The King Above All Kings (Luke 4:16-21 & Colossians 1:9-17)

Introduction: Waiting on Waiting

How often is history made? How many of us thought we might never see the moment before us, and how much has our nation and world changed in the seventy years that have passed since the last time a British Monarch was crowned? Not since June 1953 has the nation readied itself to celebrate and intercede for its new leader. It feels like a once-in-a-lifetime moment that many of us wondered if we would ever see.

Now the world listens, watches and waits to experience something that it had long been waiting for but was not sure would come. As one commentator put it:

“On May 6, 2023, the 74-year-old man who spent more than five decades in the waiting room of his destiny—longer than any Prince of Wales in history—finally walks through its door. King Charles III, by the Grace of God, of the (still) United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of His Other Realms and Territory, Head of the Commonwealth, and Defender of the Faith, will have placed on his head by the Most Rev. Justin Welby (Archbishop of Canterbury) the nearly 5-lb. solid gold St. Edward’s Crown at Westminster Abbey. “ 1

For 74 years, Charles had known what was to come, and for the best part of fifty years of his working life, he waited to fulfil that which he had been born for, to become King. He was the oldest Monarch to ascend to the thrown anywhere in the world and across history, and he will be the oldest Monarch ever crowned by an Archbishop of Canterbury. Everything about the day and the ceremony reminds us just how long he has been serving and waiting for this moment – and the commonwealth with him.

Everything has changed

What is fascinating is how much can change for the world when nothing seems to have changed. With the passing of a British monarch and time, slowly, much will change about our world – even if we don’t notice it – coins, postboxes, stamps, emblems, badges, military uniforms, and our language: as we are no longer living in the Elizabethan era but the Carolean era.2 Everything has changed because the coming of a new King is the birth of a new Kingdom and reign—an act which is deeply political and transformational for the world. Even in the age of constitutional monarchy, where the crown has been reduced to ceremony, pageant and tourism, there is still something deeply significant about the coming of a new King and, with him, the beginning of a new era of Kingdom. There is still something of the Hand of God in it all as the nation marvels and ponders what sort of King might Charles be. We elect our MPs and prime ministers (179 Realm prime ministers served under Queen Elizabeth), and they come and go when the nation loses trust in them and the parties they lead, yet, we have no choice with our Monarchs in who they are, or when they might come – that alone is up to God and his timing. Hence the rarity of the occasion and the tension that comes with it. The beginning of a new Kingdom or King’s era is significant transition and political change.

How Will They Reign?

How many articles have been written over the years pondering the question: What sort of king will Charles be? Now that the moment has come, and even with Charles having been king for nearly six months, people are still writing and wondering just what sort of Monarch he will be for those who he will reign over. It is a fair question to ask, especially in the age of choice when we have no choice over someone who will be our head of state, and to ponder when we know that his life and the life of those who will follow him are so far removed from the normality of every household in the nations, he will be the Soverign over.

We ask these questions in the age of instant information, newspapers and gossip columns, when princes stare in their own Netflix documentaries to make money airing a family’s private business. Even with some much information available to help us form opinions, our distance from the Monarchy and their world makes it difficult to know them and what life might be like under a new King or Queen.

If this is what it is like in 2023, as we live under a constitutional monarchy with little power and mostly reduced to the ceremony. Imagine what it must have been like to be alive in the era of Kings and Queens having absolute power when little was known about them to the common person and news began to seep through that one had passed. A new one had ascended to the throne, not just in the Era of British Kings and Queens. Go back even further and move to an even more remote location and imagine what it must have been like to live in ancient Palestine when Jesus began his public ministry. Imagine the tension that must have arisen among the common people in towns like Bethlehem every time a new Emporer or ruler was declared, or someone arrived on the scene announcing that they were the long-awaited Messiah of the people of Isreal from the line of King David.

Even in the years before the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, many mavericks appeared on the public scene with cries of Messiahship and rebellion. Judas of Galilee was a Jewish radical who believed himself to be the Messiah sent by God to save his people. He appeared around 6AD and stirred people into rebellion against the Roman authorities, teaching that the only way to liberty was to take up arms against enslaved people. Ideas spread quickly across the Jewish region, yet, they were met as quickly by the Roman authorities, who sent in their army to suppress any notion of rebellion. You can imagine the region’s sensitivity to any claims of Messiahship, salvation and new nationhood.

