Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Jesus our king, and so also our representative

In my previous post I quoted Tom Wright saying 'And the Messiah died a criminal's death, with "King of the Jews" written above his head.' The kingship of Jesus and his atoning death are not often talked about in the same sentence, but I think it is incredibly important that we do so more often.

In the OT God often punishes Israel or Judah for the sins of her king. One example of this is when David decides to have a census to 'number Israel and Judah' (2 Sam 24) despite the advice of Joab and the commanders of the Army, as a result of which 'the LORD sent a pestilence on Israel from the morning until the appointed time. And there died of the people from Dan to Beersheba 70,000 men' (vv.15-16). David recognises that it his fault, and not that of the rest of the people (v.17), and so repents and offers sacrifices, as a result of which YHWH stops at 70,000 (v.25)! It is easy in our individualistic culture to have a problem with this, and consider it horribly unjust. But although the ancient Israelites did share that feeling to an extent (e.g. Ezek 18:2), in general they accepted it as the order of things. Our punishment for the sins of Adam is another example that could be brought forward.

However, thankfully, it is not just the sins of the king of Israel that the people of Israel were effected by; his righteous acts and enjoyment of the favour of the Lord also spread to the whole people. So throughout the history of the people of Judah we hear that 'the LORD was not willing to destroy Judah, for the sake of David his servant' (2 Kings 8:19); the history of the northern kingdom being less happy.

David however was not the perfect king or representative for God’s people. God therefore sent another King for his people to follow, and who would represent them at the judgment of God. Although we may have problems with being punished because of Adam's sin, without that corporate understanding of the order of the world, we would have no hope of our own sins (not just Adam's) being covered by a representative. It has to work both ways. But we have to accept Jesus as our representative for him to represent us. If, when God judges the living and the dead, we proclaim that we do not need any help or assistance, that we can stand or fall on our own merits we are doomed. However, he is our representative because he is our king. There is no way that we can accept his sacrifice for us and not also accept his kingship over us. The two relationships between him and us are inseparable.

Justification will not come from the passive acceptance of Jesus' work for us, but only from the confession that 'Jesus is Lord' (Rom 10:9), the corollary of which is that he is our representative.


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