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Our country has a policy of separation of church and state, and that appears to be a good thing. When the head of the government starts telling the church how to worship, or when the head of the church starts telling the government how to run its affairs, strife typically results.
There have been some notable examples of wise kings who were God-fearing rulers, and some examples of religious leaders who had the wisdom to make just laws. But history has most often shown us that when a king imposes on the church a mode of worship or a pastor imposes on the king religious ways of governing, clashes result. Some of them have been bloody civil wars and some have spread into international conflicts.
That being said, wouldn’t it be better for everyone if there was a way that one person could hold both of those offices simultaneously? If only there was some way to bring those different offices together. Very few people could ever accomplish this because it would require a perfect person with both absolute wisdom and complete God-honoring selflessness, someone so confident in both their wisdom and their relationship with God that they would never be swayed unfairly one way or the other.
Last week we saw the first bold claim from Jesus: “I am the I AM.” With this title and authority, Jesus claimed to be the Head of the Church. This is a title Paul uses several times in his letter to the church at Ephesus (Ephesians 1:22, 5:23). Paul goes on to remind us that our aim as the Church body is to grow into maturity under the Headship of Jesus (Ephesians 4:15).
Consider two other notable rulers during this same time period. As the high priest, Caiaphas would have laid claim to the title of “head of the church.” As the Roman governor, Pilate would have laid claim to the title of “head of the government in Judea.” Yet both of them clearly demonstrated that they had “become the symbol of those who make religious decisions based on political expediency rather than truth and justice,” as Dr. Donald Stamps noted.
Paul goes father than calling Jesus simply the Head of the Church—
And He [Jesus] 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. (Colossians 1:18)
Not just Headship over the Church, but Headship over “everything.”
After the bold claim of Jesus that He was the I AM, the Sanhedrin wanted to have Him put to death, so they took Jesus to Pontius Pilate (Luke 22:71—23:2; Matthew 27:1-2; John 18:28-37).
Pilate “knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him” (Matthew 27:18), but he still asked Jesus, “Are You the king of the Jews?” Just as Caiaphas was trying to save his position of power by keeping a delicate balance between the Jews and the Romans, Pilate was also trying to save his skin. Pilate was trying to appease both the Sanhedrin and Tiberius Caesar.
Jesus answers Pilate’s question in a way Pilate never expected. Twice Jesus says “My kingdom,” noting that His kingdom is other-worldly. His kingdom comes from outside this world and therefore supersedes any government of this world. Pilate clearly has never heard anything like this, so after hearing this statement he announces, “You are a king, then!”
Just as Jesus had answered the Sanhedrin with, “You are right in saying I am the Messiah,” now He answers Pilate, “You are right in saying I am a king.”
Combining those two bold claims—“I am God” and “I am a King”—Jesus is the only One who can perfectly hold both offices without any conflict. This is what the prophecy in Isaiah 9:1-7 foretold, and this is the fulfillment that John shows us at the end of time (Revelation 17:14, 19:11-16).
What does this mean for us? How are we now supposed to live knowing Jesus as our God and as our King? We should live confidently before our King and humbled before our God. We don’t fear earthly kings, but neither do we fight them. We don’t have to try to convince earthly kings to rule a certain way because they are God’s servants to accomplish God’s plan. We don’t have to get caught up in the politics of the day because this day will come to an end.
We are subjects of a kingdom not of this world, so the kings of this world don’t get to decide our final destiny!
(If you would like to explore this topic further, check out my series of messages from 1 Peter called Aliens and Strangers.)
If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series called Bold Claims, you can find the full list of messages by clicking here.
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