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Two Loved Kings Who Laid Aside Their Robes and Crowns

Posted Jul 14, 2011 by Jeff Wilson in The Son of God
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The following article is the first chapter taken from a larger more in depth study entitled "Sacrifice of Epic Proportion."  Sacrifice of Epic Proportion is a completely revised version of an earlier study entitled "Power Laid Down."  I hope to have the newer version up in pdf format soon. For now here is a sample of it.

Recently I read a short story written by Frank R Stockton entitled A Jerseyman And His Royal Crown. While reading, I began to see some striking parallels and contrasts between Stockton’s account, and a story I and most, if not all readers of this are well familiar with - the Story of Redemption. One correlation in particular intrigued me and it is this I want to highlight. From Stockton’s dissertation can be seen similarities between two kings of different eras, which left their royal estates yet remained very rich, I must add, rich in VERY different ways. Here is an adaptation of some of Stockton’s composition, which will help set the tone for the entire ‘Sacrifice of Epic Proportion’ study.

It begins with a royal robed lord who wore a crown heavy with diamonds and precious stones who lived in a rather unlikely place for a king. His estate was located in a cleared space amidst a hill thick with woods in Point Breeze, Bordentown New Jersey. The “exalted personage” was not officially a king when he lived in New Jersey, but he had been a king.  He was Joseph Bonaparte, lawyer, diplomat, soldier and the eldest brother of French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte.

After conquering many nations of Europe, Napoleon replaced its former kings with new sovereigns from his own family and Joseph was one of them.

Joseph’s history as a king was not always a favorable one. He first took up a throne in Naples of Italy. Under his bother’s orders He lived and reigned in Naples as king for some time but to no success; he knew the people did not want him as their monarch. Then Napoleon sent him to Spain. But again he encountered equal failure; the people of Spain did not welcome this new king and rose up in rebellion against him causing him to take flight from Spain. These along with a few untimely adventures in France and Switzerland did not make for a good start for his attempted regal occupation. At that point he had no desire to ever again live and rule as king in the same manner as he did before.

In time, Napoleon’s reign came to an end. To escape being exiled to a most undesirable place such as Elba (an island of Italy) like his brother Napoleon, Joseph determined to get to America. Under disguise he voyaged thousands of miles/Km’s across the turbulent and tempestuous Atlantic in a small two hundred-tone vessel. Even the captain did not recognize him.

Before leaving, his wife fell ill. Under the orders of physicians she was advised to stay back in Italy. His two daughters however, accompanied him and stayed with him for some time in his new home in New Jersey. Before his flight, he also stashed away the crown of Spain and the regal robes of Italy and brought them with him.

“Now that he was well out of Europe, Joseph Bonaparte gave up all idea of returning, and in deciding to settle here it was not surprising that he chose to make his home in New Jersey. He bought a place near Bordentown, on a high wooded hill………and built a house…. It had grand halls and staircases and banquet halls ……  His estate, which covered more than a thousand acres, was beautifully laid out in drives and gardens and lawns………the place was arranged in a style of beauty and grandeur………..he lived in ex-regal style.” - Frank R Stockton, A Jerseyman And His Royal Crown

Jewels, gold, crowns………. these are the visible things generally associated with royalty: but what about Joseph Bonaparte’s character? It was not exactly altogether perfect, mind you; there are however marked parallels between the story of the ex- Spanish, ex-Italian king who for a time laid aside his royal robe and glorious crown and the story of the man from Nazareth who laid aside His royal robe and glorious crown.

Here are some examples. J. Bonaparte (J.B.) loved children. He would allow them to run around on his estate and often serve them drinks and give them special little treats. In winter they would skate on his frozen ponds and he would scatter chestnuts upon the ice for them to scramble towards and gather up to munch on. Jesus also was a lover of children. He gave time and devotion to them.

J.B. came close to people. Kings have a habit of distancing themselves from  “commoners” but ex-king J.B. was hospitable to his neighbors, sending flowers and fruits from his garden and in this way won their hearts and affections. It was not until he met common people where they were, stepped down to their level, and walked in their shoes that he was accepted and loved.

