Not My King?
The last year has proven somewhat interesting – and quite entertaining – as various groups of people react to the presidency of Donald Trump. Even a cursory search of political analysis will reveal a consistent theme regarding President Trump’s tenure – polarization. I regularly hear that our nation has never been so polarized as it is now – politically, racially, philosophically, ideologically, economically, and in just about every other “ly”-word that you can imagine. I am no political creature and this is not intended as political commentary. My primary loyalty is to my King Who reigns from heaven, so I don’t worry too much about such matters. I know that my daily life is somewhat affected by what’s happening in Washington, but it seems to me that the shenanigans that characterize national politics don’t change much from one administration to another. People were polarized in many ways when Obama was elected, when the Bushes were elected, when Clinton, Reagan, Carter, Nixon, Kennedy, Eisenhower, Truman and almost everyone else was elected. One side wins; the other side pouts. Welcome to democracy.
I mention these things because there has been one reaction to the present administration that I find comical, sad, and yet strangely telling regarding our present age – the “Not My President” protests. I do not in any way mean to demean anyone for their political leanings, but to publicly deny recognition of a duly elected official who occupies an office of authority over you is at the least childish, and at the most foolish. I understand disagreeing with someone. I appreciate the distaste of recognizing an authority that you absolutely oppose. I’m sure the Christians to whom Paul and Peter wrote had a difficult time respecting the Roman emperors or corrupt local rulers of their day (Rom.13.1f; 1 Pet.3.17f). But a refusal to even acknowledge their position is somewhat illogical for one very simple reason – my refusal to recognize Donald Trump as president does not change the fact that Donald Trump is president. I may not like him. I may disagree with his policies, despise his character, decry his antics. I may exercise my free will to oppose his authority in every legal way possible. But none of those things change the reality that he is my president. My refusal to acknowledge the truth does not change the truth.
Such is an important and fundamental principle as it pertains to the authority of Jesus Christ as King. The refusal of so many people to accept Him as King does nothing – nothing – to change the truth of such.
In Luke 19.11f, Jesus is nearing Jerusalem. Incidentally, it appears that many among the Jews are willing to accept Him as the Messiah, yet they clearly do not understand the nature of His rule. Luke tells us that He offers a parable because of their expectation of the near advent of a misperceived kingdom. The parable is about a nobleman who is to leave his country, go off to receive a kingdom and then return. Generally, we take note of the fact that the prospective king gives his servants money so that they can conduct his business until he returns. Yet we sometimes fail to underscore v.14 and the reaction of “his citizens” to this man. They “hated him, and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We will not have this man to reign over us.’” As the parable concludes, the man returns, “having received the kingdom” and after judging his servants, turns to “those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them” and punishes them with death (v.27). As this parable stands in many ways parallel to the parable of the talents in Mt.25.14f, we often underscore the idea of stewardship and overlook what may be the more pertinent element. The man who is about to become king is going to judge everyone – faithful servants; unfaithful servants; even citizens who refuse to acknowledge his rule. In the context, clearly the Lord is addressing the expectation of an immediate earthly kingdom. But He is also reminding everyone in the crowd – disciples, curiosity seekers, enemies – that He is going to become King and that He is going to judge them, whether they receive Him or not. “Not My King” isn’t going to change the truth.
There is a recurring principle throughout God’s revelation that addresses the issue of man’s free will and his response to God’s reality and authority. What men discovered again and again was that a denial of God does not dismiss God. The truth of His existence, His power, His justice is in no way altered by man’s rejection of such. Consider Pharaoh and his stubborn refusal to acknowledge God. “Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD…” (Ex.5.2). Yet his hardness of heart did not change the truth of God’s power or authority. It was not until Egypt had been decimated that Pharaoh relented, submitting to the reality of God’s rule. In 2 Kings 18-19 (and the parallel passage in Isa.36-37), Sennacherib of Assyria threatens to destroy Jerusalem, demanding Hezekiah’s surrender. His ambassadors repeatedly dismiss the reality and power of Yahweh, equating Him with the impotent idols of other nations which had fallen before Assyria’s onslaught – “Who among all the gods of the lands have delivered their countries from my hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem from my hand?” (2 Kings 18.32-35; 19.10-13). Nonetheless, when the angel of the LORD destroyed 185,000 Assyrian troops in one night, Sennacherib departed with a new appreciation for the truth of God’s authority. Again, as Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon (and most of the central portion of the world), is defied in his demands by Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, he expresses a “Not My King” defiance. Determined to throw these young men into a furnace, he boldly challenges, “…who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?” (Dan.3.15). His answer comes soon as he witnesses God’s power expressed in defiance of the flaming oven. Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged the truth with the decree, “…there is no other God who can deliver like this” (Dan.3.29). Paul offers the same observation in Rom.1.18f, describing the dismissal of God by mankind generally. Though they “suppressed the truth in unrighteousness…did not glorify Him as God…and did not like to retain God in their knowledge,” the truth of His power and Godhead was unchanged by their rejection. We can disregard truth, but it does not cease to be truth.
The Bible affirms, in no uncertain terms, that Jesus of Nazareth is King over all creation, reigning not only over those people who have been saved by Him (the church), but over everyone and everything in existence (Mt.28.18; Eph.1.20-21; Phil.2.9-11). It is because of this truth that He can sit in judgment upon all men (Jn.5.26-29; Rom.14.11-12; 2 Cor.5.10) – even those who refuse to admit the reality of His person, His nature, His existence, His power. While He does not now demand that every knee bow, there will come a time that He will so express His authority. Whether or not we exercise our will in acknowledgment of Him now, we will bow before Him then.
“Not My King” will ring empty and foolish as we kneel before Him on that day. Perhaps some reevaluation is in order.