The Jewish people at the time of Christ longed for a coming king who would be descended from their great king, David. In Matthew’s Gospel (21:1-9), Jesus fulfills the messianic prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 by riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, an animal that symbolized both peace and humility.
Though Jesus is mightier than any earthly sovereign and more powerful than the unseen powers of the universe, he entered the world humbly, as an infant born in Bethlehem. Despite this, Magi from the east still recognized the newborn king.
When you think about what it means that Jesus is the King of Kings, call to mind his mastery, not merely over human beings, but over nature, disease, and death itself.
The passage from Revelation 19 presents Jesus riding not on a lowly donkey but on a magnificent white horse, as befits the greatest of all kings. Throughout the New Testament Jesus is variously referred to as “King,” “King of the ages,” “King of the Jews,” “King of Israel,” and “King of Kings”—this last one translated from the Greek phrase Basileus Basileon. Even today some Christian churches are called “basilicas,” a phrase meaning “the hall of the king.”
Praying to the King of Kings
Turn on any news channel and it would be hard not to conclude that the nation is obsessed with politics. We have succumbed to what some have called the “political illusion,” believing that every human ill has a corresponding political solution. No wonder our divisions have become so bitterly entrenched. A lot is hanging in the balance.
Of course, political divisiveness is not limited to our era. Jesus himself was born into a highly divisive political environment. It was into this environment that he began speaking of his kingdom. Jesus performed miracle after miracle, each of which was designed to pull back a curtain of sorts, revealing God’s power over death, disease, and darkness. Every miracle exposed a hidden reality, one that many of us still miss—that despite appearances, God and no one else is in charge of the universe.
Many people misinterpret Jesus’ words about entering the kingdom of heaven. They think he was talking about going to heaven when we die. But his words in this regard were not primarily about the afterlife. Instead, Jesus was issuing an invitation to live the greatest life possible beginning right now and extending into eternity. We become great only as we advance the cause of the greatest of all kings. We enter Christ’s kingdom by believing in him and by living under his reign through the power of grace. Our loving obedience acts like a catalyst to advance his kingdom as more and more people embrace the gospel and begin living by his standards. And, get this. Christ’s kingdom is composed of people we sometimes despise—both Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives. It might even contain a few lobbyists and lawyers! Anyone who is primarily aligned with Christ’s purposes through the power of his Spirit is living in and advancing his kingdom.
Maybe it’s time we drop the mistaken idea that the political world is capable of delivering everything we long for. Instead of letting political commentators erode our respect for each other, perhaps it’s time to realize a more primary allegiance, an allegiance to the one we call King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Only he can establish a world in which peace and justice are the norm by which we all live.