Contemplation on the Kingdom
by Michael Henain
Who is King over my life? Who is sovereign and lord over my heart? Day in and day out I call on you, O Lord, in prayer and say: “For Thine is the Kingdom…”. Am I doing it with submission and true acknowledgment of Your sovereignty, O Lord, or is Your crown over my heart a great sham and insult to Your majesty?
Holy Week is the perfect time for contemplating Christ’s Kingdom. There are so many allusions to the Kingdom in our prayers during that week. As we begin the week at the entrance of Jerusalem, crying out “Hosanna, the coming King of Israel” – we’re truly filled with this inexplicable joy at His majestic entry into Jerusalem. Few of us realize that the praises and glorifications we make are so detached from the reality of that fateful week when GOD, in all His inexplicable glory, majesty, honour, and dominion, died on a Cross. As we gaze upon the Suffering Christ, we cry out in unison “Thine is the power, the glory, the majesty…” – where is this majesty? Where is the power and glory that we are speaking of?
Despite the kingly welcome the Jewish people at the time of Christ gave Him on his entrance to their city, no living person in Christ’s day would have seen any kind of majesty or glory in the events that followed His entrance to Jerusalem. Where is the glory, the power and majesty in Him being arrested like a thief in the night, dragged between courts, spat on, beaten, humiliated? Where is the glory and majesty in standing next to Barabas the murderer and being rejected by the crowd and condemned to capital punishment? Where is the power in being condemned to death by Pontius Pilate and being lead as a lamb to the slaughter? Yet today we praise and glorify Him with the same words: “Thine is the Majesty”, as the guards strip Him of His clothes and mock Him with their scarlet robe and a crown of thorns. “Thine is the Glory” as He’s lashed to the point of peeling flesh and made to carry the instrument of his own execution to Golgotha, “Thine is the Power” as He’s nailed to a cross, unable to maintain the simple act of breathing as His inability to draw air into his fluid-filled lungs gets weaker with every breath. If there ever was a total and complete display of everything opposite to glory, majesty and power, it was in Christ’s passion and crucifixion. The people looking on Him saw only lowliness, humiliation and weakness.
Yet, it is not in vain in the least bit that we pray “Thine is the Power, the Glory, the Majesty”. We glorify Him because of His great love for us that He would accept all of those sufferings to save us from the slavery of sin and death. We praise His power and majesty because despite the weakness that their earthly eyes saw, they could not see the unutterable, inexplicable, incomprehensible magnitude of power of their Creator King who governed and sustained the world, and held their lives in perfect order. As they killed Him, He was giving them life. As they thrust Him into the abyss, He was on His way to open the doors of Paradise for them.
Why could they not see Him as King and recognize His eternal heavenly Kingdom? When Christ was coming into Jerusalem, their greatest desire was for an earthly king, their cries went from “Blessed is the coming King of Israel” to “Crucify Him!” because they did not want the type of King that Christ was. They wanted a king with earthly authority. The deepest desire of their hearts was liberation from their Roman occupiers and peace and happiness on earth. Their desire was not for a Prince of Peace, but for a prince of war, vengeance, blood – at the front of his armies, adorned with every earthly beauty be it gold, silver or precious stones. They could not see past the desires of their own heart and see in Christ’s Kingdom the offer of eternal joy, peace and victory over sin and death.
This draws such a stark resemblance to the people of Israel in Samuel’s days. Before King Saul, the Israelites were governed by God directly through His judges and prophets, and as Samuel grew old, they demanded an earthly king like the other nations around them. When Samuel brought their petition to God, the Lord answered Him saying: ““Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.” (1 Samuel 8:7) However, God in His infinite goodness told Samuel to warn them of what replacing God as King with an earthly king would look like. And Samuel told the Israelites that the earthly king they desired would not be like God. Their new earthly king would take their sons and put them as soldiers in his own army to be killed at his pleasure, when their Heavenly King was planning on dying for their sake. The earthly king would take and rob them of everything they possessed, while their Heavenly King was continually giving them from His abundant goodness and love without asking for anything in return. And lastly Samuel said to them: And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the Lord will not hear you in that day.” (1 Samuel 8:18) But they, in their shortsightedness and ingratitude to God their Saviour, they answered Samuel saying: “No, but we will have a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”
Both times they wanted a king to fit their ambitions and desires, in the image that they created in their hearts. Both times they rejected the Heavenly King in want of an earthly one. And how can we point the finger at them and blame them when we follow in their footsteps. Despite our constant repetition of the words of the Lord’s Prayer in saying “Thine is the Kingdom”, we reject God’s sovereignty for the exact same reasons that the people of Christ’s time rejected it. We want a king that will do as we please right now. We want earthly and material things and a king that can deliver those things to us. The deepest desires of our hearts are all so occupied with the material world we live in, that just as the Isrealites wanted an earthly king so they may be like all the nations, we reject what God’s Kingdom offers us because we want what people of this worldly kingdom have – be it money, status, fame, pleasure or comfort. We say “Thy will be done” with no intention of surrendering our will to Him, and with every intention of snatching the crown of our hearts, wearing it on our heads, and ruling supreme in our own lives.
Yes, Lord – you are King over my life – but not when it comes to my career aspirations.
Yes, Lord, Yours is the glory and the power, but please stay away from my relationships because I still want authority to do as I please.
Of course, Lord, you rule my life – Sunday is Yours and I will be at Church in the earliest hour and do all my services and duties afterwards – but the rest of the week is mine, to do as I please, and to dedicate my time, my effort, my work to my kingdom of property, earthly wealth and career success and not to Your Kingdom.
C.S. Lewis brilliantly puts it like this: “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.”