James and John wanted to take their seat beside Jesus as partners in kingdom victory. The gospels give us a view of this confusion revealed in a wide spectrum of people. The King, Herod, desires to kill Jesus as a baby because he is jealous for the protection of his own throne in Jerusalem. Pilate surely cannot understand the scope of his question when he asks Jesus if he is King of the Jews. Nicodemus comes to Jesus asking questions about his great power hoping for the revelation of a Messiah who will bring national Israel back to its former independence and glory. The crowds of over 5000 people who were fed by Jesus want to take him by force and make him their King. A disappointed crowd see a beaten and battered man and realize that such a pitiable sight could never defeat Rome. They yell out, “Crucify him.” The rest of the disciples with James and John are indignant that they would ask for seats next to Jesus when they too wish for this privilege ‘in the kingdom.’
All of the confusion above rises from a central belief that the Messiah would come as a King and bring in his kingdom. The confusion is not that the Messiah would be a King of a greater kingdom, but that the kingdom would be a geo-political entity that gains ascendancy as a conquering political power. But the Kingdom of Christ is so much greater than this. Jesus has gained ascendancy not just over earthly political kingdoms but over the power of death and sin and hell and over every higher principality and power. The kingdom of Christ has crushed the god of this world, Satan. The cross, not military or political victory over Herod or Caesar, is the defining authority of the Kingdom of Christ. The cross is the clearest view of the King’s glory.
The question today is: Are we making the same mistake that happens repeatedly in the gospels? Do we also seek a kingdom victory that has more to do with kingdoms in this world than the glory of the cross revealing the King of the universe? For James and John, it resulted in an idea of self-glorification. It is as if they could have a helping hand in Jesus over-taking a political throne for them to sit in his court as co-contributors at his side. This is nothing short of pride.
Just like the Jews in the first century, our view of the kingdom will affect our vision of the coming Savior. We too can look for Jesus’ kingdom in such an earthly, geo-political, physical sense that we miss that the victory of the Kingdom of Christ. We miss that the victory has already taken place 2000 years ago and has nothing to do with a better government or a national people but a conquering King who has brought life to all who will believe. When we look for a wrong kingdom, we view a wrong kind of savior. We seek a diminished savior with geographical or earthly boundaries rather than the Timeless Victor over all that he created.
This week, let us not make the same mistake of those who have gone before. Salvation in Jesus Christ has a greater glory than any temporary, earthly or political victories you can ever imagine. It is a glory that fills every thinkable domain of creation and ascendancy over every thinkable principality and power. This is the right view of Jesus and the greatest view of victory in the cross.