Jesus is King: Reflections for Holy Week and Easter Week

by Stephen Kuhrt

Stephen Kuhrt The diminishing importance of monarchy in our world has made "king" a less than obvious model with which to understand the significance of Jesus. The persistence of its use, however, within both older hymns and modern songs, reflects its prominence within the biblical material. 'Jesus as king' not only operates on an explicit level through much of the New Testament; there is increasing recognition of its importance as a 'given' in texts where its profile is less obvious. The 'kingship' of Jesus particularly dominates the Passion Narrative of Mark's Gospel, which we will follow through Holy Week and in Easter Week we will look at the 'royal' understanding that the early church gave to his resurrection. Engaging with these passages not only deepens our understanding of the significance of Jesus' death and resurrection but provides exciting implications for our faith today. These notes use the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

These notes were written by Stephen Kuhrt and published by 'Guidelines' (Bible Reading Fellowship) for use during Holy Week and Easter Week 2005. They are reproduced here with the permission of the publishers, for use on each day of Holy Week and Easter Week in 2007.

1. The Agony of the King

Monday 2nd April

Mark 14:32-42

The ancient world certainly knew how to make heroes out of its kings and leaders. Whether it was expressed in the legends of Achilles and Hector or through recalling later, more historical figures such as Leonidas of Sparta, the image of a king going bravely and calmly to his death was one that many found immensely attractive and inspiring. Judaism was no exception. At the time of Jesus, young children were still being raised on stories of the Maccabean martyrs going staunchly to their deaths for a cause they believed in.

Mark's account of Gethsemane may be intended to deliberately contrast with this imagery. John's Gospel may show a serene Jesus exercising full control over the events that led to his death but here in Mark's account the emphasis is upon how his horror and anguish at what awaited him over the next few hours. Jesus is 'distressed and agitated' (v 33), he is 'deeply grieved' (v.34) and every single detail seems to point to the agonising struggle between what he wanted and the will of his Father. The contrast with 'heroic kingship' could hardly be fuller.

It is through his vivid portrayal of this painful and very human struggle, however, that Mark presents his deepest insight into what it really meant for Jesus to be the Son of God. Whatever its later associations, Son of God was a title previously used of Israel (Hosea 11:1) and its kings (Psalm 2:7). It held out the ideal of an intimacy grounded in struggling obedience but the history of both the nation and its leaders showed the persistent failure of this ideal to become a reality. It is here in Gethsemane that Jesus uses the intimate term 'Abba' to address his Father (v.36), making Mark's point that it is Jesus' human struggle to obey God's will that truly defines his Sonship.

The role of the disciples in this episode is to serve as a contrast. Like Israel and all its previous kings the disciples fail in their vocation to 'keep awake and pray' (v.38). The theme of discipleship is never far beneath the surface of Mark's account and this is a summons for us to enter into the same struggle of faithful obedience. Above all, however, it is an episode that speaks of the uniqueness of Jesus - Jesus the perfect and unique Son through and because of his perfect and unique obedience to the will of God.

2. The Arrest of the King

Tuesday 3rd April

Mark 14: 43-52

Yesterday's reading emphasised the correlation between the uniqueness of Jesus' obedience and the uniqueness of his status as the Son of God. This theme is developed further in Mark's account of his arrest where he shows how Jesus stood completely alone against his enemies. Judas leads an armed crowd against him sent by the 'triple alliance' of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders (v.43). Not only have the leaders of all the various strands of Judaism therefore turned against him, but even one of his own strand, 'one of the Twelve', has chosen to desert and betray him. Jesus' vocation is one that he has to face completely alone.

The account that follows shows why this has to be the case. By revealing the one to arrest with the 'sign' of a kiss (v.45), Judas unwittingly reveals the act of love lying at the heart of Jesus' submission. This revelation, however, is completely lost on Jesus' last remaining supporters as one of them draws a sword and attacks the high priest's slave (v.47). Jesus' response shows how all those bearing "swords and clubs" around him have totally misunderstood his kingship. He isn't a brigand or rebel using force to bring about his aims but someone called to make himself completely open to arrest, knowing that this and his subsequent death would bring to fulfilment God's plans in the Scriptures (vv48-49).

