Rebels

There are not just servants – faithful and unfaithful – there are also rebels.

Like the opponents of Archelaus, son of Herod the Great, the rebels in Jesus’ story tried to prevent the king’s appointment. They sent a delegation after him with the message that he was not wanted. When the king returned, having dealt with his servants, he turned to rebels who now found themselves on the wrong side.

But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.

At this point, the curtain falls. We don’t know if the king’s enemies fell at his feet to plead for mercy and pledge allegiance. We do know that there comes a point when resistance to the king crosses a point of no return.

It was the conviction of the New Testament church that Jesus had been exalted to a place of supreme honour at the right hand of the Father. It was their conviction that Jesus – and not Caesar – was Lord. Through the centuries people have died for that conviction. A day is coming, according to Paul in Philippians, when everyone will acknowledge this lordship by both word and gesture. Yet people resist the idea today, preferring to proclaim their independence or their allegiance to other lords and kings.

The major conflict in our world is not political or cultural, it is spiritual. Behind the scenes there is a clash of kingdoms: the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of God’s Son. We cannot predict all the twists and turns of the conflict, but the New Testament story allows us to know the ending: the triumph of the kingdom of God’s Son. Someone has summed up the complex final book of the Bible under this short statement:

The Lamb wins.

Still people resist. In some countries where the past was marked by significant Christian influence, there is a seeming desire to push Christianity to the margins. No doubt as Christmas approaches we will read about such things as people wishing one another “Happy Holidays” as they prepare to celebrated “Winterval”: just so that no one takes offence at the mention of a specifically Christian festival.

In September this year the BBC, in its commitment to impartiality and desire not to offend or alienate non-Christians, told us that they would be using the non-religious BCE/CE instead of the traditional BC/AD. The great irony of it is that the dividing line between the two eras remains the same, whatever you want to call them. It is still Jesus Christ who divides history into two parts, even if the modern “religiously neutral” terminology pushes him into the background. He will not stay in the background, “The Lamb wins.”

I suspect that at least some of the people responsible for these initiatives would want to deny that they are out to be disrespectful to Jesus Christ; just that they think we should all be a little broader in our views and more sensitive in our views. But at the end of the day, people do not want to accept that Jesus is an absolute king.

There are areas of our world where the name of the King is not known, where people have not heard (who will go and tell them?). There are places where loyal followers of the King pay a high price to stay loyal in the face of violence and hostility, and where to transfer your allegiance to the King comes with a high price tag.

Not everyone wants this man to rule over them.

But there also places where people are discovering that you cannot suppress his name forever, no matter how hard the state may try.

There are personal implications for us all too. Who rules your life? Jesus or some other person, system or philosophy?

As we already noticed, Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem when he told this parable. In contrast to the expectations of the crowd, Jesus knew that rejection awaited him. Betrayal, mistreatment and death. Just a few chapters later Luke would tell the story of the Jerusalem crowds calling for the Roman governor to have him killed.

We will not have this man to reign over us.

The King-in-waiting would allow them to kill him. The King-in-waiting would submit himself to the hatred of his people. He would die to secure the freedom of the rebels.

As we know the story would not end there. Triumphant resurrection as death was defeated was followed by ascension to the place of honour. From which he will return – just like the master in the story. Every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

That will be then. Meantime, we live now, while waiting for then.

To quote Graham Kendrick:

This is our God, the Servant King;
He calls us now to follow him.
To bring our lives as a daily offering
Of worship to the Servant King.

Part one: The return of the King.

Part two: Faithful servants.

Part three: Unfaithful servants.

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