In the last 12 months we’ve witnessed the accession and then the coronation of our new king, Charles III. The pageantry and drama of the ancient ceremonies has captivated many of us, not least because the long reign of his mother meant that much of the country has never witnessed this in their lifetime.
One of the things that has struck me is the long list of titles which King Charles inherits. At his accession he was proclaimed ‘Charles the Third, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of his other Realms and Territories, King, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.’ Specifically, this means that he is now king of the following, in alphabetical order: King of Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, The Bahamas, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, St Christopher and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and, last but by no means least, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
A pretty impressive list… but it’s nothing compared to the list we see here in our glorious passage for today. The small community of Colossian Christians were facing pressure to ‘add things’ to their faith, as if Jesus wasn’t enough. Paul’s answer was to write them this letter to remind them just how awesome Christ is – in other words, that he is more than sufficient for all we need in the spiritual life. Fundamentally, and put bluntly, Jesus is top dog, best of the best, numero uno – or, to use the language of the text, ‘before all things’. The One who was, who is, and who is to come.
How can we possibly declare how great Christ is? We can’t – but St Paul attempts a ‘cosmic list’ to try and give us a picture. Just look at Jesus’ amazing titles in the passage, in the order they appear – a top ten to beat all top tens: (1) image of the invisible God; (2) firstborn over all creation; (3) creator of all things; (4) the reason that all things were created at all; (5) the One in whom everything holds together; (6) head of the church; (7) first to rise from the dead – note, in the sense that he has life within himself – we know of course that Jesus raised others in his earthly ministry; (8) possessor of the fullness of God; (9) the reconciler of all things to God; (10) the One who shed blood on the cross.
The last one jars, doesn’t it – in the list of titles, it sticks out a mile. And yet, strangely, it is the one which decisively demonstrates the truth of all the others. It is the way Jesus himself declared that he would be glorified (John 12:23) – and through it, everything else is brought to fruition. Jesus’ legacy is, extraordinarily, sealed through his death on our behalf: it is the fulcrum for his surpassing greatness which existed from the beginning of time, and is afterwards manifested in his resurrection power and authority.
We can never exhaust the greatness of Christ – there is no-one more amazing, no-one more worthy of our worship and adoration. Take a few moments to adore this extraordinary Saviour today, who died – and rose – for us. Hallelujah!