Every child knows that Jesus is the first name (we used to say Christian name) of the story character whose surname is Christ. Except that it isn’t. Christ translates Messiah, or King – and the oddity is that such an absolute monarch should be a name so commonly referred to.
For those fortunate enough to live in western democracies, equality and the answerability of political leaders are assumed. If we have affection for royal families, it is as constitutional monarchs, performing representative roles in charitable and community-affirming events. The thought of absolute monarchs exercising unquestionable and unchallenged authority is alien and repugnant.
So we need Hebrews (and this week Hebrews 9:11-14) to explain how and why Christians should even contemplate such a culturally inappropriate idea. The passage begins “when Christ came. .”. The use of the title is significant. The King came. This Sunday some of us begin to mark “Kingdom Season” – partly beginning the run up to Christmas with a pre-advent look at the reign of God. That doesn’t explain our giving this title, but Hebrews does.
This King rules, not because he has taken power by force, (although there is a story about his victory), nor even because he has replaced a worse administration, (interestingly, equally true).
This King is recognised and celebrated because, as High Priest, he made a unique and perfect offering of himself. This is no bribe to secure support. He gives what we cannot access in any other way. He rules because his subjects willingly offer their allegiance and obedience, not to a leader among equals, but as King by right. He rules because of what he gives, not what he can take, demand or threaten.
It is a strange thing, and a reminder just how counter-cultural Christian faith is. Yet it is a source of freedom, celebration and peace. No difficult negotiations here, no pressure groups, campaigning and lobbying. Christ is King, reliable, celebrated, our Lord, not our equal.