The king is the most important piece in chess. Powerful as the queen may be, able to move any number of spaces vertically, horizontally or diagonally, a player can lose the queen and still win the game. But once the king is captured, the game is over.
So, the object of every calculated move is to protect the king at all costs. Pawns may be discarded. Bishops, knights, and castles forfeited. Even the queen herself will be sacrificed to protect his majesty, the king. The crown hides behind his row of subjects, protected in his castle. All must fall before he does.
But the King of the world is a very different kind of king, one echoed by Thorin Oakenshield, lord of the dwarfs, in The Hobbit.
In the extended edition of Battle of Five Armies, the foul orcs have worn down the dwarf and elvish armies. The situation is desperate, and Thorin knows their only chance is to “cut the head off the snake” by killing the opposing leader, Azog the Defiler. He shares his nearly suicidal plan with his cousin, who exclaims, “Thorin, you cannot do this! You are our King!”
To which he responds, blood pumping with true nobility, “That is why I must do it.”
The King Steps Forward
Men today need to see their steel-spined King, in the moment of his greatest glory, to become the husbands, fathers, churchmen, and citizens God calls us to be. And what kind of king is Jesus? We find out precisely in the desperate situation he faced.
As the lions encircled, as the betrayer led the chief priests and soldiers to him and his disciples, “Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward” (John 18:4). As both hell’s fury and heaven’s justice took aim, he stepped in front of his followers — the ones he knew were about to flee from him — and gave himself to the artillery earned by their sins. “I told you that I am he,” he spoke to his enemies. “If you seek me, let these men go” (John 18:8).
Jesus, knowing the coming lash, the mockery, the cross, the wrath, the abandonment, the blood, the shame, stepped in front of his people. This King moved to protect his subjects. He did not tuck himself safely away from the battlefield. He was no little dog who would bark from behind his army. He was the Lion of Judah who went forth — alone — to conquer, and through the most horrible of fates. He made our plight his own. He gave himself to the cross. “He loved them to the end” (John 13:1).
This King of glory did not hide behind his ranks on the chess board of history. He did not use his people as pawns, or send out his Bride to die for him. He did not sacrifice his subjects in an attempt to protect his crown. His Bride did not carry his cross; he carried hers.
Should someone have tried to deter him from his purpose, saying, “Lord, you cannot do this, you are our King” — or when someone did say, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you” (Matthew 16:22) — how would he reply? As the true King: “Get behind me, Satan! That is why I must do it!”
Ancient Doors Swing Open
Consider how appealing was the sound of the demonic whispers to avoid the cross. He was, after all, no mere man that might die for others. He was God in the flesh. All other men were mere pawns — and less than pawns — compared with him. Should he, the high King of heaven, their Creator, suffer and die a shameful death for his own creatures? Should he choose the path of torture to bring his enemies to life? He did. He went forth that his Bride might live.
And in being “cut off out of the land of the living,” he cut off the head of the serpent. After he poured out his very soul unto death (Isaiah 53:12) — he rose to pour out blessings upon his people. He came from heaven as a mighty warrior. And he returned from battle the King of glory who swung open heaven’s doors:
Lift up your heads, O gates!
And lift them up, O ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in. (Psalm 24:9)
This is our King. This is our Groom.
Headship Crowned with Thorns
This vision of Jesus Christ, and his Bride, is vital for his honor in our homes, and in our world.
Does the cost of this kind of kingship, this kind of leadership, this quality of headship escape us when we repeat common phrases, like “Christlike husbanding”? According to Scripture, Christ’s sacrificial love — in all its masculine courage and strength — is at the heart of true husbanding: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).
As husbands, we have the privilege to live our lives stepping in front of our queens, using our strength to lay down our comforts in love, instead of lazily pointing and demanding. Kings of their castles who remain tucked in personal safety and convenience — untroubled, unburdened, unscathed, muttering something disdainful about their authority all while before their eyes their knights are lost, their bishops slain, their castles taken, their queen sacrificed — are crowned in dishonor. “This is the greatest shame and sorrow that could have fallen on us,” said the Prince in The Silver Chair. “We have sent a brave lady into the hands of enemies and stayed behind in safety.”
How many of our debates about headship and submission might disappear before a new army of godly men rising from apathy to model the self-giving Christ? Men who do not sacrifice their children for their careers. Men who refuse to apologize for God’s assignment as head in the home and who do not shrink back from the crown Christ wore to save his Bride: a crown of thorns.
Such men of God will be a great apologetic for God’s good design in our homes, our churches, and our world. When the kings of creation — under the authority of Christ — step in front of their families, saying, “That is why I must do it!” they awaken the secret longing of even the most ingrained feminists. The end of egalitarian’s hold on culture begins — if it begins anywhere — in the spiritual revival of its men becoming zealous for the glory of Christ while displaying the noble love, like his, that steps to the front.