The weird corner of the Internet that I live in was all aflutter a couple of weeks because we learned some truly wild facts about King Charles III. The hobby of vicarious royal watching has reached a new zenith with the death of Queen Elizabeth II, its accompanying pomp, and a new monarch for the first time in most people’s lives. Some of the most fun facts have come via an author, Christopher Andersen, who has a book coming out, The King: The Life of King Charles. In the lead up to releasing his book, he revealed that King Charles III, a man in his 70s, always travels with his teddy bear, which is cool, and his own toilet seat, which is strange.

It does, however, jive with a random encounter that I had with King Charles, back when he was merely Prince Charles. Due to a series of random events, I found myself staying the night at Wesley’s Chapel. It’s the church in London built by John Wesley in the late 1770s as the new headquarters for Methodism and where he lived for the last decade of his life. It has a museum, as one might expect, but is still a fully functioning British Methodist congregation that I got connected with, while I was living in England in 2007.

One of the days that I was staying there, the church hosted an important funeral for a prominent philanthropist who had died way too young. The guest list included Prince Charles, so I got a front row seat to the backstage drama that is playing host to a royal. I was awoken at the crack of 8:30am to bomb sniffing dogs and their handlers doing a once over of my bedroom. By the time that I got down to the church’s office, there was a new security issue – the bathroom. Would Prince Charles be able to use the restroom at Wesley’s Chapel? The Answer: No. At the time, his team told us that it was because the toilet area had not been specifically security checked, but now knowing the toilet seat thing, I have other thoughts. He used the restroom at one of his residences along the way.

The next issue also related to the royal behind – Cushion-gate. Wesley’s Chapel, like thousands of churches around the world, has un-cushioned wooden pews. Prince Charles’s team determined that His Royal Highness’s hind region could not experience such discomfort for the length of a funeral. He would need a cushion. They asked the church what cushions were available. The church had cushion, but they had a floral pattern on them. Prince Charles’s team determined that a flowery cushion was also not an appropriate place for such an important bottom. They would bring their own cushion for the future ruler of the realm. It was a lot.

I spent that day in the role of passive observer. I was just a college student hanging out in the office. The staff spent the day in good natured incredulity, “can you believe this…stuff?” I have no idea how King Charles III is as a ruler. He does seem to be a weird dude with the power to have other people deal with his weirdness. As a working theologian, my mind snaps, perhaps unfairly to Charles, to the clear difference between earthly kings and Jesus as our heavenly sovereign.

Kings in Jesus’s day were, if anything, far worse than a mildly fussy old man. They had massive palaces, huge staffs, armies, and riches untold in a time when most people on the planet didn’t have the basic nutrition and protection of live past 40. They might have been good to their people or bad to their people. History tells us of both, but the people served. The ruler benefitted.

This image of Jesus on the cross in Luke 23 draws about as stark a separation possible between earthly and heavenly kings. Jesus hangs in agony. He did nothing wrong, yet he is dying an ignominious and painful death, hanging nude on an instrument of torture. He has the power to snap his fingers and get out of it - to command an army of unbeatable angels. He doesn’t.  Despite being humiliated and suffocating, he offers grace and mercy to a faithful thief and forgiveness to his killers and torturers. The night before he took on the role of the lowliest servant and washed his disciples’ feet. He goes through all of this and all of the other sufferings and humiliations of a human life for the benefit of the people who mock, ignore, and condemn him. That’s a different king of ruler entirely.

The ruler of the universe came to earth as the son of a carpenter and a teenage, a friend to fishermen, tax collectors, harlots, and lepers, a travelling Rabbi with no place to call home, a rejected and murdered savior. He came to earth knowing that it would be that way, came anyways, and never gave up on us even as he slowly dies from lack of oxygen. Three days later, he came back – declaring grace and peace to all who desire it. The beaten, bloodied, and pierced king remained the servant of his undeserving people. It’s a far cry from toilet security and Cushion-gate.