Still the King
The Kingdom of God existed before the creation of the vast emptiness that was the nesting place of the universe. What that Kingdom looked like, what was in it and what beings were part of it we may never know. We do know this. He was absolute ruler of whatever there was.
At some point God decided to create our physical universe. His thought went out and stars flamed in the void of space. He ordered it and light shot through the virgin darkness. And then He began to focus on the tiniest speck of a speck that any eye but His would fail to notice. It was barren rock, cold and lifeless. And despite the angels who rushed to do His bidding and continually voiced His praise, and despite the now blazing universe filled with spinning galaxies as testimony to His glory and despite the existence of more beautiful and larger planets, God began to focus His attention on this particle of cosmic dust we call earth.
The light of the sun and moon highlighted an empty landscape. When the first dawn lit up the earth its beams only showed how lifeless the planet was, bereft of any color or majesty. God immediately changed this when He created oceans of waters fed by thousands of rivers and millions of streams. The oceans gave motion to the dead planet as the first wave broke upon the shore. Clouds now dotted the sky of beautiful blue and the water reflected its special beauty.
God’s creative genius was not satisfied. The dull brown earth was now covered with plants. The earth hosted a variety of unspeakable splendor as the flowers gloriously applauded God in their beauty, as the mighty forests raised their branches toward the sky, as the soft grass warmly blanketed the earth. God immediately made seasons and these plants became famous in their individual magnificent moments.
God now turned His attention back to the oceans. Their heaving imitated life but they were lifeless still. From their depths He made mighty whales and playful dolphins. In the streams He made darting minnows and jumping trout. And no sooner had God done that than the air was filled with birds who soared on fresh breezes and whose songs brought the opening music of the cosmos outside the angels’ song. The eagle and the sparrow each claimed their place in a sky sharing it with nothing but clouds and sunshine.
Then God chose to fill the land that was covered with the green of the forests and grass. The stillness of the jungle and woods were changed forever by swinging monkeys and prowling foxes. Mice ran between the roots of trees and lions roamed the expansive plains. Giraffes nibbled on the tops of the trees, hippopotamuses lumbered on land only to become graceful ballerinas in the depths of the rivers. Bears began their battle with bees over the honey they both loved.
Then God decided to beget a creature not only unlike anything found on earth but dramatically different from any of all the things that existed. Bowing down to collect a handful of dust He breathed into it and gave the new form more than life. A man stood before Him and God gave him a soul. This was a soul that could hear music for more than noises and understand the beauty of God’s work. This was a soul that could reason and choose— to hate or to love, to be lazy or to excel, to praise or to curse, to choose good or evil. We all know the story of man’s miserable failure at making those first choices, leading to the disintegration of himself and the decay of this beautiful earth that God has blessed above the barren rocks of space. But though man failed, God was still the King.
History began to unfold as men built villages that became cities that in turn became nations. They learned how to build machines of destruction and conduct wars. They taught themselves to read and understand and to pass knowledge from one generation to another. They learned to bow before Almighty God and then perverting that, how to craft idols of rotting wood and crumbling stone to bow before them instead. The whole race was a mixture of the blessedly pure and the desperately wicked. The tug-of-war between good and evil went back and forth. From the start it seemed that evil was gaining the upper hand. Still, the King looked down on this pitiful race with love. That love could not be satisfied with the absolute obedience of the atoms and the galaxies, the glorious and flawless singing of the host of Heaven’s angels. None of these mattered as much as the self-destruction of these tiny mites of men on earth.
Then it was time. The fullness of time. Time to leave the limitless glory of a pure and glorious Heaven. Time to leave the ability to be in all places at all times, to create worlds with a thought, to know all possibilities of all circumstances of all time. It was time for the King to leave and to limit Himself to a microscopic cell within the body of a woman. The Son of God separated Himself from His glory for the pitch blackness of a mother’s womb. He was shut away in that darkness waiting for arms and legs to form, for the body to grow in size and shape until the mother’s body could no longer hold it. Waiting and suspended in fluid within a little sac; but all the time He was still the King.
