Portraits of Jesus: King (part 2)

Americans have high expectations of their leaders. We’ll tolerate bad behavior on their part but the moment it touches our pocketbooks, we’re ready to throw them out of office. Polls say that 82 percent of Americans would like to do that with Congress; 54 percent with the President. We’re a tough crowd to please. It makes me wonder. What would we do if we had a king who was enthroned for life? Try to overthrow him the way we did King George? No doubt! But America will soon, along with the whole world, have a perfect king who will live forever – Jesus the Christ! The question is: How will we respond to Him? In my last post, I cited two reasons for His Kingship. In this study, I give one more reason, based on Matthew’s gospel, followed by two responses we ought to have as a result.

3) His Royal Bearing. If a president is expected to be presidential, how much more a king? A king is to remain calm in the face of trial, solve problems others cannot overcome, and do it with dignity and grace. This we find in the words and works of Jesus. On one occasion, you may recall, the chief priests sent guards to arrest Him but they came back empty-handed. What was their excuse? “No man ever spoke like this man!” Matthew is best at portraying this aspect of Jesus’ personality, giving far more emphasis to His words than Mark or Luke. The quintessential example is the Sermon on the Mount. Mark doesn’t record the message. Luke gives a page to it. But Matthew devotes 3 full chapters to this, the most powerful proclamation given by any king. Why? To demonstrate the eloquence of Jesus as He delivers the entrance requirements for His kingdom.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are the merciful. Blessed are the pure in heart. Blessed are the meek.” Why? “For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

His majesty is also seen in His works. Matthew 8:27 is a case in point. Jesus and His disciples are traveling across the sea by boat when a storm comes up on the water, so great that the boat is on the verge of capsizing and His disciples are sure they’re about to drown. Meanwhile Jesus is at perfect peace sleeping in the hold. So they wake Him up crying, “Lord, save us! We’re perishing!” With great dignity and grace, Jesus calms the disciples, rebukes the wind and the waves, and the sea becomes as smooth as glass. And now, instead of fearing the storm, they  fear Jesus. “What kind of man is this?” they ask one another. “Even the wind and the waves obey Him!” You know the answer. He is the King, not only of Israel, but of Creation with all authority in heaven and on earth. That’s the portrait of this Gospel, and lest you think it’s hyperbole, remember who the witness to His words and works was – Matthew, the converted tax collector, whose passion is now  integrity. After living with Jesus day and night for 3 years, he testifies,  “This is the Messiah King, matchless and majestic in His character!”

4) His Royal Rights. By virtue of his office, a king is accorded certain rights and privileges by his subjects. But Jesus is more than a king. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, worthy of two divine rights. The first is reverence. Let me offer a few slices from the book of Matthew. It began with the worship of the magi, but there are multiple other examples. Matthew 8:1 says, “When He (Jesus) had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him saying, ‘Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Matthew 9:18 adds, “While He spoke these things to them, behold, a ruler came and worshiped Him saying, ‘My daughter has just died, but come and lay Your hand on her and she will live.'” Matthew 14:33 tells the story of Jesus walking on the water with this conclusion: “Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him saying, ‘Truly You are the Son of God.'”

Two more examples from Matthew 28. How a writer ends his story is telling. Marks ends with the Ascension, Luke with the promise of the Holy Spirit, John with a reminder of the Second Coming, but Matthew ends with the resurrection and His disciples’ response to it. Verse 9 says the women “left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him.'” Verse 16 adds that the disciples then “proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him.” Make no mistake. Jesus welcomed the worship of His followers, which begs the question: Are you  His follower and are you giving Him the worship He deserves. Americans are not by nature a respectful people. Watch our late night comics and see how quick we are to mock the failures of our leaders. We say, “Respect must be earned.” I agree and pray that the Spirit of Christ will convince you that Jesus your King is worthy of all the reverence you can give Him.

His second divine right is obedience. Jesus is the Friend who sticks closer than a brother, but He’s not our buddy. We find this reminder in Matthew’s closing lines where Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” The proof of discipleship is obedience, loyalty, and submission to His will no matter where He asks us to go, what He calls us to do, or what it costs us to do it! This is why missionaries leave home and comfort to serve in hard places. This is why believers in persecuted lands suffer and die rather than give up their faith. It’s also how we appropriate the promise made to the shepherds that first Christmas. The NASB translates the words of the angels very precisely, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” For this is where true peace begins – from surrendering to the Kingship of Jesus and submitting to His rule.

(To hear or download the full audio message, click on this link.)

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