Thus, with all that history and sensitivity, you can picture how the ears of all who might have heard Jesus’ teaching must have pricked when they heard the message of Jesus and his cry for Kingdom. We must be in no doubt about how radical those words would have been to all that would have heard, the political implications of the message and the notions of belonging, power, and identity that would have fostered in the thoughts of those listening. They knew exactly the implications of what it was that Jesus was teaching, even if they missed the fullness of Christ’s teachings, his Kingdom and its belonging. They would have known that it was a message proclaimed to confront the world in which it was proclaimed; what they did not get was how otherworldly the confrontation was. Why? Because people of this world long for Kingdoms and power like this world without realising what they were made for.

A Radical Proclamation that Reveals a Radical Ethic: Repent

We read from the Gospel of Luke that wonderful passage where Jesus reveals himself to fulfil all the Messianic hope that the people of God have! “I am the one you have been waiting for,” says Jesus with little subtly. Kingdom is a theme that appears throughout all of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, & Luke); in Lukes Gospel, it is mentioned some 41 times in 29 different places, and when qualified (32 times), it is always the “Kingdom of God.”3 Which can be understood interchagangbly with the “Kingdom of Heaven” in terms of meaning and implication.

This political image was even more radical because of how it was delivered, not with the sword or a call to arms but with cries of repentance, for this Kingdom was not of this world’s ways or ethics but of another world, to bring about a new world.

In the context of first-century Judaism, the idea of a Kingdom of God was closely associated with the hope for a Messiah who would come and establish God’s reign on earth, liberating the people from oppression and ushering in a new era of peace and justice. However, many people expected the Messiah to be a political and military leader who would overthrow the Roman occupiers and restore Israel’s independence.

Jesus’ message about the Kingdom, on the other hand, was different. He spoke of a Kingdom that was not of this world but that was already present among the people. He taught that the Kingdom was not a political or military movement but a spiritual reality that could be experienced here and now through faith in him. As NT Wright puts it:

” The ‘kingdom of God’ is not a synonym for ‘heaven’, still less for ‘life after death’. It is a political term meaning ‘the rule of God’. When Jesus began announcing the kingdom and calling people to repent and believe, he wasn’t offering them a ticket to heaven; he was telling them that the long-awaited moment had arrived when Israel’s God would become king and that they were invited to be not just spectators but participants.”4

The coronation reminds us of the Christian concept of Kingdom and just how radical it is because it comes not with a call to the sword but a cry for repentance and turning from the ways of the world to the way of God, and not with earthly ideas of conquest and power but an otherworldly ethic of the cross and humility. This is the only Kingdom that matters; the question is, is it the one we live in and identify with above all else?

” The Kingdom is ethical through and through. It involves the establishment of a new social order characterised by righteousness, justice, and love. The love ethic of the Kingdom calls for us to love not only our neighbour but also our enemy.” – Charles H. Talbert.5

A Different Kingdom: Not of this World

Nations and Kingdoms are defined by geographical borders, which over the centuries have expanded and contracted like a Yo-yo as neighbours are conquered, and then the conquerers are defeated. Israel, as a nation, had known periods of greatness when they were a nation of wealth and influence beyond its size. Yet, the glory days were long gone. Now, their identity was as an occupied and oppressed people who had been used to the many different rulers and their kingdoms that had subsumed this small part of the world into their empires. As a result, nations and Kingdoms were understood geographically and politically.

Yet, this Kingdom that Christ was proclaiming was tangible but not geographical, nor was it even regional, not even political – as the world might understand it. This was a Kingdom that would shake the world it would enter and look nothing like the world in which it would expand. It had no borders, political structures, or armies to advance it, yet it would draw many to it. It looked radically different, and its way of being known and expanding was fundamentally different. It was a Kingdom that was not of this world that would transform this world.

