Chapter 3: Jesus, King of the Jews

The first words of the gospel of Matthew make plain his intentions, offering hope to every Jew who has long awaited his King, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.” (Matthew 1:1)  This was the promised Seed of Abraham, “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen 12:3)  After Jesus’ birth, the “Wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?   For we have seen His star [cf. Num 24:17] in the east and have come to worship Him.” (Matt 2:2)  Matthew reminded us that God said where this King would be born, “Bethlehem…out of you shall come a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.” (Matt 2:6, Mic 5:2).  The angel prophesied to Mary, “You will conceive…and bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus…the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.  And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” (Lu 1:31-33, cf. Ps 80:4, 2 Sam 7:11-13, Isa 9:7).  Finally, the long awaited Christ was here- heaven’s King has visited a dark and sin cursed earth!

Though Satan tried to kill King Jesus through King Herod (Matt 2:13, cf Rev 12:4), there was no stopping Him- He would accomplish everything His Father sent Him to do, accomplishing His work of purchasing the souls of mankind with His blood as a ransom for the sins of the world, and establishing His kingdom forever.  The Jews were in great anticipation as the Lord, silent for nearly 500 years, sent the prophet John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt 3:2)  John pointed to the invasion of King Jesus to earth, “I baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Matt 3:11, Luke 3:16).  

After Jesus’ baptism, Satan again tried to derail King Jesus from His course through temptation.  One of the temptations was impatience: for Jesus to reveal Himself as King immediately by throwing Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, so that all the people would immediately worship Him as their King (Matt 4:5-6).  Another shortcut Satan offered Jesus to Kingdom reign was offering Him the kingdoms of the world, “All these things I will give to You if You will fall down and worship me.” (Matt 4:8-9)  Satan later tempted Jesus through the masses.  After Jesus fed 5000, “When Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed.” (John 6:15).  Jesus would not be deterred from the cross, from purchasing through His blood salvation for all mankind- for we are His prize, His great reward!

At the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter, James and John got a glimpse of the majesty of King Jesus.  Jesus said, “I tell you truly, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the kingdom of God.” (Lu 9:27).  “He was transfigured before them.  His clothes became shining, exceedingly white, like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them…” (Mk 9:2-7, Lu 9:27-36. Matt 17:1-8) Peter spoke of that day, “We were eyewitnesses of His majesty” (2 Peter 1:16).  From the beginning of the gospels all the way through Jesus’ ministry, the gospels invite us to ponder King Jesus and see Him in true light as the King of Kings who reigns over all and invite us to believe and follow, surrendering our lives to our King.

The events of Jesus’ triumphal entry, arrest and crucifixion paint a stark contrast of two groups of people and one central issue: will you bow down and follow Jesus as your King?  Jesus stirred the whole city of Jerusalem by purposefully fulfilling prophecy that the King would ride into Jerusalem on a meek donkey as He prepared for His crucifixion. “Tell the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your King is coming to you, lowly, and sitting on a donkey’” (Matt 21:5, cf Zech 9:9, Mk 11:10, Luke 19:28-40).  Days later through the betrayal of Judas, Jesus was arrested at night.  He was brought before Caiaphas the High Priest and questioned, as many false witnesses came forward, “But Jesus kept silent.  And the High Priest answered and said to Him, ‘…Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God!’  Jesus said to him, ‘Hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.’” (Matt 26:63-64, cf Ps 110:1-2, Dan 7:13-14)  Caiaphas and the religious leaders really only had two choices- to believe Jesus was the Christ and follow Him, or deny Him and kill Him as a blasphemer who was leading many astray and causing many to no longer follow the religious leaders, whom Jesus exposed as hypocrites (Matt 23).  

