CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Long Live the King

Aug 16, 2007

Thirty years ago today Elvis Presley died. He influenced a generation, not only with his swivelling hips, but an endless supply of number one hits. His premature death at age 42 shocked the world. Countless fans today still visit Graceland, treating his home as the shrine of a recently departed god.

For over two decades he cranked out hit after hit, although not all were stellar performances. I too have been an Elvis fan, although like many others, I regard his earlier songs as his best work. Later in life he tended to become a parody of himself, and many of his later titles are easily forgotten.

But who can forget such early classics as Heartbreak Hotel, Hound Dog, Love Me Tender, All Shook Up and Jailhouse Rock? Great stuff, which will live on for generations to come.

Yet as remarkable as Elvis was, can I suggest that there is only one true King, and unlike Elvis, he is not in the grave. It may be wrong to say Elvis lives, but it is quite right to say Jesus lives. Elvis, like all other created mortals, will one day face his maker, and give an account of his life. It is hoped that he had fully and finally put his faith and hope in the atoning work of Christ.

But for as long as Elvis will influence a legion of fans, even long after his death, his impact and lasting influence is nothing compared to that of the one who lived, died, and rose again some two thousand years ago.

Quite simply, there has never been anyone like Jesus. Nor could there be, for in Christian theology, he is both fully God, and fully human. The second person of the Trinity, the eternal son of God came to earth on a search and rescue mission.

The boundless love of God for mankind could never rest content when mankind rebelled against its maker. The ever-seeking, ever-reaching love of God culminated in the only son of God coming to our planet, identifying with us, living a sinless life, and suffering to the point of death on our behalf, so that we might be reunited with God.

As Paul put it, “For he has made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Corinthians 5:20-21). Or as Adelaide-based theologian C. Baxter Kruger has put it, “In marked contrast to the gods of human imagination, the Christian God is not self-centered, not a taker at all, but a giver. . . . He has staggering plans for us. Indeed, the Christian God is preoccupied with us and our welfare, and determined to bless us with life and fullness and glory. The Christian vision of God is of a God who is eager to know us, eager to cross the infinite chasm between the Creator and the creature, and eager to stoop down to us and lift us up so that we can share in everything that He is and has.”

The most strange and wonderful truth of the universe is that God is crazy about us, madly in love with us, and has done everything possible so that his intended love relationship with us can be restored and enjoyed.

That is why Jesus came, and that is why Jesus is still King. Even though we rejected him and his message, and put him to death in a horrible fashion, death could not hold him down, and he sits today at the right hand of the father, waiting to be reunited with those who have accepted his offer of forgiveness and reconciliation.

That makes him a worthy king indeed. We are doubly his: by creation as well as by redemption. He deserves our devotion and is worthy of our love. Never has a man like this been seen on planet earth. As one anonymous writer put it in a piece called “One Solitary Life”:

Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village. He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher.

He never owned a home. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put His foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place He was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself…

While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves. While He was dying His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth – His coat. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

Nineteen long centuries have come and gone, and today He is a centerpiece of the human race and leader of the column of progress.

I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built; all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life.

This single individual was indeed, unique. Elvis may be the king, in a very limited and temporal fashion, but this man Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

[959 words]

12 Responses to Long Live the King

  • How wonderful a God (Father,Son and Spirit) we have. They have ADOPTED us into their family. This is why Jesus came. To join with ALL of humanity in the Incarnation and recreate us in His (our) death, resurrection and ascension, and we are now seated with Him at the right hand of the Father in the Spirit. So what are we called to do? BELIEVE!!! LET THEM LOVE US! Accept, receive, bask and respond out of Covenantal love, not religious duty! Set free to love unconditionally! WOW! Lets go and let everyone know that we have been set free in Christ! For all eternity! Be blessed!
    Lou d’Alpuget

  • We pray for God’s annointing on these words, that eyes and hearts and ears will be open of the people who read it. That those who read Bill’s words above will let God set them free from every lesser view of God and from every lesser experience.
    If your heart yearns to connect with God through Jesus, speak to God that you believe, or even tell Him that you want to believe so He can help you believe. We have ready access to God if we accept that Jesus took our punishment on the cross where He died, the punishment we should have for any and every wrongdoing. Then you will be in direct contact with God, who will see you as completely clean, because Jesus took your punishment.
    Then contact Bill or someone like Bill, to tell them of this choice you have made.
    Rebecca Field

  • This is an honest question, because it is something I have never understood.

