Saturday, March 5, 2011

What Is It about Kingdoms?

We have been considering the humiliation of Jesus. It has several steps. We have looked at:
We are about to carry on to the third step, his crucifixion.

Before looking at any of the steps, however, we considered the usefulness of setting the facts of Jesus’ voluntary humiliation in context. We have already benefited from that context in the postings about the first and second steps. In the third step, the context is not only beneficial. It is crucial.

The crucifixion is so cruel, bizarre, and obscene that we could lose focus. The vital thing is, what does it mean? Luther did not satisfy himself with giving out information. He had a habit of asking, “What does this mean” and teaching the meaning along with the information. The meaning of Jesus’ crucifixion depends on its context.

We saw that the context of the voluntary humiliation of Jesus has two parts:

In this posting, we will focus on one aspect of the King and the Kingdom that is crucial to what Jesus’ crucifixion means.

A Strong Temptation

The Devil’s wilderness temptation of Jesus tells us something about kings and kingdoms.

The Devil is not omniscient, but he is the Old Serpent. He has been at his game for a long time. Paul speaks of his wiles, and Moses speaks of his craftiness. He knew he was tempting the Second Adam. He knew Jesus was here to redeem the first Adam’s fallen race by restoring to them his Kingdom. He knew that the gospel is the Gospel of the Kingdom. For the Devil, the consequences were total. He had to use his strongest temptations, and they needed to work, or he would be eternal toast in the fires of hell.

In the wilderness, this was the Devil’s third and final temptation.

The devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. (Mt 4:8)

That’s the thing about kings and kingdoms, their glory. That’s what made this temptation strong.

Synonyms: Kingdom and Glory

Typically, when a king or a kingdom comes into view, glory comes into view. Jesus said, “Even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” (Mt 6:29) The glory of a king is “arrayed” so that we see it.

Salome and her two sons, James and John, asked that the sons be given the best places in Jesus’ kingdom. But the sons didn’t use the word kingdom.

They said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” (Mk 10:37)

Glory is so associated with kings and kingdoms that the word glory is used as a synonym for the word kingdom. Mark, in the verse above, quotes James and John. Their mother, Salome, also spoke. Matthew quotes her:

She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” (Mt 20;21)

She said kingdom. They said glory. They all are saying the same thing.

Therefore, when the Devil tempted Jesus with kingdoms, he was tempting Jesus with glory. Luke includes the Devil’s promissory words: “To you I will give all this authority and their glory.” (Lk 4:6)

What’s Wrong with Glory

But wait. Temptation is to sin. Since the gospel is the Gospel of the Kingdom, and since Jesus is the King of the Gospel, is Jesus to have no glory? What’s wrong with glory? How is this temptation?

Jesus is to have glory.

  • “To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever.” (1 Pet 4:11)
  • “You have crowned him with glory and honor.” (Hb 2:7)
  • “To him be glory and dominion forever and ever.” (Rev 1:6)
  • “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Rev 5:13)

Viewed from one angle, the problem with sin is that it falls short of the glory of God. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rm 3:23) Jesus calls the children of the Kingdom into his glory.

  • “God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.” (1 Thes 2:12)
  • “When the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” (1 Pet 5:4)

This shows in further depth the power of the temptation. The temptation had more power than we supposed at first because, besides the attraction of glory regardless whether glory is right or wrong, Jesus is supposed to have glory. Glory is right.

Glory or Cross

As King of the Gospel, Jesus should be exalted, but Jesus was humiliated. Jesus’ humiliation was voluntary. Humiliation was not forced upon him. His own humility brought on his humiliation. Jesus was A Volunteer for Humiliation. Although glory is right for the King, yet in the temptation, Jesus resisted the attraction of glory. Where did that get him?

The cross.

This sets up the context to answer of the crucifixion, “What does this mean?” Jesus chose the cross rather than glory. He could not get to the cross with glory. With the context, we know what the opposite of the cross is: glory. By knowing its opposite, we begin to see the meaning of the cross.

Glory or cross, glory or cross.

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