A DIFFERENT KIND OF KING
In late 1976, a man named Jean-Bedel Bokassa led a government takeover in the Central African Republic, a nation right in the middle of Africa. Naturally, as the leader of the takeover, he decided it would be a good idea if he became the new leader of the government. But being President was not enough for him. He proceeded to dissolve the existing government, rename the country the Central African Empire, and declare himself Emperor Bokassa I. Wanting to make the right impression and establish his credentials as his Imperial Majesty, he decided to throw the most lavish and opulent coronation ceremony this world had ever seen. On December 4 of that year, he invited the media from all over the world to the capital city, Bangui, to witness his country anoint him as their new leader.
At 10:10 that morning, dozens of trumpeters and dozens of drummers began playing, announcing the approach of His Majesty. The procession began with eight of Bokassa’s twenty-nine children walking down the royal carpet and taking their seats. Next came Jean-Bedel Bokassa II, heir to the throne, dressed in a white admiral’s uniform with gold thread. He sat down on a red pillow on the left of the throne. He was followed by Catherine, the favorite of Bokassa’s nine wives, wearing a $73,000 French gown (approximately $326,000 in today’s dollars), covered with pearls she had picked out herself.
The emperor arrived in a coach covered with golden eagles, drawn by six identical horses. He wore a thirty-two-pound robe decorated with 785,000 pearls and embroidered with gold thread. His crown was a solid gold laurel wreath, made to look like those worn by Roman emperors thousands of years ago. When Bokassa finally sat down on his two-million-dollar throne (almost nine-million-dollars today), also covered in golden eagles, he took his golden wreath off and put his two-million-dollar crown topped off by an 80-carat diamond on his head. All in all, he spent twenty-five million dollars on his ceremony ($111,688,049 today), which was more than a third of the country’s annual income. Unfortunately, his reign was not as impressive as his coronation; he was overthrown by another coup less than three years later.
Of course, most leaders don’t go to such ridiculous lengths to try and validate their leadership, but lavish, expensive ceremonies to mark the beginning of a king or queen’s reign or even a president’s term are the norm, not the exception. We tend to associate leadership with displays of power and wealth, pomp and circumstance, thinking that we must highly exalt ourselves if we expect others to follow us. This couldn’t be more different than the way that Jesus finally accepts recognition as King. If there has ever been someone who deserved 80-carat diamonds and golden eagle thrones it was Jesus. When he arrives in Jerusalem on that original Palm Sunday, however, he isn’t accompanied by armies or crowned with jewels. Instead, he’s greeted with waving palm branches, riding a baby donkey, as he sets his face towards the cross. He accepts recognition and worship, but humbly, and only in light of his soon to be death and resurrection.
Jesus is King, the rightful King not just of a nation or a people but of the universe. However, he is a King who gives his life for his people, and who rises from the dead not just so he can exalt himself and be exalted as God, but to give us life and grant us a kingdom. He accomplishes salvation for us so that we may rule and reign with him and so that we may be exalted along with him. Jesus is King because he is our Savior, and he is our Savior as our King.
Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world, but he brings it to this world. We enter his kingdom by grace through faith, because of the sin-bearing sacrifice he made on the cross that original Good Friday, and because of the life-giving power of his resurrection that happened that original Easter Sunday. When we accept what he has done, when we trust him as our Savior and follow him as King, we find life. We are rescued from darkness and brought into light, we are rescued from brokenness and brought into wholeness, we are rescued from sin and brought into righteousness. Jesus is a different kind of King, but he is the true kind of king we long for, the true kind of king that we really need.