The gospel, God’s final word, was put on display not on thrones or in seats of power, but on straw and the dirt of the earth. It was not illuminated by flashing neon signs and billboards, but by the stars of the sky and the brilliance they shone forth.
Therein Lies the Problem
Fast-forward thirty years. Jesus carried out his public ministry and time on this earth not with a scepter and a robe but with a staff and a cloak. Yet, he proclaimed Kingship. He proclaimed his Lordship. “The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am he’ ” (John 4:25-26). Jesus was not spouting some arrogant notion of himself. Jesus, sent by God, was speaking the truth. That truth changed everything. That truth melted hearts and transformed lives. That truth turned over money changing tables and sent religious leaders scheming. “And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him” (Luke 19:47). In fact, “the Chief priests and the whole Council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death” (Mathew 26:59).
The Chief Priests and the Council Were Not the First to Cry Out “Crucify Him”
When the gospel broke forth out of the womb of a young virgin, the violence began: “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “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.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born” (Matthew 2:1-4)…”Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men” (Matthew 2:16). Even as Christ, the newborn King, lay in a dirty manger, murder was taking place in the heart of the king and in the hearts of the kings’ people. You can almost hear them say what would be said thirty years later at Jesus’ “trial”: “The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God” (John 19:7). Herod was troubled by only one piece of news – Another had come, and he was King, and there was only one way to deal with him – kill him. In essence, Herod was saying, “Nice try Jesus, but I’m King in this town.” Soon, his troubled soul would move from murder to mass murder. Tricked by the three wise men he became enraged and called for the brutal killing of all male babies under the age of two.
I Am King Too
I have read this story many times and each time I’ve been horrified at the thought of not just murder, but mass murder. How could he? What kind of power hungry, throne protecting monster would act like that? Then, I am reminded of the very words Jesus spoke, “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment” (Matthew 5:22). Jesus equated anger with murder, driving home the point that even though you look good on the outside (not running around literally killing people), your heart is just as wicked. How easy it is for me to smile, all the while murdering in my heart and slicing and dicing the motives of others. Just as Herods’ anger ratcheted up when others didn’t do what he wanted, my anger flares too. It may be mild at first, but the more I process it and think on it and imagine all that I imagine, my heat rises. I have already murdered you, but now I’m thinking about how I can murder you again, and anyone else in my path. I have no desire to let Jesus be King and rule in my heart in those moments. I want to be King. I dethrone Jesus, crawl up into that seat and shout like Herod; “Nice try Jesus, but I’m King in this town.” I’m running this show and I’ll be making the decisions from now on, thank you very much.
A Stronger King Flexes Grace Not Muscles
But, there is a whisper. The whisper of One who is Strong. And he came not to sit on a throne of power, but to lay in a manger set upon the dirt of this earth. He came as a paradox to everything the world believed. He not only turned tables upside down, he turned everything upside down. The poor became rich. The last became first. Sinners were saved and the self-righteous cast out. Everything they knew about how the world should operate was null and void now. Jesus came and His Kingdom was not of this world. While the Pharisees, the world, and you and I, try flexing our religious, intellectual and power filled muscles, Jesus takes one look and says what he said to Zacchaeus, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today…to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19).
He invites us to come down off our perch, to step down from our high horse – not with condemnation, but with love. He seeks us out and comes not to let us have it, but to let us have Him. His strength looks like weakness to the world, but it’s more powerful than any power in all of heaven and earth. Powerful enough to dethrone us. A Love so powerful as to melt a human heart. God sent Jesus into this world to rescue the weak who think they have power. Herod said, “Search for the child and destroy him”, but God whispered, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” Herod (and you and I) speak words of death and violence, and God speaks words of Life and Rescue. God sent his son, King Jesus, not so that we could stay perched on our puny and frail thrones, but to rescue us from them. To set us free from our brokenness, rebellion and self-righteousness. Not because we were worthy of the rescue, but because of the very fact that we weren’t. We scheme and we plot and we run, but Grace squashes schemes, overturns plots and runs faster, and thankfully, wrestles our glory story to the ground. There is no more vivid illustration of God’s power made perfect in weakness than his gospel being sent forth in the form of a human baby, yet, King.
By Lori Harding
Lori is the Director of Care Ministries and Women’s Support at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, FL, where she oversees Women’s Ministries and coordinates Care Ministry programs and resources. Lori speaks to women of all ages at retreats and conferences. She blogs at Set Free
. Thankful to have her sharing over here today!