Now the time came for Him to be born. What awaited Him? Was it the trumpet blast of a royal welcome or the brightly lit beauty of an earthly king’s palace? No. It was a dark, damp cave that He shared with some smelly farm animals. His first sight would be of His mother and foster father and they would be clothed in the rags of poverty. The night would bring visitors but only men who told wild stories of an angel’s song and who themselves were among the poorest of the land. Lying in a feeding trough the baby Jesus would try to find warmth against the night’s cold in strips of coarse cloth. With little arms that could not control their movement and legs that were too weak to support Him, with a voice that could not frame any clear thought or sound, He came as a child amid privation but He was still a King.
Stolen away to Egypt and then hidden away in Nazareth the child grew. His human hands learned to grasp the carpenter’s tools and form things from wood that grew from trees He Himself had created. He helped His mother with the little brothers and sisters who came along in that family, knowing the secrets of their souls, seeing them develop physically but also seeing how sin had hold of them right from the cradle. When at the age of 12 He went with His family to Jerusalem He entered the Temple which had been built for His honor. There He found the teachers, men who earnestly sought to understand the ways of God and who argued among themselves as to which interpretation of Scripture was correct. He knew the answers and so began to teach the teachers. They were amazed at what they were hearing. Finally His parents came to fetch Him. There He stood with a wisdom that was not earthly. There He gave proof that He was still a King.
We do not know exactly when He walked away from the carpenter’s shop, when He left the little town of Nazareth behind on the dusty road as He headed toward the Jordan River. What we do know is that He entered Jordan’s river to face His cousin John. John was overwhelmed that Jesus would stand in front of him. He had said that he was not worthy to even untie Christ’s shoes and now the Son of God stood before him to be baptized. Finally submitting to Jesus’ request the heavens themselves opened and the Holy Spirit descended as a dove. The Heavenly Father, breaking His silence but suppressing His joy no longer, proclaimed, This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Though Jesus may have appeared to the watching crowd as just another man standing in the murky waters of the Jordan there was no doubt that He was still a King.
As He gathered His disciples about Him He shared teachings that were new and different. Although they disturbed people and sometimes angered them they found His words irresistible. The crowds left their daily tasks and deserted their concerns for survival in their hostile environments to crowd around Him, to concentrate every effort to hear a phrase from His lips. They left stirred in their souls, lifted in spirit and convinced that they must change. They looked at His homely clothing, His lack of credentials, His wandering lifestyle. But there was no doubt. He was still the King!
And then there were the miracles. When the sea rose up to claim yet another boatload of victims His word smoothed the angry waves and transformed the hurricane winds to a gentle breeze. And when the demon possessed man, so tortured in soul that even the strongest chains snapped in useless restraint came out to angrily challenge Jesus he found that the demons could not grasp his soul for a second longer as Jesus commanded them to enter suicidal swine.
Death itself retreated in defeat as Jesus raised up a little girl, a widow’s son and His old friend Lazarus. His creative power took a little boy’s lunch and fed a mountainside of people. Eyes that had never seen the light of day or beheld a mother’s face opened at His command. Ears that had been denied the sweetness of music were now unlocked. The leper found His rotting skin made clear as a baby’s and the handicapped discovered that his withered limbs had leaping strength again. All He did only proved He was still the King.
The last fatal week began with so much promise. It was as if the world now understood that He was still a King. The holy city of Jerusalem was filled with crowds from all over who could not wait to cast their clothing on the ground or to put palm branches in the way. They sang. Oh, how they sang! Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest! This was the moment it seemed that all humankind would finally offer itself up to God. They sang some more! They shouted! They praised Jesus their King!
But when the shouts of approval faded, when the crush of political intrigue began to catch Him in its grind what happened then? In a few short days the songs would be forgotten. Jesus would sit at a private supper with His chosen disciples while one of them waited for the right moment to leave, waiting to slip out, to find Christ’s enemies and sell Him for a few pieces of silver. Out he went. Jesus, knowing that the end was coming, took the disciples from their quiet room to a peaceful garden. By now the moment of His agony had come. He asked three disciples to wait with Him only to find them passed out in sleep. The goal of His coming brought such pain to His thoughts that blood took the place of sweat. But after this prayer He got up, not to hide, but to allow Himself to be captured and tormented. With each step toward His betrayal He proved He was still a King.
