“Who was our greatest president?” Nikko asked while I was chopping onions, preparing dinner.
“Well, I suppose I don’t know everything about all the presidents, so it’s not fair to say, but maybe Abraham Lincoln, because it was under his leadership that America abolished slavery and finally became united, even though it took a war to make that happen. Or, George Washington, because he managed to lead a rag-tag group of colonists with a myriad of ideals into a revolution that started the country in the first place. Some would say Roosevelt because he managed to buoy the country during the Great Depression. Or Reagan, because whether people liked his methods or not, he did play a part in cracking apart communism in Europe.”
Truth is, I’m not much into politics. And there’s a lot I don’t know about diplomacy and law and policy making. But I think we all have ideas about what makes a great leader. We see evidence of good leadership sometimes in school or church or on sports teams, even in government. We see bright spots of justice and compassion. We sometimes witness power wielded fairly.
When we haul out the Christmas decorations, when we sing our carols and bake our cookies, most of time we aren’t thinking about the baby Jesus as King of all the World. We may not even think of him as king our our lives or lord of our hearts. That is what I want to find in s.i.m.p.l.y. Jesus — a refined focus on who Jesus is. Today I’m reading about what kind of ruler he is, and what his eventual and everlasting kingdom will be like. I want my citizenship in his country.
Scripture: Isaiah 11:1-10
“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him–the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding., the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord–and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will five decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear and their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child will put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples, the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious.”
Inspiration: The Truth of God
When Jesus lived on earth and taught in parables, he told a story about the vinedresser and the vine and the branches and the fruit. He told this story on the night of his arrest as he walked under starlight with his disciples toward the Kidron Valley. They would cross this valley and the Kidron River that carved a path down the rocky hillside. They would ascend up through the olive groves and return to a spot in the grove where they often gathered. A place Judas knew well. A place where he could be caught and captured thanks to the betrayer with inside information. This familiar place would see Jesus on his face in the dirt, pleading to his Father for deliverance, finally acquiescing to the reality of his destiny and leaving with the soldiers. He would be arrested, tried, sentenced, beaten and crucified.
This was the beginning of the end.
And though Jesus tried to warn his disciples of this eventuality, though they were heavy with the silence of anticipation, they could not accept that this miracle-working, multitude-feeding, brilliant teacher and friend might truly be cut down.
As they plodded on the meandering path, Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful…Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands you will remain in my love…I have told you this so that my joy may be in you…My command is this: love each other as I have loved you.”
God, the gardener, pruned back the tree of Jesse (King David’s father’s lineage) to a low stump. He chopped down to the ground the very promise of a Savior-King. He killed the dream. Or so it appeared.
A root would spring forth. A child will come out of a barren place, a lost people, a nation without land, subject to the dominion of others. Not just a root, the Root (verse 10). Jesus was born! The only one who could stand as a banner for all people, gathering everyone under his leadership in a place of glorious rest.
The skeptic would call this a pipe-dream. False hope in technicolor. But anyone who looks at the world today, looks at history, contemplates the future, knows — deep down — we cannot do this on our own. We’ve proven it over and again. How many have been murdered in the name of religion, in the name of Jesus, even? We need his advent, his coming again.
The promise comes in clearer detail. Because of who Jesus is (Isaiah 9:6–Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace), the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him: the spirit of wisdom and understanding, counsel and power, knowledge and reverence for God.
This will make Jesus the best king ever!
Just look at the revolutionary leadership and the benefits of living in this kingdom:
True justice will arrive by means of the integrity of his righteousness (perfect nature). The poor and the needy will never again be oppressed. The wicked will be made powerless, eliminated. And then this beautiful picture of beasts whose nature compels them to prey and attack and hunt and violently destroy the weak–wolves, great cats, bear, and snakes– will all be led on a ribbon of string by an innocent child.
Justice instead of oppression.
Wisdom instead of ignorance.
Compassion instead of terror.
Confidence instead of fear.
Peace instead of violence.
Permanence instead of the temporal.
There will be unfathomable peace. All because of Jesus.
Mission: Take Away
We live in a time of Already and Not Yet.
Jesus did rise again and this Spirit of God came on a mighty wind (Acts 2) and empowered the disciples and has been empowering believers in Jesus all over the world to build the kingdom over which Jesus reigns. We see evidences of justice and compassion and peace. When we obey the command of our leader and LOVE ONE ANOTHER, joy and mercy and peace and justice and all the fruit of the spirit come through us.
We cannot back down. We must obey the command of Jesus and continue to love.
This loving is action, choosing the best for others even when it costs us more than we think we can bear. This loving is imitating the actions of Jesus who was motivated always by faith in the Father, compassion for his creation, concern for the lost and the needy and the suffering, justice for the oppressed and the innocent victims of the evil of this world. He never forgot that he was One with the Father and promise that his followers were One with the Father as well.
One day, it will all come together in that glorious moment when Jesus reigns over all and it will be glorious.
Until that time, we are building the kingdom by the power of his Spirit in a world that desperately needs a glimpse of the reality of Jesus. Let’s not get weary or give up in despair. Let’s not turn to political systems or denominational in-fighting or set ourselves up to be judge and jury of the world. Let’s keep loving as Jesus commanded. After all, he is our commander-in-chief, right?
Play: Have Fun
Take turns being King or Queen for a day. Or half a day, or as long as you can stand it! How would we rule? Is a leader to be served and pampered or does he do the serving?
With older kids and grown-ups, political ideals will begin to pop up in the discussion. Ask, “If I were in charge of the whole world for a week, and my commander-in-chief ordered me to obey him and love others, what would my week-long rule look like? What would I accomplish?”
Loving feelings are easy. Loving actions are costly.
It’s because of who Jesus is that he can rule the way he does. God’s word tells us that we can live new, transformed lives abounding in good fruit like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and self-control because of who we are in Jesus. Do you know who you are because of Jesus?
Scripture tells us that we love because he first loved us.
List all the ways God loved you first and then consider how you can draw out of this love enough to share with others. Might you be able to forgive, to trust, to wait, to encourage, to allow grace, to be joyful? When we draw from this source of love, the cost of loving actions is never too great.
Yes, And Amen:
You are our commander. You command the tiniest particles within atoms to stay in place. You form the incredible molecules that make up the matter we take in with our marvelous senses. Our bodies are miracle machines of life. And your great motivator is love. You have made us and you love us. Every little last atomic particle. Nothing is beyond the power of your love. Lord, thank you for making a way for us to be citizens of your nation, for the life of Jesus Christ who by his sacrifice purchased our passports into this amazing kingdom of peace, rest and glory. We long to see it with our eyes, to join in the ranks of your people, to sing the victory song alongside all the redeemed. Lighting Christmas candles and singing hymns on frosty nights is but a little flickering shadow of the kingdom to come.
Father, may your kingdom come and your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven…and help me be a kingdom builder, a love-brick maker, a grace-road paver in this, our true country.