introduction in America. It is the very threshold of an almost all-consuming pantheism. And against that notion, the Scriptures exalt Jesus Christ as Lord and King, sovereign over all of the cosmos. Abraham Kuyper, who was the prime minister of Holland in a better day—can you imagine what Kuyper would think of the Netherlands today and their moral position?—anyway, Kuyper, on one occasion, says, “There is not one inch of the entire universe concerning which Jesus Christ does not say, ‘This is mine.”[19] “This is mine. This is my Father’s world—this is my Father’s world. This belongs to me. I made this. I am the King over this.”

Now, you should know that I know very little about science. I know very little about a lot of things, but I know a tremendous amount of very little about science. I’m the fellow who, you know, when they gave out the report cards, it said things on it like, “Alistair has decided that chemistry is not for him, and he is very firm in his decision.” So, I have to be very careful on this, and to jump into the realm of, sort of, astrophysics is dangerous. But here I go: I know that we have a solar system, right? We can agree on that, right? And I know that we’re in a galaxy, and the galaxy’s called the Milky Way. I also know from reading books that there are apparently 200 billion stars in the Milky Way. I’ve also discovered that the physicists estimate that there are a hundred billion galaxies. So …. That can keep me awake a long time just trying to multiply, apart from anything else. Two hundred billion stars in our galaxy and a hundred billion galaxies? (Goodness, those numbers are right up there with the Royal Bank of Scotland, aren’t they? If ever anybody unearths one of these CDs fifty years from now, they’re going to go, “I wonder what that was about. What a strange thing to say.” They’ll be sitting around going, “What’s the Royal Bank of Scotland? Do they have a bank?”)

Now, why do I mention this? “‘To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?’ says the Holy One. Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.”[20]

What do scientists call it? “Nuclear glue”—their attempt to explain the inexplicable: why our solar system doesn’t just fracture and blow apart, why anything holds together at all. And we turn to Colossians 1:17, and we read that the Creator of the world holds everything together; that the reason for interplanetary connections is because Christ is King of the cosmos. And, as a result of that, “without him, nothing has been made that has been made, and in him was life, and that life was the light of men.”[21] Well, it takes us into the realm of the imponderable, doesn’t it, and into the realm of the mysterious? Certainly, into the realm of faith. But don’t let anybody tell you that scientists are the ones who deal in terms of that which is simply rational and deductive; they also deal in the realm of faith as well. Each of us starts with presuppositions. The presupposition of the Christian begins in Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God ….”  The presupposition of the scientist who is secular and atheistic begins: “In the beginning ….” Right?

The Kingship of Jesus in Relationship to the Future

I may rest in his sovereign purposes. And whatever the future brings, I don’t need to be unduly alarmed.

The kingship of Jesus in relationship to salvation; the kingship of Jesus in relationship to the cosmos; the kingship of Jesus in relationship to the future—the future. It’s great that the future comes in at the rate of sixty seconds a minute, isn’t it? It’s unalterable. I noticed along the esplanade, there, if you go far enough, right to the end and stop, and look at some of those lovely houses, there’s some with thatched roofs; one of them has the statement carved into the front of it, “Time and tide wait for no man.” And, again, the Christian has a view of time—we have a view of time. The Christian’s view of time is that God created time. He is the creator of time; he is the controller of time: “All the days of my life were written in his book before one of them came to be.”[22] Therefore, I can put my head on the pillow at night and rest content that since he is a sovereign God and cares for his children with immense care, I may rest in his sovereign purposes. And whatever the future brings, I don’t need to be unduly alarmed; I don’t need to be going around wringing my hands all the time and talking about the good old days; I just need to remind myself that Jesus Christ is King.

“For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. For each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.”[23] Now, listen—this is 1 Corinthians 15:24: “Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” And “the last enemy to be destroyed is death.”[24]

Christ’s future reign throughout all of eternity is the perspective from which all of present history needs to be viewed.

