From the cradle to the throne

Jesus, King

The gift that keeps on giving.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)

The preceding, oft-quoted, passage of Scripture is a Christmas staple, used to communicate the joys of our dear Savior’s birth. While I think we have done our due diligence to highlight a precious infant, a manger and jubilant onlookers, there is simply a bigger picture to be painted.

I get it. People love babies and will drool over them every chance they get; who could blame them. The nostalgia of the Christ-child, though, should not overshadow the fact that he, indeed, came to be the Christ.

While Emmanuel’s birth was one of the greatest miracles known to man, this Son was given that he should “reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom.” Even with the cross in view, one cannot detach the notion of Jesus’ kingly vocation from this narrative, as the title “The King of the Jews” hung over his head during his very crucifixion (John 19:19).

Anticipation had been building for centuries as Israel waited for their promised Messiah. Buried under conflict after conflict and captivity after captivity, the promise of one who would rule in David’s stead, however, did not shine as bright as it once did as the first century was dawning.

In fact, the monarch in power in Jerusalem at the time of Christ’s birth, Herod the Great, was not of the line of David – or a Jew for that manner. Essentially, Herod was put in power by the Romans, much like those who had previously subjected Judea handed the throne to men they thought they could control (2 Kings 23:34, 2 Chronicles 36:10).

When the Magi (or wise men or kings) from the east came to Jerusalem to inquire of the birth of Israel’s long-awaited king, the reaction of those in the city on the hill is surprising to say the least. Matthew 2:3 records, “When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.”

While Herod is motivated by his own self-interest – so much so that he killed his own family members to secure his throne – it is surprising to see the citizens of Jerusalem have the same reaction. Were they now comfortable with their current state of affairs, having been occupied and oppressed for so long?

Moreover, not only was the news of the Messiah’s birth met with concern, but with some indifference as well. When Herod gathered the chief priest’s and teachers of the law to ask them where the Christ was to be born, they were able to tell him the exact city by citing Micah 5:2: “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel” (Matthew 2:6).

Unfortunately, despite the report of the Magi, it seems as if no one thought the alleged birth of the Messiah was worth investigating. The contingency from the east, instead, went to Bethlehem alone to offer the fragrance of their worship and expensive gifts to the newborn king.

When the Magi do not return to Herod to confirm the birth of Jesus, he unleashes a sinister (but not original) plot to kill this would be king, and essentially frames this story as a struggle for the throne.

What Herod does not realize, however, is that the birth of this king means that God is building His own kingdom where He sits on the throne – which is an eternal one.

Actually, God has always been king, as He says, “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool” (Isaiah 66:1). Additionally, Isaiah 44:6 declares, “This is what the Lord says—Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God.”

Though constantly tested, God’s plan has always been that He would rule over His people (1 Samuel 8:7-8). In the birth of Jesus, we find the Lord announcing the coming of His earthly kingdom while simultaneously inviting those who would submit to His wise ordering.

There are so many wonderful things about Christmas, but, for certain, our take away should be the celebration of Christ’s first-coming in light of his second:

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse.

The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 22:1-5)

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~ by christianballenger on December 24, 2013.

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