Summary: Epiphany reveals Jesus as a gentle yet powerful king.
“Long live the king!” Did you catch the crowning ceremony of a new king over Christmas? He’s not king over any country. He has a crown but no palace. And not even all his “subjects” recognize him as their sovereign. I’m talking about Dan Stanescu, the new self-proclaimed king of the Roma people, more commonly known as the Gypsies. Dan’s father took the title “King of the Roma” in 1993 even though there was already another self-proclaimed king as well as a self-proclaimed emperor of the Roma people. One wonders how much power Dan Stanescu has if he commands no army, collects no taxes, and is not considered king by those he’s supposed to rule over. I suppose that’s why this news item didn’t make the front page but was tucked away in the “Oddities” section of the Edmonton Journal.
Do people think us equally strange to say of Jesus at Christmas and now Epiphany: “Long live the King!”? King Herod certainly thought it strange that smartly dressed Magi would be willing to proclaim that of someone other than he! The psalm for Epiphany, Psalm 72, assures us, however, that those who proclaim: “Long live the King!” will claim long life with the King.
Interestingly enough, Psalm 72 was written by a king. King David or his son, King Solomon is the author. We’re not really sure which. One way or the other Psalm 72 was written by one of the two most powerful kings Israel ever knew. Still, this psalm acknowledged that a much greater king was coming - one whose reign is universal and eternal. The author wrote: “He will endure as long as the sun, as long as the moon, through all generations…8 He will rule from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth. 9 The desert tribes will bow before him and his enemies will lick the dust. 10 The kings of Tarshish and of distant shores will bring tribute to him; the kings of Sheba and Seba will present him gifts. 11 All kings will bow down to him and all nations will serve him” (Psalm 72:5, 8-11).
Neither David nor Solomon could claim to rule to the ends of the earth. Jesus, on the other hand, rules over all for all eternity. Does he really, or is this statement about as meaningful as Dan Stanescu’s claim that he rules over the Roma? Before we can properly answer that question we have to ask how Jesus rules. Once the Pharisees asked Jesus when God’s kingdom would come, Jesus replied: “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, 21 nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20b, 21). God’s kingdom is his gracious rule in hearts through the gospel. His rule is not about moving armies of angels here and there the way a bully pushes people around in the hallway to show whose boss. Don’t get me wrong, Jesus does rule with power. He does hold evil in check. But he rules in a kindler, gentler way to get people to do what he wants. For example Jesus rules when the message about what he has done to save us moves the Sunday School student to give her allowance to support missionaries she’s never met. Jesus rules when he touches the life of the drug addict with forgiveness so that this individual resolves to start thinking about his family and not where his next hit will come from. Jesus rules when his promise of providing daily bread convinces the greedy businessman to be more concerned about his employees than about the bottom line.
Jesus really is such a kind and loving king. Listen to how the psalmist describes his activities. “6 He will be like rain falling on a mown field, like showers watering the earth… 12 For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help... 14 He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight” (Psalm 72:6, 12, 14). Like rain falling on a mown field. What a wonderful picture of King Jesus. He doesn’t beat down on us like hail smashing to pieces your car’s windshield. He comes to us gently. He comes to revive. He does that through his Word of love. He does that through forgiveness. He does that through the Lord’s Supper. Why does he do this? Because our blood is precious in his sight.
It’s interesting that our blood is precious in Jesus’ sight. If anything, there should be bad blood between us. I mean how would you treat a scraggly cat that you took into your house only to have it ruin your furniture, jump on your counters, and do its business on your new carpet? You would be all too happy to see how far you could kick that thing. That’s what God should do with us – kick us out of his loving presence because we have trampled his blessings. Instead of thanking God for our family we complain about spouse and house. Instead of using our sharp mind to patiently teach and explain we use it to shred others to pieces for being slow. We don’t grin but often groan to hear that Holy Communion is being offered. There’s nothing precious about our blood. It’s infected with the same proud, lustful, deceitful thoughts that run through the veins of local criminals. And yet the psalmist says that our blood is precious in God’s sight. It’s precious because we’ve been hooked up to the I.V. stand of the cross and there receive a lifetime supply of Jesus’ perfect, innocent, and holy blood.