Mark underlines the uniqueness of this calling by showing how the solitariness of Jesus became total at this point: 'Then everyone deserted him and fled' (v.50). The condition of all those around him is such that Jesus has to be completely alone as the forces of evil come against him. This is drawn out by Mark's unique account of the young man who 'was following Jesus'. He too flees from Jesus and his nakedness in the garden reminds us of Adam and Eve and the plight of all humanity, through its disobedience to God (vv 51-52). What Jesus had to do, he had to do alone because even comprehending the nature of his kingship was completely beyond the rest of humanity.

3. The King before the Council

Wednesday 4th April

Mark 14: 53-65

As Jesus is taken before the Sanhedrin, Mark's emphasis upon the totality of the opposition leads into an equally heavy stress upon its venom. The entire council are determined to bring about Jesus' death and they are prepared to use whatever means they can (v.55). However, three times between verses 55 and 59, we see these efforts thwarted as the council are unable to find true testimony and those who give false testimony are unable to agree. The silence of Jesus shows that none of their accusations need to be answered and the mounting frustration of the high priest (v.60) reflects the deeper frustration and anger the powers of evil in their determination to consume him.

It is in the middle of all this anger and darkness that Mark once again chooses to reveal more of the nature of Jesus' kingship. Keen to push things to a conclusion, the high priest speaks once again, this time asking 'Are you the Messiah/Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?'. Jesus affirms that he is but the crucial part is what follows as he expresses his understanding of what this actually means. As he has done throughout the Gospel Jesus draws upon the title of Son of Man to speak about himself but this time he quotes from its original context in Daniel 7:14 (v.62). 'Son of Man' is a term that Daniel uses to refer to the righteous Israelites who were called to endure terrible suffering from 'the beasts' before one day receiving complete vindication and glory from God. In using this term in conjunction with Daniel's unmistakeable imagery, Jesus was making a very precise claim about his self-understanding. Alone before his enemies and ready to undergo appalling suffering, Jesus was the one who would fulfil the calling to righteous suffering that Israel had been unable to live up to. He confirmed that he was Israel's messianic king and as he did so affirmed his understanding of what that kingship meant. As Israel's king, he was her representative, called to assume her vocation of suffering in order to deal with evil.

Once again the nature of our Christian discipleship is more than hinted at. The reference to being "seated at the right hand of the Power" (v.62) recalls Jesus' earlier statement that such positions in his Kingdom would come from following a similar path of servanthood (10:35-45). However the main emphasis here is upon the king, not the subjects. Living up to Israel's vocation can only come through being under the representative king who fulfilled it so fully.

4. The King before the Governor

Maundy Thursday 5th April

Mark 15: 1-20

It's as the Jewish leaders hand him over to the Roman governor that the theme of Jesus' kingship becomes fully explicit. 'Are you the King of the Jews' is Pilate's blunt question. With the oblique reply 'You say so', Jesus affirms that this is true but the rest of the passage, indeed the rest of the book, shows it is a kingship totally different from what Pilate either meant or understood.

To unpack this further Mark introduces Barabbas, who is exactly the sort of figure that Pilate would have understood. Standing in the tradition of the Maccabees, Barabbas symbolises the type of 'king' that Israel was increasingly looking for in the years that preceded the Jewish revolt. He was a rebel and in prison alongside others who saw murder and uprising as their nations only option (v 7). Offered the release of 'the King of the Jews', the crowd opt instead for this 'false king' (v.11). Jesus is taken away to be crucified (v.15) and Israel continues on the path that led to her ultimate destruction in AD70.

