In his novel, The Well of Ascension, Brandon Sanderson includes a scene in which the newly appointed king, doubting his ability to rule, discusses with his advisor what it means to be a king. She tells him,
“You simply need to do what is expected.”
“And that is?”
“To make everything better.”
In this scene Sanderson taps into one of our deepest desires as the people, we want someone who will make everything better.
We all long for someone who can make things better, who will right the wrongs in our lives and our world, who will fight for justice in the face of injustice. Someone who can make us better by their mere presence. We all want a king.
We all long for a king.
This is the heartbeat of humanity.
Tim Keller comments on this heartbeat, this longing in us, he says,
“We need a King, we were built for a King… The reason we adore kings… is because there is a memory trace in the human race… of a great King, an ancient King who did rule with… power and wisdom and compassion and justice and glory… we were built to submit to that king, we were built to give ourselves to that king, we were built to stand before and adore and serve and know that king. That’s what the Bible says.”
Today the future king of the British Empire will be christened. One day he will be crowned. People will celebrate. Joy will sound in the streets because of this momentous occasion. But it will all be a farce. He won’t be a real king. He won’t be the king we long for and need. He won’t be the Great King who will rule with power and wisdom and compassion and justice and glory. He won’t rule at all.
Our longing will go unfulfilled.
But there is a Greater King
Leo Tolstoy in his mammoth work, War and Peace, describes one character’s worshipful experience upon seeing a real king, the king of Russia, Tsar Alexander I:
“[Nikolai] Rostov, standing in the front ranks of Kutuzov’s army, which the sovereign [the king] rode up to first, had the same feeling that was experienced by every man in that army – a feeling of self-forgetfulness, a proud awareness of strength, and a passionate attraction to him who was the cause of this solemnity.”
Here is a real king who inspires his people.
Here is the kind of king we long for.
But he is not the Great King.
The Great King, the Greater King, has already come and we missed him because he wasn’t what we expected him to be. Even now as he rules and reigns we don’t recognise his rule, as the writer of Hebrews has said, “At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him” (2:8b ESV) However, by God’s grace, “we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9 ESV).
Jesus is our Greater King.
Jesus is our Greater King who does rule with power and wisdom and compassion and justice and glory. He will make everything better. He will undo and put right all the wrongs in our lives and in our world, “He will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things [will pass] away” (Revelation 21:4 ESV).
As we live in anticipation of that day when all is finally and fully made right he has left us with three life changing realities:
1. A Feeling of Self-Forgetfulness
The Apostle Paul tells the Corinthians the gospel has released him from his need to find approval from others and even himself because his King has already approved of him (cf. Romans 8:1-4) and his approval is all he needs:
“with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.” (1 Corinthians 4:3-4 ESV)
2. A Proud Awareness of Strength
Our King has not abandoned us. He has sent us the Holy Spirit to empower us to love and serve him (Acts 1:8).
3. A Passionate Attraction to Himself
Paul’s prayer in his letter to the Ephesians captures the passionate love he felt for his Great King, Jesus, that all Christians have access to by grace through the Holy Spirit:
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:14-21 ESV)
Brandon Sanderson (2009), The Well of Ascension : Mistborn Book Two. London: Gollancz. (p.234)
Leo Tolstoy (author), Richard Pevear (translator), Larissa Volokhonsky (translator) (2009), War and Peace. London: Vintage Classics. Volume 1, Part 3: 8 (p.245)
Timothy Keller (1993), Jesus our King : Psalm 2. Sermon. http://sermons2.redeemer.com/sermons/jesus-our-king