I am at the age where I can ask myself, ‘where was I sixty years ago today’? Hold on to that for a moment. Let’s just go forward perhaps several decades.
Setting # 1. Have you ever been surprised by seeing some high profile person, someone extraordinary, but looking very ordinary in an ordinary setting? Just before Christmas 2009 an ordinary looking 83-year old lady in coat and headscarf was photographed, boarding a commuter train at Kings Cross. That elderly lady was the Queen. She was heading for Sandringham, her Norfolk residence, just accompanied by her plainclothes protection officer. True, she went first class, but it must have been a surprise to fellow passengers on the same train.
The Mail online said, “An advance first class ticket, without the seniors’ discount, costs £44.40.” Apparently it was not a one off – but it must have been surprising for fellow passengers to see the Monarch of Great Britain boarding their train like a regular passenger – even if she did pay first class! The Mail did remind its readers that the Queen does, of course, have use of the Royal Train – but that would cost the taxpayers £57,142 each time it is taken out of its sidings. So the Queen was saving the taxpayer money.
Setting # 2. Now to another setting: and back to the question, where was I sixty years today? Tuesday 2nd of June 1953 was the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. “An estimated three million people lined the streets of London to catch a glimpse of the new monarch as she made her way to and from Buckingham Palace in the golden state coach.” I was proud to be one of those three million.
“The ceremony was watched by millions more around the world as the BBC set up their biggest ever outside broadcast to provide live coverage of the event on radio and television. Street parties were held throughout the United Kingdom as people crowded round television sets to watch the ceremony. Over 20 million people watched the BBC coverage of the coronation. . . . The broadcast was made in 44 languages.”
Princess Elizabeth ascended the throne as monarch of the United Kingdom along with other commonwealth territories on 6th February 1952, upon the death of her father, King George VI. We celebrated the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee last year, 2012. The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II was held the following year on Tuesday, the 2nd of June 1953. sixty years today!
I can’t remember how or why I came to choose a position on The Mall – quite near the Victoria Monument and Buckingham Palace the day before, but that was where I arrived at. Each time a car emerged from the palace with a member of the Royal Family being taken to Westminster Abbey for their rehearsals, it created an atmosphere of great excitement.
I have forgotten the rain, but next day the procession to Westminster Abbey saw the route double lined either side shoulder to shoulder with uniformed servicemen and police. It was such a lavish ceremony steeped in a thousand years of tradition? I was a young lad in my mid-teens. I had left home in Wales in late 1952 to live on the periphery of what we in the province called back then, ‘The Big Smoke.’ It was a never to be forgotten experience, to be among those colourful millions representing various cultures and traditions, ‘the wonder of it all.’
And maybe that is where the surprise came for those fellow commuters at King’s Cross. That 27-year old Queen of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth, who was centre of the world’s stage at her coronation – surrounded by dignitaries and representatives of countries from around the world – was now being seen as a fellow commuter boarding their train at Kings Cross.
Setting # 3. Seeing Queen Elizabeth in those contrasting settings, the informal as well as in splendour and majesty, and very royal, leads me to think of another very surprising scene. It reminds me of Someone more special than Queen Elizabeth II.
Thirty years down His road of life he was unrecognised. We read of Him down by the River Jordan. I have been to Israel, three times, and down to the Jordan too, but no, I didn’t see anyone extraordinary looking ordinary in an ordinary setting, – but someone did.
The historical event has been recorded in the Gospels. Perhaps we have come to take the story for granted, but really, it is an amazing story, isn’t it? It is a story that affects the whole human race. A person called John the Baptist was somewhere down by the Jordan declaring himself to be “the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord‘” (John 1:23). He was quoting a prediction from Isaiah 40:3.
John was calling for the people of his nation to repent of their sins and be baptised and to prepare for the coming Messiah. Among the people coming down to him to be baptised was an ordinary looking man about 30 years of age. No one recognised who he was. John the Baptist had to point him out to the crowds: Said John, He is the ‘Lamb who takes away the sin of the world‘ (John 1:29). In John 1:34 we read him saying, “I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.” But despite that, John the Apostle records that sad statement in John 1:11, “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.”
He had no entourage to accompany him. He was without material means and property-less with “no place to lay his head” (Luke 9:58). How could John put it across to the people of his day, that the Creator of the Universe had actually shared the common lot of life here with fallen human beings – even roughing it with peasant fishermen in their boats?