The details that follow speak with terrible irony of the king that Israel has rejected. Led into the 'palace', a coronation takes place as the soldiers dress Jesus in a purple robe and place a crown of thorns on his head (vv 16-17). Full of mockery they salute Jesus and kneel in homage to him (vv 18-19), completely unaware of the truth they are indicating. Israel's calling was to an innocent suffering that would bring the Gentiles to worship of the true God. The nation may have rejected this calling but it was being fulfilled here through the representative they had also rejected - Jesus "the King of the Jews".

5. The Crucifixion of the King

Good Friday 6th April

Mark 15:25-39

As Jesus is executed so the mockery continues. People passing by and even the others being crucified, join with the Jewish leaders in heaping insults upon him (vv 29-32). This mockery continues to focus on the claim to kingship which is described in the charge against him (v.26). 'He saved others; he cannot save himself', the leaders declare, 'Let the Messiah, the King of Israel come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe' (v.32).

The irony here lies within the fact that it is Jesus' very kingship that compelled him to stay on the cross. As the whole of Israel seems to reject him, so he as its king shares the consequences of the path that they have chosen, being executed between two 'Barabbas-like' bandits (v.27). Darkness comes down and at three o'clock Jesus cries out 'My God, my God why have you forsaken me?' (v.34). Rejected by everyone and now abandoned by God, Jesus is now completely alone. With one last piece of mockery and misunderstanding from an onlooker, he gives a loud cry and dies (vv. 36-37).

It's a bleak picture, full of almost complete darkness. But as Jesus dies, alone and in horrific agony, the mystery is intensified by two remarkable events. The mockery he received for predicting the Temple's destruction takes an ironic twist as its curtain is torn from top to bottom (v.38). Somehow, in some way, the death of Israel's king has made it obsolete. And meanwhile, back at the cross a Gentile centurion who has heard Jesus' cry of dereliction and seen the manner of his death, somehow makes the startling equation that Mark has been driving at all along. It is through, not despite these events, that Jesus is shown to be a man who was truly the Son of God (v.39).

What does Mark mean by all this? He means that although Israel chose to go another way, its unacknowledged king went with them, sharing in their suffering and abandonment. And as he did this so Jesus become perfect through obedience somehow fulfilling the calling of Israel to be the Servant, the Son of Man and the Son of God. This suffering obedience of 'the King of Jews' somehow opened a door for the Gentiles to see God and somehow provides acceptance and forgiveness for all who accept his reign.

6. The Burial of a much loved King

Saturday 7th April

Mark 15:40-47

Some of the more pressing questions posed to orthodox Christianity in recent years have been raised by feminists. Can a male Jesus who calls God "Father" and is known as Son of Man and Son of God ever be acceptable to women? Understanding Jesus as king might seem as most problematic of all since it appears to promote the subservience of women to yet another male authority.

Without answering all of these questions, Mark's account of what happened after the death of Jesus offers us some help. His theological emphasis has been on the solitary nature of Jesus' death but now we learn that a significant group of his female followers have remained faithful (v.40). It's important to appreciate the radical nature of the details that Mark records. For a travelling rabbi to have women disciples was unheard of at this time and the fact that these women 'provided for him' (v.41) shows that their relationship with Jesus was one of enrichment and empowerment. The greatest testimony to this radical inclusivity is the devotion that continued in Mary Magdalene, Mary and Salome, long after Jesus' male disciples had all run away.

It was society that denied recognition to these women and this is reflected in it being a well-placed man who is able to approach Pilate to gain Jesus' body. Joseph of Aramathea is described as 'a respected member of the council' (Luke tells us he didn't consent to Jesus' death) and it is his wealth and position that allow him to provide Jesus with an expensive tomb (v.46). It is with definite approval that Mark tells us that Joseph was 'waiting expectantly for the Kingdom of God' but the statement does open up a possible contrast with the women. The reason for the unstinting devotion of Mary Magdalene, Mary, Salome and the other women was because they had already experienced God's kingship through their relationship with Jesus. In a world where they were second-class citizens, these women had encountered a king who gave them affirmation and the full opportunity to flourish. But this Jesus was now dead. All those dreams of emancipation and empowerment were shattered. Evil appeared to be back in charge of a cruel world, without hope. They were in for a surprise...

