Who Is Jesus Christ, Part Two

By Sigrid Fowler

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            This question of who Jesus is can be explored in many ways. After ending my last column with the lovely picture of Jesus welcoming the children his disciples were hustling off as nuisances, never mind their pushy mothers, I’m now thinking of other things the Bible says about Jesus of Nazareth. Last week I was remembering that in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus calls himself “meek and lowly of heart” and offers rest for our souls (Matt 11: 29). It has occurred to me that to stop with such pictures of Jesus is to stop too soon. The Bible also describes Jesus as the King and just Judge.

            The concept of monarchy isn’t something the average American finds very relevant. I think I can state that categorically, having spent some hours in vigorous, head-knocking debate on the topic of kings with a person who detests the very idea. I come away wondering how this person, or any American Christian, deals with our relationship to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The Scripture ascribes those titles to Jesus Christ without qualification or hesitation: “Then I saw heaven opened, and look—a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. . . . From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev. 19: 11-13, 15-16).

            Do we think of Jesus Christ this way—we Americans, who live in sovereign states, who love our independence, our Constitution-protected ability to choose who governs us? As the granddaughter of immigrants who loved this country passionately, I’m about as American as you can get, emphatically not one to trivialize the rights and privileges our Founders gave us. These things are blessings to thank God for—even while we remember that our God is King, the Sovereign Almighty God, the just Judge. From time to time, I just need to remind myself of this: We Christians also live in a kingdom. King Jesus judges and rules over us. 

            Abraham, interceding for Sodom and Gomorrah said, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Gen 18: 25b). It seems clear that the Person he was addressing was God the Son. Scholars call this a theophany, a preincarnation appearance of Jesus Christ, who was levying judgment on these two evil cities. The judgment was predicted, negotiated, and absolute. Only God the Judge could do all that. The area is still known for the super-salty Dead Sea, so named because marine life cannot live in it. Moses was another voice raised in the name of God the Judge. He too made the connection between the just character of God and his rule as righteous Judge: “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he” (Deut 32: 4). The psalmist agrees: “The heavens declare his righteousness, for God himself is judge!” (Ps 50: 6). Again, “Rise up, O judge of the earth; repay to the proud what they deserve!” (Ps 94: 2). 

            We know the judge as Jesus Christ, who nevertheless tells some hostile Pharisees, “I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me” (John 8: 15b-16). Earlier, Jesus, speaking of himself as the Son of Man, his favored usage, describes the mission the Father has given him: “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son . . .. And he has given him authority to execute judgment because he is the Son of Man” (John 5: 22a, 27). Paul, writing to Timothy his young protégé, repeats the theme, declaring that Jesus Christ is “the judge of the living and the dead” (2 Tim 4: 1), and “the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality” (I Tim 6: 15b-16a). 

            Just a reminder. Maybe you need it too.

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