Several examples of reading Jesus into things, and not always for the better.
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14
To him was given dominion
and glory and kingship,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
that shall not pass away,
and his kingship is one
that shall never be destroyed.
— Daniel 7:14
Verse 14 is cited in Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 8: Person of Christ (SD 8.55) along with several other passages that point to authority being given to… Well, that’s where it gets interesting. This verse is the only passage from the Old Testament in this list of biblical citations. The rest call clearly refer to Jesus. This verse has Jesus read back into it, but given the point of the fully human Jesus having all the authority of the fully divine Jesus, such a reading does make sense (for Christians).
The Lord is king, he is robed in majesty;
the Lord is robed, he is girded with strength.
— Psalm 93:1
Verse 1 of Psalm 93 is also cited in Solid Declaration, Article 8: Person of Christ (SD 8.27). This is earlier in the thought about how the divine and human natures of Jesus relate, and verse 1 is cited along with several other passages to show that Jesus was not merely taken up into heaven like Moses or Elisha, but has a special place at God’s right hand. This is not a literal right hand, but a reference to the authority Jesus has. Only God the Father has more authority (if that’s the right word) than Jesus.
Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.”
Chapter 18, verse 36 is quoted in The Augsburg Confession, Article 28: Bishops (AC 28.14) as a reminder that those with ecclesiastical authority should not also hold positions of secular authority. The two different authorities are too easily confused and mixed. This same verse is also quoted in Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope (Tp 31) to take this argument further and denounce any secular authority the pope would claim over any worldly kingdoms.
Christians have a long history of reading Jesus back into things. It’s such a long history, in fact, that it goes all the way back to Jesus. Examples of Jesus pointing to himself in the Law and prophets can be found throughout his public ministry. But the most literal example of reading Jesus into the Hebrew Scriptures is found in the story of the Road to Emmaus, when, “beginning with Moses and all the prophets, [Jesus] interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures” (Luke 24:27). Even with Jesus’ example, however, it is worth reminding ourselves that not all people read, for example, Daniel 7:14 and think this refers to Jesus.
Indeed, it is worth reminding ourselves that, outside of the ubiquity of Christ, not everything should have Jesus read into it. The Holy Roman Empire, such as it was, in Luther’s time, had made significant legal argument for why it was appropriate for the leaders of the Church to also be the leaders of the government. Luther and those who agreed with him look to John 18:36 as a reminder that secular and ecclesiastical authority are necessarily different.
Secular, or governmental, authority comes from the law. What police and courts and governmental officials enforce, execute, and create is law, defining what can’t or shouldn’t be done. Ecclesiastical, or church, authority comes from grace. What the church can do is forgive sins as God, in Christ, has forgiven us.
When these two powers mix, those who could audit your taxes could also condemn you to hell for a mistake in your filing, thus losing all grace; or those same people could forever extend forgiveness for your taxes, thus losing all governmental funding and all government. Both of these are problematic. The issues only gets worse as our sinful natures would allow us to inequitably apply both law and grace so that those we like get grace and those we don’t like get law.
The authority of Jesus that gives us reason to read Jesus into the Old Testament is also the same authority that gives us reason to not insist that our government be Christian. Jesus leads us to discover references to him in all aspects of our live without insisting that everyone must agree with us.
Such a strange king.