Now if you’re a Christian, this is Christian doctrine. If you’re a Christian, the kingship of Jesus has this to say concerning the future. It’s fantastic! It’s really encouraging! And Christ’s future reign throughout all of eternity is the perspective from which all of present history needs to be viewed. And it is that which then allows us to develop a view of the world which is distinct from our friends’ and our neighbors’ secular view of the world. We understand the concerns of ecology because God has given to us this earth to care for and to tend, and not to abuse and not to destroy; and therefore we pay attention to those things. We understand, however, that he’s planning another version which is going to be even better; and so, our view of the world—at least this is the way I remember it so I can talk to people at the bus stop—my view of the world that I get from the Bible, in four words, is “the good, the bad, the new, the perfect”: good, bad, new, perfect.

If you keep that framework in your mind, you’ll be able to talk to all kinds of people. They’ll just sit down with you at the bus stop, and they’ll say, “Can you believe what a horrible mess we’re in? Goodness gracious, I’ve never seen anything like this at all. It’s as if everything is collapsing.” Now, where do you want to go from there? Well, whatever way you want to do it, but you can say, “Yeah, it’s surprising, especially when you think about how it started.” And someone’ll say, “Yeah, I can tell you how it started. With those jolly politicians and stuff.” “No, no, no, that’s not what I’m talking about.” “Well, what are you talking about?” “Well, I’m talking about when God made the whole thing. He made it really good. Everything was bang on. It was perfect. It was super. There was none of this junk then.” “What? Like in Genesis?” the person says. “Yeah.” “You believe that?” “Yeah.” “Man! I didn’t know anybody believed that anymore. You believe that?”

Parenthetically, isn’t it fascinating when Paul takes on the intelligentsia in Athens? Do you remember where he starts? “The God who made the world and everything in it does not dwell in temples made by hands.”[25] He starts with the doctrine of creation. It’s fantastic! And a person says, “Well, if he made it all good, why are we in the mess we’re in?” “I’m glad you asked. Because things are bad, aren’t they? By hokey, they’re bad. Yes, they’re bad.” “Why?” “Because we’re turned in upon ourselves. We’re selfish folks. We’re greedy folks. We’re all greedy. We’re all selfish.” “Well, is there any way out of this?” “Glad you mentioned it. Jesus is King, and he’ll come and reign in your life, and make you absolutely brand new, and give you a fresh start.” “Did he give you one?” “Yes.” “Well, I’ve been your next-door neighbor for a few years, and I’m not sure it’s working entirely, you know?” “Well, that’s because it’s not all finished yet. We’re in the new, but we’re not in the perfect.”

But the reign of Christ is unalterable and unassailable and unequivocal. The Bible tells us so: “The Lord God omnipotent reigns.”[26] It doesn’t always seem so, but it is so. Nothing is out of control, and nothing is going to get out of control.

Well, I can’t get over the front page of The Telegraph, and I brought it. So I’ve gotta finally come clean about what’s bothering me. Well, there’s a lot of things bothering me, as you can tell, but most of them I just keep to myself. Okay, here you’ve got Joseph Biden, who’s the vice president of the United States, Nancy Pelosi, who’s the head of the Congress, and Gordon Brown, at the start of a kind of charismatic prayer meeting or something, it looks like. These journalists are very, very smart, aren’t they? You know, you’re only going to get this headline in this paper. You’re not gettin’ this headline in The Guardian, I can guarantee that. Look: “Brown Appeals for Help to Save the World.”[27] Well, that’s nice he’s actually prepared to ask for a wee bit of help, isn’t it? It’s … it’s actually, it’s … you know what it is? It’s tragic. That’s what it is. It is tragic. The son of a Scottish Presbyterian minister.

I love that hymn—we seldom sing it, it comes to mind now—you know:

The day thou gavest, Lord, has ended,
And the darkness falls at thy behest,
And so unto thee our morning hymns ascended,
Your praise will sanctify our rest.[28]

And then it goes on through the story, and comes to that great conclusion:

So be it, Lord, your throne shall never
Like earth’s proud empires pass away.
Your kingdom stands and grows forever,
’Til all your creatures own your sway.[29]

Loved ones, that is biblical faith. That is biblical Christianity.

The Kingship of Jesus in Relationship to Our Lives

So, if the kingship of Jesus impacts the nature of salvation, if the kingship of Jesus impacts the reality of the cosmos, if the kingship of Jesus impacts all the issues of the future, surely the kingship of Jesus has something to say to our tiny lives, before we go to bed on a night like this.

