In his 1911 volume which began the trilogy of Pro Rege, Abraham Kuyper reflects on the importance of Matthew 11:20–30 for our understanding of the kingship of Christ. In that passage, Jesus is denouncing the cities where he worked and preached and then affirms the authority that has been given to him by the Father. In verses 23 and 24, Jesus says this:
And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you. (ESV)
Kuyper calls this “The Curse of Capernaum”. And in it he sees a pivotal element of how we view Christ; as both Judge and King. The following is from Volume 1 the new translation of Pro Rege, published by Lexham Press:
Now we are used to a judicial authority that has a certain independent place next to that of the king. Unthinking constitutional law experts have even proclaimed that sovereignty is not singular but is divided into three parts, one of which is judicial authority. This erroneous teaching has also be adopted by many Christians, such that they no longer sense, even in Jesus, the direct relationship that exists between his judicial authority and his kingship. But in Jesus day, and especially in Israel, this was unthinkable. Kings at that time held judicial authority in their hands, as we can recall from Solomon’s first judgement. The one who exercised the highest judicial authority was the king in so doing, by virtue of that authority—just as today some constitutional law experts quite rightly teach that judicial authorization flows from the Crown, explaining why judgements today continue to be pronounced in the name of the king. We are thus inconsistent when we acknowledge Jesus’ judicial authority but see in it something other than an attribute of his kingship. On the contrary, wherever Jesus is spoken of as the Judge who will render a verdict that cannot be appealed, that judicial authority is a most certain and clear indication of his royal sovereignty. 1
Simon is a PhD candidate at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Queensland. He resides in Geelong, Victoria with his wife and four children.
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