Over the last year, my wife and I (like many others) watched a lot more TV than we typically would, because of the pandemic. Perhaps more than anything else that we watched, there was one show that—despite my skepticism going into it—really captivated me: The Crown. If you haven’t seen it, The Crown is a series that depicts the reign of Queen Elizabeth II and the life of the British royal family.
What does The Crown have to do with Hebrews 3 and this month’s theme? Great question.
When I first read Hebrews 3:1-6 I was confused. When the author of Hebrews talks about God being the builder of everything and Jesus being the son who oversees God’s house, my mind just couldn’t think of anything other than a physical building. So when the author says in verse 6 that “we are his house,” I had trouble understanding how we—Christians—are anything like a physical house. Sure, we could say the church was like a house because it can be a safe space or a place where people are fed and clothed. While that is true, it just doesn’t seem like what the author of Hebrews is getting at.
Then I remembered The Crown. I remembered the royal family name: The House of Windsor. In British royalty lingo, “house” refers to the family. The “House of Windsor” simply means the Windsor family or the Windsor household.
If I take this meaning of the word “house” back to Hebrews 3, the text makes a lot more sense. When the author says that “we are his house,” it means that we are members of God’s family—God’s household. And Jesus is “the Son over God’s house.” Simple enough.
I’m not done with The Crown yet, though. I think there is more to tease out there.
Something that is made clear throughout the show is that Queen Elizabeth’s primary responsibility is to protect the crown—that is, she must ensure that the monarchy continues and that her family, the House of Windsor, carries the crown forward. While there are threats to this mission from political forces, economic crises, and foreign enemies, the most fascinating part of the show is the turmoil within the royal family itself. Because the royal family is what it is, every family member is expected to do their duty to honor the Windsor name and the Queen. When it comes to marriage, the family is about as guarded as the gates of Buckingham Palace themselves. Everything the Queen does is meant to maintain the honor, glory, and power of the crown—even when that means taking harsh actions against members of the family.
While The Crown is historical fiction, watching it gave me some sense of how the House of Windsor operates and what might go on within it. Because Britain is one of the few modern countries to still have a king or queen, thinking about the British monarchy might help us gain a new perspective on Jesus as king. More than anything though, I think that it helps us imagine what the House of Jesus looks like in contrast to the House of Windsor or any other worldly power structure.
Like Queen Elizabeth, Jesus also comes from a royal lineage. Instead of focusing on protecting and preserving that lineage, though, Jesus willing associates himself with sinners, outcasts, and the unclean. Though he came from the place of highest honor, “he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Philippians 2:7).
He too had crowds following him and shouting his name, parading him through the streets. In the end, though, those crowds were shouting “Crucify him!” and parading his beaten body to the cross. He did not aim to please every crowd, but to remain faithful to his calling: “to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).
Jesus wore a crown too—though instead of gold and jewels, his was made of thorns. In that moment of ultimate shame, God’s glory was actually most revealed through Jesus. Jesus never did abide by the honor system of his day. In Jesus’s kingdom, honor is gained through sacrifice, through service, through the giving up of prestige for the sake of another. It is a reversed honor code.
Like the Queen, Jesus has a house made up of many people. But unlike the House of Windsor, the House of Jesus does not exist for the sake of maintaining power. Instead, it exists for the sake of sacrificial love. Its gates are not heavily guarded to keep out the common folk. No, the gates of Jesus’s house are wide open—welcoming in all who are weak, poor, grieving, and shamed.
Friends, we are his house. We, the church, are his family. But this family is not closed off. This family is open for all to join. This is a family of endless adoptions! We are the family of Jesus—the crucified king. Following him will not bring us the praise and adoration of the world, but “we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory” (Hebrews 3:6b). As members of Jesus’s house, we are not entitled to riches or honor, but to so much more: joy when it makes no sense, love when hate surrounds us, peace when storms are raging, and resurrection life in the midst of death.
We thank Jesus for welcoming us into his family. May we join in his work of welcoming others in as well so that they too may experience what it means to be his house.