Heaven’s ex-majestic king was thoughtful, courteous and kind in His Galilean neighborhood. He graced the tables of social gatherings mingling freely with the everyday towns-folk.  Through friendship and loving interest in them and only by UNCOMPROMISINGLY “stepping down to their level” and “walking in their shoes” Heaven’s ex-commander and ex-Highly honored King won the love, affection and trust of many. And this is the very correlation I want to emphasize (although it seems J.B. compromised his integrity in other ways.) There is no record of Jesus plucking orchid fruits or flowers from His garden and sending them to His neighbors, as did J.B., but being a carpenter He may have given furniture to the needy. As a river or fountain of life receives from a larger source and flows out again, the Son of God took to give. Whatever He received from His Father, He gave - which was far more than something His rugged hands had carefully crafted from prize timber in His humble little workshop, and yet something far more than J.B. could ever possibly give. What did the “Son of man” give? He gave love, forgiveness, liberty, life, joy and emotional healing/security and physical health. For example, in preventing the embarrassment of the wedding host, He turned water into “the best” unfermented wine (Isa 65:8). It was in love and respect to His mother that He provided this sparkling crimson beverage for the continued refreshment for the guests. On occasions He provided simple nourishing food for the hungry, He taught, He preached, He forgave, He exposed but He blessed, He liberated, He inspired, He encouraged, He picked up the downcast, lifted up the downtrodden, released the oppressed or possessed, transformed hearts and revolutionized lives. He gave of Himself. So although He didn’t hand out delicate fruits and flowers that soon fade and wilt, His very life carried a fragrance like a flower. His beauty of character far surpassed the beauty of any flowers of the field. J.B. drew people to him through his association, thoughtfulness and kindness. The Son of God drew people to Him through the cords of love.

For whatever reason, J.B. was rejected as king in both Madrid and Naples. Despite all the good that Jesus did, He was “despised and rejected of men” - forsaken by His own people.  (A prophet is not honored in his own country Matt 13:57.) The ex-Spanish and ex-Italian king in voyaging from Europe to America did not do so in regal majesty, and splendor but at a calculated risk of losing his life by sea or by sword. He left in disguise. At the time when God sent His only begotten Son to the world the Son of God bid farewell to His Father and angel friends at the royal heavenly palace. In the event of descending to earth, to eventually commenced His voyage across the dark stormy seas of our turbulent life that we ALL face, which He did so at the risk of loosing much; far, far more than Bonaparte could ever possibly loose. In His humanity, Christ’s glory was veiled; He disguised Himself “in the likeness of men”. As the captain of the boat did not recognize the royal brother of Napoleon, the Jewish leaders did not recognize, at least outside of the mock trial before the cross, heaven’s royal dignity that once shared His Almighty Father’s scepter and throne (Phil 2:7; John 1:10-11). As J.B. was once rejected as king, the Son of God was once shamefully mocked, scourged and spat upon….  and rejected as King.

These are a few less than perfect parallels between these two kings: Now, from the words of Stockton, here is an obvious contrast that sets Jesus apart from J.B.

“It generally happens, when a sovereign is obliged to abdicate and to fly from his kingdom, that he arranges matters so that he shall not become a pauper when he arrives at the place of refuge. If he is not able to carry away anything more than a valise, he is much more likely to put his royal jewels into it than to fill it up with night clothes and hairbrushes; so when Bonaparte came to New Jersey, he came as a very rich man.”  - Frank R Stockton, A Jerseyman And His Royal Crown

This is exactly what Joseph did. Moreover, when the building of his mansion was complete, he arranged for beautiful paintings of high value and costly sculptures to be shipped from Europe. This would further add to the wealth of his American estate.

Christ came with nothing but possessed everything. Prior to entering our fallen world, the Father and Son did not assign angels to somehow prevent Jesus’ poverty. They did not prearrange and pack a treasure chest with gold, silver and most costly jewels and secretly stash it in the earth in a secluded place near Galilee for Jesus to simply uncover and draw from in difficult times of need. Otherwise it may be said Jesus had privileges the poor didn’t have and therefore would have failed to be a perfect example. Jesus willingly chose to endure hardship, poverty, trial and difficulty during “the days of His flesh”. He came with nothing, He owned next to nothing. He was the son of poor Galilean parents. When He was born, instead of bringing a lamb for sacrifice, Joseph and Mary could barely afford two turtle doves for an offering according to the law of the Lord (Lev 14:22; Luke 2:24).  As it turned out, unlike J.B. who lived in a New Jersey mansion estate, Jesus had no permanent dwelling. In coming to our world, in His youth He learned the humble trade of carpentry and so it was unlikely he owned much. On the other hand, when J.B. came to New Jersey, “he came a very rich man” - with immense wealth to spare. But get this. After Jesus’ betrayal, infamous trial and death, and resurrection, a company of angels escorted Him back to the indescribable Paradise Palace to be reunited with His Father. He also took a multitude of captives as trophies with Him. These were “the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Cor 15:20,23), they are His “peculiar treasure”, His precious “jewels”, raised by His resurrection power and gathered from their dusty graves (Mal 3:17; Prov 7:20; Psm 135:4). In this sense when Jesus entered, not New Jersey, but New Jerusalem, the city of the great King, He entered as the “King of Kings and Lord of lords”. In other words, He moved into the glorious and eternal New Jerusalem as a “very rich man” (Rev 21:7; 21:10-25).

