“But when they said, ‘Give us a king to lead us,’ this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. And the LORD told him: ‘Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king’” (1 Sam. 8:6, 7).
“‘Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked. ‘We have no king but Caesar,’ the chief priests answered. Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified” (John 19:15, 16).
Israel asked for a king and was told the king they chose would take and take and take (1 Sam. 8:10-18). Contrasting this with the Lamb of God—who gave until His body was broken and His blood spilled—gives us a sense of what Israel lost when they rejected God as their king. They traded a God who loved them for a king who loved himself at their expense. Why would anyone do this? It is quite simple. We must submit to a king. Despite the bankruptcy and enslavement that comes with the king we choose, we prefer him because we prefer to submit to a reign which authorizes us to love ourselves first. If we submit to God and accept His rule, we must give as we have been given to, we must love as He has loved us (John 15:12). “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). To choose another king is really to choose self as king.
The self-king always calls for the extinction of the God-king. Those who traded Christ for Caesar screamed for Jesus’s crucifixion (John 19:6, 15). Saul sought David’s life unrelentingly (1 Sam. 19:1). Self is a dictator, par excellence. It can admit no competitor, no rival. Saul allowed David to rise in prominence and to excel as long as he was a benefit and made Saul look good. But the moment his reign was threatened, his murderousness manifested (1 Sam. 18:8-11).
Whether we follow the self-king or the God-king, our path will lead to the cross. But which king we serve will determine if we are those shouting, “Crucify him!” or those who are silent before their accusers.