7. A Meditation on our King

Easter Sunday 8th April

Easter day is for celebrating the resurrection of Jesus and his status as the risen king. However this is only possible because of the lonely, tortured and rejected figure that we have looked at over the last few days. As our thoughts turn to the significance of Jesus' resurrection, take some time to reflect upon these words of St Paul which speak of how the suffering and triumph of Jesus relate to one another and their implications for us as we seek to follow this king. Take each line of this creed and meditate on what it is saying in the light of the passages that we have looked at in the past week before saying the prayer below.

'Let the same mind be in you that was in King Jesus,
who being in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death - even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that King Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.'

(Philippians 2:5-11)


Heavenly Father, as we celebrate your raising of Jesus on this Easter Sunday, I also give you thanks for sending Jesus to suffer and die for me. Thank you for the obedience that Jesus showed in following your will, the defeat of sin's power that happened through his death and the forgiveness that I can now receive from you. Please help me to develop a mind that is more like that of Jesus and follow the pattern that my king gave of living as a servant to others. Amen.

8. An Empty Tomb and a startling claim...

Monday 9th April

Mark 16: 1-8

The Sabbath has ended and the devotion of the women to the memory of their king continues, as they make their way to Jesus' tomb to anoint his body. Mark's emphasis upon the persistence of their devotion combines with an awareness of the return of their vulnerability and lack of empowerment. Joseph of Aramathea had sealed the tomb (15:46) but he is not present. The women had been able to minister to Jesus in Galilee (15:41), but now even their opportunity to care for his body is threatened by the return of their dependent and secondary status: 'Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?'(v 3).

A dramatic surprise confronts the women as they find that the large stone is no longer blocking their way (v.4). This sight takes on a symbolic significance as they enter the tomb to receive the news that overturns all their assumptions about reality. A young man informs them that their crucified master is no longer there because he is no longer dead. The man shows them the empty space where the body had been laid and makes the astonishing claim that he has been raised (vv.5-6). It is little wonder that the women were alarmed. They were being confronted by the claim that the story of their relationship with Jesus and everything he gave them was not over. He had been raised and was awaiting the resumption of their relationship in Galilee. This sudden challenge to their perception of reality is reflected in an immediate act of empowerment. Courts of law at that time may have required the evidence of two male witnesses but the rule of their king is different. It is these disenfranchised and oppressed women who are called to be the first witnesses of the event that changed everything about the world they lived in (v.7).

It is here that Mark's Gospel suddenly and very abruptly ends. Its final verse reports that the women fled, full of terror and amazement and said nothing to anyone because they were afraid (v.8). Given the predictions of Jesus' resurrection throughout the Gospel (8:31; 9:31; 10:34) and the details of verse 7, the strongest probability is that Mark's original ending has been lost. However as it stands, the uncertainty of Mark ending does provide a challenge. The women are terrified because they have been presented with a claim that, if true, will change everything. But it also entails a response. Are they, and we, prepared to believe that the king is alive and prepared to set out to meet him?

9. Called to proclaim the Risen King and his rule

Tuesday 10th April

Matthew 28: 16-20

With Mark including no account of a resurrection appearance, we turn to Matthew's account of the appearance of the risen Jesus in Galilee. Matthew echoes Mark's emphasis upon the central role of the women (27:55-56; 28:1-10) but the climax of his account focuses upon the encounter of the Eleven with Jesus. As so often in Matthew's Gospel this key incident takes place upon a mountain reinforcing the sacred and revelatory nature of what is taking place.

