Neither Pilate nor the superficial Christian asks the one true question, “How am I to be a true man? How am I to become a man worth being a man?” The Lord is a king because his life, the life of his thoughts, of his imagination, of his will, of every smallest action, is true—true first to God in that he is altogether his, true to himself in that he forgets himself altogether, and true to his fellows in that he will endure anything they do to him, nor cease declaring himself the son and messenger and likeness of God. They will kill him, but it matters not: the truth is as he says!
Jesus is a king because his business is to bear witness to the truth. What truth? All truth; all verity of relation throughout the universe—first of all, that his father is good, perfectly good; and that the crown and joy of life is to desire and do the will of the eternal source of will, and of all life. He deals thus the death-blow to the power of hell. For the one principle of hell is, “I am my own, my own king and my own subject. My own glory is my chief care; my ambition, to gather the regards of men to the one center, myself. The more self-sufficing I feel or imagine myself, the greater I am. I will be free with the freedom that consists in doing whatever I am inclined to do, from whatever quarter may come the inclination.” To all these principles of hell, or of this world—they are the same thing—the Lord, the king, gives the direct lie.
A Man Born To Be King
by Stephen Carney
“The Lord is a king because his life, the life of his thoughts, of his imagination, of his will, of every smallest action, is true...” I borrowed the title of this essay from Dorothy Sayers' play, as I think it describes what MacDonald is saying in the above quote. In ancient times, a king was perceived as having some sort of divine authority to lead his people. A king must be of extraordinary qualities, hence the legends of Arthur and Excalibur, of Romulus and Remus, Greek mythologies, and even the Caesars were considered gods. The Scriptures tell us that kings have been granted authority to rule from either the permissive or directive will of God, especially Old Testament kings. Therefore it is natural for us to understand that being a king is not simply a right to ascendency based solely on linage, but the king must possess qualities that make one fit to be a king. The true king must be someone who cares for his subjects and knows how to provide for their needs. He must be able to protect them and defeat their true enemies. He must be one who cannot be compromised and is not looking out for his own self-interests. He must be righteous and true.
Most kings have been but pretenders to the throne, ruling in wait for the time of the coming of the Great King. Many imagine themselves to be more than they are, and soon the world knows of their flaws. Only Christ came with true divinity stamped upon him. He was noble, and, as MacDonald says, “self-forgetting.” The Phillipian writer says,
“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in the appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
I quoted this at length because it shows us that a true king comes with humility and obedience to a higher purpose than his own personal comfort or popularity. Any man who comes to us in any other way is not our true king. While some leaders may be better than others in this world, only one is the truest and rightful claimant to the Throne of all mankind.
Now, the opposite is true as well. The kingdom of darkness is ruled by the idea, as MacDonald says, “I am my own, my own king and my own subject. My own glory is my chief care; my ambition, to gather the regards of men to the one center, myself. The more self-sufficing I feel or imagine myself, the greater I am. I will be free with the freedom that consists in doing whatever I am inclined to do, from whatever quarter may come the inclination.” Indeed, this is the greater darkness, to have no cause greater than one's self. To be your own man or woman. To be vested in only your own happiness and career. To love no one or nothing greater than yourself makes you a king all right, but of a very small kingdom. There is no kingdom so small as the self and no hell so vast as that kingdom. For the possibilities of selfishness are endless and the emptiness of the heart so great that nothing of that darkness can fill it nor satisfy it. It is an endless quest, this journey of self-fulfillment, and only ends in loneliness and outer darkness.
Fortunately for us, the Great King, the True Ruler, has come to deliver even the smallest of kings from the trappings of their hellish kingdoms. He comes riding upon a white horse, being called “Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and he treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, 'King of Kings, And Lord of LORDS.” And he comes to not to destroy but to deliver his people, and even these pretenders to the throne that they may come to know him, the one true King, and his Father who sent him to their rescue.