The mob came ready for a fight, a fight that never took place. His little band of followers melted into the night carried by their fear. His old friend Judas humiliated Him by giving Him a kiss of death. The soldiers who grabbed Him were little men who felt bigger because they thought Him weak. They carried Him back, back to the palace of the High Priest Caiaphas who had waited for this moment to corner Christ and destroy Him. The questions began under the mocking guise of a trial. He would not answer their lies and ignorance. Despite what they made Him out to be there was no doubt He was still a King.
Paraded before Pilate he regarded Him with a mixture of amusement and amazement. A crown of thorns was imbedded on His head. The blood ran down His face and into His eyes that He could not wipe clean because of His bound hands. Pilate ordered a beating weakening Jesus’ body until it was limp beneath the blows. The open sores on His back were covered with a robe placed there by soldiers who thought it funny that a king should look so miserable. Bringing the staggering Savior to his balcony Pilate bartered Jesus for Barabbas. Would they take this Man whom he considered to be a harmless clown or would they take a vicious criminal? Even Pilate was shocked that they would reject a Man thought to be harmless, who indeed had done much good, in favor of the murdering Barabbas. He was more stunned to find that they wanted Jesus crucified. But Pilate was haunted by more than the crowd’s cruelty. There was something about Him. He knew He wasn’t just another Jew. Did he sense that He was still a King?
On the stony face of Golgotha Jesus suffered the disgrace of crucifixion. His throne was now a splintered cross. Instead of a scepter in His hands there were now two spikes. Instead of swords being lifted in regal salute a spear was raised to rip His side. Instead of servants waiting to honor Him those surrounding the cross mocked Him in His dying hour. Lifted up above the earth the He Himself created He now looked over the city to the Temple that was raised in His honor. Rejected and despised, groaning and suffering, a placard proclaimed what the nation had rejected. “Jesus Christ, King of the Jews”.
In a few hours the earth itself would convulse in mourning and skies would darken to honor the fallen King. We are told that the dead were raised from their graves and that a soldier mumbled a confession that crudely spoke of his newfound belief. The religious leaders laughed to think they had rid themselves of this troublemaker. Satan and his legions must rejoiced to think they had killed the Almighty. As His followers laid His limp body in a borrowed tomb, as they rolled the great stone in front of it, sealed it and walked away, as the soldiers ensured that it was secure, the world seemed to have forgotten that this Jesus was still a King.
The earth was silent for a day or two. The guards kept a boring watch over a silent grave. The leaders began to relax and enjoy their victory. The crowds were beginning to leave the city. The seal on the stone remained secure. The disciples began to make other plans.
But He was still a King. The guards and the stone were equally useless. Indeed, they could have buried Jesus’ body in the depths of the earth and it would have been as futile. Ten thousand demons could have tried to hold the stone in place and like the stone, been swept aside. The King—the King who had formed all that was living and existing, the King who had healed and taught and died to save, the King who would reign in absolute victory, that King broke the bonds of death and proved, once and for all that He was still the King.
And then at some unnamed and unknown moment the skies will split apart and every eye shall see that the conquering King has returned to claim what is rightfully His. You will join the rest of humanity as knees bend before Him and every tongue shall confess Him to be Lord, Master and King. We will look to see Him not just in His majesty but we shall see Him reach out with scarred hands and walk among us with wounded feet.
Still a King. While you are occupied with your daily demands, while you are choosing your next compromise, while you are deciding what laws to obey, will your realize that He is knocking at the door of your heart and that He is still a King? Will you realize that if you fail to open the door to Him now, the day will come when you must put all of this aside, all that claims the precious moments of your life and bow before Him? And when that day comes, how important will your excuses be? Why not bow before Him now? For He is still the King!