The theme of Jesus' kingship returns as he comes to them and declares 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me' (v.18). Once again his words unmistakeably echo the vision of Daniel 7:13-14 where 'one like a Son of Man' was seen approaching 'the Ancient of Days' and 'given dominion, glory and kingdom'. Just a few days ago, we noted Jesus' use of this Danielic imagery when he stood before the Sanhedrin and claimed that he would be given this authority (Mark 14:62; Matthew 26:64). There he was claiming to be Israel's representative king, the one who would fulfil the nations vocation to suffer and receive vindication and here Jesus confirms his resulting authority over the whole created order. These words take us back to Matthew's account of the temptations where the devil took Jesus up another high mountain and offered him 'all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour' in return for worshipping him (4:8-9). Jesus refused to accept this power because it sidestepped his calling to fulfil Israel's charge to 'worship the Lord your God and serve him only' (4:10). Now, through his ministry and death, Jesus had fulfilled this vocation and he could rightly accept the 'royal' authority that God had revealed and granted to him through the resurrection.

The command that the risen Jesus gives to his followers is to proclaim and assert this sovereign authority by inviting the peoples of every nation to become his followers. This entails baptising then in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey to his commands (vv.19-20). The resurrection of Jesus demonstrates that his kingly reign over this world has begun since it shows the decisive conquest of evil and death by his love and life. Spreading the good news of Jesus is about showing this to be true and making it clear that coming under his protection and authority is open to everyone.

10. Sharing in the gift to the Risen King

Wednesday 11th April

Acts 2:14-41

The explosive energy of the early church requires an explanation. The crucial factor was their belief in Jesus' resurrection and their understanding of its significance for both Jesus and his followers. These early Christians found that the most natural way to express this significance was through the use of "royal" terminology, as Jesus' resurrection became the lens through which all their experience was interpreted.

Peter's message to the crowds in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost is just one example of this. The Holy Spirit had suddenly come upon the believers (2:2-13) and Peter's explanation of this began by quoting from the prophet Joel to show the eschatological nature of what had just occurred. In this prophecy God had promised that 'in the last days...I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh' (v.17) and Joel spoke of this being confirmed by both charismatic experiences coming upon individuals (vv.17b-18) and apocalyptic 'portents in the heavens above and signs on the earth below' (vv.19-20). Peter then sought to show that this experience had only occurred through the agency of Jesus and the power of his resurrection. God had initiated these 'last days' through 'the deeds of power, wonders and signs' that he had done through Jesus of Nazareth, culminating in his resurrection when 'God raised him up, having freed him from death' (vv.22-24).

The link between Jesus' resurrection and the pouring out of God's Spirit is then clarified by drawing upon the motif of kingship. Using Psalms 16, Peter shows how King David cannot have been referring to himself when he spoke of God's promise that the king would avoid 'corruption' and 'abandon to Hades' (vv.25-32). Psalm 110 is used to make a similar point about the king's exaltation to God's right hand (vv.34-35). Both must have been references 'one of his descendants on the throne' (v.30), to Jesus of Nazareth, whom God had decisively shown to be the messianic king by raising him from the dead (v.36). It is as this exalted king that Jesus has received the gift of the Holy Spirit, promised in Joel's prophecy and poured it out on these people in Jerusalem (v.33).

The value of this kingship motif is the way it expresses that what is given to Jesus the Messiah is passed on to his followers. A military victory in the ancient world was not just good news for the king but also for his army, which would share the spoils. Following 'the name' of someone who then became king was similarly advantageous. God's declaration through the resurrection that Jesus has been made 'Lord and Messiah' has a similar outcome because what he receives, in this case the Spirit, is then poured out on everyone. This is why Peter stresses the importance of baptism so much in these early chapter of Acts. Baptism incorporates us into the benefits given to Jesus because it involves turning away from the rule of the world and coming under the rule of Jesus, God's appointed king.

11. The Gospel of the Risen King

Thursday 12th April

Romans 1:1-7

The kingship of Jesus has rarely been seen as central to Paul's theology. This is partly because of a tendency to underestimate the thoroughly Jewish nature of the 'apostle of the Gentiles'. Another factor in this has been the willingness to believe that, within twenty years, 'Christ' had become a kind of surname for Jesus, completely detached from its original context.