A Kingdom defined by its King

Why would this otherworldly king change the world but look nothing like it? Because it was a Kingdom that looked to its King. Where the nations of the world have toiled with different forms of power and authority, the Kingdom of God was an absolute Monarchy – the King had all power and authority; he was the teacher of the law and one who would action it. Why? Because he was good and could be trusted, he was the King who came not to be served but to serve; the King who would enthrone himself on the Cross for the sins of his Citizens so that they might enjoy Grace and union with God. The ethics and ordering of the Kingdom look nothing like this world’s notion of power and majesty. Nothing would make this more evident than Jesus’ choice of passage from Isaiah at the beginning of his public ministry:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” Luke 4:18-19 NIV

The “whom” of they that Christ had come for, basically those whom he would focus his ministry and preaching, was a demonstration of the Kingdom and the way of the Kingdom. The ears that would hear and respond, the people who would receive the mercy of God in healing and hearing, displayed clearly to the world how radically different the Kingdom of God would be from any Kingdom of this world.

If the Kingdom that comes with the Son of God radically differs from anything the world has seen or known, it must also point to a different type of King that we must look to. The Kingdom of God is radical because its King is radically different.

A Different Crown & Throne: Thorns and a Cross

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. [21] He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” – Luke 4:20-21 NIV

The messenger of the coming Kingdom and its counter-cultural world transforming ways is not just the teller of the coming Kingdom of God; he is the revelation of it. The splendour and majesty of the British Crown and its coronation, with its wealth and wonder, cannot compare to how the King of the Kingdom of God was crowned. His throne was not of gold but wood, and he was crowned not beside bishops but crooks on the calvary cross. The crown He wore was not encrusted with diamonds, but one of the thorns encrusted with barbs. He was given no sceptre or orbs in His hand but nails. His Crown and Throne pointed to the reality of the new Kingdom and the power its King would wield and model.

The Contrast of Kingdoms

The contrast between the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world could not be starker when it comes to the symbols of power and authority. In the kingdoms of this world, power is displayed through lavish and ornate ceremonies, with crowns encrusted with precious gems and metals, sceptres, and orbs. The monarchs sit on thrones adorned with gold and precious stones, surrounded by opulence and grandeur. The Kingdom of God, on the other hand, is revealed through the life and work of Jesus Christ, who was crowned with thorns and hung on a cross to die.

The choice of a crown of thorns was deliberate and symbolic. It represented the rejection of the world’s notion of power and authority and the acceptance of a new kind of power founded on self-sacrifice, humility, and love. The cross, too, symbolised shame and humiliation, reserved for the worst criminals of the time. Yet, in the Kingdom of God, it was transformed into a symbol of victory and redemption.

The fact that Christ was not crowned on a throne but on a cross is also significant. It shows that the Kingdom of God is not built on the power of a human monarch but on the power of God. The cross represents the ultimate act of love and sacrifice, and it is through this act that Christ ushered in the new Kingdom of God. The power of this Kingdom is not founded on military might or political influence but on the power of love and grace.

The thorns that encircled Christ’s head symbolise the brokenness and suffering He endured on behalf of humanity. They serve as a reminder that the Kingdom of God is not built on human strength but on the power of Christ’s sacrifice. The cross symbolises hope and redemption, and it represents the invitation for all people to participate in the new Kingdom of God.

As followers of Christ, we are called to embrace this new Kingdom and to model our lives after the example that Christ set. We are called to love and serve others, just as Christ loved and helped us. We are called to reject the values of this world and embrace the values of the Kingdom of God, which values humility, compassion, and self-sacrifice above all else.

In this new Kingdom, the King is not distant and unapproachable, but He is intimately involved in the lives of His people. He is a King who serves His people and is willing to give His life to them. This is the kind of King that we are called to follow and to do, and it is through His example that we can transform the world around us and bring about the Kingdom of God on earth.

All that Christ is, all that Christ has done, and all that Christ will do, is the revelation of God’s coming Kingdom and the way of God in the world. The question for us is: Have we seen and believed in it?

