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.