Pilate asked Jesus at His trial, ‘…Are You the King of the Jews?’  Jesus said to him, ‘It is as you say.’” (Matt 27:11, Lu 23:2-3, Mk 15:1-5, 9-12, Jn 18:33)  Pilate asked Jesus what He had done that the chief priests and the people wanted Him killed, and “Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world.   If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.’ Pilate…said… ‘You are a king then?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say rightly that I am a king.  For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world” (Jn 18:36-37).  Pilate questioned Jesus as he was used to questioning many on trial for crimes over the years- but in the midst of the exchange we can’t help but see that Pilate is the one on trial- and he wasn’t willing to hear Jesus’ voice.  In the pressure cooker Pilate was stuck between a rock and a hard place.  If he chose to let Jesus go, he would have incurred the wrath of the mob as his governance was on the line, having already made a number of screw-ups in governing.  Pilate made the easy choice and handed Jesus over to the Jews.  Pilate presented Jesus before the mob, “’Behold, your king!’ but they cried out, ‘…Crucify Him!’  Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your king?’  The chief priests answered in a way which truly revealed their heart, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’” (John 19:14-15, cf Mark 15:12, Matt 27:22).  If King Jesus isn’t Lord of our lives, we will ultimately bow down to lesser kings- ultimately we will bow down to the “prince of this world”, the devil.

The soldiers, religious leaders and the mob picked up on the theme of Jesus as King of the Jews and ran with it in mockery. “The soldiers…stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him.  When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand.  And they bowed the knee before Him, and mocked Him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’  then they spat on Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head…and led Him away to be crucified.” (Matt 27:27-31, Mk 15:18-20, Jn 19:2-3)  “Then they crucified Him…they put up over His head the accusation written against Him, ‘THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS’” (Matt 27:35-37, Mk 15:26, Lu 23:38) “the chief priests…scribes and elders said,… ‘If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross.” (Matt 27:42, Mk 15:32, Lu 23:37).  

There were two thieves crucified on either side of Jesus.  One thief mocked Jesus, “If you are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” (Luke 23:39) The other believed and said, “’Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.’  And Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:42-43) The Bible clearly portrays two ways that people viewed Jesus.  A heart wrenching question was spoken by Pilate to the mobs that is a question worthy for all humanity to answer, “What… do you want me to do with Him whom you call King of the Jews?” (Mark 15:12, Matt 27:22).  It is a question that each of us must answer.  All true followers of Christ bow before the King.  The world answers another way, mocking the thought of such surrender.  The answer to the question determines which kingdom a person is in and to which king they have surrendered to- in this life, and the life to come.  

King Jesus in the Epistles

The Epistles pick up on this theme of King Jesus, inviting us to total surrender.  Jesus is the Great King who had fellowship with the Father in eternity past, but He willingly became a man, “He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.  Therefore God also has highly exalted Him…that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow…every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” (Phil 2:6-10, cf Heb 12:2) Jesus now shares the throne with His Father, “Sit at My right hand till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” (Heb 1:13) We “do not yet see all things put under Him” but the Father has “put all things in subjection to Him.” (Heb 2:8-9).    His throne is forever as God and He rules with the “scepter of Your kingdom.” (Heb 1:8)  Jesus is worthy as the “King eternal, immortal, invisible” to receive “glory and honor forever and ever.”  (1 Tim 1:17, cf 1 Pet 5:11).  These are the realities God puts before us- we can choose to believe them and respond in worship and loving obedience, and find refuge in our King, or we can choose to rebel and experience the wrath of the King.

King Jesus in Revelation

The book of Revelation opens with these words, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ”- to reveal Jesus Christ and His Kingdom and expose the lies of Satan and his kingdom are the chief goals of the book- to invite us to partake of Christ and abandon all hope in this world and its allurements.  Jesus is called “The Faithful Witness, the Firstborn from the dead, and the Ruler over the kings of the earth.  To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever.” (Rev 1:5-6)  The invite is there- to be a faithful witness of His, to be raised from the dead, to be freed from our sins, to be brought into His kingdom, and to serve Him as His priests forever, glorifying Him with our lives and willfully submitting to His dominion forever.  Revelation frequently pictures God’s throne in heaven and “all nations shall come and worship before you.”  (Rev 15:4, 4:2,6,10-11, 7:9, 15-16, 12:5).  Christ reigns with the Father as “Lord of Lords and King of Kings” (Rev 17:14, 19:6, 16)  “On His head are many diadems” (Rev 19:12).  Come adore Him, bow down before Him, for He is good, He is love, He is Lord, and He is worthy of all our adoration!