another king

…they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also… and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things. Acts 17:6-8

You are living under tyranny. Brainwashed into trusting the systems put in place around you, you are convinced that the way you are living is “normal” and “natural” and even “necessary,” meanwhile oblivious to your progressing self-destruction. You are a willing subject of a totalitarian regime that steals not only your money and freedom but also your humanity and identity. You sit by, applauding your emperors, blind to their nakedness; boasting of your health, insensate to your cancer; admiring your wealth, ignorant of your destitution.

For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. Revelation 3:17

Then, probably without invitation, some people come along and start speaking to you of another kingdom–another king. At first these messengers come across as mild and perfectly harmless. They are not exceptionally charming, connected, or well-spoken. They never announce themselves. You simply find them in your life, by your side, still there when the others have left. Sometimes they whisper in your ear, sometimes they shout through your window. They often seem physically afflicted and in need, but they pay no mind, though without an ounce of self-delusion. They simply do not believe in the systems and norms of the world anymore. They do not even seem to trust their own perception or opinions. You soon begin to feel that they understand something you don’t.

…we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men… to the present hour, we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. 1 Corinthians 4:9-13

The stories your strange friends tell you about their king strike you as even more unfathomable. This king is a conqueror without an army, a master of nature who hungers and thirsts, a virgin friend to prostitutes, and a penniless friend to white-collar thieves. He answers questions with questions. He defies authority and practices courtesy. He is abrasive. He is meek. It seems that no one in the world understands him.

There was again division among the Jews because of these words. Many of them said [of Jesus], “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” John 10:19-21

Finally, you find out that this supposed king, when he was still young, was brought to court by some religious zealots and sentenced to a humiliating death by the political powers who strutted the earth in his day. You would normally expect that the premature death of the leader of such a young movement would be its end. Yet your friends talk about his death as if it accomplished a purpose of extreme importance, as if the king himself planned the whole thing, even. You would like to brush this off as self-deception, but every piece of the story also seems to indicate that this king was in fact witnessed alive, walking and talking, three days after his burial, and many more times afterward.

Jesus answered [Pilate], “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.” John 19:11

This king is clearly like none you have ever heard of, nor is his kingdom one you can find on a map. For the strangest reason, in light of what you have heard about him, everything you once cherished as admirable and rich now begins to appear to you rather cheap and pointless, actually. You find yourself thinking that your emperors are really quite powerless, your gold really quite dull, your lovers really quite boring.

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Philippians 4:8

You find yourself in terribly difficult position. You are straddling the precipice. You have seen through the pomp and emptiness of your entire world, your entire basis for understanding the universe. All your former thoughts of safety, wellness, self-control, pride in your country or family–all were illusions. Nothing more than mirages of water in a desert of pure sand.

You have heard talk of revolution. You have been told about another king. You have heard him single you out by name, as it were. You realize that to join in will mean utter upheaval. Your friends won’t get it, your family won’t like it, your bosses won’t tolerate it. All your plans must change.

But you can’t get this other king out of your head.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. Matthew 13:45-46

What will you choose?

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