Emphatically not a King

In the name of God, Father, son, and Holy Spirit. Please. 

The Bible is suspicious of Kings. In a few weeks, we'll have a chance to begin reading the Bible cover to cover together as a church family. And you watch. See how often the Bible's got any good things to say about kings. If you were to read, we heard this a few months ago, uh, the beginning of all the kings of Israel, the story of the Bible has to say about how Israel got kings goes something like this. The people of Israel were living in the promised land. They owed their freedom to God who had delivered them out of slavery. And one day they looked around and they said, well, everybody else has got a king. We need one too. Which sort of sounds like something a child might say to their parents, right? My friends have kings, we need a King God. And God says, no, you're not going to have a king. I'm not going to give you a king. I'm, I'm your God. You're not going to have a king. And they say, hmm, but we want a king, God. uh, everybody else has got a king and God says, you don't want a king. Let me tell you what's going to happen if you get a king. King is gonna take your sons and send them off to war. King is going to take your daughters, bring them into his courts, 

King's going to tax you and take your money. King's going to take your land. King's going to make you serve him. And the people of God say, oh. We want a king. And so God gives them a king and they get Saul. He doesn't go so well. And if you look throughout all scripture, who's the best king we get? David. Any problems there? Old testament today tells of one of the great sins, one of the great abuses of power in all scripture, right? It begins by saying in the spring of the year when kings go out to battle, David stayed home. There's your first sign. In the spring of the year when the king go out to war. David sent his armies fourth, but he stayed home both idle and powerful both. And in his idleness, he looks off the roof of his palace and he sees a woman he doesn't know, asks about her, finds she's the wife of one of his commanders who's out fighting with his army and he decides he wants to acquire her. I use that language intentionally. He tells his servants, go get her. And he takes her into his home and make no mistake. There's no consent here, right. When power is as unbalanced as it was between David and Bathsheba, between a king and a subject, there's no such thing as consent. It's not possible. And she turns up pregnant.

And so David first tries to get out of the situation by passing off the child that she's caring for him on her husband, Uriah. Calls him back in from battle, and then when that fails, he resolves to kill her husband instead. He resolves to kill the husband of the woman that he's just taken. And not only that, he decides to kill him in a way that endangers the rest of the army. He says, send Uriah up to the front and then pull back and let him be killed. And if everyone else dies around them, well... Remember, this is our best king. 

The Bible is suspicious of kings and not just kings, all in authority, actually: rulers, governors, clergy. The Bible is suspicious of power. Why? Because the Bible knows what human beings to do with it. Power in our hands leads to treating others as objects to acquire, to control, to make use of rather than as human beings, right, created in the image and likeness of God. Power uses. This is the underlying story of the "me too" conversation we've been having in our culture, isn't it? That unaccountable, unconstrained power treats children of God as objects and that is but one example. 

The Bible knows what happens with power. We treat one another like objects. The Bible also knows that when we get power, we look out for ourselves at the expense of everything and everyone else. Once we've gained a little status, a little privilege, good luck getting us to let it go, right? We will defend it. We will advance our interests no matter what it means for our neighbor. Kings, and others in authority, they will pursue their agenda even if it injures people on the ground. The Bible knows that. The Bible, finally, is suspicious of power because power asks for loyalty, devotion, even when it doesn't deserve it. Think about the commander that David writes his letter to. Tells him to do something he knows is wrong. He knows is going to result in the death of Uriah, but by loyalty asks him to do it anyway. 

The Roman emperors during Jesus's time called themselves gods and as ridiculous as that is, at least they were being honest about what they wanted, right? Devotion, unquestioning devotion. Even though they were brutal in their rule, even though they enrich themselves at the expense of everyone else, they asked loyalty. Power in their day, just as in ours, demands devotion, which is why scripture is so skeptical of it, right? Because the powerful ask for a loyalty that we know we ought to give only to God. Now Jesus finds himself out in the wilderness facing down 5,000 hungry peasants and with a few resources at hand, a little fish, a little bread, suddenly all their bellies are filled. Now, put yourself in that moment for a second. That's not just a miracle. In that moment, in that day, that miracle feels a little political. 

I mean, even today, if 5,000 people are eating for free, I guarantee you somebody is hustling for votes somewhere, right? And in his day, if you can feed 5,000 people on the spot, you've got a running start at raising an army. And in his day, if you can give food security to 5,000 people who otherwise don't have it, well you've got to move them. And so the response of the people is natural. I say, we found a king. We found our king. Let's make him our king. And he says, no, I don't want to be your king. 

I don't want your sons for wars. I don't want your daughters for my courts. I don't want your land. I don't want your taxes. I'm not dating, He implicitly says. And He retreats up the mountain. The disciples, meanwhile getting the boat. Nice friends, by the way, right? Jesus is on the mountain and they're heading across the lake. A storm blows up and they look out across the lake and see Jesus walking on the waves, which is not something even kings typically do, and He says, as He walks close to them, it's me. Don't be afraid. It's me. Literally in Greek, He says, I am. 

Don't be afraid. I am. Why does that matter? Well, when Moses is standing by the burning bush, right, and God's given him marching orders about how he's going to go free the people of Israel out of slavery and Moses says, well, who should I tell them is sending me? God says, I am. When you go to them and they ask for my name, tell them that my name is I am. And so what does Jesus say as he's walking across the waves, having just told people, he's not going to be king? I am. He means: I'm not your king, I'm your God. 

I'm not your king. You'll never be an object for me to use. You'll never be an object for me to acquire. You'll never be an object for me to control. I'm your God. You're a person. You're free. Jesus is saying, I'm not your king. I won't defend my power at your expense. God, I'll give up power for your sake and for the sake of your neighbor. Jesus is saying, I'm not your king. I won't pretend to be God and then ask for loyalty when I don't deserve it. No, Jesus says, I'll just be God and you'll know it because all around me, you'll see folks getting healed. You'll see people get fed. You'll see the poor hear good news. You'll see dead turn to life. I'm not your king. I'm your God. 

Even in our own day, the message of scripture is clear. We put our faith in the powerful at our own peril, but thankfully we don't have to. We don't put up with being treated as objects because we've got a God who knows us by name, who counts the hairs on our heads. We don't put up with power that defends itself at the expense of everybody else. We've got a God who loves everybody else. All creation. No exceptions. 

We don't put up with anyone or anything who asks us to be more devoted, more loyal to it than to God because we've got a God who's more faithful than any king, a God who is worthy of our devotion. Worthy of our loyalty. Here it is plain: if we're looking for the powerful to save us, we'll be waiting. A long time will be as disappointed as we are in David. The good news is we've got God. For this reason St Paul says, I bow my knees to the God from whom we take our name, Jesus Christ. Amen.