This passage, at the start of Paul's most famous letter, suggests otherwise. Paul's gospel was completely grounded in Jewish thought, being promised by God 'beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures' (v 2). Furthermore, it centred upon his Son 'who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ, our Lord' (vv.3-4). This summary of the 'gospel' is therefore remarkably similar to that proclaimed at Pentecost by Peter. Jesus of Nazareth was of Davidic descent but the crucial factor in establishing his kingly credentials was his resurrection. This, according to Paul, was the decisive point at which God declared Jesus to be the holder of all the royal titles given to Israel's king - Son of God, Messiah/Christ and Lord.

Paul's background as a Pharisee is important here. Central to Pharisaic thought was the conviction that there would be a future resurrection when God would raise and vindicate 'the righteous' in Israel. Paul's experience of the risen Jesus (Acts 9; 1 Corinthians 15: 8) convinced him that this hope had been fulfilled in this one man. Jesus was therefore Israel's Messiah who alone deserved the title 'Son of God'.

Verses 3-4 are therefore far from Paul's polite acknowledgement of the Roman's beliefs before he proceeds to his own rather different theology. They express convictions that were central to both Paul's theology and his personal vocation. Israel had been completely failed to fulfil her calling to be the obedient 'son of God', whose faithfulness would witness to the Gentiles. The very opposite had occurred (Romans 2:17-24). This vocation had therefore been undertaken by Jesus, Israel's Messiah or anointed representative who fulfilled it through his faithfulness (Romans 3:22) and who had been vindicated through his resurrection. Verses 5-7 anticipate the rest of the letter by showing that everyone who belongs to the Messiah receives both grace and peace from God. Like Paul, we also receive the commission to proclaim this kingship and 'bring about the obedience of faith among the Gentiles for the sake of his name' (v.5). Followers of the risen king seek to bring others under his kingship.

12. Baptised into the Risen King

Friday 13th April

Romans 6: 1-14

This section of Romans shows the importance of Paul's 'royal theology' for Christian ethics. He is addressing why believers should lead moral lives when they have received 'the free gift of righteousness" through 'the one man, Jesus Christ' (5:17). If this grace comes exclusively through Jesus, then why shouldn't Christians 'continue in sin so that grace may abound?' (v 1).

Paul's response is completely grounded in the 'royal' significance of baptism. As we have seen Jesus understood his suffering and death to be representative because he was fulfilling the vocation of Israel. Like Peter, Paul saw this royal claim as vindicated through the resurrection (1:4). This passage shows Paul's similar certainty, that baptism incorporates the believer into every dimension of Jesus' death and resurrection. At Pentecost, Peter spoke of how baptism 'in the name of Jesus Christ' brought a sharing in the gift of the Holy Spirit given to the exalted king. Here Paul concentrates upon the fact that 'the baptised' share in their king's death and resurrection and the moral consequences of this incorporation.

Paul immediately reminds the Romans that 'all of us who have been baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death' (v 3) and much of what follows expounds the meaning of this. At their baptism, believers were plunged below water symbolising their burial with Jesus (v.4) and that their 'old self was crucified with him' (v.6). We have seen how, through his death, Jesus endured the full consequences of Israel's sin and Paul clearly understood this to have destroyed the power of sin over all those who had 'died' with him (vv.6-7). This 'death' means that believers are also incorporated into Jesus' resurrection. Not only does this mean that those who are 'in Christ' can expect to one day live with him (v.8) but it has important ethical implications. The resurrection was God's sign that death had lost its power over Jesus. His death to sin was therefore 'once and for all' since he now lives in God (vv.9-10). Paul therefore insists that the lives of all those who belong to the king reflect this change of dominion. They must consider themselves 'dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus' (v.11)

Being 'in King Jesus' therefore means recognising and seeking to live out what is proclaimed in our baptism. Freedom from sin is not just a legal acquittal requiring our gratitude. It is the transfer from one realm into another, a transfer from being under the rule of sin to being under the rule of God through his king. The imperative of Christian ethics therefore springs from the need to make our lives reflect this change of dominion. Soldiers in the ancient world presented their weapons to their king as a sign that that they were loyal and would fight for him. In a similar manner, Paul calls all of us who is baptised 'to present your members to God as instruments of righteousness' (v13).

