Creative Team Building and Leadership Resources - In our Elements

Nae King

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Fellow Passengers: This week’s Primary Passage* (John 19:12-30) transports me to the period of European history in the 15th and 16th century when the House of Stewarts provided the monarchs for Scotland, and occasionally, for England. It was not a great time to be king, as the first five King James of the Stewart House discovered. With nobles continually seeking to usurp power and religious conflicts raging between the Catholics and Calvinists, it is not particularly shocking that disorder ensued for each of the first five Kings named James, and that they suffered tragic deaths. King James I was assassinated. James II was blown up by a canon during the siege of Roxburgh Castle. KJ III was thrown from his horse and murdered on the battlefield. Numero quatro was killed in the famous Battle of Flodden Fields. The fifth James died of a nervous breakdown after the defeat of Solway Moss, six days after his only child Mary was born. It is a wonder that Queen Mary’s son, King James the Sixth, accepted the crown, but he did, and he went on to unify the Sottish crown with England when QE I died. This King James miraculously died of old age; before dying he created a lasting legacy that would forever keep his name famous when he authorized a new translation of the Holy Bible, the 1611 King James Version. Given his heritage, it’s kind of fun to imagine hearing that original version read by someone with a thick Scottish brogue.

Given the Scots’ ambivalence toward their kings, it is particulary interesting to imagine such a Scottish accent in today’s passage from John, as Pilate tries unsuccessfully to negotiate with the Jewish leaders for Jesus to escape crucifixion. These leaders rebuffed Pilate, saying, If thou let this man goe, thou art not Cesar’s friend: whosoeuer maketh himselfe a king, speaketh against Cesar. When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Iesus foorth, and sate downe in the iudgement seate, in a place that is called the pauement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha. And it was the preparation of the Passeouer, and about the sixt houre: and he saith vnto the Iewes, Beholde your King. But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucifie him. Pilate saith vnto them, Shall I crucifie your King? The chiefe Priests answered, Wee haue nae king but Cesar. What an interesting dynamic, something I had not noticed before, just how much political unrest around issues of monarchy and state authority is imbedded into this crucifixion story. Wee haue nae king but Cesar. So instead of a carpenter’s coup d’état, Jesus meets his Waterloo, marches to the place of execution, and is nailed between two thieves, with the community leaders still grumbling about issues of monarchy as Pilate orders a sign nailed to Jesus’ cross – King of the Jews.

The Scottish people eventually tired of royal claims on their lives, and the spirit of independence and resentment of monarchy that had always been at play among these mountainous folk won the day. I just re-read, or re-listened to, to be precise, a book on CD by Terry Pratchett, The Wee Free Men. In this fantasy world set somewhere in the rural north of Great Britain, a dairy maid named Tiffany Aching is the hag o’ the hills, aided in her magical adventures to maintain good order and confront forces of evil by a clan of tiny folk called the Wee Free Men, who, by their brogue and vocabulary, are Scotch highlanders through and through, of the fiercely independent variety. Anytime they are confronted by the prospects of someone pretending to a throne and claiming some kind of royal authority over them, a resounding chorus of battle cries thunders from their tiny frames – Nae king! Nae quin! Nae laird! Nae master! We willna’ be fooled again! I suspect that a good dose of wee free men Scottish independence is at work in our country, especially when it comes time to elect our President, touted to be the leader of the free world. No one could confuse our national leadership to be anything remotely close to a monarchy, subject as they are to public opinion and vote of confidence every four years. I’m not sure we have the capacity to fully understand what was in the hearts and minds of those Palestinian residents in the first century, as tried to negotiate their way through and around Roman occupation. Whatever threat Jesus represented to them, they voiced it in terms of a threat to King Cesar. Who knows what the crucifixion story would have looked like if those Roman leaders were called President instead of Cesar, and had to face an election every four years that gave their subjects a chance to put a different face on the head of state. We might not even have the religious language of Jesus as Lord or Jesus as King of Kings, but following the lead of people who cry out Nae king! Nae quin! Nae laird! Nae master! we would baptize people who professed Jesus as governor, or senator, or if we wanted to be British about it, Jesus as Prime Minister. That kind of has a nice ring to it.

How about you? Where does this Primary Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment, and share with friends on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, email, etc.



  • October 30, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    Comment by jim munsey

  • October 30, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    Jim, you are free to post links here, but it would probably be more useful to the dialogue if you would speak for yourself. You can create a web site, or a Facebook wall, where you can post all sorts of things you find edifying and useful. For the purposes of the Daily Passages blog, though, I am inviting people to read the text of the day and share their personal testimony of where the passage took them in their journey of faith. I invite you to do this, or if you’d like to raise a direct question about something I’ve written, in the spirit of dialogue, feel free. Just posting a random video that has nothing to do with the subject matter at hand is not really going to further the dialogue.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • October 30, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    Any devotional that connects James I, the Gospel of John, and Terry Prachett has got my vote.
    Aye, laddie, nae doot aboot it.

    Sometime you need to read “God’s Secretaries”, a book about the actual men James authorized to translate the Bible. Although a bit of a scoundrel, he hired a remarkable team of folks to get this done.

    Well done as usual!

    Comment by Wayne Seymour

  • October 31, 2012 at 4:08 am

    This brings me back to my childhood where only the King James’ version of the Bible was read. It also brings me back to the movie “King of Kings.” I never really understood the KJ version and the K of K movie gave me nightmares.
    How much has changed since those days for me. I have now exposed myself to more modern translations of the Bible, even Peterson’s THE MESSAGE with his commentaries. (By the way, I used THE MESSAGE as my text when asked to read the Old Testament and Epistle readings at Sunday service. The younger folk who spoke to me were delighted. A couple of folk made it known to me that they prefer the KJ version, but they had to admit they did not understand it.
    Now I am freed up to know that Jesus is more my role model than my king. I am learning about social justice and love for my neighbor who can be anyone in the world who is suffering. I am only one person and can’t do everything, but I can do something. I also know that the God who created me loves me very much.

    Comment by Janet Davies

  • October 31, 2012 at 5:32 am

    Wayne – great to find a fellow Terry Pratchet fan! I don’t meet many people who know his books. We love listening to them on tape. I’ve only heard the four in the Tiffany Aching series, but am eager to read more. The Nac Mac Feegles are priceless.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • October 31, 2012 at 5:33 am

    Janet – I, too, love the Message translation. I love some of the poetic language in the KJV, too. Good to have them all available.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

to top