The month of May, 2023 will be marked with special significance by Republicans and Monarchists alike, as the heir to the British throne is presented officially to the nation as ‘Charles, your undoubted King’.
Bearing the crown and the ancient traditions of history, he will be charged with the heavy responsibility of representing a diverse and complex citizenship to the watching world, treading a narrow line of authority with accountability. It is a trait of human nature to look to someone who has either the courage or the audacity to step up in the grand scheme of things, to be a figurehead and champion.
In the natural world of wild creatures, the juice of rivalry rises at this time of year, when the quest to command the respect of the flock or herd becomes paramount and the right to sire progeny is a matter of conflict and competition.
In a recent documentary, Noel Fitzpatrick ‘the Supervet’ was filmed seated on the ground beside a sleeping lion, the king of the beasts. The awesome privilege of being able to gently stroke the magnificent head and glorious mane of such a powerful animal was mirrored in the emotion of Noel’s face. The lion had been anaesthetised in preparation for necessary surgery, otherwise such vulnerable closeness would be impossible. To witness this majesty subjected into submission was an experience that would never leave his memory.
When we list the titles given in the Scriptures to Jesus, we find that He is called, ‘The Lion of the Tribe of Judah’, a distinction that affords Him the honour, rank and authority of one who was born to leadership and respect.
Yet, over the centuries of church doctrinal history, the church as curator of the reputation of Christ has seemingly turned from the dignity and authority of his being, to focus most prominently on the meekness and mildness portrayed in his compassion for the poor and the sick and in his final submission to death on a cross. In ‘The Greatest Drama Ever Staged’, the writer, poet, essayist and translator, Dorothy L. Sayers (1893-1957) summed up her conclusions in these excoriating words,
“We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certified him meek and mild and recommended him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies.”
Was she right in her assessment? Is it more convenient to deal with the gentle Jesus of the children’s song than to address the one who overturned the money-changers’ tables, or boldly accused the Pharisees of hypocrisy and of over-burdening the people with a multitude of their imposed laws? Here was a young, strong man who would regularly walk 60 kms between villages, spend the night on the mountainside and give himself daily to many hours of exhausting work, healing and teaching.
The contrasting aspects of his personality are captured in the words of 1 Timothy 3v16.
“The mystery of godliness is great. He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.”
The perception of meekness largely comes from the prophecy of Isaiah ch 53, which foretold,
“He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”
However, this is not the silence of weakness, but of supreme strength in the fulfilment of his vital mission of redemption, however deep and dark the transaction would prove to be.
“He bore the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors.” It was an eternal decision of choice. At the time of his arrest, Jesus said,
“Do you think that I cannot call on my Father and He will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the scripture be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” Matt. 26V53.
So our faith embraces the most profound of mysteries as expressed in the beautiful lyrics of Graham Kendrick’s song.
“Meekness and majesty, manhood and deity,
in perfect harmony, the man who is God.”
The final verse expresses the sublime complexity of the human body containing the essence and holiness of the Divine.
“Wisdom unsearchable, God the invisible
Love indestructible in frailty appears.
Lord of infinity, stooping so tenderly
Lifts our humanity to the heights of his throne.”