We Must Make A Choice: Submit to Him or Reject Him

All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked. – Luke 4:22 NIV

The beginning of Jesus’ public in Luke is so vivid and tense. You have Jesus teaching with an authority that has not been seen for centuries and the crowds being blown over by all he has said and how he has said it. Next, we have the most audacious moments as he told them plainly that he is the one they have longed for – the messiah promised of old. Finally, after centuries of deprivation and occupation, the rescue of God has come after all the failed hopes of false messiahs and rebels. The crowds marvelled at what they had heard and seen, yet even as they witnessed the unfolding of the Kingdom of God before them by the servant King (they had been waiting for), they were already finding ways to dismiss him because of what it would mean to recognise him.

They wanted all the Glory of Jesus without the reality of submitting to him and his righteous rule; they wanted to be their rulers and live in their kingdoms and somehow benefit from the King of Kings. As John put it at the beginning of his prologue: they preferred darkness over light. To the majesty and authority of Jesus’ teaching, they questioned: “Isn’t this Joseph’s Son?” they sought ways to dismiss him and the message he was bringing for all to hear. We are not left with that choice

It is Christ’s way into the Kingdom and in the Kingdom and nothing of us! We cannot claim to know and live for him and, in some way, still cling to us and our practices for him, his church, purposes and Glory.

” The modern world detests authority but worships relevance. Our Christian conviction is that the Bible has both authority and relevance and that the secret of both is Jesus Christ.”6

A Radical Reminder: True Authority

All Authority is given. Namely, it comes from somewhere. Thus, all who have authority are under a higher authority whether they realise it or not. In the context of the UK, the prime minister seems to have a lot of authority and power, yet they serve under a King and at the pleasure of the Parliament that elected them. Even the King, the symbol of Supreme Authority in the UK, is reminded in his coronation that he also serves under a higher power. As the reading from Colossians made clear: A King serves under the Authority of the King of Kings whether they believe in him or not:

“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. [16] For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. [17] He is before all things, and in him, all things hold together. [18] And he is the head of the body, the church; he is beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. [19] For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,” – Colossians 1:15-19 NIV

There is only one ultimate authority on Earth, from which all authority is given, governed, and eventually judged. This authority is none other than God Himself, the creator of the universe and all that exists within it. Therefore, all those who have authority on Earth, whether they realise it or not, are under the authority of a higher power.

In the context of the United Kingdom, the Prime Minister may appear to have a great deal of authority and power but ultimately serves under a higher authority, namely the King and the Parliament that elected them. Even the King, the symbol of supreme authority in the UK, is reminded in his coronation that he also serves under a higher power.

However, Christ, as the revelation of the Kingdom of God and the way into the Kingdom, is also the authority by which the Kingdom will be governed and established in the world of God. He is the Word of God, the revelation of the way of God in the world and into the Kingdom.

For those who live in the Kingdom of God through repentant faith, Christ is also the revelation of the way of the Kingdom in the world, namely its ethic. In the Kingdom, we are called to live like the King and to reveal to the waiting world the beauty of the King we serve and all that he has done for us on the Cross and by the Spirit of God, as Colossians 1:15-19 NIV states, “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things; in him, all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him.” His authority commands us to live as he did: To Love God and our Neighbour. The challenge for us than does our living displays a recognition of his authority or that we are still living under another authority.

He Reigns Supreme in Church as in the World

I wonder, in that great hymn of praise about the authority of Jesus in the creation and over creation did you notice that striking line:“And he is the head of the body, the church” – As he rules over the entire cosmos, as he rules in the Kingdom, he also rules over his body – the church. Thus, what it means to live for him in the world and the Kingdom is also (not surprisingly) valid in the context of the church – his body. Additionally, how the church lives as Church and serves the church within the context of the church seems to be the primary revelation of his authority and the Kingdom to the wider world. Think about it: by how we live with and serve one another, not in the community around us but within the Church, the body of Christ will display the beauty of life in Christ to a weary and waiting world.

As members of the body of Christ, we are responsible for loving and serving one another, bearing with one another and speaking well of each other. This is how we reveal Jesus to each other and the wider world. We are called to live according to his example and display life’s beauty in Christ to a weary and waiting world.

