Summary: Following Jesus means we recognize the royal nature of the one we serve. Yes, he has saved us. Yes, he loves us and wants us in his royal family. But yes, he is King of Kings, and we owe him our very lives. There is no other appropriate response.
Fix Your Eyes upon Jesus, He is King of Kings
One of the more famous phrases in the New Testament involves “fixing our eyes upon Jesus.” The idea comes from a pair of passages in Hebrews.
• “Let us fix our eyes upon Jesus.” (Heb. 12:2).
• “… fix your thoughts upon Jesus.” (Heb. 3:1)
In Hebrews 3:1, the phrase used is the same used of the day when Jonah watched for the destruction of Nineveh. After all he’d been through; Jonah was completely convinced of a coming disaster. Though that destruction never came, Jonah was glued to the scene the way America was fixed upon the images of Sept. 11, 2001. In Hebrews 12:1, the phrase is the same used of spies who would search out a target in a foreign land, and find it. Think of the reality of that. Every physical sense would have been on edge. They could have heard the slightest noise, smelled every scent, seen the slightest movement, and lived on the edge of the next adrenalin rush. That’s an intense focus, and the Bible says we’re to have that kind of focus on the Lord.
Did you know the United States once had an emperor? Believe it or not, it’s true – at least, it was in the rather confused mind of Joshua A. Norton. Norton lived in San Francisco during the gold-rush days of the 1800’s. He was a colorful character, to say the least. When speculation in the rice market brought him to financial ruin, something happened to Norton’s mind. He declared himself “Emperor of These United States.” It might have been a practical joke, or it might have been the result of a clouded mind. Whatever the initial reason, Norton’s pretending soon grew into a delusion. In 1859 he published a proclamation that he was emperor according to an act of the California legislature. He found a sword, stuck a plume in his hat, found a cape, and marched the streets in colorful costume.
The citizens of San Francisco were amused by this ploy and so played the game with him. They gave him recognition with free tickets to special events. He was invited to gala opening nights. In fact, they allowed him to collect a small tax and issue his own currency. It was all done in the spirit of fun. But to Norton it was serious business. In fact, he expanded his authority to "Emperor of These United States and Protector of Mexico.
When he died in 1880, more than ten thousand curious people attended Norton’s funeral service – one of the largest funerals ever to take place in California. He lived and died in his own delusion of grandeur. He didn't hurt anyone; in fact, he brought a bit of a smile and a chuckle to people who came across his path. But make no mistake about it. Joshua A. Norton was never really the emperor. Had he really insisted on a confrontation with the United States government, he would have been disposed of rather quickly. More than likely, he would have been confined to an insane asylum for the rest of his life.
Imagine the poor soul who enters eternity convinced that life was all about him, that she was the focus of the universe. What a shock to find that the Bible’s title for Jesus is accurate. He is King of Kings, Lord of Lords, and no pretend emperor will ever take his place.
There was a day when Jesus looked something like an earthly king. The crowds welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem with practices reserved only for royalty. They spread their cloaks on the ground, and waved politically-charged palm branches in the air. They sang songs of praise to Jesus as he majestically entered the city, and they had full expectations that political and military change was only a miracle away. We might not recognize the palm branch as a political symbol, but the Middle East certainly does. Today, modern Israeli currency posts a palm branch on … Read Matthew 21:6-16.
1. Fix your eyes upon the King of Kings, and not on yourself.
Steve Brown tells the frustrating story of some British social scientists. Following the end of British rule in India in the 1940's, a group of researchers wanted to study the impact of the end of British rule on the life of the nation. After six months, the British social scientists gave up, and went home. Though the British had been present in India since the 1600’s, many people in the villages of the country were not aware that the British had ever been there! Could it be that God himself has visited the world and people have lived and died without ever being aware of the event? We live in a world where the King has come but millions are totally unaware that He is present. (Brown is Professor of Preaching at Reformed Seminary, Orlando, FL)