The Old Testament prophecies declared the promise of a Messianic King, but the king they hailed was unlike any the world had ever seen before. The definition of a king is one who is supreme, preeminent, the most important, the chief authority, one who rules those below him. Isaiah 9:7 seems fitting with this description of a king: “He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.” But later in the same book Isaiah describes this Messianic King as having “no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:2-3) and later in the Old Testament Zechariah describes this same King as coming “righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zech. 9:9). How do we reconcile these contrasting attributes? How can a king be powerful and lowly? Preeminent and despised? Supreme and rejected?
This glaring juxtaposition between majesty and lowliness paints a picture of a King that is unlike any other. The first distinction of the Messianic King is that He is not only a King, but He is also God. Lord over all the heavens and the earth. Eternally existing, full in authority, glorious in majesty, wonderful in power. The second distinction is that it is this same King, this God, who also chose to be made lowest. And not just low to live outside of heaven, but low to be mocked, ridiculed, despised, scorned, rejected, and hung on a cross. The Messianic King assumed a position completely contrary to His title.
And the most beautiful thing is this: that He didn’t condescend to this low position for His own benefit. Because the truth is that this status of hated, scorned, belittled, mocked, shamed – this status was meant to be ours. Our hardness of heart and our deadness in our sin has made us worthy only of that position. But instead He condescended to that degree of lowliness because that is how He exalted us and gave us life.
The beautiful truth is that the prophesied Messiah is above all else a Servant-King. During His life on earth He turned the world’s definition of kings and kingdoms on its head. He taught that it was better to go down than to go up, better to be humbled than to be exalted, better to be made low than to be glorified, better to serve than to be served (Matthew 23:11-12). And for us, seeing Jesus as this Servant-King frees us to joyfully be humble. To freely serve. To gladly submit. To peacefully be made low. Because here we can remember the privilege of identifying with Christ in his sufferings (1 Peter 4:13) and we can rejoice in the eternal honor that awaits. As we celebrate Advent we can look forward in confidence that the Christ who came two thousand years ago as a Servant will return as a King, of whom it will be sung “the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.” Rest in this glorious promised hope.