The Bible, rich with symbolism, paints many pictures of kings and kingdoms, some of them nightmarish and bizarre; huge, grotesque monsters emerge from the ocean to dominate the earth, their armies sweeping across the globe like so many twisted, mutant locusts. It’s fair to say that, when it comes to kins, the Bible is ambiguous to say the least.
And yet despite this, there’s an image of kingship that is both simple and earth-shattering in its implications. It appears in the midst of Revelation’s monsters and mayhem, but it’s far from being part of that chaos – the opposite in fact.
We’re introduced to the ultimate king, the holy king, the good king, and while all the other empires have been described with imagery from a Japanese monster movie, the great king is actually a lamb – a slain lamb at that. And I think we’re supposed to react to the contrast, be thrown for a moment at the apparent power differential – Godzilla vs a lamb? What’s going on here?
And then we remember that the lamb on the throne is Jesus, and all our categories for power and kingship and empire have to change in the face of a bleeding sacrifice that nevertheless sits on a throne and is worshiped by multitudes of angels. It’s an image that should inform and subvert all our other images of Jesus: if he’s a king, then how does he rule? If he’s a warrior, whose blood is shed? The lamb on the throne helps answer those questions, even if those answers turn out to be a challenge.
But we can’t hide among metaphors: these images need to change what we look like in the here and now. After all, if we’re inhabitants of a different Kingdom, we should echo a different king, and that affects how we think about everything, from our politicians, to the people next door to the wildlife that surrounds us. All of those interactions need to be rooted in Christ – not a cultural facsimile branded with a winking caricature of Jesus but in Christ the king, with discourse inspired more by the Sermon on the Mount than the media.
Today we remember the king on his throne, but we also remember that this king acted more like a servant than a warrior, and inaugurated his kingdom through death on a cross. Maybe today’s a good day to seek a vision for what that kingdom needs to look like in the life of each individual disciple.