13. The Triumphant Reign of the Risen King

Saturday 14th April

1 Corinthians 15:20-28

This passage forms part of Paul's most sustained treatment of the resurrection. Other sections within this chapter deal with the scepticism that some of the Corinthian Christians had expressed the possibility of such an event. Paul therefore shows how their faith and practice only makes sense if their resurrection is guaranteed (15:12-19,29-34) and he also includes details on the nature of their future transformed bodies (vv35-49). Within this section, however, his focus is on the resurrection of Jesus and its significance within the overall plan of God.

Once again Paul's 'royal' understanding of Jesus as the Messiah forms the basis of his exposition. Jesus' role is that of an inclusive representative and, as in Romans 5, Paul explains this by drawing a parallel with Adam. Just as Adam's representative nature meant that death came through him to every human being, so the Messiah's role as a representative means that everyone who belongs to him will also be raised (vv.20-22). This is why the Messiah been raised first because he is to lead the way as the "first fruits of those who have died" (v.20).

However Paul's understanding of the significance of Jesus' resurrection goes deeper than this. It signals the beginning of his eschatological reign, with its purpose of defeating evil and reordering the world. In this connection, he quotes from Psalm 110, with its assertion that the king would be placed at God's right hand until all his enemies were placed under his feet (v.25). During the Messiah's reign every other ruler, authority and power will be gradually destroyed until the point of his royal arrival, his coming, when death will be the last enemy that is destroyed (v.26). The climax of this whole process is the point where the Son will hand the Kingdom over to God the Father (v.24). Once everything has been made subject through the Messiah, the Son himself will be made subject to the Father so that the whole process of cosmic reordering is complete, "so that God may be all in all" (v28).

The resurrection of Jesus the Messiah has therefore set in motion the process by which the whole world will one day be put right. Every time that evil is vanquished should be seen as another victory of the risen king and his reign that will one day lead to the total destruction of all evil and death.

14. Meditation on the significance of our baptism

Sunday 15th April

The uniqueness of Jesus rests upon the truth of his resurrection from the dead. Our identity and calling as his followers rests upon his kingship and the baptism that brought us under his rule. Baptism, whether of children or adults, is often something that is pretty much forgotten after it has taken place but the witness of the New Testament is that constantly recalling our baptism is crucial for giving clarity and motivation to our calling of how to live as Christians.

Try to find some record of your baptism - a certificate, bible or candle that was presented to you on that occasion or failing that, a photograph of you around the age at which you were baptised. Then use the words below to ponder on the security and challenge that come from being baptised in the name of King Jesus.

God raised King Jesus from the dead
and sent the Holy Spirit to bring all the world to the Kingdom of heaven.
In baptism we die in sin and rise in newness of life in the King.
Here we find rebirth in the Spirit,
and set our minds on his heavenly gifts.
As children of God, the King has given us a new dignity
and he calls us live out this fullness of life.


Father God, I thank you for raising Jesus from the dead and pray for the further coming of your kingdom here on earth. Thank you that through my baptism you incorporated me into Jesus so that I can receive everything that he achieved through his death and resurrection. Please help me to constantly remember the value and significance of my baptism and to respond to the calling to live out what you have made me in King Jesus. Amen.

Further Reading

M Hooker, The Message of Mark, Epworth, 1983
G Kuhrt, Believing in Baptism, Mobray, 1987
N Slee, Faith and Feminism, Darton, Longman and Todd 2003
T Smail , Once and for All, Darton, Longman and Todd 1998
N T Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, SPCK, 2003
N T Wright, What St Paul really said, Lion, 1997

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