The Pastor's Crown
In 1402 the daughter of King Henry the IV of England, Princess Blanche, was set to marry Louis III of Germany. Every Princess needs a crown, of course, and Blanche brought with her a crown known as the crown of Princess Blanche. It is thought to be the oldest surviving crown of England and is a highpoint of Gothic metalwork and jewelry.
Most of us today don’t have any experience with crowns. Whatever our occupation is, we don’t have any need of crown jewels. A crown is for someone important, someone royal or regal. And the placing of a crown on someone’s head signifies that they are the highest authority in the land.
Today if you travel to Munich you can see the Crown of Princess Blanche. She and others who wore the crown have long since died, but the crown remains. People go to look at the crown and are amazed by its beauty. In a coronation the crown is the not the object of attention, the person who receives it is. The crown was a symbol of authority or achievement.
Crowns are reserved for kings, monarchs, and emperors. Some pastors preach in robes, some in shorts, but I don’t know any that preach in a crown. So what is a crown doing in the passage about pastors in 1 Peter? In his letter Peter encourages those who work as elders or pastors to be encouraged and to shepherd the flock of God among them. Peter promises in verse 4 that those who labor worthily as under shepherds will receive the unfading crown of glory when the Chief Shepherd appears. The Chief Shepherd is of course Jesus Christ, and he comes with a crown more glorious than the most splendid jewels.
But when we receive the unfading crown of glory from the Chief Shepherd, we are not the focus and neither is the crown. The crown is not a symbol of our authority as under shepherds of the flock, nor is the crown meant to enrich us or make us wealthy. The original word gives the idea of the laurel wreath, the farthest thing from a beautiful crown there is. The focus of the work that we do as under shepherds beneath the chief shepherd should not be on ourselves, nor should it be on the hope of receiving a reward someday. When Miss America is crowned, they put the crown on from behind so everyone can see her and admire her. The focus is on her and what she has done. But when the Chief Shepherd crowns us someday, the focus is not on us or the value of the crown, but the one who gives us the crown.
Peter makes clear that it will be work to receive this crown. He tells pastors that they are to be examples to the flock, and that we should not do it out of obligation. Anyone who has been a pastor more than a few days will know that the challenges are plenty. No one makes someone become a pastor. The only reason to be a pastor is that if you believe Christ is worthy of any labor that given in service as shepherds under him. When the Chief Shepherd Jesus Christ puts the crown on us, we will be staring at his face, looking at him in adoration. Do you think that as we receive this crown of glory we will be thinking about the crown? Jesus will be there, himself the Chief Shepherd, the one who died and suffered for our sakes. The focus of the pastors work is not himself, and it’s not the reward he might receive someday. The focus of the pastor’s life and ministry must be on Jesus Christ and the only on Jesus Christ. The unfading crown of glory is nothing compared the eternal glory of Jesus Christ.
Even the most beautiful crown can be destroyed. Even the most powerful earthly kings pass away. But we don’t labor for power or prestige. We labor because Jesus Christ is worth it. And someday, we will see him face to face.