Introduction: How great is our joy, knowing we are not only invited to the feast of salvation which we will share with our Savior in Heaven one day, but that we are even now His royal subjects, and the objects of His tender, royal care! May this week’s notes on Christ as our Ascended King give us even more joy as we realize the qualities of His caring rule in our lives. Let us never forget: it is the embattled church on earth that Jesus helps as He walks among the lampstands, symbolizing His presence as our Priest-King, always defending His persecuted church on earth, (Revelation 1-3). As this week’s notes will clearly show – He remembers what it was like to be attacked as our Savior while on earth, and therefore knows how to help us when we are afflicted and attacked in the midst of this hostile world.
Mon/Tues: read Matthew 22:15-17 & Genesis 4:17-24. We will have more to say about those who come to trap Jesus in His words in Matthew 22:15-16. But even in Matthew 22:15-17’s discussion about something as mundane as taxes – we must see two kingdoms at war in this world.
Since the Fall, there have always been governments which seek to rule over every aspect of their subjects’ lives. Like Caesar in the days of Rome, Cain built his cities in Genesis 4:17-24 as a lasting monument to his own murderous power. His descendent Lamech epitomizes this in his threat to shed the blood of any who cross him (Genesis 4:23-24).
This then is the biblical account of the rule of man. It is a rule characterized by the accumulation of power of the one over the many, and the increase of burdens (such as taxation) placed on the backs of subjects by their rulers. What a contrast in the rule of Christ! As John Owen wrote about Christ’s wise, gentle and righteous rule:
“The laws by which Christ rules as King are righteous because they are easy and gentle, and not burdensome. His righteousness and uprightness do not denote strict, rigid, severe justice, extending itself to the utmost of what can be required of the subjects ruled; but equity mixed with gentleness, tenderness and condescension: which if it be absent from laws, and they breathe nothing but severity, rigor and arbitrary impositions … makes them burdensome and grievous… in contrast to Jesus gentle rule – Matthew 11:30.” (Commentary on Heb. 1:8-9, page 191)
Meditate and Pray: God in Heaven, we bow to the holy power of your scepter over our lives, both in creation and providence. Thank you above all that in your Son our Lord Jesus Christ, you rule us with a grace that we cannot explain apart from your Son’s assuming our nature and being tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. Thank you that through Jesus, your commands are easy because they are suited to that new nature which you have given us through His Holy Spirit. Thank you, dear Holy Spirit, that the new heart and will which you give us through regeneration loves, delights and runs in the way of God’s commandments!
O God, you delighted so much in the obedience of your incarnate Son. Give us joy under the rule of Jesus Christ as our King. Cause us to see the usefulness and profit in bowing our knees to His rule in very area and at every moment in our lives. Whatever you ordain, King Jesus, is right for each step of our lives. We rest in this, and we ask you to give us always a submission to your scepter over our heads and our hearts. Amen.
Wed/Thurs: read Matthew 22:15-22 & Matthew 13:13-17. Though there are many lessons to learn as we contrast “what is God’s” and “what is Caesar’s” in Matthew 22:17-22, let’s not overlook the amazing confession of Christ’s rectitude from the Pharisees and Herodians in Matthew 22:16. Here is a translation of their words as they approach Jesus:
16 And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances.” ESV
What an amazing confession of truth! Yes, these words from the lips of Christ’s enemies are tragically insincere, and are motivated by their desire to put Jesus off His guard, so that they can then ensnare Him in His words. They are hoping that Jesus will carelessly speak against Roman rule, (by speaking against Rome’s strategy of impoverishing Israel through very heavy taxation), or that Christ will endorse the Roman tax system, (and thereby anger Israel’s pious population who rejected even Roman coins as idolatrous)!
But nevertheless, their words are true, and because they confess that Christ, “teaches the way of God”, they are exposed to the question, “Why then don’t you listen to Him?”. But they don’t see how their words are self-incriminating. As Matthew 13:13-17 makes clear, they are hardened beyond the ability to see themselves or their need for Christ’s saving rule in their lives.
Meditate and Pray: Lord, save us from even one ounce of insincerity. As we see the sure and certain doom hanging over those who reject your Son, and as we confess your right to justly bring them to “a wretched end” (Matthew 21:41), please remove any blinders by which we can deny the danger of our own unbelief. Make us to see our sin, and to sincerely confess that you know all things about us, as we seek your forgiving grace anew. Take us, Lord, and hide us from the incriminating speech of this world, by which men laud Jesus to the skies as a great teacher, while stubbornly refusing to conform their lives to His Lordship. Amen.
Sing this hymn of commitment as a prayer for sincere faith in Jesus (# 491):
Take me, O my Father, take me;
Take me, save me, through Thy Son;
That which Thou wouldst have me, make me,
Let Thy will in me be done.
Long from Thee my footsteps straying,
Thorny proved the way I trod;
Weary come I now, and praying,
Take me to Thy love, my God.
Fruitless years with grief recalling,
Humbly I confess my sin;
At Thy feet, O Father, falling,
To Thy household take me in.
Freely now to Thee I proffer
This relenting heart of mine;
Freely life and love I offer,
Gift unworthy love like Thine.
Fri/Sat/Sun: read Matthew 22:15-21 and Hebrews 1:8-12. We see from the Bible’s testimony in places such as Hebrews 1:8-12 that Christ lacks nothing of the Divine power and glory of God when it comes to His sitting on and ruling from God’s throne. No one can resist His will, and He will rule over the peoples who rebel against His Kingdom “with a rod of iron” (Psalm 2:9).
How amazing it is, therefore, that such a mighty King should find joy in saving sinners and ruling over them in love! Christ can make the mightiest bow to His rule! Why then should He take so much time to rule over such misfits as the subjects of His dominion? This is the cause, after all, of the “oil of joy” with which Christ is anointed in Hebrews 1:9! It is His joy in those He died to save, and who become His blood-bought Bride! To put it in terms of Luke 14:21’s guest list, it is the “poor, crippled, blind and lame” who bring the most pleasure to both the Father and the Son!
How different is Christ from the “Caesars” of this world, who consume their own people to aggrandize themselves!
Meditate and Pray: This is the first way in which we are to obey Christ’s command in Matthew 22:21 to, “render to God what is God’s”. We must render all our affection and adoring thankfulness to Christ’s rule of grace. We are not to give any world government or occupation the absolute devotion of our hearts and lives. We are to save the best for the Lord Jesus, who alone delights to save sinners!
And further – is it not amazing that Christ is still (even in Heaven), taken up with tender, shepherding care for His own (Rev. 7:17)? What a tender, kind rule from our Ascended Lord!
Sing about the devotion which Christ’s Kingdom of grace deserves from us with the words of this Scottish hymn:
Lord, in the fullness of my might,
I would for Thee be strong:
While runneth o’er each dear delight,
To Thee should soar my song.
I would not give the world my heart,
And then profess Thy love;
I would not feel my strength depart,
And then Thy service prove.
I would not with swift wingèd zeal
On the world’s errands go,
And labor up the heavenly hill
With weary feet and slow.
O not for Thee my weak desires,
My poorer, baser part!
O not for Thee my fading fires,
The ashes of my heart!
O choose me in my golden time:
In my clear joys have part!
For Thee the glory of my prime,
The fullness of my heart!