On Tuesday, Christians around the world will celebrate the birth of their king. Think about that for a moment, Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our saviour, and the Messiah, the son of David—a king. That Jesus is a king clear from all the Gospels.
A King is Born
Matthew’s Genealogy focuses on Jesus’ Davidic lineage and recounts the coming of the wise men who ask, “Where is he who has been born the king of the Jews?” (Matt 2:1-2). Herod recognizes immediately that they are looking for the Messiah, or Christ (Matt 2:3-6). In Luke, the angels tell the shepherds that a child is born “in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). Mark does not record the Birth of Jesus, but Jesus’ first words are a proclamation of kingdom, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15). And when Jesus seeks out His apostles in the Gospel of John, Nathanael exclaims, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (John 1:49).
Christmas is the celebration of the arrival of a king, of the birth of He who was born to rule the entire world. As Graeme Goldsworthy has observed, the presence of a king implies a kingdom, a land over which and the people over whom he rules. If Jesus was born a king, what then is His kingdom? What is His land? Who are His people? Thinking in this way offers us three themes to think about this Christmas: the king, the kingdom, and the people of the king. First, let’s consider in this post our king.
Not a Normal King
When the magi came to Jesus as a young child, they asked, “Where is he who is born the king of the Jews” (Matt 2:2). Later, when Pilate asks Jesus if He is a king, He concedes that this is true yet seeks to qualify it (Matt 27:11-13, John 18:33-38). Jesus is a king, yet He is not a king as Herod thought he would be—a threat to his throne—or as Jews wanted Pilate to see Him—a threat to Roman occupation. Instead, Jesus was and is the inheritor of a much greater throne. He is the one who would rule in the stead of David, who would rule God’s kingdom. Isaiah describes the rule of the Davidic branch, the coming Messiah, as a righteous and divine rule over the entire earth (Isa 9:1-7; 11:1-9). That is, this king would rule all people with complete integrity and perfect justice, so much so that He would be associated with God Himself—“Mighty God, Everlasting Father” (Isa 9:6).
The Lowborn King
Think of that; Jesus was born to rule not just Palestine but the entire world. Jesus was born a man, yet was also “Mighty God” and “Everlasting Father.” Elsewhere, He was called the “arm of the Lord,” that is, the one who accomplishes God’s work (Isa 40:10, 51:9-11, 52:10, 53:1-3, 59:15-20). When this king came, He was not welcomed with pomp and circumstance. Instead, this king entered the world in a feed box.
This king was born to lowly parents and had no distinguishing marks (Isa 53:2). Like his predecessor David, He was born a low man whom God would exalt above all the self-exalted rulers; for David, he would be exalted above Saul, for Jesus, He would be exalted above every power in the heavens and upon the earth (1 Sam 2:1-10; Rom 1:4; 1 Cor. 15:24-28; Rev 5:9-14). In the words of Paul, Jesus—who was in the very form of God—“emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of man” (Phil 2:6). The most anticipated birth in the history of creation happened in the little town of Bethlehem, and the most important person to ever be born—anticipated from the beginning of creation (Gen 3:15)—was laid to rest in a feed box.
The Jews living in the 1stcentury AD new that the Christ was a king, yet they did not expect the type of king they received. For those who wanted a revolution, Jesus rejected their efforts to crown Him (John 6:15). For those comfortable with the status quo, they killed Him lest He actually rule(John 19:15-16). Jesus was a king yet not the sort that anyone expected. He was born in humility and achieved victory through His death. We celebrate the birth of a king this Christmas but no ordinary king.
Though we celebrate on Tuesday the King’s arrival in humility, we also look forward to His return in power. Let’s not be fooled; Jesus has already unseated the rebellious king Satan with His first coming and will soon return to bring an end to all rebellion in the heavens and on the earth (Matt 12:29; Luke 10:17-20; Rev 20:1-3; 1 Cor. 15:25-28; Rev 20:7-15). This Christmas, we delight in the coming of our King, the one who would save us, but we also look forward to His return, when He will place all His enemies under His feet and bring about the righteous rule that Isaiah foresaw. Jesus came as a king, but His kingship was different from what was expected. For this reason, we can expect that the land and the people over which He ruled would also be different. In the following posts, I want to consider the land and people of Jesus, our king.
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