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  • Writer's pictureTim Hemingway

The Servant-King, they Mock as king, is King of Kings

When our Lord Jesus was in Roman custody, Matthew, in chapter 27 of his gospel, records for us an event that was not part of normal Roman practice. He records how the soldiers made sport out of Jesus.

The scene is one of Jesus in the middle with the company of Roman soldiers surrounding him. They’ve stripped him down and put a scarlet robe on him. They’ve created a crown for him, but not out of gold – out of twisted thorns. And they’ve put a staff in his right hand as a mock scepter.

All the props are in place for a comedy at Jesus’ expense. At the expense of his honour. At the expense of his value, and at the expense of his comfort.

First, they kneel before him as king, but of course they have the power over him. So, this is to them witty irony.

Then they hail him ‘king of the Jews’ – more irony. They spit on him next, and take the mock scepter and beat the crown of thorns down on his head repeatedly. And when they’ve had their fun with him they return him to his criminal’s clothing and lead him out to be crucified.

Even for a guilty criminal it’s a shocking account of human mistreatment. The abasement is scandalous.

In chapter 20 though, Matthew records for us another short exchange. Again, Jesus is at the centre, but on the outside this time are James and John – Jesus’ disciples. Again, there is kneeling before Jesus – only this time it’s the mother James and John.

Jesus asks her what she wants and she says that she would like it if Jesus would grant that when he comes into his kingdom, that one of her sons would be permitted to sit at his right and the other at his left.

So, in her mind, Jesus is, at some point, going to take up a throne, as king, with positions of great prominence next to his throne, reserved for two very important people. And she would like it if those positions could be afforded to her sons.

Jesus does not deny that he is bringing in a kingdom. He does not deny that he is going to be sat in the prominent position at the centre. And, he does not deny that the positions to his right and left are going to be filled.

But, he does deny that he can give them to James and John.

As an example of what we were considering last week about our God as Trinity, and the order of the God-head, Jesus says that the places belong to those for whom the Father has prepared them.

And besides, ‘James and John, can you drink the cup I am going to drink?‘ He’s speaking of his suffering and death. But more than that! He’s speaking of the suffering of bearing his Father’s outrage againsthim.

Last Sunday we heard Jesus saying, the Father is in him and he is in the Father. Now he’s preparing to face the fury of the Father and separation from the Father for the sins of his people. No one can drink that cup! And James and John don’t know what they’re saying when they say they can.

The lesson for them is, that to belong to the kingdom they must become like the kingdom King.

The king did not come to be served, but to serve – to give his life as a ransom for many.

So, later on, then, when the soldiers stand around Jesus to mock him as the king of the Jews, they think they have the irony. But the greater irony is this, Jesus really is the King! What they don’t know is that the King – the King of kings - is a servant. That’s how he comes.

He is mocked as king because he looks like a poor servant, but that is precisely because he is the servant-king. And, unbeknown to them, he’s being led to the cross to be a ransom, for people like us. He lays down his life so that we would have him as our King of kings and Lord of Lords, forever.

For other ironies of the cross, DA Carson's book 'Scandalous' is a wonderful read - especially at Easter time. The article above is based on the first irony Carson highlights in his book.


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