Jesus of Nazareth, born in the line and city of David, is the long awaited King. He is King of Israel and all the nations of the world. But Jesus was–and is–not the King of popular expectation.
“He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him” (John 1:10). More than that, “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:11). Their reasoning went like this: “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” (John 12:34).
They emphasize that they listened to the Word of God, the Holy Scriptures, inspired by God Himself and handed down from Moses through the prophets. They “heard” from the Scriptures something that on the face of it appears to contradict what they “heard” from Jesus; namely, that He came to die. They said, “How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up?”—meaning: how can you say that the Messiah must be crucified (cf. John 12:33).
This is not the King of their expectation! Protest erupted in their hearts and they cried, “Who is this Son of Man?” They place a great deal of stress on “this,” which ridicules Jesus’ version of the promised King.
They knew, for instance, that the Christ was to be “given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed” (Dan 7:14). There is to be no misunderstanding; this seal was placed upon Jesus even at His birth: “he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:33).
The people confirmed that Jesus was claiming to be “Christ” (John 12:34), even by the Messianic title, “Son of Man” (John 12:34); they just did not like Jesus’ version of the Christ. So they retort, “Who is this Son of Man?”
Jesus was–and is–not the King of popular expectation. The King did not appear for their glory; He did not come to glorify them, He came to glorify the Father. The Messiah was not on a mission to glorify man-centered dreams. God’s plans are far greater than anything that we can ask or imagine. The glory that they imagined was self-serving and self-centered, but the glory that Christ revealed was God-centered.
There is a striking reality here that is much closer to us than we realize.
Like these men and women of Judea, most people today want to enter into the promised kingdom of God. People want to enter into heaven on earth. They would love a kingdom of peace, prosperity, love, joy, safety, justice, and life as it was meant to be. People would throng to enter such a kingdom.
So if a miracle-working man were to enter in on the scene, in the power and authority of the prophets of God and in the testimony of God’s promises of old, surely we would hail Him as king and rejoice (cf. John 12:12-13)! We would more than want to encourage Him to setup His kingdom now (cf. John 6:14-15). We want to enter!
What bars us from heaven now? Why is our world in turmoil and why will it never experience true peace until God’s kingdom comes through the cosmic renovation of the new heavens and new earth (cf. 2 Peter 3:13)? Why do some prosper while others starve? There is a problem that is deep and very uncomfortable. So uncomfortable, we are naturally blinded to it. We do not see it and when we hear of it we naturally deny it. Denial is a psychological mechanism of defense. The problem with this world is not our environment—the problem is us!
Heaven would not be heaven if we were there like we are now. No one will enter that place who is not righteous. And we cannot be made righteous unless every one of our thoughts and intentions of unrighteousness were blotted out, taken away, paid for, dealt with and punished according to perfect justice. How quickly we forget that the wages of sin is death! We cannot both suffer eternal death because of our sin and enjoy eternal life without our sin.
We cannot enter God’s kingdom without righteousness, and we cannot be righteous without death. The only righteous solution is a substitute. A substitute sacrificed in our stead, in our place, on our behalf. The substitute must be morally free from all unrighteousness, a man who is without blemish or stain, one who is absolutely perfect.
Of all people, it is the King Himself, and the King alone, who comes as our substitute! Who is this Son of Man? He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the righteous King who saves His subjects for life through His own death. This is the most amazing message of all-time and over all kingdoms.