Richard III and Jesus, juxtaposed “The king is dead; long live the king.”

Reflection on that statement is timely with Easter just past and an ancient English king’s remains recently recovered.

It’s an odd construction, that phrase. It means that the monarchy lives on even after the monarch dies. Shakespeare’s Hamlet expounds: “The body is with the king, but the king is not with the body. The king is a thing.” The king is an office, in other words. A person embodies the office only as long as he lives. When he dies, kinship transfers to the next living occupant of the office. The reign passes from one body to another according to genetic lineage, unless the dynasty is conquered.

Last month the bones of King Richard III were discovered under a public parking lot in the city of Leicester. The infamous, hunchbacked, short-reigning king was killed on the battlefield in 1485. Some monks hurriedly buried him in a grave on the grounds of Greyfriars Priory. It was later paved over, the bones of the king lying in ignominy for more than 500 years until the excavation.

Now members of the Richard III Society plan to resurrect his image and recast the long-vilified monarch as a champion of the common man. Then they will rebury him with honor, in a burial befitting a king.

Christians observe Good Friday as the day to memorialize the brutal death of Jesus. He was crucified with a sign over his head that read, Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. (The acronym INRI in Christian iconography stands for that phrase in Latin.) Jesus was then hurriedly buried in an unmarked grave — the location still disputed. His bones were never found, though not for lack of searching.

Christians believe the witness of the early church that Jesus was raised from the dead to begin his eternal reign as King of kings. The king is dead, long live the king. Sort of.

Comparison between Richard III and Jesus is noteworthy. Jesus’ enemies accused him of claiming to be a worldly king, but he himself replied that his kingdom was not of this world. He meant that his reign over the world was not limited by the span of his life in the world. He himself embodied the reign of God for a time, and now he embodies the timeless reign of God through all who live and serve the truth.

Jesus was undisputedly a champion of the common man. Blessed are the poor, he said. His reputation needs no makeover. Christians furthermore believe that God vindicated Jesus’ rule of love by raising him from the dead to reign forever.

Identifying Jesus with God in this way lies at the heart of Christian differences with others who worship the one God. Jews and Muslims, each in their own way, revere Jesus; they stop short of worshipping him as King of heaven the way Christians do on the basis of his resurrection. Yet all of our faiths look forward to the resurrection of the righteous at the end of days.

Christians believe the End began with the first one raised, and that his reign of peace with justice never ends. And so we come to praise him, not to bury him.

The old refrain is thus Easter-altered: The king is alive, long live the king.