Christ the King Sunday
Grace, mercy, and peace are yours from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, our King and Lord, dear friends in Christ. Think about this for a couple seconds: what comes to mind when you hear the word “king”? (Pause) I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word “king” what comes to my mind is royalty, a big throne, a fancy robe, a large palace or castle, gold-plated everything, dignity, honor, power, wealth, majesty and maybe a little bit of fear, awe, and intimidation. Today is the day the church throughout history has traditionally set aside to honor Christ the King. And I have to admit that as I looked at the lessons assigned to this Sunday, I was a little bit surprised. You know, when I think of Christ as King, I would have probably picked a different reading, maybe one of the grand and glorious visions of Jesus in His glory from the book of Revelation, or one of the astounding visions of the prophet Daniel, or even the account of Jesus on the mount of Transfiguration where Jesus beamed with divine glory, now that’s a king! But I’m not sure that I’d have picked this text before us.
I mean look at what we’ve got going on here! I mean look at Jesus, it’s almost embarrassing! He’s hanging there without any or hardly any clothes on, he’s hanging on a cross of all things, an instrument of torture and executions, the Roman tool of punishing the most hated and dangerous people under their rule. This whole account almost screams out: weakness, frailty, humility. And then we have people standing there “watching” all this go on. The Greek word for “watching” has the idea of observing as a spectator. It amounts to what we’d do if we were standing on the sidelines watching a football or hockey game. It’s cheap entertainment. Then we’ve got the rulers of the people standing there sneering at him. The Greek literally means “turning their noses up and despising him.” Then we even have the soldiers there “mocking” him. And what’s that mean? It means insulting someone by imitating what they said in a distorted manner. We can only imagine what was being said. Perhaps, “Destroy this temple and I’m going rebuild it in 3 days,” “I am the Son of God.” Then to top it all off we’ve got a low life criminal, we can only imagine what awful atrocities he committed in his life, even him, is hurling insults at Jesus! Jesus a “King”?? I’m just not seeing it here.
Think of it. If we were kings, how would we act? If we were the king of the universe, how would we use that power? If we had all kinds of power, I’m going to guess that we’d all CLAIM, at least, that we’d use our power for the good of other people, but really? Isn’t it more accurate that if we had all kinds of power, we’d probably use it for ourselves, for our own benefit? Just take a snap shot of history: we have all kinds of examples of kings or presidents or leaders or CEO’s, people who have some kind of power and what do they do? Use that power for their own benefit, for their own glory, for their own enrichment. So isn’t that what we’d expect the God of all things to do? What we wouldn’t expect is the King of the universe to appear in shame, in weakness, and in apparent defeat, right?
And doesn’t that reveal an aspect of our own sinful nature? So often we would like to fashion God in our image, we would like Him to act the way WE think HE should act. We want God to be King, but King on our terms, we want Him to do things that make sense to us. Perhaps we feel it would make sense to us if Jesus just showed His power in this world. So much immorality going on this world- we don’t have to look too hard to find it! Open up the newspaper, click on your favorite news website, turn on the TV, immorality, corruption, greed, violence, hate, murder, theft, adultery of every kind, lies and deceit, and the list could go on and on! Why doesn’t Jesus just do something? Why doesn’t He just cause all the bad people in our world to fall over and die, to meet a tragic end? Why doesn’t Jesus make sure that the good guys always win and the bad guys always lose? If I were THE King, that’s sure what I’d do!
And what about our own lives? Jesus, who is in control of all things, if He is King why doesn’t He just fix all my problems? Why do I still have these challenges, why don’t things in my life work out the way that I want them to all the time? So often, we want Jesus to PROVE that He’s the King by doing what WE want Him to do, what WE think should be done. When we face difficulties we want Jesus to solve them NOW! When we deal with challenges in our relationships, at work, with our health, we want Jesus to make it better NOW!
And so, if we take a look inside our own hearts, don’t we often have attitudes that aren’t all that different from the people in our text? They, too, had their own conceptions of who they thought God should be, what God should do. If Jesus really were God, the Son of God, as He claimed, then He should fulfill their own minds’ idea of what God should do or be- “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One,” “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” They wanted Jesus to prove that He is King by doing what THEY wanted. That’s exactly what our sinful nature does. Our sinful nature wants Jesus to be King on our own terms. Our sinful nature wants Jesus to do or act in a way that agrees with what WE think is best and not what HE determines is best.
But isn’t it ironic? What the criminal said to Jesus, “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” Jesus did want to save him, he did want him to have salvation. But he couldn’t do that by saving himself. Jesus had to set His own interests aside, he had to be willing to die, to NOT save himself. And by doing exactly that- by not saving himself- Jesus won salvation for that criminal, by not saving Himself- Jesus paid for the sins of every human being.
And, really, isn’t that exactly the kind of King we want? A King who sets aside His own interest for… ours, who put our eternal life first! Just like here at the cross, God is always working things out in the best interests of saving souls. He works in the way that will be best to bring the most people to Heaven. You know, Jesus could have come down from that cross if he wanted to. He could have righted all the wrongs. But He didn’t. He allowed himself to remain on the cross, to pay for the sins of the world. And a miracle happened! One of the criminals was brought to faith!
Now, if Jesus had come down from the cross, flattened his enemies, righted the wrongs, would that criminal have been brought to faith in him, in him as His Savior? We don’t know. We might think, absolutely! But think about the result of so many of Jesus’ miracles, what was the result? When Jesus fed the 5,000 we’re told that the people then wanted to make him their king by force- to have him be their great earthly king. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, how did many react? They wanted to kill him! But what we do know is that by NOT getting off that cross, by NOT getting even, one more soul was won for eternal life.
And that’s the way that your King works. He will continue to rule and continue to work, not in ways that are flashy, mightily, with a great display of power, or even in ways that WE think He should, but quietly and graciously and differently than the way we would expect. Why? Because he wants as many people as possible to end up in heaven! He wants as many people as possible to know that He has saved them! And what a combination we have in our King! Don’t forget, He does have all power in heaven and earth, He is the Almighty God, the All-powerful One, He can do anything and everything. And yet He is also gracious and loving and always looking to save souls. And so, while we can’t always see it or don’t know about it, He’ll continue using His almighty power for your good. He IS working out all things for the good of those who believe in Him. He’s promised so.
Think about that as you deal with the challenges of your life. Remember that you have an Almighty King who is ruling all things, but at the same time you have a Gracious King who rules and guides and directs all things in order to save people. Think about that as you hear or read about the different events of the world, remember, you have a King who is in control and who rules all things not to show his power and might but in the interest of saving people. Knowing this means the difference between a life of continual frustration when God isn’t doing things the way I think He should and simply trusting that God is in control and is graciously working things in order to bring more and more people into His eternal kingdom. Knowing this means the difference between a life that is tossed about like a boat in a storm and a life that is steady and secure knowing that Jesus rules all things for our good whether we see it or not.
Your King is the saving King, who put your interests first, who stayed on that cross, who didn’t come down. Why? Because like no other King, your Savior made sure that His words to that repentant criminal on the cross apply to you: Someday you too, will be with Jesus in paradise. What a King you have! Amen.