Saturday, February 19, 2011

King of the Gospel

In a prior posting, we considered the Humility of the Father. Because the Trinity includes the Father and the Son as distinct Persons, humility is possible. The Father exalts the Son, not himself. Without the Trinity, humility is abolished. Humility is something a one-person god cannot do. A one-person god has no one but himself to exalt.

We will consider the humility of Jesus. To see his humility, however, it is helpful to set the facts of his voluntary humiliation in context. The context is: the kingdom and the King. The King should be exalted, but Jesus was humiliated – voluntarily.

In the last posting, we saw the kingdom. We saw that the gospel is the “gospel of the kingdom.” John the Baptist, Jesus, the Twelve, the Seventy-Two, and the Apostles preached the kingdom. The Beatitudes begin and end with the kingdom. Typically, a parable of Christ is a parable of the kingdom. They begin, “The kingdom of heaven is like …” Jesus told us to “seek first the kingdom of God.” We must be born again and converted, but why: so that we can see and enter the kingdom. Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come.”

In this posting, we will see the King.

David’s Throne

God sent Nathan to tell David:

I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. (2 Sam 7:12-14)

The pious longings of faithful Jews during the time between the Testaments looked forward to the coming of a powerful, victorious king who would be a son of David. Matthew provided the genealogy of Jesus showing that he is a son of “David the king.” (Mt. 1:6) This qualified Jesus to sit on David’s throne.

David’s City

Luke records that because of the Roman census,

Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. (Lk 2:4-5)

So Jesus was born in the city of David the king.

Homage of the Wise Men

Wise men came from the east looking for Jesus. The asked King Herod,

Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him. (Mt 2:2)

Jesus had a royal star. The wise men recognized it. They found Jesus and paid him homage as a king. They gave him gifts fit for a king.

John the Baptist Announced the Kingdom

John the Baptist came ahead of Jesus to “prepare the way of the Lord.” (Is 40:3; Mt 3:3) He said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Mt 3:2)

What does this mean? The kingdom of heaven was at hand because Jesus was at hand. Where the King is reigning, there is the kingdom. The word translated as “kingdom” means the “acting reign” of a king.

To speak of a “reign” is to imply that a king is present to act as such, “to reign.” If “the reign of heaven/God” stands near, then the God of heaven has come down to reign, to perform his kingly deeds. Thus, the reign of God is not primarily a place. Rather, it is a divine action that occurs where Jesus is, through his words and deeds. … The reign of God is in Jesus. (Jeffrey A. Gibbs, Matthew 1:1-11:1, Concordia Commentary, pp. 48-49, emphasis in original)

John’s message was, “The King has come and he going to actively reign, so repent.”

Herod Attempted Regicide

For Herod, the gospel of the kingdom of Jesus was not good news. It was troubling news. When he heard the wise men say that the “King of Jews” had been born, “he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.” (Mt 2:3) Notice: all Jerusalem was troubled with Herod. Jesus as king had notoriety.

Herod had coined the title “King of the Jew” for himself. Now some other “King of the Jews” had a star in the sky and foreigners visiting to worship him. Pretty gutsy of those foreigners to ask the “King of the Jews” where they could find the King of the Jews.

To rid himself of his infant rival, Herod “killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under.” (Mt 2:16) The mothers (described as Rachel), and probably some fathers too, wept so that their crying was heard loudly. (Mt 2:18) They knew what was going on. Jesus as king had notoriety.

The Sanhedrin and Rome Achieved Regicide

The rulers of Israel had superficially different reasons than Herod for wanting to kill the King. Because of Roman occupation, they did not have the power to carry out capital punishment. They had to arouse the Romans to execute Jesus. They did this by charging that Jesus claimed to be King of the Jews. This would make Jesus a rebel against Caesar and subject to capital punishment.

Their timing was opportune. Jesus had just made a triumphal entry into Jerusalem with crowds shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” (Mt 21:9) “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” (Mk 11:10) “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (Jn 12:13) The Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, asked Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” (Mt. 27:11) Jesus as king had notoriety.

This happened at the time of the Feast of the Passover. Pilate had a custom of releasing to the Jews at the feast one prisoner whom they could choose. A crowd came and asked Pilate to follow this custom again. Pilate brought out to the crowd Jesus and a rebel named Barabbas. Pilate said to the crowd, “Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” (Mk 15:9) Jesus as king had notoriety.

The crowd demanded that Pilate release Barabbas and crucify the King of the Jews. Pilate ordered Jesus executed by crucifixion, “and over his head they put the charge against him, which read, ‘This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.’” (Mt 27:37)

Jesus as king was killed in front of the nation and world. Israel was at the tri-way crossroads between Rome, Egypt, and Mesopotamia. The world was always passing through. At the Passover, Jews from the world over made pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Israel was like a server on the Internet transmitting data packets heralding the crucifixion of the King of the Jews to the whole world.

Prominence of the Kingdom and the King

The last posting showed the prominence of the kingdom and that the gospel is the gospel of the kingdom. In this posting we have seen the notoriety of Jesus as the King.

This is the context of the voluntary humiliation of Jesus: the kingdom and the King. As King, Jesus should be exalted. Instead, he is humiliated – voluntarily. With this context in mind, we are ready to consider next the humility of Jesus.

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