You Still Reign
As believers and followers of Jesus, we treasure the concept of faith. Every so often on this journey I find myself having to reconsider this word faith and I suspect that is a pattern which will continue. In our modern world the word often takes on the meaning of belief, often private belief. It can also mean trust or confidence in. In a generic sense we often use faith as shorthand for our personal belief and our way of life as a Jesus follower.
The appearances of Jesus after his resurrection can give us insight on his priorities for his followers. He appears to the disciples behind locked doors, minus Thomas: and it is recorded they were overjoyed when they saw the Lord and they told Thomas they had seen the Lord. And when Cleopas and the other disciple, perhaps his wife, unknowingly met Jesus on the road to Emmaus they described what had happened in Jerusalem, how this amazing prophet had been killed, how they had hoped he would be the redeemer of Israel spoken of in their scriptures. Notice Jesus’ response to their discussion: “Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory? And then beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” For some reason I usually associate Messiah with Saviour, but the translation of Messiah is ‘anointed one’-- the Messiah is the one the Jewish people look for who will restore the kingdom, the golden Davidic age to Israel. And later the resurrected Jesus appears to Thomas as well—whose response is “My Lord, and My God!” Two terms seem to keep coming up once Jesus is resurrected—Lord and Messiah. Lord or kurios means ‘supreme authority’ and Messiah means the ‘anointed king.’ It may be worth noting that neither of these titles has an immediate connection to private belief or personal trust. Not to say private belief and personal trust are not also a treasured aspect of our relationship with our elder brother, but his mission was to inaugurate a new kingdom. And that is how he explained all the Jewish scriptures to his disciples—the scriptures pointed to and spoke of him being Messiah and Supreme Authority. In the first few centuries after his ascension the church found itself often at odds with the empire of the day precisely because their Lord was not Caesar—and the Empire took great exception to anyone who would not so recognize Caesar-- to the point of putting such traitors to death. Early Christians looked to their Lord’s earthly life, to his goodness to the infirm and to the suffering, and in allegiance to him shared his love to those around them. They rescued abandoned babies, cared for the sick and infirm in the neighborhood, helped with burials. They had a strong fealty to their Lord, an allegiance even to death, where death was a real possibility. To be baptised in that time was to profess that Jesus is Lord, which proclaimed that Caesar was not.
Jason Micheli, Christian pastor and writer, explains how the reality of allegiance, fealty and obedience which were inherent in the new Kingdom from the beginning came to be understood as a private, personal belief. “A few hundred years after Luke wrote his Gospel and Paul wrote his letter, the kurios of that day, Constantine, discovered that it would behoove his hold on power to become a Christian and make the Roman Empire Christian too. Whereas prior to Constantine it took significant conviction to become a Christian, after Constantine it took considerable courage NOT to become a Christian. Now that the empire was allegedly Christian...what had been an alternative way in the world became, with Constantine, a religion that awaited the world to come.” In time, as Micheli so piquantly phrases it: “Jesus was demoted from the kurios, who is seated at the right hand of the Father and to whom has been given all authority over the Earth, and Jesus was given instead the position of Secretary of Afterlife Affairs. Which meant pistis (faith) eventually became synonymous with trust...moved inside to our heads and hearts.” *
Having also grown up in an allegedly Christian society, I find myself pondering questions like: ‘How has the Christian veneer of my world dulled my own responses to the reality of living under another King? Or does the Lord’s kingdom just come across as a nice metaphor for belonging to him?’ ‘Am I in some way still waiting for the Second Coming to live as our Lord and his early followers did in this world?’ The apostles learned to love as Christ loved and had a gritty allegiance to their Lord and King that came above all else. Yes, they knew him as Saviour, as Loving Brother, as Redeemer and Friend—but their identity was defined by their allegiance to Jesus as King, Supreme Authority over all. For each of us, growing in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is a most precious overwhelming gift. Now having seen the emphasis King Jesus himself put on being Lord of the Kingdom, I’ve also taken notice that throughout the epistles Paul and the other writers use ‘Lord Jesus Christ’ innumerable times (which unfortunately I’ve often simply read over). It becomes obvious that his supreme authority is the hallmark of who he is as the Risen One and how he shares his love. I am exploring a new layer of what it means that he is King and Lord. And the Supreme King’s thoughts are not my thoughts and his ways not my ways—so I may not see what he is working out or why. The fact that he is the Supreme all-loving Authority makes faith, trust, confidence in Him not just personal private belief but the guarantee that all is under control and He will bring about his loving purpose, no matter what present circumstances may suggest. A friend of mine sent me a worship song I had never heard before which I find encouraging and strengthening as my understanding of our Lord Jesus Christ deepens. Perhaps you will find it so as well:
Philippa Hanna -You're Still God (Lyric Video)
*Jason Micheli, Tamed Cynic blog, April 18,2023