Text: John 18:37, Psalm 103:15-22, Zechariah 6:12-13, Matthew 2:1-6
Christ came as the perfect King. He came with all authority in heaven and earth, but also in the humblest way imaginable—in a lowly manger, as a fragile baby. Yet He would command the demons and they would obey, He would speak to storms and they would still, He would touch the afflicted and they would be healed. Jesus’ life was an act of service, His death a display of humility, and His resurrection a demonstration of power unlike anything the world had ever seen.
My first experience with kings and kingdoms was Disney’s Robin Hood at age 5.
Prince John, a mane-less lion, was puny and greedy and insecure. His only friend was a snake, and his subjects suffered disease and poverty under his tyrannical taxing and dishonorable reign.
The movie comes to a blissful resolution with a wedding. Prince John is replaced by the true and better king, King Richard the Lionheart (an actual lion in the cartoon version of the movie). Finally home from the Crusades, King Richard takes the crown to restore his people and rule them with wisdom, generosity, and kindness.
The movie is a caricature of actual events in 12th century England, but 5-year-old Raechel simply saw the forest creatures of Nottingham aching for a true and better king to rule them. King Richard, for his 10 seconds of actual screen time, assured me that he would be all of that and more. “All hail King Richard!” the creatures chant, as Robin Hood and Maid Marian wed and ride off in their carriage to live happily ever after.
Legend tells us that the real King Richard was a full foot taller than his younger brother John, that he was handsome and had a great head of hair. (Everyone loves a great head of hair.) This, perhaps, is where King Richard and King Jesus differ. The prophet Isaiah tells us about our King:
“He didn’t have an impressive form
or majesty that we should look at Him,
no appearance that we should desire Him.
He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of suffering who knew what sickness was.
He was like someone people turned away from;
He was despised, and we didn’t value Him.”
– Isaiah 53:2-3
Just like King Richard came to rule England in the cartoon version of his life as the perfect king with all authority, Jesus came in the actual flesh to rule not only mankind with justice and mercy, but also to rule the demons, the wind and waves, and even disease. Jesus came to be King—not made fit to rule because of His appearance, but because of His holiness and the ransom He paid.
We’ve studied Old Testament kings enough to know they ranged from good to bad to downright villainous. Jehoshaphat righteously reeducated Israel in God’s law, Solomon asked for wisdom to be a helper to his people, and Zedekiah lost the temple, his life, and his people to Babylonian captivity. It wasn’t that they were “phony kings” like Prince John, but even the righteous kings would fall short (like Solomon who did evil when he grew older). Or, as the rooster-narrator croons, “King Richard’s crown keeps slipping down around that pointed head.”
A perfect King was coming. It was only a matter of time.
Today, nearing the end of the third week of Advent, we recognize and worship Christ, the perfect King. Sure, we can draw connections between the humble and righteous reign of King Jesus and favorite childhood movies because we, like Robin Hood, are “Pardoned by order of the King,” or because He has “an outlaw for an in-law” in us. But all that (true) fun aside, we have even more to celebrate today. Our King is coming—and indeed has already come—to set right an upside-down world.
“Jesus answered, ‘You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth’.”
– John 18:37
“The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.”
– Psalm 103:19