I wonder if John the Apostle had thought that too many, including himself, had not appreciated the majesty and greatness of the Person who had made such a humble entry into our world? It says in John 1:10, “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him.” How could John reveal to the people of his time, and to us down in our time, what he had seen of the greatness of Jesus? He found it in one word (1 John 1:1-4). It is repeated three times in the introduction to his Gospel, in John 1:1. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”
The Greek for ‘Word’, is Logos. Logos, was known to both Jew and Greek. For the Jews, the Old Testament was a record of God’s promises and acts in history. In Psalm 33:6 we are told, “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.” In Psalm 33:9 it says that God “spoke and it came to be; he commanded and it stood firm.” Sceptics in our modern day may look for natural explanations for how life came to be, but the Bible says it was God the Word, or Logos, who spoke the world with all its life into being. Unlike the belief of the materialist of our day, it is mind and intelligence that produced matter and not matter that produced mind and intelligence.
For the Greek, Logos was the impersonal reason behind the universe. For John the Person behind the universe is the Person of Jesus – who became the Word of God on earth (John 1:1-3, 10, 14). In Matt 8:5-13 we read that the Roman centurion recognised that power and authority when he said to Jesus, “Just say the word, and my servant will be healed.”
So we can see why John chose the idea of Logos to describe Jesus; it was a word that was full of meaning to the world of his day, to both Jew and Greek. Jesus was the Logos, the creative power of God who came into this world. He was the life of the World, so he could say to his disciples in John 14: 6, “I am the way, the truth and the life,” and again in John 6:63, “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life” and that life is eternal (John 3:16). And in John 17:3 John says that eternal life is coming to know “the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he sent”
The miracles that John records in His Gospel are chosen to illustrate the power of His word. When Jesus spoke, it happened! Especially when speaking those words to a man who had been dead and entombed four days (John 11:39),“Lazarus, come out” (John 11:43). That was his crowning miracle that should have been evidence of who He was.
In His great condescension Jesus came to be one with us, joining us in a very informal way, without the splendour or the grandeur that would be rightfully His (John 17:5). He came to show us what God is like, How He values us, how He behaves towards us – anyone who had seen Jesus had seen the Father (John 14:9).
We find towards the end of the Gospel of John the story of Thomas (John 20:24-31). Just as Thomas made his discovery and confession, we too have to make our own discovery of Jesus and make our own personal confession, “my Lord and my God” (John 20:28). His first coming was not to be the last (John 14:1-3), he is to return – there is another setting to come – a much grander and awesome setting at which we will all be present – from ages past to the time of his Second Advent, which takes to our final setting.
Final Setting – # 4. The Coronation of Jesus! Every time the Christian church celebrates the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor 11:26), it recalls the First Advent. Just as Jesus came the first time He has promised to come the second time – Matthew 28: 18-20; John 14:13. Every eye is going to see him, even those who pierced him Revelation 1:7, 8. Not a welcome site for those who have rejected Him. But as John said back in his Gospel, in John 1:12, “yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave right to become children of God.” If we die eternally, it will not because God has chosen we should die, but that we have chosen to die because of our rejection of Jesus as Lord and Saviour!
Jesus came in human form to take the consequences for human sin and rebellion against our Creator God, and died the eternal death in our place. The Apostle Paul describes it in Philippians 2:5-8. He says there to his readers back then, – and it still speaks to us today:
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!”
The innocent died in place of the guilty. Put simply, that was the purpose of the First Advent – Jesus came to give life to all who believe in God the Father and in his Son Jesus Christ (John 17:3). Jesus told us there is to be – a final setting “A new heaven and a new earth” where “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:1-5).
But before then there is to be the Coronation of Jesus as King. He handed the reigns of his rulership over to God the Father when He came to this world to live as one of us and to submit Himself in obedience to the Father, even to death on a cross. As in Adam all die because of his disobedience, so in Christ will all be made alive, because of our acceptance of His obedience and righteousness (1 Corinthians 15: 22). Victor over sin and death (1 Cor 15:51-57), He resumes Lordship and Rulership. So after telling us about His humility in becoming one of us, and of his humiliation in suffering the consequences of our sin, the Apostle Paul says in verses 9-11:
“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Comparing Queen Elizabeth in an informal setting against those settings of her being the centre of state pageantry and national grandeur and international focus being seen by millions around the world – it really bears no comparison with that of Jesus, – of His earthly mission and humiliation, and of the adoration bestowed on Him when He takes the throne again. It is a very poor analogy indeed, of the unrecognised Jesus down at the Jordan River and then being seen worshipped finally by the inhabitants of heaven and earth, as John says of Him in Revelation 19:16, He is “King of kings and Lord of lords.”
It was God the Word, who became flesh, “and made his dwelling among us.” We are all going to see Jesus in all his grandeur, deserving of all adoration and the worship he deserves. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
That is the final setting: those who have accepted Jesus as Lord and Saviour will enjoy eternity with Him. “They will be His people, and God himself will be with them, and be their God . . . There will be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new.” (Revelation 21:4, 5).
We are told in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” The offer is still open to all who will, and after all He has done for and has planned for us, who would want to turn His offer down?