He walked through the streets of that city with a burden on his shoulders, the very instrument that would build his throne. His steps were heavy, weary with the preparatory ceremonies of interviews and practices runs. The soldiers had dressed him so that he would not feel uncomfortable in royal robes, they had placed the crown on his head, though it was ill-fitting and cut his head. The powers that be had done everything they could to stop his coronation and enthronement, but each step they took brought him closer to his defining moment.
The current king’s representative could only stand by as he led a victorious procession up the main street and out of town, decidedly subverting the normal practice of leading the captives into town. Those in the procession mocked and derided him, claiming the current king as their Lord, though their words were markedly futile. The prince’s friends had gone into hiding, awaiting the moment of truth when his reign would begin and they could announce the good news.
They lifted him up onto his throne outside the city, and his breath left him. His throne was uncomfortable, to say the least. And after a while, his body gave out. And, yet, in that very moment, the powers that be realized their weakness, realized, too late, that their rule was ending. The earth went dark, and the Spirit began moving again, much like it had at the very beginning. A new thing was beginning, creation itself was being made new, and as the prince rested on the seventh day, a hush fell over creation in anticipation of the mighty action. The first day arrived, and light burst forth, new life begun and the prince rose up in his glory, mighty in power and justice, abounding in grace and mercy. Creation had begun again, and now, the King’s rule would work in earnest to set things right again.
We’re coming up on another period of fasting, Advent (sure its a month or two away) and my mind is turning already toward Lent. We see the crucifixion so often as a moment of defeat. Why? This was the moment of victory. Revelation points out that the slain Lamb is the victorious one, not the powers of violence, chaos, and death. The cross, for all intents and purposes, is the moment Jesus ascended to his throne. He had led a victory procession out of the city, out of slavery – contrary to the Roman rulers who would enter the city bringing captives and subdued people into slavery. His victory at the cross is solidified by the resurrection, the first act of re-creation.
I wonder, then , what Jesus, who had his calling in mind, thought when James and John asked their famous question, “Can we sit at your right and left when you come into your kingdom?” I imagine Jesus grimacing, and asking, wryly, whether they could drink the cup he would drink, as he imagined the kind of people who would be on his right and left on the cross.
Jesus was victorious not through earthly power (violence, coersion, death, threats) but with the power of a servant. His great Kingly act to bring peace, to defeat his enemies, was to die himself, to accept that pain, absorb it, and destroy it. His pronouncements from that throne of the cross included, “Forgive them,” “Take care of my mom,” and “The work is completed.”
We could spend days, years, hundreds of thousands of words looking at how this impacts our lives. Suffice it to say, we serve a King who conquered through serving. We follow a King who is victorious over the world. We serve a king who is renewing and restoring all things out of his immense love.
What do you think about being called co-heirs with our King? What would it mean to accept our royal responsibility for working out God’s purpose on earth? What would your family, church, or community look like if God were really in charge?
(This post was inspired by How God Became King by NT Wright.)