THE UNITED KINGDOM has a king. Most of its population have not known a king on the throne. Queen Elizabeth II reigned for 70 years. She died in September 2022, and was succeeded by her eldest son Charles, who is now King Charles III. The Queen was 96 years old, so funeral and subsequent coronation arrangements had been provisionally discussed. Nonetheless, her death was a shock, because although aged and frail she had still been doing duties and seemed in reasonable health for her age.
Charles became king immediately his mother died. While still in grief and shock he started his duties, including meeting his citizens. He was already known to all the population as Prince Charles, and much of his life history is public. In contrast, he knows relatively few of his citizens.
His succession to the throne was met with affection and joy, and cries of ‘God save the king!’ There have, however, been protests from those people who do not support the monarchy. Some protesters waved placards saying ‘Not my king’. Some object to the kingship being inherited by birth in a ‘royal line’.
Opposition in Israel
This is not new. Around 1000 bc, David succeeded Saul and became the second king of Israel. The account of David’s thrilling and turbulent career is in the Bible books of Samuel. His first years were not easy. Abner the captain of Saul’s army took Ish-bosheth, Saul’s son, and made him king as a rival to David. Ish-bosheth reigned for two years but was subsequently murdered (2 Samuel 2:2–17, 4:5–12).
David was one of the most famous and successful Jewish kings. His son Solomon also had a prosperous reign, but Solomon’s son Rehoboam behaved foolishly and created a split in the kingdom: ‘And when all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them, the people answered the king, “What portion do we have in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents, O Israel! Look now to your own house, David”’ (1 Kings 12:16). Rehoboam retained his rule over two tribes, which became the Southern Kingdom; the other ten tribes appointed their own monarchy and became the Northern Kingdom.
The Northern Kingdom had a checkered history with seven of their 19 kings murdered by their successor. None of the northern kings pleased God. In the Southern Kingdom all the kings were in the royal line of succession from David, and some were good kings who pleased God. But the line was not without trouble. For example, King Joash only survived because he and his nurse were hidden to escape the massacre of the rest of his brothers by their furious grandmother after her son, the previous king, had been killed (2 Kings 10 and 11).
Jesus: The Promised King
The most extreme example of a rejected king is Jesus. There was a king in Israel until the Jews were taken into captivity in Babylon, around 600 bc. From then until now the Jews have not had a king. But their scriptures foretold very clearly and repeatedly that a Messiah—that is an ‘anointed one’ (which is the meaning of ‘Christ’), would come. For example, the prophet Ezekiel said these words about Zedekiah, the last Jewish king:
Thus says the Lord God: Remove the turban and take off the crown. Things shall not remain as they are. Exalt that which is low, and bring low that which is exalted. A ruin, ruin, ruin I will make it. This also shall not be, until he comes, the one to whom judgement belongs, and I will give it to him (Ezekiel 21:26–27).
Years later, the angel Gabriel told Mary that her son Jesus would be the promised king:
He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David (Luke 1:32).
Jesus has never ruled as a king. But he told people that this was his destiny, promised by God Himself. This was raised at his trial when he was questioned by the Roman governor Pilate.
Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37).
And Pilate took note of this when he crucified Jesus. In fact, he made it a public statement for all to see.
Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” (John 19:19).
Jesus: The Rejected King
Jesus had not been what the people expected him to be. They were all, especially the religious rulers, familiar with the scriptures that promised them a glorious king. And Jesus was a descendant of King David through Mary. But the Jewish leaders wanted a political king, not a man who would die to save them from their sins. They did not understand the scriptures that foretold of the suffering servant. They could not accept that this unpretentious man could be a king. So when Pilate said to them “Behold your King!” they cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:14–15).
There has been no greater rejection in human history. The Son of God, who lived a perfect life and spent his time preaching and healing the sick, betrayed and rejected by his people.
Jesus had known that this would happen. On several occasions he told his disciples that he would be murdered. He told parables to teach them that he would leave them, but later return as judge and king. For instance one of the parables was about a man who went away to receive a kingdom, and to return, and he described the attitude of the Jews:
But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us’ (Luke 19:14).
In another parable he described himself as the king, back on earth judging the nations:
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’ (Matthew 25:34).
Jesus’ priority was the Kingdom, although he knew he had to suffer first. During his ministry, this is what he preached:
Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God (Luke 8:1).
He told his followers: ‘Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness’ (Matthew 6:33).
UK citizens know a lot about the life of king Charles III, whereas he knows little about their lives. In contrast, Jesus knows everything about us. By reading the Bible we can learn a lot about him. Charles is a king: Jesus is not yet a king. Charles has waited a long time as prince; Jesus has been in heaven for centuries, awaiting the time set by God for his reign to begin (Matthew 24:36–39). His reign has been anticipated for thousands of years, and his kingdom will be over the whole world (Daniel 2:44; Revelation 11:15). Nobody will be able to oppose him and he will conquer all those people who reject his reign (Psalm 2:7–12; 1 Corinthians 15:24–28).
Preparing for the King
The followers of Jesus are preparing themselves for his judgement and reign. For many other people it will be a surprise and shock when he does come back. He foretold that he would have chilling words for those who were not ready for him: even people who had professed to follow him and do miracles in his name.
And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’ (Matthew 7:23).
We have a choice. We can show our allegiance to Jesus as our future king, or we can be like the Jews of old. Does Jesus know that we seek his kingdom and accept him as our king; or are we, in the way we think and live, really saying of him ‘Not my king!’?