And with this, I just want to finish, because it is an opportunity for us to realize again that God is sovereignly in charge of what’s going on. We live underneath the authority of the lordship of Jesus, that when Paul says in Philippians 2 that one day “at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,”[30] that is not an expression of devotion; that is a statement of fact. The word that is used there is the word which, in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, is used about 6,000 times to translate the divine name, “Yahweh”; and when they translated it into Greek, they had to decide how they were going to translate it, and they translated it using this word. And Paul, as a converted monotheistic Jew, knew exactly what he was saying when he said it: “One day at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is God[31]—that Jesus Christ is Lord and King over all the earth. Buddha will bow. Muhammed will bow. Krishna will bow. Lenin will bow. All will bow. Christ will bow before the Father and kneel before him and say, “Father, here are the children that you have given me. I asked you to give me the desire of the nations. I asked you to give me the nations as my inheritance, Father. And here I am, and I bow before you, and they with me.”

I can come to him with all my fears, all my hurts, all my losses, and all my failures, ’cause “there’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus. No, not one.”

Now, if you believe that, you see, it is transformative. You cannot simply be brought down by all the nonsense and the skullduggery of our day. You cannot simply be dragged down into the mire of all of this. You must lift your eyes and look up. Jesus as King is a wonderful king, not a pompous king, not the kings of the Gentiles. Remember, he says to his disciples— because, you remember after he’d done his miracles, they came and they wanted to make him a king, and he slipped off under the darkness, and you read that and you said, “Well, I thought he was supposed to be the king, so why is he not becoming the king?” Timing, folks, timing. And also because he knew that what they anticipated and what he had come to do was vastly different. “The kings of the Gentiles,” he said, “lorded over the people, but I am among you as one who serves.”[32] A King who serves? A King who stoops? A King who dies? An approachable King. So I can come to him with all my fears, all my hurts, all my losses, and all my failures, ’cause “there’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus. No, not one.”[33] Not one.

By the time I get to the end of my sermons, I’m just devolving into old choruses from Glasgow. And I’ll give you two old choruses from Glasgow, and then a quote from a hymn.

We were taught to sing a song—the poetry is poor, but it’s well‑intended. Did you ever sing this?

Come leave your house in Grumble Street
And move to Sunshine Square,
For that’s the place where Jesus lives,
And all is happy there.[34]

And, you know, sometimes I think we’ve gotta really look at one another and say, “Hey, hey, hey. Come on. Would you like to move house, honey?” That’s my wife talking to me. On one occasion, Luther came down for his breakfast and his wife was dressed in mourning. She’s dressed head to toe in black. He sat down at the far end of the table and he looked at her, and he said, “Who died?” His wife said, “I believe God died.” “Come now,” said Luther, “God cannot die.” Said his wife, “Then why have you been acting as you have been acting for the last two or three weeks?”[35] Come on now, Luther. Leave your house in Grumble Street.

And the other one was,
Cheer up, ye saints of God.
There’s actually nothing to worry about,
Nothing really to make you feel afraid,
Nothing to make you doubt.
Remember Jesus never fails,
So why not trust him and shout?
You’ll be sorry you worried at all
Tomorrow morning.[36]

And when Eric Liddell left for China—and he was at that time the Tiger Woods of Great Britain; he was “it” in terms of a little boy’s dream; when Liddell died, all the boys in Scotland got the day off school—when Liddell left from the Waverley Station, the crowd that gathered was not made up simply of the folks from his church or interested members of his extended family, but many of the people that gathered in that Waverley Station platform area were just folks off the street—folks who knew him as an Olympic gold medalist, who knew him as a rugby player for Scotland, who knew him as a sterling athlete. And history records that when he got into his compartment and put his cases up on the rack, he got back out of the compartment—remember those old days with the sliding door into the compartment, and then the corridor that went along, when trains were trains and travel was fun, and if you put your head out the window, you got stoor in your eyes? And you remember those big leather belts that held the windows with the brass bits, where you let the window down and your mother told you, “Keep your fingers out of there!”—because if you let it go, man, it just, it walloped right down? And he let the window down, and the crowd hushed to see what he would say. And he thanked people for coming, and he told them where he was going. And then, quite unexpectedly, he shouted out, apparently, at the top of his voice, “Christ for the world, for the world needs Christ!” And then extemporaneously, he led them in the singing of the hymn,

Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
Doth his successive journeys run,
His kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
‘Til moons shall wax and wane no more.[37]

Liddell went to China with that message; Liddell died in China declaring that message. And we stand on the shoulders—in this great nation—on the shoulders of men who died under the kingship of Christ. “Don’t be afraid, Master Ridley. Today we shall light a candle such as will never be extinguished.”[38] Nobody will ever say that unless they are absolutely convinced that they have been called into the service of one whose kingdom will never end. One day, loved ones, the earth will be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.[39]

Father, we thank you that your Word is such a clarifying book. It recalibrates us, because we listen to the news, we read the papers, we read history, we think, we look at the future, we realize where we were, where we are, and we’re almost tempted sometimes to believe as if the whole thing is spinning hopelessly out of control. And that’s why we need to be Bible students. That’s why we need to be those who are not only reading our Bibles, but putting them into action and practice. And so I pray that out of myriad words now, that just the central, undeniable reality of the kingly reign of Christ may help us as we pray for our loved ones, as we pray for our politicians and for our nation, as we pray for the work of mission throughout the world, and as we pray for our own tiny lives, aware of our own finitude, aware of the fact that we’re frail as the flowers of summer. The wind blows, we’re gone, and its place will remember us no more. But one day, we will see you face-to-face. And so help us then to get ready as best we can. For we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 


[1] John 12:12–19 (NIV 1984).

[2] Alec Motyer, Look to the Rock: An Old Testament Background to Our Understanding of Christ (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1996), 20. Paraphrased.

[3] Psalm 121:1 (paraphrased).

[4] Psalm 127:1 (paraphrased).

[5] Psalm 125:2 (paraphrased).

[6] Psalm 122:1–2 (ESV).

[7] Isaac Watts, “How Pleased and Blest was I” (1719).

[8] John 12:19 (paraphrased).

[9] Luke 1:32 (NIV 1984).

[10] Zechariah 9:9 (paraphrased).

[11] Isaiah 32:1 (NIV 1984).

[12] Luke 19:30–31 (paraphrased).

[13] John 18:33–37 (paraphrased).

[14] Thomas Watson, A Body of Practical Divinity (Philadelphia: Thomas Wardle, 1833), 126.

[15] 1 Samuel 17:1–58 (paraphrased).

[16] John 19:30 (NIV 1984).

[17] Romans 8:19 (paraphrased).

[18] 2 Peter 3:13 (paraphrased).

[19] Originally spoken in Abraham Kuyper’s inaugural address at the Free University in the Netherlands. See: James D. Bratt (ed.) Abraham Kuyper: A Centennial Reader (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 488.

[20] Isaiah 40:25–26 (NIV 1984).

[21] John 1:3–4 (paraphrased).

[22] Psalm 139:16 (paraphrased).

[23] 1 Corinthians 15:21–23 (paraphrased).

[24] 1 Corinthians 15:24–25 (NIV 1984).

[25] Acts 17:24 (paraphrased).

[26] Revelation 19:6 (paraphrased).

[27] Andrew Porter and Toby Harnden, “Gordon Brown Appeals to US Congress for Help to Save the World” The Telegraph, March 4, 2009.

[28] John Ellerton, “The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, is Ended” (1870). Paraphrased.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Phillippians 2:10–11 (paraphrased).

[31] Ibid.

[32] Luke 22:25–27 (paraphrased).

[33] Johnson Oatman, “No, Not One” (1895).

[34] Author unknown.

[35] See: Rudolf K. Markwald and Marilynn Morris Markwald, Katharina von Bora: A Reformation Life (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2002), 139–140.

[36] Author Unknown, “Cheer Up Ye Saints of God” (1970). 

[37] Isaac Watts, “Jesus Shall Reign, Where’er the Sun” (1719). Paraphrased.

[38] John Foxe, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (Philadelphia: Charles Foster Publishing, 1897), 484. Paraphrased.

[39] Habakkuk 2:14 (paraphrased).

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