Furthermore, significantly different to J.B., He NOW has immense unfading wealth to share. While on earth, Jesus did not seek security by living in an immaculate guarded estate or seek value from earthly kingdoms and treasure. For Him, knowing He was His Father’s beloved Son was enough. His value was invested in His Father’s kingdom consisting of a relational economy - a kingdom founded upon the principles of other-centered love, love expressed in moral character (1 Cor 13). His joy was in imparting heaven’s incorruptible currency - the gold of faith and love tried in the fire, and in redeeming fallen sons and daughters of Adam and restoring them fit for the eternal kingdom of Glory.

A king is the lawmaker. Every kingdom basically has a king and a law. The king’s role is to make law and enforce justice. He is to judge and make decisions between right and wrong. No other king in history demonstrated the principles of his government as well as God’s Son. The Son of God, the giver of the law to Moses at Sinai, when He was made flesh mercifully lived and breathed the law. He was the walking, feeling, living, hearing, seeing, loving, law of God personified showing us how to live successfully and happily.

Jesus is willing to share His wealth.

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” 2 Cor 8:9

Jesus does not promise houses or lands; but in receiving Him and the gold of faith and love He offers, we become spiritually rich.

Unlike most monarchs who avoid mingling with common folk, J.B. was remembered as a king who stepped down to their level. And although, understandably, with no religious profession, he was not always the most moral person in the world, he was certainly generous. Jesus said

“If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” Matt 7:11

Interestingly, as it turned out, the life of J.B. came to an end at age 76 in July of 1844. It so happens that Adventists recognize 1844 as the very year the Judgment ministry of Christ - the believer’s great judge priest-king began. He entered into the Holy of Holies to receive a kingdom commencing the great work of investigative judgment (Dan 7:13,14; Matt 22:1-14; 1 Pet 4:17). While one king laid aside his royal robe and crown entering the dusty prison to join the dead, the other - Christ the anointed eternal Priest-King-Judge, laid aside his plain linen dress for the first apartment ministration. He then took up His most glorious kingly crown and donned on His golden priestly garments to enter the final ministration of the Most Holy Place to judge the living and the dead! (See the shadowy types in Ex 28:4-43; 1 Chron 6:49; Acts 10:42)

We are called to repent at the preaching of the gospel before we become God’s representative kings. We may not be princes or princesses, kings or queens of earthly royal descent. We are however “a royal priesthood”, “kings of the earth” “joint heirs” with Christ, of spiritual descent (Rev 21:24; Rom 8:17; Rev 3:21; Dan 7:27). We neither put on nor lay aside glorious gem-laden crowns or costly purple hued-robes, but there is another kind of garment that we are to lay aside: Garments of pride.

In remarkable humiliation and clothed in sackcloth, the king of Nineveh “laid his [royal] robe aside”, and along with the Ninevites repented at the preaching of Jonah. In view of the investigative judgment, and in view of other approaching judgments, we are moved by the convicting Spirit to humble repentance. Then we can rise in newness of life, clothed in His rich robes of righteousness to proclaim the message of His eternal kingdom.

In other-centered love for you and me, prior to the incarnation, the Son of God laid aside His majestic garments in order to tabernacle among men. He later laid aside His plain “outer garments” (John 13:4,5) to wash the disciples feet thus they had a visual demonstration of humility. In coming “down to our level” His purpose is to save and serve. Likewise by being filled with the spirit of Christ’s other-centered love and humility we have the honor to daily lay aside our garments, garments of pride and exclusivity in order to seek, save and serve – according to our God-given ability IN HIS POWER and grace. This is our high calling. This is our entrusted commission. Then it can be said of us,

“Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that we should show forth the praises of him who hath called…[us] out of darkness into his marvellous light” 1 Pet 2:9.

“Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” Matt 25:23

May the apostle Paul’s words become reality for us, that we may have the mind of Christ.