I often hear Christians say something to the effect of, “I’m not into religion. I’m into having a relationship with Jesus.” This is one of those slogans that sounds really spiritual on the surface, but in fact says virtually nothing. Today, I want to talk about what the Bible says about our relationship with Jesus, a relationship that is defined by kingship.
What is Your Relationship with Jesus?
I have many relationships, which fall into very different categories. My most intimate relationship is with my wife. It is singularly unique. We have one daughter, with whom I have a different yet also unique relationship. I have friends, yet these relationships differ from one friend to another. Then there are work relationships, which also vary from one person to the next.
As you can see, saying I have a relationship with Jesus doesn’t mean much until I get more specific. So, to the person who likes to quote the slogan, “I’m not into religion. I’m into having a relationship with Jesus.” I ask this question, “What, exactly, is your relationship to Jesus?”
I’ll wait a moment while you think.
Jesus is My…?
The sense I get from a lot of popular Christian music and teaching is that many Christians define their relationship with Jesus as boyfriend or lover. I say this only half jokingly: it’s as if they’ve taken a Harlequin romance novel (are these still a thing?) and replaced the hero with Jesus. I have to be honest. As a guy, treating my relationship with Jesus this way creeps me out a bit.
But someone will argue, “Doesn’t the Bible say we’re the bride of Christ?” Yes, the Bible does indeed. However, in contexts where this is used (2 Cor. 11:2; Rev. 19:7), the image is not one of modern romance where lovers pursue one another drinking deeply of amore. Instead, in the biblical imagery the church is Jesus’ fiancé waiting for her wedding day. In the mean time, we are to maintain our purity by not cheating with other gods. That way, when the wedding day arrives, we will be given to Jesus as a pure virgin.
This is consistent with OT imagery of Israel as God’s bride. This image is used as a metaphor of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God in her pursuit of other gods. See Ezekiel 16 and Ezekiel 23 for particularly graphic uses of this image. You may want to be sure you’re sitting down when you do.
So, yes, the church is the bride of Christ. However, the language of romantic love is not the imagery the Bible uses. It’s used in the context of being faithful to our betrothed until the wedding day.
Jesus is King
The Bible is very clear about our relationship with Jesus. He is our king. The good news (i.e. the gospel) he preached was the gospel of the kingdom (Matt. 4:17; 4:23; 9:35; 10:7; 24:14; Mark 1:15; Luke 4:43; 9:2; 16:16). Jesus came to establish and reign over God’s kingdom.
This is why it was important to the NT church to establish Jesus’ pedigree as David’s heir. God promised David that one of his descendants would sit on Israel’s throne forever (2 Sam. 7:16). This promise is reiterated in the prophets (Isa. 9:7; 11:1-10). As David’s heir, Jesus took his rightful place as Israel’s king.
Of course, God’s plan was that he alone would be Israel’s king (Ex. 15:18; Ps. 45:6; Isa. 24:23, 43:15; Ezek. 20:33; Micah 4:7). So how does God reign as Israel’s king at the same time as David’s heir? I think you guessed it. Jesus is both Son of God and David’s heir.
King Jesus – Son of God and Son of David
This dual emphasis of God’s resurrection of Jesus and Jesus’ David lineage is present in the first evangelistic sermon that Peter preached in Acts 2:14-41. Later, in Acts 13:13-52, we read Paul’s first recorded evangelistic sermon. Not surprisingly, Paul emphasizes the same things.
In fact, Paul’s own pen confirms that this is the heart of the gospel. In Rom. 1:3-4 Paul writes about the gospel he preaches. It is “the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.” At the end of his life, Paul instructed Timothy to “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David – that is my gospel,” (2 Tim. 2:8). Paul’s gospel was the gospel of the kingdom, the gospel Jesus preached, the King Jesus gospel.
Jesus – Appointed King by God
When I think of kings, I can’t help but recall the scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail when King Arthur is trying to convince a peasant that he is her king. The peasant pushes back against Arthur’s claim stating, “I didn’t vote for you.” An incredulous Arthur replies, “You don’t vote for kings.” Then the peasant asks a logical question, “Then how did you become king?”
How indeed? In Arthur’s case, he pulled the sword Excalibur from the stone in which it had been lodged. This signified that he was the one worthy of the kingship.
For Jesus, as we’ve noted, his kingship is grounded in the convergence of two important factors: his descent from king David and the promise God made to David, and God’s testimony about Jesus by raising him from the dead.
Before Jesus was born, Judea came under the control of Rome. The Roman consuls Octavian and Mark Antony, acting as the supreme rulers of the empire, appointed a man named Herod “King of the Jews.” Herod’s kingship was not something in inherited by rite. It was granted to him by the ruling powers of the time.
Jesus’ kingship came both as inheritance and appointment. On the one hand, his is both son of David and Son of God. On the other hand, God, the king and sovereign ruler of all creation, appointed him by raising him from the dead.
If we’re not preaching the gospel that calls people to allegiance to Jesus as king, we’re not preaching the gospel that Jesus, Peter, and Paul preached.
Jesus is My King
So what is my relationship with Jesus? He is my king, my lord. Everything else is simply a matter of what this means as a matter of faith and life.
I plan to take this up in subsequent posts.