When we first meet Aragon he is a stranger in the corner of an inn. He is anonymous, unknown – even sinister. It only gradually emerges that he is the king. There is a dramatic moment in the council of Elrond when Legolas the Elf tells Boromir that he should have more respect for Aragorn, the rightful king of Gondor.
There is surprise written all over the faces of the hobbits. They have come to trust Aragorn, but they have no idea he is the king. Even more significantly, Aragorn son of Arathorn is unknown to Boromir. He is at best a legend. It is only among the elves that Aragorn’s identity is known.
Aragorn has chosen to live an anonymous life as a Ranger. He has refused to accept kingship for fear of repeating the mistakes of his ancestors. He knows the story of Isildur. He understands humanity’s weakness and he fears repeating it. ‘The same blood flows in my veins, the same weakness.’ Aragorn understands that all humanity is flawed. It is not just that each of us does wrong things. The blood in our veins contains a weakness, a tendency to selfishness and rebellion against God.
At the end of The Fellowship of the Ring Frodo offers the ring to Aragorn. This is his moment of temptation; his time of testing. Aragorn refuses to use the ring. And so Aragorn can reign because he has rejected power. He has passed the test. Arwen says to him: ‘You will face the same evil and you will defeat it.’ (Notice that Frodo offers the ring to Gandalf, Galadriel and Aragorn – for each it is a test and each passes the test.)
Mark 8:27-31 says:
Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ.” Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him. He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.
‘The Christ’ was God’s promised king. So far in Mark’s Gospel Mark has been showing us that Jesus is God’s promised king. He has been showing us the authority of Jesus over sickness, over people, over the spirit world, over the natural world, over sin and even over death. Now at last the disciples see it. Their eyes are opened to the truth. Jesus is God’s king.
But look at 8:30: “Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.” It sounds like news to shout for the rooftops. God’s promised king is here. God is re-establishing his reign of life and freedom. but Jesus tells them to keep quiet about it.
Why is that? The answer is in the next verse. Look at 8:31: “Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him. He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.” Jesus is the king who will die. And he refuses to allow people to proclaim him as king until they realise that he is the king who must die.
In Mark 10:40-45 Jesus says:
Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”’ (Mark 10:42-45)
Remember that we have believed the lie of Satan. We think that God’s rule is tyrannical. And we have made human rule tyrannical. That is what Jesus says. We lord it over one another. But Jesus is saying, You should not be like. And you should not be like that because I am not like that; because God is not like that. When Jesus died he finally and utterly dispelled the lie that God is a tyrant.
When we hear talk of giving our lives to God to let him take control, we think: No! I want my freedom. God is a kill-joy.
But Jesus says: That’s a lie. Look at me, hanging on the cross, dying in your place, giving my life for you.
Look at Mark 10:45: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” God’s king has come to serve his people, to give his life for us, to set us free.
We take power and we become enslaved. The king who gives up power sets us free.