The Kingdom and Her King
Feast of st. bartholomew
After instituting the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, Jesus said to his disciples, “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Lk 22:28-30). He assigned to them a kingdom, a kingdom that is ruled by God the Father and his Son, his anointed one, Christ Jesus, who sits at the Father’s right hand. This is a portion of the Gospel Lesson for the Feast of St. Bartholomew, of whom we know very little. He is listed among the names of the disciples in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, and he is presented in John’s Gospel as Nathanael, who is brought to Jesus by his friend Philip, and believes in the Lord and proclaims him to be “the Son of God!…the King of Israel!” (Jn 1:49) after Christ’s divine power is revealed to him. Two reasons Bartholomew and Nathanael are identified as one person are (1) the connection to Philip: Bartholomew is listed alongside Philip in the Synoptics, and Nathanael is called to Jesus by Philip in John’s Gospel; and (2) Nathanael was his given name, and Bartholomew speaks to his lineage, as it means “Son of Thalmai” much in the same way Simon Bar-Jonah means “Simon, Son of John” in Matthew 16:17.
So all we know is that Bartholomew trusted in Jesus, he was called to be a disciple, and he was sent to be an apostle. That in itself is enough for us to give glory to God for what he has done in and with the life of this man, but other than that, how does it connect with us in the here and now?
It is helpful to go back in time to the days of King David. This is the nitty-gritty of it and will make sense in the end. David had a son named Absalom, and they had a contentious relationship. Involved in this is Absalom murdering his half-brother in vengeance for the rape of his sister, which estranged him from David, and later a conspiracy to perform a coup against his father in order that he might take the throne for himself. This stands in stark contrast to David, when before he was king and marked for death by King Saul, had two chances to murder Saul, but refused because he forbid himself to put out his hand against him, “for he is the Lord’s anointed” (1 Sam 24:10; 26:16). Rather than recognizing his father David as the Lord’s anointed when he was king, Absalom’s self-ambition drove him to a coup and a self-proclamation of kingship (without the Lord’s anointing). He could not submit himself to the Lord’s anointed, the King of Israel.
How this all is relevant is that Absalom is introduced in a list of David’s sons in 2 Samuel 3:2-5. Absalom is the third son in this list, who was born of Maacah, who was the daughter of the king of Geshur who was named Talmai. In short, Absalom’s maternal grandfather was the foreign King Talmai. So in lineage, as well as being a son of David, Absalom was also a son of Talmai.
What we see in Bartholomew is a son of Talmai submitting himself to the true Lord’s anointed, “the Son of God!…the King of Israel!”. He is one who along with the other disciples is assigned a kingdom that is ruled by God himself and is commissioned to proclaim that this kingdom has come in the God-Man Jesus. In Bartholomew we see faithfulness where Absalom was faithless. We see humility and obedience where Absalom was proud, ambitious and self-serving. When we look closely enough, we see both the model disciple in Bartholomew as an example to follow and also the alternative of what can become if we live our lives under our own lordship and not the Lordship of Jesus.
We who are a part of the church and are also in Christ have been assigned this kingdom of which the way of entry is faith, humility, and obedience; all of which are in and to Jesus. The Son of God, the King of Israel, the one who truly is the greatest among us became the one who served us by giving his own self for us sacrificially (Lk 22:26-27). How easy and tempting is it for us to live in accordance with what seems right in our own eyes?! We can be formed in our faith when we commit ourselves to Christ’s mercy and Lordship and serve him by serving one another in the community of faith and bid others to enter into into his kingdom through faith, repentance, and baptism. Let us be faithful to the Son of God, the King of Israel and exalt him, for he is the Lord’s anointed, and in this, we will be exalted to his everlasting kingdom.