December 1996

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Volume: 47 - Number: 12

Christ the King

Oswald MacLeod

"Where is He that is born King of the Jews?"

This question that was asked of the "Wise Men" long ago (Matt 2:2) troubled Herod and all Jerusalem with him (2:3). Wicked Herod of course had his own interests at heart and wanted no rival to his throne or authority. The people of Jerusalem probably feared what action Herod might take if he felt his throne were threatened.

It is interesting to note that Herod connected the coming King with the promised Messiah. Thus having "Gathered all the priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born' (Matt 2:4). Having been told that He was to be born in Bethlehem of Judea (Micah 5:1), and then after further inquiry of the wise men as to the appearing of the "Star", he sent them to Bethlehem. Later events showed that instead of worshipping the King, he wanted to murder Him (2:16).

On leaving Herod, the star that led the wise men to Jerusalem appeared again to their great joy and led them to a "house" not in Bethlehem, but we believe in Nazareth. There they saw the "young Child", whom they worshipped and to whom they presented their gifts, after which they returned to their own country "another way". Such it will always be with all who come to know the King of Kings.

Who these wise men were we are not told, or how they knew the meaning of the Star they saw in the East. Possibly they were of some priestly order of the Medes, Persians or Babylonians who had some knowledge of the true God and who also were familiar with the prophecy of Balaam (Num 24:17), but of this we cannot be sure.

A good while before these men appeared in Jerusalem, an angel appeared by night to shepherds in a field outside Bethlehem, filling them with fear. His message to them was, "Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger" (Luke 2:12). A little earlier, a pious couple, Joseph and Mary, arrived at the Inn in Bethlehem, weary from the long journey from Nazareth. Can we imagine the constellation and disappointment that would fill their minds, with Mary in her condition, when told, "There is no room in the Inn"?

Late one afternoon during the last World War, a young lieutenant with his bride walked up to the reservation desk of a New York Hotel, only to hear again what they had heard too many times that day, "No vacancy". The look of disappointment and frustration was so etched on their wearied faces that it touched the heart of a gentleman sitting in the lobby He suggested to the clerk a cot for himself, and he would share his room with them. The response was, "Not allowed." "But" said the gentleman, "This young woman is my daughter." "Oh, that is different;' was the reply A cot and dividing screen were provided, and the couple had a room. The gentlemen went out for the evening, when he returned late the couple were asleep, when he awoke in the morning they were gone. Soon afterward the lieutenant shipped out to Europe never to return. Some years later the young widow with her little son turned up at the office of the gentleman and expressed her appreciation for his kindness.

No such thoughtful kindness was extended to the weary couple at the Bethlehem Inn. Can we enter into their feelings as they turned away rejected? Can we visualize how tenderly, caringly and supportively Joseph would lead Mary down the pathway to the stable? Inside they see the occupants, probably camels, sheep, donkeys and goats etc. Now where would they find a place amid all this, to lay their pallets, a place to rest their weary bodies, which also may be the "birthing center", as it turned out to be.

The Birth of The King

How long Joseph and Mary remained in the stable, we are not told, nor are we given any details, but while in the stable, Mary 'brought forth her firstborn Son and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn" (Luke 2:7).

Now the shepherds, after the angelic choir had ended their joyous song of praise, came in haste to Bethlehem, "And found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger" (Luke 2:16). There is something extremely touching to the redeemed soul in this "nativity" scene. In all the annals of history there is no record of a king being born. Princes are born but not kings, and this King was born in a stable, not a palace, and was laid in a manger, not a comfortable crib. But this unique Person was not only "born King", but He was "Christ the Lord", the Redeemer of lost men, the "Saviour of the world", "the Creator of all things", yea, "God manifest in flesh". He was "the King eternal, immortal, invisible...the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and the Lord of lords" (1 Tim 1:17; 6:15). He is the One who in a coming day will rule the universe for God, yet He was born in a stable, and as a tender babe was laid in a manger. How touching and yet how majestic to the believing heart!

