One thing all Christians should agree on is that Jesus is King. He came to announce and inaugurate the Kingdom of God (Mk. 1:14-15), and through his death and resurrection, he has ascended to the throne as King of kings and Lord or lords (1 Tim. 6:15, Rev. 19:16). Part of having Jesus as King means he has absolute authority (Eph. 1:17-23). All things are under his control, and he has the authority to exercise his will as he pleases.
At some point, Jesus’ authority will collide with our will, and what we do at that point shows whether we truly honor him as King. There will be times when following the authority of Jesus will be difficult, and there will be times that we do not even want to submit. At those times, there is often a temptation to try to circumnavigate his authority. It is all too easy to justify rebellion, as we reason ourselves out of obedience in various ways. But, if we recognize him as King, and if we recognize his absolute authority over his Kingdom, then we must fight this tendency, and instead choose to follow him in faith.
However, as my dad likes to say, there’s a ditch on both sides of the road. We typically think of ignoring Jesus’ authority in terms of setting aside his commands and doing what we want instead. This is certainly one form of rebellion, and it is dangerous. Yet, there is another more subtle form, in which we conflate our personal interpretations with his commands. In this case, we take our fallible reasoning and attach it to Jesus’ infallible teaching. By this, we think to give our interpretations the authority of the King himself. Thus, if someone rejects my understanding, they are rejecting Jesus.
We show disdain for the authority of Christ by conflating our personal views with his teaching just as much as we show disdain by placing our personal views above his teaching. We need to understand this: both paths attempt to make the King condescend to the servant.
On the first method, we tell the King he must accept our will and submit to us. We attempt to pull him off of his throne, and place ourselves there in his place. If my will never has to uncomfortably bend to the will of the King, then it may be time to consider who is truly sitting on the throne of my heart. On the second method, however, we use the King’s authority to give ourselves authority. We use him to give ourselves glory and power, rather than crying out, “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory…” (1 Chr. 29:11). We don’t want to drag him off of his throne, but we want him to be just incompetent enough that he needs us whispering in his ear. Both methods are dangerous, because both methods attempt to take authority from the King.
For the follower of Christ, we accept him as both Savior and as friend. Yet, we must never overlook his role as King. As King, Jesus rules with full authority over us. We must, then, seek to submit ourselves to his authority. We must never try to remove the King from his throne nor imagine that he needs our help to rule well. Jesus alone is King. He is the good King; the glorious, resurrected King who gives life and salvation. May we ever submit ourselves in committed obedience to his glorious reign.