In John 13:34-35, Jesus gives us a new commandment to love one another as he has loved us. This love should be evident in how we interact with each other, how we serve each other, and how we support each other. In 1 John 4:7, we are reminded that “everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” Thus, our love for one another reveals Christ to the world and demonstrates our identity as children of God.

It is important to note that our loyalty should be to Christ alone and not to any other rule. We must seek to live according to his example and submit to his authority in all things. Colossians 3:23-24 states that “whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

As members of the body of Christ, we are called to live in his example, demonstrating our love for one another and submitting to his authority in all things. This is how we reveal Christ to the world; through our actions within the church we can display the beauty of life in Christ to those around us. DA Carson puts it succinctly when he writes: “The Church is not a theological classroom. It is a conversion, confession, repentance, reconciliation, forgiveness, and sanctification centre, where flawed people trust Christ, gathers to know and love him better, and learn to love others as he designed.”7

Conclusion: The Message, The Authority and the Revelation

There was a poignant (and somewhat ironic) moment in the Coronation service when the Moderator of the Church of Scotland stood before the King and said:

” Sir, to keep you ever mindful of the law and the Gospel of God as a rule for the whole life and government of Christian princes, receive this book, the most valuable thing that this world affords. Here is wisdom; this is the royal law; these are the lively oracles of God.”

There amid a church filled with diamonds of unknowable worth, dresses and suits on guests that would have cost more than a month’s wages in the UK, swords, Septres, orbs, and crowns are some of the most valuable and historical items in the world. In that shadow of all these things and all their combined worth, the king was reminded that the most valuable commodity in his possession was nothing other than the Holy Bible, the word of God. Why? because “here is wisdom; this is the royal law; these are the lively oracles of God.” The Bible was the most valuable gift that could be given to the King and the most valuable item that the King could own because it is the revelation of God’s will, way and work in the world that he has made.

The bibles value is not because of rarity but because of revelation. From the scriptures, the world knows of God, specifically His saving work through his Son on the Cross. Furthermore, it is only from the Scriptures that we understand the way towards union with God, and the gates in his Kingdom are nothing of this earth but repentance and faith. Therefore, the way into the Kingdom of God is repentance: and the course of the Kingdom of God is repentance. Therefore, the supreme worth of the bible is because to all who are willing – with the help of the Holy Spirit – it reveals the way of God in the world through the Son of God: he who is the way of God in the world.

The Word of God reveals the authority of God and what it means to live according to His will for His glory. The Bible is the revelation of God’s way and Kingdom to come, and it serves as the standard by which we live and hope. Through the Word, we learn about the Son of God and the Cross, and by the Word of God, the Holy Spirit works in us to make us into the image of Christ and enable us to live for Him.

As we reflect on the value of the Word of God, let us turn anew in repentance and seek to live by faith in the Son in the way of the Kingdom. By doing so, we can show others the hope of the Cross and the way of God’s Kingdom. While King Charles signed the declarations, the choir sang:

“Prevent us, O Lord, in all our doings with thy most gracious favour, and further us with thy continual help; that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in thee, we may glorify thy holy name, and finally by thy mercy obtain everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

May this prayer be true for us this day as we pray it would be valid for the King, and may all that we have heard from the scriptures be planted in our hearts, steadfast in our living and bear fruit in our lives for the Glory of God?

  1. Brown, Tina, and The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor. “Tina Brown: Why King Charles III Will Be Worth the Wait.” Time. Time, May 3, 2023.
  2. Parfitt, Tom. “What Will King Charles’ Reign Be Called?” Yahoo! Yahoo!, May 4, 2023.
  3. “’Kingdom’ in the Synoptic Gospels.” Christian Ethics – the kingdom. Accessed May 6, 2023.,this%20pattern%20(14%20times).
  4. Wright, N.T. Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense. San Francisco: HarperCollins Publishers, 2010.
  5. Talbert, Charles H. Reading Luke: A Literary and Theological Commentary on the Third Gospel. New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1984.
  6. Stott, John. The Cross of Christ.
  7. Carson, D. A. The Cross and Christian Ministry: Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004.

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