    When Jesus was on earth, was he in full knowledge that he was the son of God, and would live for eternity in heaven after his death?

    Chris Mayer

  • Thanks Chris

    It is a good, and important, question. It has to do with his messianic self-awareness, his sense of mission, and so on. The short answer is yes, and many passages in the Gospels make this quite clear. Consider just a few:

    “Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Christ [the Messiah], the Son of the Blessed One?’ ‘I am,’ said Jesus. ‘And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven’.” (Mark 1:61-62)

    “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (Referring to Jesus – John 1:1)

    “For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” (John 5:18)

    “Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” (John 10:36-38)

    “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies’.” (John 11:25)

    “’You are a king, then!’ said Pilate. Jesus answered, ‘You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me’.” (John 18:37)

    “Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.’ The Jews replied, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?’ But the temple he had spoken of was his body.” (John 2:19-21)

    There are plenty of these sorts of passages which show that Jesus has a clear sense of his own divine identity, his pre-existence, his life after death, and his messianic mission.

    However, a longer answer can be given, which is more theologically complex. It has to do with the Christian understanding that in Jesus Christ we have one person with two natures. He was both fully God and fully man. The early church simply had to make sense of who Jesus was, and what he taught about himself. Thus the best understanding it could come up with was this idea of one person with two natures, as encapsulated in the Chalcedonian Creed of 451AD and other earlier creeds. As a human, he had all the limitations that we do, yet without sin, but as God, he was able to make salvation possible for fallen humanity. But that is a very big topic. If you want to pursue it further, let me know. Thanks.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • How wonderful those words are, those words brings tears to my eyes to know that the Lord of Glory stood alone in pain, humiliation and rejection for this one purpose, that humanity may be reconciled to God.
    Albert Kamau

  • So can someone please explain exactly what a man who *knows* he will live eternity in heaven is sacrificing by dying?
    Chris Mayer

  • Thanks Chris

    Another good question. But knowing that a good future is on the cards in no way minimises a present distress. Jesus in his humanity faced a horrible torture and physical crucifixion. This is nothing to gloss over. If the Mel Gibson film, The Passion, may have overplayed things a bit, it did nonetheless give some sense of the horrible cruelty, torture and ghastliness of what a Roman crucifixion was all about.

    But even more than that, the son of God left the perfections of heaven, however we define that, to live amongst us, to be rejected, cursed, despised, by the very people he – as God – created, and loved dearly. Simply the experience of unrequited love, which we humans can experience on a much smaller level, would have been crushing for Jesus. He lived on earth some 33 years facing the scorn and hatred of fallen humanity. That would have been a terrible burden to carry.

    I don’t know if you have children Chris, but imagine if you did, and that despite your tremendous love, dedication and devotion to them, they reject you, despise you, spit in your face and curse your very existence. Any parent’s heart would be crushed in such a situation. Magnify this a million times and we start to get an inkling of what Jesus went through.

    But as I said, Jesus was both man and God in one person. His suffering on the divine side would have been even more horrendous. God by definition – in the Judeo-Chrsitian tradition – is perfect, totally holy, totally pure and without sin. But Jesus came and experienced our sin, and the punishment that we rightly deserved he took upon himself.

    It is hard to come up with a human analogy of what this would have been like. But identifying with us in our sin, and taking our punishment upon himself, even though he was totally innocent would have been horrendous.

    Much more can be said. Read for yourself the Gospel accounts, especially the last chapters of each. Let the pathos, the horror and the overwhelming darkness of the scene grip you. This was no picnic. It was arguably the most dark, the most horrific and the most appalling moment in human history.

