It's just not in our DNA as a nation. We have been a democratic republic since our beginning. We revolted against the tyranny of a king to form our nation. The idea of a king being our ruler is not only foreign to our thinking, it goes against the purpose and nature of our nation and culture.
The title king is reserved and used in our culture by those who are the self-proclaimed best at selling furniture, cars, or burgers. It does not carry the idea of authority, sovereignty, royalty, or honor. Maybe this is why we enjoy Christmas so much more than Easter.
We like the baby in the manger. We can think of songs like "Silent Night" and picture a baby Jesus sleeping in "heavenly peace" in a soft bed of hay, covered in a clean, white cotton cloth. We picture Mary and Joseph in a scene almost as sterile as our modern, American hospital. We have sterilized the Christmas story. We have ignored that Jesus was born in the midst of dung, parasites, and danger. It was messy. It smelled bad. It was not as we have pictured it for the last century.
We have sterilized the cross as well. Only with the release of The Passion of the Christ film did we get an idea of just how bloody the cross was. It's possible Mel Gibson's portrayal went further over the top with the scourging, but it was closer than previous portrayals. It was bloody. It was painful. In both the birth and the crucifixion, the Scriptures simply state that they happened. "She gave birth to her firstborn son" and "laid him in a manger for there was no room in the inn." "They led him away to be crucified."
First-century readers already had a picture of what these processes looked like. They did not need it described in detail. Our renderings of the cross is of a very American, very caucasian, Jesus with a drop or two of blood on his brow from the crown of thorns, a red spot on his side with a drop or two of blood, and a drop or two of blood from each hand and his feet.
Really? Maybe that is why in many of our churches we use the little "shot glasses" of juice to celebrate the Lord's Supper. It was, after all, just a drop or two that Jesus spilt for our sins. May we never believe this! No, Jesus completely sacrificed himself on that cross for our sins. It was bloody. It was messy. It was grotesque. But that is our sin. We sterilize the picture of the cross because we want to sterilize the reality of our sin. If we have to face the grotesque nature of the cross, we have to face the grotesque nature of our sin.
This also leads us to the very problem we as Americans face. Easter reveals that Jesus is King. "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me," Jesus said after the Resurrection. We are fine with that as long as "all authority" doesn't include authority over us! I heard Steve Brown state this week, "We can hold a baby, but we must bow before a king." We don't like bowing before kings. We don't like kneeling before anyone. We want to be our own king, our own god. Sadly, this is an illusion. In our selfish pride, sin becomes our master, our king.
Yet, if we are willing to see the revolting nature of our sin, then maybe in our recoil from it, we can see the solution. We can look past the cross to an empty tomb that declares sin no longer can be our king. Either way, we are going to be ruled by something or Someone. When we surrender to Christ as our Lord, as the King of kings, then he promises, "And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." When we surrender to Him, we know we are a sinner that needs the forgiveness He offers. We recognize and surrender that we need to trade the hideous sin in our lives for the beautiful freedom in Christ.
Bowing before the King frees us from the tyranny of sin. It gives us a new "DNA," one of that recognizes the authority, sovereignty, and honor that God rightly deserves. This new nature recognizes the need to love God and others before ourselves. We build His kingdom before our own by proclaiming that kingdom to the world.