“You wouldn’t understand.”
Jesus encounters Pilate in a strange interview, and Pilate asks him, “Are you a king?” Jesus deflects, because Pilate would never understand what kind of king Jesus was. In Pilate’s world, kings are kings because of earthly power: wealth, armies, land, power over other people.
This is not the kind of king Jesus is. And it’s not just Pilate who can’t get his head around Jesus. In fact, our own perceptions of kingship are so bound up in earthly powers that it’s dangerous for us to sing “Crown him with many crowns.” We’re easily sidetracked into the kind of thinking Pilate used.
Yet, as the hymn puts it, “The head that once was crowned with thorns is crowned with glory now.” We want to rush past the bloody thorns and nails, and go directly to the glory. We’re more comfortable with the power by force than we are with Jesus’ power of love – because the power of love is messy, and we’re likely to get hurt. That’s part of Jesus’ message in suffering indignities and hanging on a cross: the power of love is vulnerable and there’s pain and hurt in its wake.
So, what kind of king do you bow down to? Is an earthly king, or a heavenly king? Is it a king of wealth or a king of generosity? A king of security or a king of vulnerability? A king of might or a king of humility?
I know myself, and I know that the earthly king I need to dethrone is the king of security: I crave safety and comfort for myself far more than I should. I let my risk-aversion get in the way of faithfulness far too often.
I don’t know who or what king you may need to dethrone, so that Jesus can truly reign. But I think you know. JBM