    But because of his great love for us, Jesus was willing to undergo all this hell on earth, so that we can escape hell, and be reunited with him. This was the greatest sacrifice ever offered in human history.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Bil, I appreciate you taking the time to answer the questions, as it was a subject that confused me, and I wanted a better understanding. You have certainly given me that. Thanks again.
    Chris Mayer

  • Dear Chris,
    There is a Biblical priciple of people standing in vicariously, to represent those wishing to be included in this way. Examples include David and Goliath, where the winner/loser was representative of all the people; the high priest entering once a year for all of Israel to make an atoning sacrifice on behalf of the whole nation; and Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for ALL of humanity. The last example is the most crucial for all mankind. When Jesus took on humanity (fallen flesh), he joined with humanity, and what happened to him has happened to us. When He died, the Bible says we died. When He rose, the Bible says we rose. When He ascended to the Father, we rose to the Father. Just as in Adam all fell into sin, in Jesus ALL can be redeemed (bought back, recreated, made anew in Christ). Sin and death has forever been defeated! This was to facilitate our ADOPTION into THEIR family, which according to Ephesians 1:3-5, was the eternal purpose of God, ie., to have a family. They do not want to be God without us, and have done everything needed to bring us in. They HAVE brought us in. So what are we called to do? Simply believe and let THEM love us. Are you a father Chris? If you are, you would know that you cannot force your children to love you. You hope they do, and yearn for them to respond to YOUR love, but you just have to wait and hope for this to happen. This is the situation the Father is in. If He were to force us into loving Him, that would not be love. He would be violating His very nature. So He has to wait, bring us up in love, chasten, correct and direct to a point where hopefully we will respond out of true love and not some contractual religious duty. This is the Christian life! You respond out of awe as you understand what Jesus HAS ACCOMPLISHED on OUR behalf. Out of sheer joy, you realise your total dependance on THEM. There is no other way. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. I pray that you will ask Him to teach you to let Him love you, and His love will fill you and set you free! Be blessed!
    Lou d’Alpuget

  • Hi Chris and Bill,
    Can I just say how encouraging it is to see 2 people have such a respectful dialogue. I’m assuming you both have differing beliefs, and yet you both take an interest in each other’s view point, and questions and answers. In an age where too many people refuse to listen to, or learn from, one another, reading this interchange has really encouraged and inspired me to ask more questions, to be more respectful, and to learn from those around me – Thank you!
    Janna Becker

  • I agree with Janna. It is really encouraging to read a discussion like this one. Thanks Bill and Chris.
    Catherine Keane

  • Dear Chris, no one does anything without some stimulus or motivation – whether that be through a salary or some other kind of reward. We all need certainty, hope and faith to get us to where we are not at present. The fact that Christ knew he would conquer death, sin and the devil does not detract from what he did. But we must not forget that he did not have to put himself through this existential ordeal. He did it for us – that which we could not do for ourselves. As C.S. Lewis says in ‘Mere Christianity’ page 61:

    “I have heard some people complain that if Jesus was God as well as man, then His sufferings and death lose all value in their eyes, ‘because it must have been so easy for him.’ Others may (very rightly) rebuke the ingratitude and ungraciousness of this objection; what staggers me is the misunderstanding it betrays. In one sense, of course, those who make it are right. They have even understated their own case. The perfect submission, the perfect suffering, the perfect death were not only easier to Jesus because He was God, but were possible only because He was God. But surely that is a very odd reason for not accepting them? The teacher is able to for the letters for the child because the teacher is grown-up and knows how to write. That, of course, makes it easier for the teacher; and only because it is easier for him can he help the child. If it rejected him because ‘it’s easy for grown-ups’ and waited to learn writing from another child who could not write itself (and so had no ‘unfair’ advantage), it would not get on very quickly. If I am drowning in a rapid river, a man who still has one foot on the bank may give me a hand which saves my life. Ought I to shout back (between my gasps) ‘No, its not fair! You have an advantage! You’re keeping one foot on the bank’? That advantage – call it ‘unfair’ if you like – is the only reason why he can be of any use to me. To what will you look for help if you will not look to that which is stronger than yourself? ”

    David Skinner, UK

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