Joseph and Mary, after fulfilling the ordinances of the law and offering the required sacrifices (Luke 2:21-24), which would have taken at least 40 days, returned to their own city, Nazareth (Luke 2:39). It was here that the star guided the wise men to "the house" where they saw "the young Child" with Mary, His mother, and fell down and worshipped Him (Matt 2:11). Not now the babe in the manger in Bethlehem, but "the young Child" in the house in Nazareth.

Of His early years, little is recorded apart from the scene in Jerusalem (Luke 2:41-52) when He astonished the doctors of the law. But during the three years of His public ministry, we find the King moving among men in majestic dignity All the qualifications of a king were manifested in Him daily, yet envy and hatred blinded the minds of the Jewish leaders. He was "hated without a cause '. On occasion, some would have made Him King, but His hour was not yet come. In John 12, when He rode into Jerusalem on the colt, He presented Himself to Israel as King for the last time.

Rejection of The King

Soon, we see Him in Pilate's judgment hall and being asked by the Roman governor, "Art Thou the King of the Jews?" (John 18:33). His reply was, "Thou sayest that I am a King" (v 37). A few days before the crowd had cried, "Hosannah, blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord" (John 12:13), but now they were stirred by the envy and hatred of the leaders and cried, "Not this man, but Barabbas, now Barabbas was a robber " (John 18:40).

Scourged, spit upon, crowned with thorns and arrayed in purple, Pilate presented Him to the people, saying, "Behold your King!" The response of the people was, "Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him...we have no king but Caesar" (John 18:15). Pilate recognized His innocence of all these false charges, yet yielded to their murderous designs and delivered Him to be crucified. The hateful contempt for the King reached its zenith when they crucified Him between two malefactors, thus fulfilling Isaiah 53:12, "And He was numbered with the transgressors". So the King of the Jews was rejected and refused all homage due to a king, and finally died on a felon's cross.

The Jew's dastardly part in the rejection of their King and enormous guilt in refusing His rightful claims has been the cause of Israel's suffering until this day, but we also recognize that "He was delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:23). All of His sufferings were necessary to bring salvation to guilty men, but God raised Him from the dead and seated Him on His Father's Throne (Rev 3:21). The One that men despised and rejected is seated "Far above all principality and power, might and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come" (Eph 1:21).

The Reigning King

A King must have a throne. Today, He sits on the right hand of "The throne of the Majesty in the heavens" (Heb 8:1). In a coming day, "They shall call Jerusalem the Throne of the Lord" (Jer 3:17). "Solomon sat of the Throne of the Lord" (1 Chron 29:23) when he was enthroned in Jerusalem. Again, we read, For the Lord hath chosen Zion; He hath desired it for His habitation; this is My rest forever; here will I dwell, for I have desired it" (Psa 132:13-14). Though "the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing," and "the Kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder and cast away their cords from us;" yet God says, "I have set My King upon My holy hill of Zion" (Psa 2:1-3) and from that Throne righteous rule will go forth into all the earth.

Before this day of glory dawns, the judgment of God will cleanse the earth of all the unrighteous rule of men in preparation for the rule of the "King of kings". Some of the titles that are His are: "King of Glory" (Psa 24:7), "King of Righteousness... King of Peace" (Heb 7:2), "The Great King" (Matt 5:35),"The King over all the earth" (Zech 14:9), "King of Nations" (Jer 10:7) and "King Forever" (Psa 10:16). In the NT, He is "Prince of the kings of the earth" (Rev 1:5) and "the King of Kings and Lord of lords" (1 Tm 6:15; Rev 19:16).

His kingdom will be righteous in character, universal in scope and eternal in duration. What a glorious day it will be when the once rejected "King of the Jews" will appear in His glory, accompanied by all the hosts of heaven! His feet shall stand upon the Mount of Olives (Zech 14:4), His enemies will quake before Him, and "He shall smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron" (Rev 19:15). All will be subdued before Him, and "He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth" (Psa 72:6, 8). The words spoken to Mary will be fulfilled, "He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:... and of his kingdom there shall be no end" (Luke 1:32-33).

As we joyfully consider this blessed One and the glory which we through divine grace will share with Him, our hearts stir within us in anticipation. May the consideration of Him lead us to put less value on the things of this world and more on the world to come!

Jesus shall reign where'er the sun
Doth its successive journeys run,
His kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
Till moons shall wax and wane no more.

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